Two weeks. Apprentice-style challenges. 16 of the loudest, craziest, most energetic and driven young people on the planet. Set against the backdrop of Liverpool and its attractions, from the Liverpool Cathedral to the Liverpool Eye. And one unforgettable journey that would forever change the lives of all who embarked on it.
It's been two days since I returned home after the Your Big Year finals. It feels good to be back, but at the same time slightly disorienting after spending a whirlwind two weeks doing things I never would have imagined myself doing. In these two weeks I've been stretched, been pushed out of my comfort zone, and questioned my abilities over and over again.
I've gotten to know not just the world and the 14 different countries represented in the finals a little better, but I've gotten to know myself a bit better. And I didn't always like what I learned about myself. I learned that under pressure, I can be irritable, short-tempered, and not the best of company. I've learned that I carry a lot of preconceived notions and prejudices against people that are probably not even true. I've learned that I'm still not as good at talking about my emotions as I'd like to think I am.
But I've also learned that I'm capable of doing a lot more than I thought I could - like delivering an impromptu elevator pitch to Sir Terry Leahy (former CEO of Tesco) without stammering, living together for two weeks with a bunch of strangers and eventually coming to see them as family, and approaching strangers from different cultures on the streets on Liverpool to raise funds for charity.
For a girl who used to tear up at the thought of talking to strangers because she was that shy, I think that's a pretty big achievement. I may not have won the competition, but to make it to the Top 10 out of over 60,000 entrants from over 200 countries, and to fly more than halfway across the world to do crazy things just because I believed the challenge would help me grow? That's already a huge win for me.
But beyond all that, the biggest win of all was getting to know all of the amazing people at Your Big Year. People who made my world a little smaller, and my perspectives a little bigger.It's spending every moment from the time you wake up till the time you hit your pillow experiencing the full range of possible emotions with a range of personalities that could not be more colourful or diverse. It’s becoming so completely exhausted that there’s no more energy to keep up fronts or maintain a certain image. It’s about vulnerability and opening up to someone else, and realising that despite our different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, we all share common dreams, hopes, wishes. It’s arriving as strangers... and leaving as family.
My biggest win at Your Big Year was meeting the people who remind me that I'm not alone in this - that there are so many out there who wanted to make a difference in the world - for good. And that we need each other. We can't do it alone.
So wherever you are right now, in all your efforts to make a difference and make the world a better place, don't forget that you're not Superman/woman. You're not meant to save the world alone. Let's do it together.