Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to School Challenges

            State Fair has officially come to an end. The state officers are finally home to our own marginally more comfortable beds. Football has returned to television. And, we are undoubtedly on the downhill side of August. As we returned to Trafalgar from the State Fair I had an hour long car ride to reflect on the escapade that was concluding. The State Fair was an incredible experience that afforded me the opportunity to speak to a large number of members. During my car ride I recalled some of the conversations that I had with those members. I started to realize that many of those conversations were centered around school, and specifically returning to school at the conclusion of summer break. This train of thought eventually led me to reflecting on my own high school career, and as I did so the idea to challenge all of you returning students struck me. So, for all those returning to school this fall, allow me to challenge you to genuinely find yourself, to be your best self, and to make this year count.
            “Genuinely find yourself” sounds dramatically cliché and well overused. However, as I sit here reflecting on my personal high school experience I find that I really didn’t mind high school all that much. I might even go so far as to say I enjoyed my time there. I credit my leisure to the fact that I knew what I enjoyed and who I was. Through middle school I was always running about in graphic t-shirts and basketball shorts—not that there is anything wrong with that; it just wasn’t me. Not far into my high school career, I realized it wasn’t me. By my sophomore year I realized that I was really more of a collared shirts, nice jeans, and loafers kind of person. My shirt was always tucked in, and my hair was always sculpted. I was less about sports, and more about academics. Once I realized that, I was immeasurably happier and more comfortable in my own skin. Finding yourself can be a vital part of enjoying your high school career. It may not be easy. It may require some real digging. Find what you really enjoy, what you really stand for, and who you really are, and enjoy the comfort and peace of mind that comes with it.
            My second challenge may initially be interpreted as mildly ambiguous. What does “be your best self” even mean? Well, once you’ve completed the afore mentioned challenge and found yourself, you might as well be your best self. My freshman and sophomore year I was that student who never did more work than was absolutely necessary. A’s and B’s would keep me out of trouble with my parents, so I was a straight B student. To my younger self, it was ludicrous to do more work for that extra letter grade when a B was perfectly acceptable. At the beginning of my junior year however, I had some sort of epiphany. It dawned on me that I was completely capable of achieving better grades. There was a better version of myself that I was just too lazy to be. I made the conscience decision to remedy that. I started working harder, listening more intently, and—non-coincidentally—understanding more. It’s easy to be some lesser version of ourselves. I’m challenging you, right now, to be your best self this year. Make the most of your intelligence and your skillset. Don’t just be yourself. Be your best self.
            The last challenge I am making to you is to make this year count. As a student and an FFA member, make this year matter. I know that while in high school it feels like you will be there forever, it feels like you will be in FFA forever. Looking back, however, your time in both of these is rather brief. You get four years in high school and maybe a couple more in FFA. Regardless, you don’t have many. Don’t waste one of those years by letting it be just okay. Make it extraordinary.
            If you feel up to it, accept these challenges. Write them on a sticky note and put them in your locker, on your desk, or in your car. Try to keep them in the forefront of your mind as you go about each day at school. As for us here in the state officer house, we will be busily preparing for LDW, chapter visits, and district kickoffs. There is much excitement to come this fall for Indiana FFA!

Jacob Mueller
2014-2015 Southern Region Vice President

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