Lesson Learned on Integrity and Staying True to Yourself
by Jaylen Brown
Maintaining integrity and staying true to yourself may seem like something our parents would tell us as children, however I learned that even at a college age, I am still being tested on that. No matter your age – doing the right thing can be difficult for anyone, especially if it means risking something desirable. I would like to share two similar yet different experiences that I’ve had, one from high school and one from college, and what I learned from them.
The Time I Won “King”
It was my senior year in high school when I decided to run for Homecoming King – just for the fun of it. Considering that I was homeschooled until the 11th grade, I felt that I had no chance of winning that title. Unlike the rest of the Homecoming Court, I was no football captain or class president. In fact, as someone who was relatively new to the school, it was hard for me to find friends in general (especially coming in as an upperclassman). Thus, I started by sitting with those who sat alone at lunch. I found that most of them did not want to be alone either, so I decided to sit with someone new every lunch period to keep them company. To my surprise, I won the title of “Homecoming King,” and realized it was because many saw me as an underdog for being different: the only minority, the first band member, a new student, etc. However, I did not allow this new title to change who I was as a person. So, I continued to find people who sat by themselves to sit with. Many were confused as to why I was sitting with them if I was given the title of “king,” but I reminded them that this title doesn’t make me any better than them. We are all royalty in our own way.
The Time I Lost “King”
It is now my senior year in college, and I recently decided to run for Homecoming King again – just for the fun of it. However, things were different this time. My university has 70,000 students and we were not allowed to do any in-person campaigning, only on social media. Unfortunately, we did not have a Homecoming Court director to enforce the rules. Most of the Court followed the rules, but some decided to do in-person campaigning and were even forcing students to vote. I had to make a decision. I knew that I would inevitably lose the running if I relied on my network alone, but if I broke the rules and started forcing people to vote, then I could stand a chance! It was a win or lose situation! If I won, I would be making history, right? I mean, how cool would it be to become my school’s 50th Homecoming King? Who cares if I break the rules if others are doing it too? But I thought to myself... “is this title really worth losing my integrity and not staying true to myself?” I then made my decision – I would much rather lose that title than to lose myself.
We are ALL “Kings” and “Queens”
These are two different, yet very similar stories. Looking back on them now, it’s crazy to see how easy it can be to lose sight of yourself for the sake of things like glory, validation, or recognition. But looking back even further to my high school experience, I’ve realized that those labels don’t even matter! Being given the title of “King” might seem grand, but the truth is that we are all Kings and Queens in our own way. I learned that no matter what or how big the title, it is never worth losing your integrity and not staying true to yourself. Let us all remember that no title will make you more valuable than you already are.
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