Going into my senior year of high school, I was more than ready to embrace all of the “lasts” that were headed my way. The last first day of school, last homecoming, last football game, last basketball game, last time sitting in the cheerblock, last prom, and the list goes on. Before I knew it, experiencing those lasts became natural, and being reintroduced to “firsts” became the new normal. For example, the first night at the state officer house with my teammates, going to the grocery store for the first time, cooking our first meal, and getting the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. which led right into the Great Indiana State Fair.
Everyone who knows me knows that the State Fairgrounds is one of my favorite places on Earth. There has always been something about the people, livestock, and memories that live there, throughout the fair, that has stuck with me and ultimately had a huge impact on who I am as an individual. My first state fair was spent achieving the small goals that my young self had set and establishing new and much larger goals for the future. Each year, I had the opportunity to work towards checking those goals off while being surrounded by some of my favorite people. I remember every state fair like they happened yesterday, and the memories I have made there are truly unforgettable. Just like the memories from my first nine state fairs have stuck with me, I am sure that my experiences at my tenth, and final state fair, will not leave my mind any time soon.
As my season of lasts turned into a season of firsts, I quickly forgot about the “last” that had yet to happen: the last time in the show ring. In the midst of enjoying the first milestone as a state officer at the FFA Pavilion, I was also taking in every minute I had in Blue Ribbon Pavilion as this would be my final time showing. For sixteen years walking in and out of show rings has been routine, but this time was different. I knew that each time I walked in the ring, depending on the outcome, I could be walking out for the final time. No matter how many times I ran that scenario through my head, imagining how I would feel when that moment came, I wasn’t prepared to physically take that last step. As I walked my ewe out of the ring following the Commercial Ewe Drive, I felt all of the emotions that the Indiana State Fair had offered me at once. A final last had come, and while I cried because that chapter was closing, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked at the people who had walked along this journey with me. I now know that I am “one of them” with the opportunity to do the same for other young livestock showmen just as they had done for me in the past ten years.
I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t hard to close a door that had some of my most cherished memories behind it. But as I was reminded by one of the most influential people in my life just moments after the final backdrop photo was taken, “This isn't the end. This is the moment that you see everything you have accomplished and can recognize the person you have become. Now it’s time for a new role, something that will last for much longer.” Although it may feel like it, a closed door doesn’t symbolize the end. It represents a step towards the future with countless windows of opportunities ahead.
So whether you’re in a season of exciting firsts or heading into a season of lasts, I encourage you to look for every open window that is offering up a great opportunity and to hold on to the memories behind those hard-to-close doors!
Excited for What’s Ahead,
2023-2024 State President