Monday, May 18, 2020

We Are Never Alone

It has been two weeks since our team has moved back to the FFA Center. We have been in full State Convention mode finishing up scripts, developing retiring addresses, and getting videos in place.  And through it all, our team has made it a goal to make sure that we also dedicate some time to enjoy our last few weeks in Trafalgar.
When we moved back, I made it my personal goal to walk to the Vesper Bowl every day. So far, no matter the temperature or weather, I have kept up with that goal.  However, it really was not until the other day that I realized why I made that goal.  I was walking to the Vesper Bowl with my teammate Dillon, and when we arrived, he looked at me and asked, “Why is coming down here so important to you?”  In the moment I honestly did not have a concrete answer, but I thought about that questions for the next few days, and then it finally came to me.  

A tree in a forest

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Six years ago, I came to my first FFA Conference.  That conference was Summer Challenge, which was a week-long in July that was open to members of all ages.  I was just getting out of my seventh-grade year and I really did not know anybody outside of my school, so that week seemed like eternity thanks to my nerves.  Throughout most of the week I felt like nobody wanted me at the conference; I felt alone.  By the second to last day, I was ready to go home.  I even went into Mrs. Ariens’s office to call my mom to come pick me up. 
Luckily, my mom’s verdict was for me to stay.  We had our reflections in the Vesper Bowl that night, and when the reflections themselves came to a close, I sat in the corner by myself and tried to hold in the tears until everyone left.  However, the fear and anxiety that had made me want to leave was a little too overwhelming.  And to my surprise, I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I looked up to see that it was one of the State Officers, Lindsey O’Hara.  She sat down with me and talked about everything that was going on.  I soon came to realize that people did want me there and that it is impossible to be alone at the FFA Center.  The only reason I felt that way is because I never reached out to anyone.

A tree in a forest

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That is the reason that I made it my goal to walk to the Vesper Bowl every day.  During this pandemic, there have been times that I have felt alone.  With all of these changes happening from graduations, to conventions, contests, church services, and literally every aspect of our lives, I have felt overwhelmed.  However, my many trips to the Vesper Bowl and having the chance to be back with my teammates have reminded me that we are never alone; we just need to take the hands that are reaching out for us.  We are all going through this together.  Do not be afraid to ask for help, let someone be there for you.  In times like these, where we are all going through this together, we are only truly alone if we do not ask for help.

Always here,
Noah Berning

Monday, May 11, 2020

Write a Letter

One of the hardest things I have had to do during this quarantine is be away from friends and family. Social interaction is what fuels me and keeps me going. I love to hang out with friends, go on drives with my family, and spend genuine time doing the things I love with the people I love. To say that having to social distance and keep trips to an essential minimum was tough, would be an understatement. Earlier this year I wrote a few letters to a few friends because I love the sentimental idea that even years down the road, I will be able to read the words they send me.
Quarantine had me in a slump, longing for authentic interaction with those I am closest with. This sparked an idea in my head. What if I start writing pen pals while we are all stuck at home? There is nothing better than the intimate message of pen to ink that can lift the spirits of anyone around you. So I created my pen pal list. I reached out to friends and family to get their address so I could write them a letter. My letters tended to relate to the positive silver linings that I had happening in my life, small stories, and funny events that may have happened recently. I was not expecting a response from any of my twenty pen pals, but the week after I sent my letters, I was shocked. My friends started writing back! From then on the conversations began. It was a race down to the mailbox every morning and a lighthearted anticipation for the next time the mail carrier went on her route, hoping I would be able to hear back from a friend today. For the first time I had more genuine conversations with my friends and was able to learn more about them than I ever knew. There is a different feeling a letter addressed to you has that you could never get from a Snapchat or text message. Writing letters has helped me clear my mind while keeping social interaction buzzing in my heart.
If I could leave you all with any advice it would be to write a letter. It could be to a grandparent or a close friend. It could be ten pages or ten words. As we continue to battle hardships in life, letters allow us to keep an open network of support that has a deeper sense of connection than a phone could ever give.
                              Always writing,
                              Nathan Fairchild

Monday, May 4, 2020

More Than Okay

Let's think: after saying “hello” on the phone, what’s the next thing you say to the person on the other end of the line? Is it “what’s up?” Is it “How are you?” Or is it like what a few of my teammates say, “What do ya know?” More importantly, how do you respond? Do you answer with “nothing much?” Is your response “fine” or “alright?” Or is it the constant “Good, and you?”
Every time I’ve picked up the phone, not only just these past few months, but every time since I knew how to press the green button, I’ve started every conversation with the same wall. 
“How are you doing?”
“That’s great! I’m doing well.” 
The shameful thing is, even when I wasn’t doing well, it was still my answer. One to bet on. This repetition isn’t something that only I encounter, but more so an issue that plagues any and every human out there. We all fall into the pattern of saying we’re happy and “living our best life,” regardless if we truly are. It’s become especially evident in a time like this. The world is full of uncertainty, our daily interactions have changed, our habits have been altered, and quite frankly, after examining the list written down on paper, we simply may not really be “living our best life.” Let’s be real. Everything that we thought we knew months ago is irrelevant to what is today. Our natural inclination and hope for completing the same tasks every day has changed, all to help bring some sanity to our current lives. So why does it feel as though we still have to continue answering the phone with “I’m doing well?”
Before moving home, my days looked very similar- interacting with teammates, meetings with staff, and sitting at the same high table at the Franklin Starbucks to finish an excessive amount of work and coffee. Being home now, I lock myself in my room for hours to avoid my brothers, talk to my pet fish, and develop anxiety from the combination of not drinking enough coffee and completing what feels like only very little work. Yet every time I answered the phone from a teammate, friend, or family member I always said, “I’m doing just fine,” even though we both knew neither one of us were living that claim. Countless days were spent the same way - feeling discontent and confused about what the next days entailed. 
Sitting down with my mother I had a tough conversation about my feelings, feelings that made me feel as though I were the only one in the world experiencing these emotions. My mother reminded me of something: While we aren’t the only ones facing challenges in everyday life, she said, “it’s okay to not be okay.” We may be raised to be strong and daring, but it takes strength and courage to be vulnerable with our feelings. We face every day with persistence and strength, but when was the last time we admitted to ourselves, let alone to someone else, that we aren’t as happy and strong as we let on? Why do we fail to share our true feelings when someone asks? Is it the pride and armor that we shield with, or is it to avoid burdening others? Why does it feel as though it’s not okay to ‘not be okay?’
Every day, each person on this planet is faced with challenges. Many are faced with financial burdens, others encounter harmful relationships, and many feel lost without true belonging or purpose. However, even though so many feel the pressure now more than ever, it’s not a conversation that we have very often. We don’t ask on the phone, “how are you really doing?” We know we aren’t the only ones, yet we act as though it’s all okay.
I’ll start - I do not have it all figured out, and some days are a little crazier and messier than normal. I ask dumb questions and forget tasks. I’m one to say “I’m okay,” to save my pride and uphold a higher image. However, I’ve learned that trying to be perfect is exhausting and never let others see the person I was and tried authentically to be. Trying to “be okay” only prevented me from finding my true belonging and truly finding a way to “be okay.” At this time more than ever, we may still not have it all figured out or feel inside that we are doing just fine. Why don’t we? Because we’re human. We can’t, and shouldn’t, expect ourselves to be perfect. When we stop appearing to others that we’ve got it all figured out, we can then begin to be our true selves and be proud of who we are. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to be yourself and own who you are. It’s okay to not be okay, because at the end of the day, we’re all still trying to figure out who we are in this world. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s more than okay to be yourself.
“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” - BrenĂ© Brown
The next time you answer the phone and the person on the end asks how you’re doing, answer how you really are doing. With full hearts and the courage to be you, you’ll see from the world that it really is okay to not be okay.

Still trying to figure it out,
        Morgan Ann Hinz