Today I spent a ridiculous amount of time on Twitter. Most likely because today FIRST announced this year’s FRC game, FIRST STRONGHOLD! I could probably write a whole second blog with my reactions to the game, but that is not what I’m here for. I mention Twitter, because I spent a lot of time talking with my FIRST friends, discussing our game reactions, and planning when we would all be able to see each other this competition season! It was all so exciting until I fell into an unexpected funk.
As I spent an unhealthy amount of time on Twitter I started feeling really bad about myself. The reason? I wasn’t going to be able to volunteer as much as many of my FIRST friends were. I was being really hard on myself about this, I’ve included a few of the thoughts that had crossed my mind below.
My rookie year on the team, I wanted to try everything. I really wanted to see what all aspects of my team were about. As the season progressed, I found myself really loving what my team called the marketing side of things. It was wonderful, I loved what I was doing! I had a lot of great experiences with this, and also a few that were not so great. I was talking with another girl at a competition, and she was complaining about ‘girls who do marketing’. Which is upsetting for so many reasons but at the time, this girl made me feel really horrible about myself. She was on the programming team. She was breaking stereotypes. She was all of these things that I wasn’t. I was comparing myself to her. How am I going to inspire females to involve themselves in STEM when I was not heavily involved in building the robot? Well, fast forward a little bit and I realized that her and I were not the same person. We were interested in different things, with very different lives! It was awesome that she wanted to program the robot, and it was awesome that I wanted to plan the science camp!
Through my involvement in the marketing team, I was also heavily involved in the Chairman’s Award. I was on a pretty competitive team and I had the challenge/joy/emotional rollercoaster of working heavily on the award for my 3 years on the team. My first year on the team was all about winning. My team had won a large award the year before and the pressure was really on. We did not end up winning that season and we were crushed. Once again, there was a lot of self-blaming. Why hadn’t I been more creative brainstorming ideas to help my team? Why had we not done this or that? I was comparing a rural team of 30 to an urban team of 60 and a rookie team of 10. I was comparing my current team to my team a year ago. I wasn’t understanding what the award was about or valuing the things that we had done for any of the right reasons. Fast forward to my senior year, I’m still heavily involved in the Chairman’s Award. Only this year, I’m not trying to win. I was incredibly happy at the end of my senior year because I wasn’t trying to compare my team to other teams, and I was doing things because I thought they would benefit my team and my community and spread the word of FIRST.
By my senior year, I had made a lot of progress with how I looked at my team and FIRST, but I was still struggling a lot with comparing myself to others. I was looking at colleges and career paths and majors. Being involved in FIRST, many of my friends were from my robotics team and in my mind, 99.99% of them were going to be engineers. I heavily considered it, after all, I owe it to future generations of women to be trailblazer and inspire young girls and unlock the next level of feminism by dominating in a male dominated career field and those were the things I kept telling myself. Until I remembered that I had no desire to become an engineer. I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others because I hadn’t picked engineering as my path. I felt like I was letting the FIRST community who had inspired me so much down. Except I wasn’t. No one else was harshly judging me for not wanting to be an engineer. I didn’t need to be an engineer to achieve my goals of inspiring young women and proudly support all my FIRST Ladies heading off to be amazing engineers!
I am a unique human being. It is okay that I wanted to join the marketing team. I did amazing things for my team and my community. I have found so much joy in pursuing genetics and health and right now I want to do as much good as I can with those things. It’s okay that I’m a full time student who doesn’t have the time or resources to volunteer at every competition. It is also okay that other women in FIRST want to join the mechanical team. It’s amazing that we have people in the FIRST community who can volunteer so much. They are also doing amazing things for their team and community. It’s amazing that there are women breaking down barriers in the engineering field every day. In my opinion, it’s amazing that there are people who can stand calculus enough to get an engineering degree, period.
I know that every FIRST Lady is a fierce warrior who is on her own path to being completely amazing. I know that I’m on my own path to being completely amazing, but sometimes I forget. I like these stories, because they remind me to be kind to myself. They remind me that comparing myself to others is not okay. A cooler thing to do, is to celebrate the accomplishments of my peers and celebrate my own accomplishments too! Let your peers inspire you and use them as resources. Friends with robots are the best friends and also incredibly helpful and knowledgable!
This blog was written by Kayla Smith, alumni of FRC team 1625 and a student at UW Madison. If you are interested in blogging for blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
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