"Thank God for Starbucks," I mutter under my breath when I spot the all too familiar siren inspired logo as we walk into the hotel lobby. With my mocha in hand, I set about exploring the Marriott Copley Square, home of United Synagogue Youth's International Convention 2012. Slowly but surely, the caffeine kicks in, lessening some of the exhaustion I feel after the redeye from Sacramento. Kids from across North America begin trickling in, and my friends and I are posted in the mezzanine directly above the lobby, monitoring all new arrivals, looking specifically for the friends we made at last year's convention. Just as I finish the coffee, I feel my best friend Lauren's elbow in my ribs. "Look!" she yells, causing our hideout to be discovered. "They're here!"
After weaving our way through throbbing crowds, we join in the time-honored IC tradition of screaming and hugging each other. It is both surreal and sublime to be surrounded by so much love. Everywhere I look, there are smiling kids, eager to learn your life story.The next day the USYers are released upon the malls conjoining our hotel. After I introduce my East Coast friends to the wonders of Pinkberry, we meet up with other people they know from New Jersey. Not wanting the situation to be awkward, I introduce myself to a nice-looking boy named Jason. "You're Lexi? I've heard great things about you," he says. "You're kind of famous around here, you know." In that moment, with that compliment bouncing around in my head, I know that USY IC is the best way I could have chosen to spend my winter break.
The convention marches on, with workshops, inedible food, and incredible opportunities. We are taught how to advocate for ourselves and for others, and how to lead effectively. On the last full day of convention, the entire delegation sets out to march to Copley Square. There we stage a public protest against gun violence, and a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting speaks. We make ourselves heard, and the public notices, with many people joining in or applauding as they walk by. It is an incredibly inspiring feeling. Even if it is only just for a day, we are heard, acknowledged, and respected After a crazy dance and very little sleep, it is time to leave. And as I am walking away, after about a hundred hugs and a few tears, I realize I am leaving as a changed person.
Once home, I notice a shift in my perspectives and my actions. I find myself smiling at strangers instead of avoiding eye contact. Rather than dismissing my teacher's new creative lesson plans, I engage in them, and benefit greatly from it. I put my heart fully into everything I decide to do, and when I find my heart isn't in it, I either make a decision to go all in or stop entirely. Whenever I feel down or aggravated, all I have to do is look at pictures from International Convention and reconnect to that week in Boston. You get what you give, and I got much more than I ever could have asked for from this experience.
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