When I was 17, I was fortunate enough to attend a week long camp at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. RYLA, as it was called, stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Award as it was hosted by the lovely people that made up the “R” in the acronym.
I, along with over a 100 campers, had opportunities to hear amazing presentations and learn from incredible mentors. We were encouraged to be true to ourselves, to do our very best, and to act with intention.
I would not be where I am today were it not for the people that made up this amazing week.
I could spend hours talking about the impact of that week, but this blog post is about something else.
About three weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from one of my previous counselors:
“Hi Liz…Not sure if contacted yet…were wondering…you'd be available and interested…presenting at RYLA this year...Smile Project…”
I know the message reads sloppily. In reality, it was clear as day and punctuated perfectly. It was me that was struggling over the words in my head.
Presenting at RYLA?!
There was no question in my mind I was absolutely going to say yes and, no matter what the circumstances; I was going to be there. My mind was already swirling with things I wanted to say and paths I wanted to go down in my talk.
Then a second later, panic hit. When I attended RYLA, every speaker had seemed so, well, perfect. They seemed like professional, responsible, put together adults. As I joked in my presentation yesterday, “It takes me ten minutes to decide on a flavor of ice cream…”
After procrastinating like none other, I finally found myself down to the wire frantically throwing together words of inspiration. Then it was presentation time.
Tuesday morning, June 16th, 2015, I was able to stand before a group of 17-year-olds, some of the brightest leaders in their communities and tell them about The Smile Project, about myself, and about life.
It was one of the best experiences of my life.
I have always said, along with all the work that I’ve done with The Smile Project, that I would like to speak. I would like to write and I would love to be able to motivate people in some way, shape, or form. Never has that goal seemed to appear as crystal clear as it did yesterday.
The idea that even one mind could be impacted positively by something I had to say is mind boggling. The idea that, on a larger scale, many lives could be changed is something I cannot even fathom.
But I do know that yesterday gave me a kind of energy that made minimal sleep seem like I’d been resting for years…that gave me new ideas and rekindled old projects…that made me believe I could hit all the high notes in the a-ha song, “Take On Me.” [Update: never happening].
There’s a moment, sometimes, when you realize you are where you need to be.
This is mine.
Thank you to RYLA District 7280, for allowing me to speak about what I love and thank you to everyone who listens.
I may have set out to inspire, but I think that by the laws of motivation, I’m the one stuck in a speechless wonder and awe, feeling inspired and ambitious beyond anything else.