Of course we aren't meant to be perfect human beings remembering every second lived; we're meant to remember what's most important to us--the experiences we've had, the laughters we shared, the tears that rolled down our faces, the challenges we faced and the family we formed. Although I may not remember every detail of the IA when I think back upon it in the distant future, I will remember what made the IA so special for me. I believe that even in a group as small as 13 individuals, each person will leave from this experience having their own feelings, judgements and thoughts--no one better than the other, just all different--making the experience all the more mesmerizing.
So I, every other human being on this planet,have my own golden memories. After having lived 18 years of my life, I can proudly say that the Innovation Academy is one of those cherished golden moments in my pocket of memories. It's grown to be a part of who I am, what I stand for and who I want to be; when something becomes part of one's self, naturally, we want to show it off. So, here I go as I try to share to you all a piece of my IA experience.
The IA has given me more than just an outstanding education. it’s taught me self-discipline, another frame of mind and what it's like to work with people you can call family. Not every education can give that to its students: an eye opener to who they are as people. The Innovation Academy gave me much more than just content knowledge; it gave me the knowledge I need to lead a better life for myself, to have a purpose in life and to find eternal happiness; it gave me a chance to become a better me.
Internationally, there are very few programs like the IA, and we were the first 13 students to take on the challenge--the guinea pigs of the program--and there's not a moment when I wish I hadn't taken this crazy leap of faith. I may not have known much of who I was or where I wanted to be when I started the IA, because I was never given the chance to explore my options previously to the IA. The IA has challenged me to open my mind and explore by taking risks and making mistakes along the way. My mentality on life has changed because of what I've experienced in this program. I’ve learned to be more open-minded, to be more caring and considerate of others and to push myself harder by challenging myself and others. I may not be the best student out there: I have flaws and weaknesses that I need to push myself to overcome, but if I've learned one thing from these past two years, it's that who you were doesn't have influence who you want to become. Leave the past where it belongs, and head into the future keeping in mind you are living in the present. I've learned the importance of some organization in life, prioritization of events and the ability to be critical of yourself and others as you look for ways to challenge the world. It's never going to be easy but if it's worth having, it will take the work and effort to receive the reward
I used to be a girl who wouldn't push herself to create beautiful work because I saw no reward from the work I created, but now--whether it's with BlendZ, creating the documentary or starting off the program two years ago--I can see the work I do has an effect on others. They smile when something works out. They laugh, they empathize, they understand, they are involved. Life isn't just about working for yourself, it's about giving to others. There are times when I've failed to see that, but through my mistakes I've learned for the better; I now see how the world is connected and we work so much better when we do it for others rather than for ourselves.
Which leads me to another wonder about the IA: the family bond. After two years together we've grown as close as family; we have the trust some would build over a period of 15 years. We each are different from one another: we have different opinions, different thoughts, different views on life, yet we all bring our minds together to solve real world problems in ways I never thought possible by 17/18 year-olds. The other 12 students and Mr. Topf have pushed me to become a better person; they've helped me see that there is always more to strive for and more to reach for when you are working, that good isn't enough, you have to reach for great, for beautiful. Once you reach that point is when you actually see the value in what you create; it may be a complete failure or a huge success, either way, it's a part of life, and you learn from it either way. Having such a close group of people in the IA allowed me to understand the importance of community and culture that is built as a whole of the people. We all work to create one beautiful thing together, and that is the culture we have as a team. Yes, I may have messed up the culture at times, but each time was an eye opener as to how much one small slip in the culture can bring it all down as a whole, and what better time to experience a heavy moment than with people you trust who will challenge you to become a better person because they see your potential. With BlendZ, our class company, we’ve pushed each other in unimaginable ways; we are all held accountable for our jobs. Being the head of Human Resources, I was in charge of the people, and I felt the pressure of letting down the company if something didn’t turn out correctly, but the class pushed me to stay on top of my work and do my best to not let the culture slip. The IA has become like a family of misfits: all different, all unique, all human, all risk-takers, all crazy, all innovators.
Culture is something I mentioned before; maintaining that culture on a continuous basis for me was a challenge that I feel I failed, sometimes I built on the culture and sometimes I would set it back.But never were we given this much autonomy in our previous school lives (prior to the IA). We did what we were told, when it was told, as it was told--no space for creativity and exploration. That transition from having no autonomy, no choice, no freedom to having all the autonomy was a large leap. It was as though you had been held back most of your life and now you were told to be set free. I wasn't sure how to handle it, so of course, as any lost person would be, I was all over the place with this new autonomy. Being responsible for your own actions, and free to roam and explore isn't a simple task to be done at the count of 1,2,3. It took me time to understand the importance of autonomy in education--yes, I knew it was important and why, but I didn't see it at first sight. I let my culture slip when it came to autonomy, I was used to a culture of being able to push deadlines back, and not be held accountable for it, I was able to arrive late to class, and no one would tell me it was wrong. I am a person who is visual, who likes to experience things to understand them (I just now realized this as I was writing this out). That is when I realized it. When I hit rock bottom, when I was so off track with where my autonomy was headed that I realized the direction I should be headed into. So, after all that, the IA has taught me that failure is ok, that it's not a bad thing if you learn something from it. You will hit rock bottom sometimes, but you just have to get up and push yourself into a new direction. For me, my rock bottom was my autonomy; I wasn't being as appreciative of time, opportunities, resources and technology as I should have. I needed to maximize my learning in the best way possible, and only I would do that for myself. So, I learned to find purpose in the work I created and push myself to become a better part of the team we had at the IA. It's not easy being on your own, but you need that balance between society and yourself to find a balance in who you are as a person.
The IA has taught the significance of being challenged and of being pushed to become a better person; that's something I can't say for much else in this world. When was the last time you felt challenged to the point where you drove yourself nuts trying to accomplish your goals? When was the last time you laughed and enjoyed the work you were creating and the people you were with? When was the last time you looked at 2 years of your life and thought to yourself "I wouldn't have changed a thing"?
Looking back over my two years of the IA, I can't believe it's actually come to an end. All the laughter, inside jokes, motivation, and craziness we shared within the IA family will live on in our golden memories; they will stay with us forever, because this IA experience was truly one for the books. Now that I've stopped to look, it's hard to believe it's been two years. My brain is full of knowledge, love and memories with 13 of the best people I've met. I can't even wrap my head around the fact that it's over, because for me, it's not. I feel like there will always be another blog, another sale, another talk, another class, another hello from the ones who took the challenge two years ago to begin the unthinkable. So, this isn't over yet, it's a wrap, but we live on as the IA legends who started it all!