Journey, Roadblocks, and Winning Moments

Imagine being in the actual moment you’ve spent months preparing for. Your heart feels like it’s gonna burst out of your chest, and you’re both excited and anxious with anticipation. You’re terrified, but also hopeful.

Two months after joining my first Toastmasters club in the Philippines in 2016, a club officer asked me if I wanted to participate in the contest happening the following week. Not knowing the magnitude of these events, I said yes and I took part in the Table Topics portion. Maybe it was a combination of beginner’s luck and enthusiasm, but I won that day! Next stop: the Area level. Now I have this little secret: I don’t like being the last to speak because it makes me 10x more anxious. I was the last to speak. Which is why I was so surprised and happy that I won again! That meant I was going to the Division level. And let’s just say I was not prepared for the preparation needed for that event. Like the Avengers, the officers assembled the club’s best speakers to help me.

My training was not a walk in the park, although I literally trained in a park. They made me stand in the middle and deliver speeches, much to the dismay of unsuspecting joggers. One time I was tasked to continuously give speeches while they gave me statements or questions simultaneously. Sometimes I’m confused if they’re really my mentors or my tormentors. But I was determined to do my best for the club.

Then came the contest day. March 18, 2017. I was terrified but hopeful. The competition is being held in a town two hours away from the city where our club was, so we decided to carpool to the venue. Together, it was me, my mentor, a fellow contestant in the other contest category and two fellow members who wanted to come and volunteered to help by driving and navigating as well.

It was still very early so we took the longer route. But that day, there was unusual traffic. It's as if all these people were also leaving the city for a spontaneous vacation and it’s not even a holiday. It seemed like the universe conspired to give us twists and turns down the road. And I mean that literally because we got lost, not once, not twice, but three times. No doubt, it was a terrible horrible no good very bad day. If this was a movie, it just went from Are We There Yet? to A Series of Unfortunate Events!

When we finally arrived at the venue, my mind was racing, and so were my feet! All I could think of was reaching my destination. We were greeted by one of the organizers, a stern looking man with glasses. He looked at me and said the most astonishing thing. "You can't compete anymore. You're disqualified.” Turns out we were just a couple of minutes late.

After that we all seemed a bit stunned, none of us are saying a word about what just happened. It's like we're all part of the jinxed carpool club. And the first rule of the jinxed carpool club is that you don't talk about the jinxed carpool club.

I admit, behind my smile saying it’s okay, I was heartbroken and disappointed. Before that day, I only expected two possible outcomes: either I'd win or lose. But life is often unfair. Even when you thought you made all the preparations possible and then some, life will hit you in your blind spot and knock you down. And I have proven that true in other aspects of my life.

Maybe you are now dealing with disappointments, maybe you worked so hard but still didn't get the promotion, or you gave everything to your relationship but it still didn't work out, or your online purchase looks nothing like the picture; or if like me you feel that you lost a chance, remember, “If it can be considered growth, it can't be considered failure.” I may have not been able to compete that day, but I already won three awards.

First, the award of learning - I got trained by the best speakers in the club, for free!

Second, the award of courage - I am not competitive at all, so I was quite nervous for the contest, so it helped me a lot when one of my mentors told me, “Remember, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.”

Lastly, the best award of all, the award of friendship - I can’t be thankful enough for the moments of learning, laughter, and meaningful conversations I had with my mentor, as well as all the other people who has helped me.

Friends, while you’re traveling the path to your dreams, don’t be so busy keeping your eyes on the prize, that you fail to notice the small milestones along the way. Because once you reach your destination, and you are a better person than you were before, regardless of what the outcome is, you’ve already won. Sometimes the winning moment is not in the destination but in the journey.

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