By: Key Club International President K’lena Schnack
I was huffing and puffing as I weaved through the innocent pedestrians in the airport. I would like to blame my inability to breathe on the fact that I was sick, but it was also the first time in over a year that I was moving my legs faster than a casual walk. My cross–country days were long gone, and embarrassingly enough, it was showing.
In April 2019, I was a Key Club international trustee for the districts of Illinois-Eastern Iowa, Indiana and Pennsylvania. I may be biased saying this, but I had the true honor to serve three of the best districts in this organization. They taught me skills, ideas and lessons throughout my term. This particular moment, though, will forever be one of the most eye–opening experiences.
Let’s start from the beginning. My morning was pretty typical for a travel day: I frantically drove to the airport, hurried through Transportation Security Administration screening and reluctantly sat in a petri dish of a chair while I waited for my flight. I was traveling to Indiana’s District Leadership Conference (DLC). I was heading in early because my governor, Colin Prince, was taking me on an official tour of my dream college, Indiana University. I boarded the plane as usual, buckled my seatbelt and pulled out my headphones. However, as we were getting ready to take off, the captain announced we didn’t have enough fuel to make it through the trip. This situation turned into an almost two–hour delay. Meaning, I was going to miss my next flight.
As soon as I deplaned from my Omaha flight, I rushed across the floors of O’Hare. My heart sank as I watched the doors seal shut, leaving me stranded in Chicago.
For the first time ever, I had missed my flight.
To say I was terrified is an understatement. Eventually, all was resolved, but I had to fly into an airport that was three hours away from my original destination. This meant Governor Colin would have to drive six hours, only for us to arrive at home around 4 a.m. To add to this situation, my luggage was lost. Ha! Fun!
I tell this story because this was one of the first times that I encountered an unpredictable change. I had to adapt to my surroundings. For example, because my luggage was lost, I had to find innovative ways to deal with my clothing situation. (Luckily, I had deodorant, glasses and contacts in my backpack, right?)
I was forced to be vulnerable about a multitude of things, but what terrified me most was expressing my feelings and a need for help. Although I didn’t want to openly admit I was scared I wouldn’t make it to Indiana, I did anyway … to a random airport employee (yes, I know, it was one of those embarrassing mom-type moments).
At some point in your life or career, you might find yourself in a similar situation where your only option is to adapt. This is where the people, the experiences, the lessons you’ve learned from play a role. For me, I used the skills that I obtained from serving my three districts: effective communication, problem solving and delegation. In the moment, it may feel like we’re not gaining anything from our experiences, but when we’re faced with unpredictable change, you’ll also be faced with the skills you’ve learned.