Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Friendly (and Cliché) Reminder

Confession time; I am a forgetful guy. 

Now whether this is because of a few too many hits to the head or because they are really just “blonde” moments, I couldn’t tell you. It could be forgetting where I put my keys or the name of someone I just met, regardless of what it is, I usually try to have a few counter measures in place. Which makes the Reminders app on my phone my saving grace. It helps me remember what is important or pressing at the time in case I forget to look or do something.

The more I think about it though, the more I realize the app isn’t the only thing that reminds me what is important. There are also those people, or even those short little sayings in our lives that serve the same purpose. We all know the ones I am talking about, right? Like “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses,” or “Laughter is the best medicine.” Those little clichés we have all heard. 

To be honest, when I was in middle school, I used to hate hearing those clichés. They made me throw up a little bit in my mouth due to a lack of originality and the fluffy, overly-positive feeling of some of them. Seriously, they were so uncool and cringey.

Due to some interesting events in my life however, I have come to think differently. Now I like to think there are reason to why cliché sayings are cliches. That reason being because there is truth to these sayings that has allowed them to stand the test of time and to remain as popular phrases up to this day. These phrases serve as a reminder for the things we should remember, value, and act on in each of our lives. The things that we should do to truly enjoy the short time we have in our lives.

So here is our friendly reminder. Let’s use those cringey phrase to our advantage, to remind us of what is important. Stop and smell the roses. When life gives you lemons, make the best lemonade you can. Live happily ever after. We get one opportunity, one chance to live our lives to the fullest and make it count. So full steam ahead, take the bull by the horns and chose to use those cliché words to the best of our ability to make ours and other people’s lives better. Just a friendly, little reminder for us all!


Blayne Vandeveer

Northern Region Vice President

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

My Growth Journey

What’re you holding onto that you need to let go of in order to grow? I’m not talking about something physical, but more so internal. For me, it’s an incident that took place during my senior year of high school. 

 

On December 26, 2019, two friends and I were driving back home late at night. As we were on a county road, the back wheel of my friend’s car hit gravel and we spun. After overcorrecting, we ended up in a field with the back end of the car 12 inches away from a telephone pole. At that moment, I was in complete shock and didn’t know what to do. I was scared, embarrassed, and at fault. Fortunately, everyone was physically okay, however the car was not. 

 

Now, there are a lot of details that we simply don’t have time for, but it’s important to realize that this incident was the start of a dark path that has challenged me in unimaginable ways. It took me 11 months to seek help. From January to November of 2020, I suffered from feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness. When you couple this incident with quarantine and life transitions, it’s safe to say my mental health was not in the best state. Since November, I’ve been on a journey trying to heal from this experience along with others. It’s been challenging to say the least and still not over, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. 

 

Something I’ve taken away from this journey is that you must embrace, or accept, challenges as an opportunity to grow. Challenges are inevitable, but when they arise, we have two options: grow from them or remain the same. While my journey has helped me grow in certain aspects, there are still times I find myself obsessing over what others think of me or feeling the shame of my past. The truth is, we can’t grow until we let go. 

 

Think back to the first question I asked: What’re you holding onto that you need to let go of in order to grow? Is it a relationship, a rumor, or a mistake you made? Whatever it may be, it’s time to let go of it. Once we do this, we can finally embrace challenges and grow into the individuals we truly want to be. Remember: We’re not the same person we were 5 minutes ago, let alone 5 days/months/years ago. Breath and let go of whatever is holding you back. 

 

Embracing Challenges as an Opportunity to Grow,

Kylie Schakel 

 

P.S. Life is good. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Advocating for Agriculture

It was springtime of 2019 when I learned what it truly meant to advocate for agriculture. At this time, I was finishing up my junior year when I was sitting in my animal science class and my advisor began talking about a hot topic going on in my community. An area of land in the northern part of my county was planned to be used as an industrial solar facility. Now at this time, I was incredibly uneducated on solar energy or the plan itself. I found out that there was going to be a public meeting where the BZA would vote on the project and the public could speak at the meeting. My friend and I decided we would go together just to watch. We both were very interested to learn more about our communities decision making process and wanted to learn more about the project itself, so our plan was just to sit and listen. 

We weren’t inside the auditorium for more than 10 seconds before we were approached by an individual who my brother went to school with that we both knew. He was incredibly passionate about having this project be approved, and asked if we supported it, too. We both were pretty neutral on it, but he still encouraged us to sign up to speak just so we can be involved citizens. So for the first hour, the BZA and solar company gave their remarks, followed by the public. As I sat there listening to everyone speak, one key point kept bugging me: this is not agriculture. I will admit that I was still learning about different agricultural areas, but I knew that sustainability is a hot agricultural field. The more I kept hearing this phrase, the more I felt the need to clear the air. My friend went up to the podium and spoke and soon after, I was called up. 

There were more individuals present who were completely against this facility being built than there were those for it, and those against it had some pretty intense words to give. Being one of the youngest in the room, I knew I had to choose my words carefully. Ultimately, I decided to focus more on discussing how solar energy is in fact agriculture. I made the connection that many think agriculture is just trailers trucks tractors, cows sows and plows and that farming only consists of digging a hole and putting a seed in it, but that solar energy is in fact a farming practice and sustainability falls into the agricultural field. When I finished speaking, I turned around and was immediately met with backlash from those opposed. I heard, “Ok kid it’s past your bedtime.” and “She’s a kid! What does she know about any of this?” I expected this, but I was satisfied that I was able to advocate for agriculture and clear up a common agricultural misconception.

The vote passed that night, meaning the BZA chose to approve the facility. I was met with some pretty harsh backlash from others the days following the meeting, and I won’t lie, some of the words I received hurt. This was something I expected though and that I was ready to receive. However, I received a message from an individual who was strongly against the facility that told me she was proud of what I said at the meeting and she was happy that Shelby County agriculture had passionate young people like myself ready to take our community to the next level in agriculture. That right there helped me see that I did my job as a young agriculturalist. The thing about the agricultural industry is that we’ll always be met by people who don’t support us or believe in those common misconceptions. It’s our job as agvocates to share the real news on agriculture so we can educate our communities on this industry that keeps our world moving. There’s no doubt that advocating means we’ll be met with those who don’t agree with us, but that’s when we need to take that opportunity as a time to educate, not rebuttal. 


Always advocating for agriculture, 

Julia Hamblen

2020-2021 Indiana FFA State President


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Own the Emotions

The team has lovingly dubbed me the team youth pastor. This came about due in part to my Bible reading, coffee chugging, and worship music playlist. They also noted something about my overall vibe being that of a youth pastor. Anyway, this youth pastor was talking with a teammate about our old youth groups. Remembering all the fun times that I had at youth group, I started flipping through my Bible for some more inspiration for my blog post, and I stumbled across this verse;


"God met me more than halfway; he freed me from my anxious fears." - Psalm 34:4 


Scribbled in the margins, I had written; 


"Lay down your fear and pick up something else. It's still there, but it isn't stopping you." 


Fear, anger, frustration, grief, disgust, disappointment, and shame. We all have experienced these emotions in one way or another. Typically, we would refer to these emotions as “bad emotions.” 


I think that our emotions can be extremely valuable teachers, but if left unchecked, they can become things that stand in our way. There is this idea that there are good emotions, like joy, love, and gratitude; likewise, there are bad emotions, like anger, sadness, and frustration. Susan Davis, who is an award-winning Harvard Medical School Psychologist among other things, challenges this idea by stating that, "Emotions are normal. Emotions are beautiful. There's no good or bad emotion." The problem occurs when we refuse to visit our so-called "bad emotions." Instead of disappearing, they sit and brood, building up over time until we explode. Eventually, they become roadblocks to our better selves. 


I have a bad habit of trying to ignore those strong emotions and try to brush them off. I would try and push down sadness and bottle it up as if that would help me at all. I'm sure I am not the only one who does that, though. How many times have we bottled up our emotions and let them hold us back? Do we let it stop us in our tracks? If so, it's time to stop that right now. 


The idea that if we are just positive our lives will be perfect needs to be dispelled immediately. Countless researchers and philosophers have noted that in order to live a full and joyful life we will have to experience the good and the bad. 


Think about a painful experience that you have had. Go ahead and write this down if you want. Maybe it was disappointing your parents, getting heartbroken, getting stood up by your friends, hearing people gossiping about you, getting told no, feeling alone, or not feeling good enough. What emotions did you feel when that happened? 


Like we said earlier, our emotions are valuable teachers. Dr. Susan Davis tells us that our emotions signpost our values. They reflect what we care about. For example: 

  • If we get angry when we fail a test we thought was easy, we value achieving goals and learning. 

  • If we are sad when we hear someone telling a lie about us, we value friendship and connection. 

  • If we are mad when we see someone getting bullied, we know that we value justice and kindness. 


Go back to that experience that you wrote down and the emotions you felt. What do those emotions teach us about ourselves? What are they signposting for you?


Our emotions signpost our values. We have to take the time to sit with these emotions and learn what they are trying to teach us. Trust me; I was never a fan of all these emotions and vulnerability. When I first watched Brene Brown's Call to Courage on Netflix, I thought it was ridiculous. But as my Past State Officer mentor has taught me, our emotions are powerful tools to learn about ourselves. If we take the time to ask ourselves those hard questions and know about our values, we will become better leaders and better versions of ourselves to unpack the complex emotions.


Our lives, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, are a part of a much broader story at work. Loss, pain, joy, humiliation, grief, gratitude, and excitement are all a part of it. So let's stop bottling up those emotions. I had to learn this the hard way. I tried to engineer a solution where I didn't have to deal with my complicated emotions and I failed miserably. Earlier I wrote, "lay down your fear and pick up something else. It's still there, but it isn't stopping you." Now I challenge you to do the same. Lay down that fear, hate, and frustration. Don't disregard it, don't ignore it, and don't block it out. Our emotions are normal. They are beautiful things. Embrace these emotions. Your future self will thank you. 


Owning the emotions,

Luc Sproles


Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Sky Is No Limit

SPRING BREAK! After the craziness that was February, it was nice to finally relax for a week with my family. When you have two separate conferences, a keynote retreat, and FFA Week all in one month, you forget how nice it is to enjoy some rest and relaxation. My family has a long-standing tradition of traveling somewhere warm for Spring Break. This year was no exception to that tradition. For the past few days, I have been soaking up the sun down here in beautiful Orlando, Florida. White sand beaches, cool water, and eighty degree weather have been major highlights. In addition to nature and the scenery, my family enjoys checking out the major sights and sounds. You can usually find the Williams family at any must-see tourist attraction. For those of you still waiting to check Orlando off the bucket list, you should definitely make the trip over to the Kennedy Space Center for the day. Located about an hour east of Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center offers you the amazing opportunity to see our nation’s space program up close. Rockets from the original Apollo missions, the Space Shuttle itself, and more Moon rocks than any one person can handle are spread out over the visitor complex. Towards the end of our experience at the Kennedy Space Center, we happened to hear from one of the tour guides that there was going to be a rocket launch later in the week.

Of course, I was instantly hooked. I started looking up launch times, the best viewing spots, how far we would have to travel from our condo--the whole shebang. My enthusiasm was so great that finding out the rocket was launching at 4:30 AM and that we would have to leave our condo around 3:00 AM seemed like a minor detail. How awesome would it be to see the rocket blast framed against the dark morning sky?! With that same energy and excitement, my dad and I got up yesterday morning and saw one of the most incredible things I have ever witnessed. Something so moving and so spectacular I can’t believe it was real. Thankfully, a local photographer was there to capture the launch and the small group of onlookers. And there on the right hand side, my dad and I as we witnessed humankind once again reach the heavens.


My FFA Advisor would always tell me that the sky was the limit for my potential. Anything that I wanted to do in life or accomplish in this organization, the sky was the limit. It’s a phrase that we hear so often, yet we never think about the actual words. Well after witnessing what I saw yesterday morning, I would like to offer up a new phrase. If humankind can strap themselves to a rocket of our own design and reach the stars above our heads, then the sky is no limit. If we can accomplish something that once was considered impossible or the stuff of science fiction, there is nothing in life that we cannot achieve. Some of our loftiest goals carry that same feeling of hopelessness and impossibility. Combating climate change, tackling systemic racism, and feeding a growing population all feel like daunting tasks. Ones that will require more than we could possibly give to accomplish. Yet even in the most difficult of times, we bring forth the best of humanity and then some. When we need to be more innovative, we put our minds to work and achieve the impossible. When we need to be courageous, we lead with our hearts and stand up for what’s right. And when we feel the call of history to reach new heights, the sky is never the limit. Here’s to those willing to make the giant leaps for mankind.


Dreaming of the Stars,

Derick Williams

Indiana FFA State Reporter






Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Stage Door of Life

        After a long night performing on Broadway, actors have the chance to finally head home and get a well-deserved full night’s sleep. They leave the theater through what is called the stage door. Patrons line the stage door after the show, hoping to catch the actors for a picture or to have them sign the show’s Playbill. Some actors are in a hurry to get home, but there are some that stick around to interact with the audience members. 

When I had the opportunity to travel to New York City with my school’s Performing Arts Program, I had the best experience at the Anastasia stage door. Christy Altomare, who played Anastasia, was one of the actors that stuck around to interact with the audience members. As you can probably guess, I was freaking out! The lead actress in the show was coming around to each individual person to take selfies and sign their Playbills! This wasn’t even the coolest part of the experience. The coolest part was when Christy started talking to each individual person at the stage door. She would stop signing the Playbill or stop taking selfies so that she could have intentional, genuine interactions with the audience. When you talked with her, she looked you straight in the eyes and truly listened to every word you said to her. She carried herself with such grace and humility that you forgot you just met her for the first time. It felt like you had talked before and that she genuinely cared for you and what you had to say.

In life, we often have these stage door moments. We “put on a show” when we play in the Friday night sports game, compete in Leadership or Career Development Events, perform in a concert, or whatever else we spend our time doing. Sometimes, we think that this performance is the part that will have the greatest impact on those around us. In reality, it’s those stage door moments that mean the most to those around us. 

If we stop and take the time to be genuine and intentional with those simple interactions, we show our audience that we’re human. We show them we care. We show them that we are their equals and we do what we do for them. These intentional moments are what adds the greatest value to others’ lives. 


Being intentional with every stage door moment,

Evan Coblentz

State Treasurer


Thursday, March 11, 2021

If You Ain't First, You're Last

     If you have ever seen Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, you know the famous quote of “If you ain’t first, you're last.” Well I decided at a very young age that I was going to live by this saying. I still believe it to this day… well most days. Let me tell you about a time where trying to be first made me dead last. 

My family, some other farmers, and a few friends of mine went down to San Antonio, Texas for the Commodity Classic. This is an agronomy and agriscience convention held every year in a different location. Now, this particular place, San Antonio, is a place where walking is much easier than driving. The small roads and abundance of people make it hard to get around in a vehicle. There was one problem. I don’t like walking everywhere. Thankfully the city has these wonderful things called “Bird Scooters.” So, a couple of farm kids from Indiana decide that their main way of transportation is going to be these scooters. We download the app, put our credit cards in the system, and then start riding our way to a 255 dollar scooter bill by the end of the weekend. 

Throughout the 4 days we were in San Antonio, we had learned pretty much every street, sidewalk, and alley in the city. We started to race everywhere we went. Getting more confident with the scooters, we started going faster and faster much like Ricky Bobby himself would. “If you ain’t first, you're last,” rushed through my thinking device, also known as a brain, which caused me to push myself and that small piece of metal with two wheels. Faster and faster we went. I hit the top speed of 17 mph and was zooming back towards our hotel when out of nowhere the forward motion turned into downward motion. My friend Cody, whom I was racing, had caught my back wheel and sent me slamming into the asphalt. The pain hit immediately and the warmth of blood flowed down my arm. I instantly rolled over to see what had happened and noticed all the people on the street staring at me. I ripped my sleeve off my BRAND NEW Cinch shirt and destroyed my elbow which was where the blood was coming from. I went ahead and scraped my palms raw in the fall while ripping a massive hole in my pants. Cody also took a tumble and was laying on the ground with me while Jimmy and Logan stood over us dying with laughter. As I stood up and tried to pull myself together in front of these people, I realized how trying to be first and pushing myself and that scooter to the limit put me dead last. Was I mad? Of course. But I had a humbling experience that sometimes we don’t have to rush to the front. As many wise men have said “slow and steady wins the race.” I still don’t believe that some days but I really just wanted to share this story with y’all. If I could tell you one thing to take away from this it would be to not push bird scooters to the limit and there is never a bad time to slow down.


Always wanting to go fast,


Loren Dakota Matlock