There were five very intimidating people in that room. They all dressed in a crisp clean black suit, and I was in my university uniform, which was a little messy because I had been fidgeting in the waiting room. When I first walked in, I smiled at them, but they only nodded back, and that was when I knew this interview was not going to be easy. The room was freezing cold, but I was sweating. I sank into the leather chair in front of them and tried to look in their eyes with confidence even though I felt like my brain had turned into strawberry Jell-O the minute I walked in. I was one of the candidates for the Undergraduate Intelligence Scholarship Program (UiS) to work in a policy planning position in the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Before I could think of anything else the interviewers started throwing questions at me.
“What is it that you like the most about yourself?”
That was easy. “I like that I am hardworking and that I am a goal-driven person.”
“What is it that you don’t like about yourself?”
“I don’t like that I can’t take rejection or failure so well.”
“What do you want to study in your master’s as a future policymaker?”
“If you were someone in charge of the policy, what would you do to solve the poverty
“I would integrate policies from other ministries to help people in all aspects of their lives alongside support policies to help with short term problems.”
The questions were fairly easy since I had been preparing for this interview for weeks but there was this one question that I couldn’t answer.
The interviewer said, “I can see that you have a very strong passion for improving society, but what if you can’t change it?”
I was stunned. It was like the air was sucked out of the room, and my brain left me. I had never thought about that before. I have always believed in myself and in the power of the changes I can make. The changes that my friends can make. I have always had high hopes for the future and my part in changing it. I believe that we are big people and can create big changes. But that question made me feel small. I went from human, the most powerful creature in the whole world to a teeny-tiny single-cell organism whose existence goes unnoticed by the world.
I tried to think of an answer but all I did was ramble on about how I still think I can make a change. Every word became harder and harder to push out of my throat as if something blocked it. My eyes went hot. I could feel tears boiling in the back of my eyes, more than ready to roll out. I didn’t remember much after that, but I thought I put something together to answer them, smiled at them, and left the room.
I rushed to the restroom. It was small, dull, and white with posters that stated a hundred ways to keep the restroom clean and a hundred more reasons why we should keep them clean. I sat there and cried. Millions of thoughts raced through my head.
I was worried.
‘Did they notice that I was about to cry?’
‘Were my answers okay?’
I was mad at myself.
‘I messed up’
‘This is not good’
I was mad at them.
‘Who are you to make me feel so small, so incompetent?’
‘How dare you!’
I doubted myself.
‘Can I make a change?’
‘Am I enough?’
When I walked out of the stall, I looked at myself in the mirror. I didn’t see the strong sharp woman I intended to be. I didn’t see the policymaker that was ready to take on the problems of the poor. I saw a cry baby. I saw a mess, a ball of emotions ready to explode with one simple nudge from a single question. What if, maybe I am not as strong as I thought I was. Maybe I cannot make a change in the world. How was I going to solve a massive problem like poverty? Is that okay? Is that normal?
It has been over two weeks since the day I walked out of that interview room, but here I am staring at the ceiling of my bedroom like it is the first time I’ve ever seen it, even though it is the same ceiling that I’ve had for 6 years. I am still confused and worried about that question and my answers, but I am no longer mad at myself or the interviewers.
‘That’s a good start.’ I think to myself
And then I realized, maybe everything doesn’t have to be about the end result. Progress matters. I don’t have to stop worrying like right this second. It is good enough that at least I feel better now. I don’t have to solve every problem of the poor in one go. It is good enough to move one step closer to a solution of a problem. The winning trophy is not the only thing that matters. Every step is necessary. I tell myself that I will take small steps and celebrate every little success. And if in the end, I don’t find a solution, I know that at least I tried, at least I started it, and that’s good.