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My bags were overstuffed with clothes and campaign materials for the week, and while I had been overwhelmed by the lengthy list of elected positions mentioned at orientation, I was prepared to run for all of them. I was bouncing in the passenger seat of my mom’s SUV, scrutinizing the GPS’s agonizingly steady mile countdown and acting like a skittish little girl on her way to an amusement park. To most, however, this was the complete opposite of a carefree day of sunshine, rollercoasters, and fried food. This sweltering summer day was the first in a week that was sure to be filled with stressful, yet exciting, new experiences. This was the first day of Maryland Girls State, which will be discussed in my essay.
Once we rolled up to the Salisbury University parking lot, I jumped out of the car and, after a speedy check-in, beelined to my dorm room and flipped through the program booklet to plan out my week. From a legislative session and mock trial to elections for County Council and Senator, the week ahead looked exhilarating. When initially sponsored by my local American Legion post, I had envisioned Girls State as something that would only serve as a government-focused, but otherwise typical, week of school. The mandatory orientation held a few months prior to the event, however, demonstrated to me that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Girls State promised to provide me with a comprehensive, first-hand experience that would help me decide whether or not I should pursue a politics-related major in college.
During the week, I held a position on almost every level of government, including city, county, and state. Each election brought with it a well-crafted speech, twisted stomach, and quavering fingers as I nervously expressed the reasons why I should be elected. As time progressed, however, the frequency of the tremors in my hands subsided and my voice became more confident and effective. Like a lawyer presenting his or her one-hundredth closing argument, experience brought confidence in myself and everything that I said. The deer in the headlights with an index card gripped tightly in both hands was no longer trembling. I was suddenly able to move, emote, and command the attention of one-hundred once-yawning seventeen-year-olds. I had mastered public speaking at a level that surpassed anything I ever thought I could achieve.
After a week of nerve-wracking speeches and the anxiety that comes with running for positions, was a career in government what I truly wished to pursue? Before the restless nights of door-to-door campaigning and bill-revising, I was merely leaning towards a career in politics. After the droopy, burning eyes and stress-induced tears, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. For the first time in my life, learning and writing wasn’t about understanding basic knowledge or acing a test; it was about understanding others’ concerns and making a difference, even if the differences we made at Girls State were fictitious. When I lost an election, it was only disappointing in the moment. Each failure taught me something new, such as how to present myself while speaking, which issues to prioritize in a debate, and most importantly, how to compromise.
Politics is a lot like a rollercoaster at Six Flags. To some, it is terrifying and sickening, but to me it is a flurry of enjoyment that results in an immeasurable sense of personal accomplishment. There will be ups and downs, but the key thing to do is to expect the unexpected, whether it is a sudden plummet or a political crisis. After a two-minute ride, tears of adrenaline rush to the corners of my eyes and even if they leave me vomiting into the nearest trash can, I instantly desire to challenge the hoops and corkscrews again.
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