I was the new kid in ninth grade – living in a new state and a bit overwhelmed, without a plan for making new friends. A girl from my drama class invited me to Destination Imagination (DI) tryouts a few weeks into the school year, and with nothing better to do, I went. (Spoiler alert: I made the team and it changed my life.) Today, I work as a research engineer at a non-profit research and development laboratory, focusing on new concepts for human-robot interaction. My job requires not only technical skills learned in the classroom, but also creativity, adaptability and teamwork – all skills I learned during my experience in DI.
How did DI change my life, you ask? Well, let me count the (top 5) ways.
- I made friends. There is no way I could recount each time we laughed so hard we cried, how many times we got in trouble for making mischief, and how many times we walked down to the sandwich place near our high school to get lunch on Saturdays during DI practice. As cheesy as I sound, I genuinely value these memories and feel so proud that I knew so many currently awesome adults back when we were DI kids.
- I am less afraid. I was less afraid to wear a gigantic fish costume and speak in a fish voice. I was less afraid to propose a newspaper tower-building idea during an Instant Challenge, even if I wasn’t sure it would work. I was, and am, less afraid to be seen and be heard. I am still working on this skill 15 years later, but I know my time in DI has helped me to become braver.
- I take action. When an Instant Challenge wasn’t going our way (which, let’s be honest, it often didn’t), I learned that we simply didn’t have time to wallow – we needed to make a decision, move forward and make do. I use that skill constantly at work as an engineer. When our wonderful plan doesn’t go perfectly, we have to quickly change gears and try something new.
- I can imagine. At work, I am sometimes asked to design an experiment, mock up a prototype, or brainstorm new concepts. Instead of getting lost in what I don’t know, I fall back on skills I learned in DI; I imagine what could be possible and reach out to teammates to help fill in the blanks. I think back to creating concepts like our moving Venice canal cutouts, or our airplane wing-walker set, or a huge heart costume I wore. We didn’t eliminate good options just because we didn’t immediately know how to make them happen.
- I am a good team member. On our DI team, we each contributed different skills and had different styles and tastes. We were able to successfully leverage our differences to create something great each year.
I am so thankful for that girl in my drama class invited me to DI tryouts. She became my best friend and DI became such a powerful positive influence in my life. Our selfless coach (the amazing Jim Asher) was able to take a group of crazy teenagers and allow us to be expressive, creative and fearless – things that we don’t always get to be. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without those experiences.