For those of you who may not know, DECA is a not-for-profit organization that was built to give highschool kids a taste of what the world of business has to offer. For some, it's a chance to participate in case competitions. For others, it's the ability to mingle with a melting pot of like-minded students from schools across the province. For me, it was the only club that was still accepting applicants, as I was way late on the deadline.
Back in highschool, I was the unfortunate type of introvert that spent all their time studying, but never really cared about school. The busier school got, the more I studied. And the more I studied, the busier school got. As many sons and daughters of Asian parents can relate, my career options included engineering (like my dad), finance (like my mom), or medicine. I chose the latter. My parents noticed this seemingly endless feedback loop I had fallen into, and (in an effort to coax me out of my shell,) gently demanded I join a club. And so I did.
I remember walking into the first meeting of this club, and pudgy highschool Neal did everything he could not to be noticed. I remember seeing everyone there with their friends, and recall praying that the teacher, Ms. Farber, didn't pick me to be a volunteer. The first meeting was relatively painless, and over time, I slowly started to enjoy them as time dragged on.
One of the biggest components of DECA was the case competition. A chance for every student, school, region, and country to see who their most promising business leaders might be. Cramming for an Earth and Space Science exam that week, I neglected to do any prep work for this case competition. Frankly, I'm not even sure I knew what I was getting into until we boarded the school bus and drove to the competition grounds.
The competition consisted of a written exam and a verbal business roleplay. At this point in my life I hadn't presented anything to anyone outside of my classes, and was understandably petrified. But as soon as I got up there, something in me changed.
I don't remember much of that day. I don't even recall what the case was about. But I do know that as soon as I got my grading sheet back with a perfect "100/100", something changed. Reading the words my judge wrote, claiming she "felt like [she] was talking to a CEO of a new startup" got my heart racing. It still does.
This was the first time I realized I was very quickly hurtling towards the wrong major. This was the first time I felt genuinely good at something, like I had this natural storytelling ability in me that I had never before invoked. This was the moment I knew where I belonged. And it sure as hell wasn't medicine.