What’s your vision for next week? The next semester? The next year? For your life? All of these questions were posed to me while in attendance at the LeaderShape Institute retreat in the 2013 summer with 64 other Auburn University students. These were difficult questions for me to answer at the time, but now I have a vision for my life.
Originally from Roswell, Georgia, I attended a small Catholic high school called Blessed Trinity. Being a private school kid almost my whole life, I had the wonderful blessing of going from 1st grade to high school knowing about 80% of the same people.
Naturally a tight knit community, you know everyone’s story, what their weekend plans are, and all too much about their entire family. In hindsight, I think it is what made my childhood and teenager years unique in a good way. Despite knowing too much sometimes, we all had each other’s backs.
I bought into the concept of “The Auburn Family” and what it means to look at your classmate on your left and on your right and give a simple look, smile, or nod that meant you had their back because we all believe in this university and what it stands for. Many argue it’s a marketing ploy, and I will argue against that until the day I die. It’s real and it’s so difficult to explain without experiencing it for yourself.
Moving onward, freshman year was overwhelming. New place, new people, and new culture. Being on campus and finding my niche within my new home was exhausting. Perseverance is what kept me in the game.
Perseverance to work hard at everything I do and push myself to be a better man in Christ and a better man in society. My practice of this “attitude” has helped me be who I am today. I had the vision to work hard and be a better man. However, that vision I had for myself at Auburn took a bit of a turn at the conclusion of my freshman year.
Eluding to my earlier reference of a tight community at home, it was always (and still is) very common practice for me to get together with my high school friends every time I went back home. Whether it be a long break or just a weekend, we became our little family all over again.
Questions swirled in the air and the solutions weren’t obvious. It was an unexpected blow after a difficult freshman year. Our little family back home moved on after awhile, but I was still confused and lost for answers. Towards the end of sophomore year I begin to do some research on student-led mental health organizations at college campuses.
An organization catches my eye: Active Minds Inc. For those who do not know, Active Minds Inc. is an international non-profit organization that works to “utilize the student voice to change the conversation about mental health on college campuses.”
A light bulb went off in my head, Auburn needed this…heck, every campus needed something like this! How difficult would this be to get set up? *cue LeaderShape Institute logo*
LeaderShape is a one-week leadership development retreat that gives young leaders the opportunity to learn more about themselves and other leaders at their respective universities. LeaderShape changed my perspective leadership and the students that make up Auburn.
After attending the retreat and personally reflecting I knew what I had to focus on.
So right there the work and the vision began. The chapter officially launched in September 2013. The vision had finally become a reality. The sense of confidence and pride I had knowing my hard work and determination had turned into something tangible was incredible.
I am proud to say that our Active Minds chapter is now two years strong. We’ve made name for ourselves on campus through fundraisers, walks, outreach events, information meetings, and working with university officials to help others and even save lives by providing hope to those who may not know where to find it.
Starting an organization was not something my freshman-self thought I could do, but it gave me an insight into what I could do in the future. As Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
Make that reality one of hope, happiness, and kindness. I’ve been more conscious of trying to do this every day and I believe the quality of my life has improved because of it. Wake up and set your vision for the day and ask how can I make this vision a reality.
I’ve been blessed with many opportunities in my life and I’ve had my fair share of failures too. Active Minds was an opportunity and a vision for me and I am forever grateful to have been able to serve the university through it.
Now it’s about time for me to start focusing on my vision for post-grad life. I’m not sure what it may hold just yet, but I’m ready to take on life’s challenges to the best of my ability and I hope you do the same. So ask yourself, what is your vision for tomorrow?