I was at a Youth Legislative Assembly conference for the weekend during my senior year of high school. I had never been to a conference before, and even though I was enjoying the experience and fighting for anti-bullying policies, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by the hundreds of students around me who were not only intelligent, but who acted like they were a billion times more intelligent than me.
I connected with some students while I was there, but usually I felt like each conversation was some sort of intellectual competition for mental superiority.
On Saturday night of the conference, students were expected to be in the large conference room for a night of “games” (which were supposed to be a mystery to us). When we arrived, they divided each of us into teams and revealed that we would be playing Minute-to-Win-It games for ultimate team bragging rights.
My team seemed mainly composed of the braniac bullies with the “perfect genetic blend.” Uninterested in attempting to pull out a conversation with them, my competitive self lived vicariously through the people stepping onto the stage to play the Minute-to-Win-It games.
Each game had to have one representative from each team. One by one, each of my team members walked onto the stage. Despite how badly I wanted to play, I purposely didn’t volunteer each time because I knew that my team wasn’t in it to just have fun.
After about eight games, though, our team leader asked who hadn’t yet played a game, and everyone pointed to me. My face instantly went red and my legs were shaking, but I was secretly excited to play. I stood up and walked over to play the next game, and as I walked to the stage, I noticed that my team didn’t yell my name or rally support for me like they did each of my previous team members.
For whatever reason, they had taken one look at me and decided I was going to suck it up.
The host of the games showed us the video which explained the game–each person would have a tissue box placed in front of them on a table. The goal was to remove all of the tissues in the box–with one arm behind your back–in 60 seconds.
My adrenaline kicked as they yelled, “Go!”
By instinct, I took my hand and dug underneath to the very bottom of the tissues. I looked to my left and right and noticed that everyone else was furiously pulling out one tissue at a time. I started pulling with the entirety of the tissues in my hand, but they wouldn’t come out.
My team started yelling at me: “What are you doing, Erika?!” Some watched, annoyed, while others assumed I was doomed to lose and turned to have conversations with others.
Why are they yelling at me? I thought. This is a way smarter way to do it.
Holding all of the tissues inside the box, I lifted it up and punched the air once, then twice, trying to pull all of the tissues out of the box at once.
It wasn’t coming off.
I started to panic, but I stuck with it. I furiously shook my arm in the air with my hand in the box for what felt like an eternity (but was actually like 5 seconds), and the box came flying off, all of the tissues in my hand.
Suddenly my entire team erupted into cheers and my competitors started whining, “She cheated!” I didn’t say a word, but I smiled from ear to ear.
I sauntered back over to my team, graciously returning every high-five, but returned to my spot in the corner. I sat off to the side by myself and stretched out, ready to enjoy the rest of the games in mental peace.