Allison Penner, State FFA Secretary, of the Clay Center FFA Chapter, presented her retiring address this morning during the second session of the 82nd Kansas FFA Convention.
The summer before my senior year of high school I was fortunate enough to go on a weeklong mission trip to Mt. Vernon, Illinois. The community of Mt. Vernon had applied to have an organization called Group Work Camps come and work on various projects around the area to simply help people out. Our project was to rip out and rebuild a front porch and then do some scraping and painting on the house that we were assigned to. One part of this project consisted of painting the second story of the back part of the house. This required my friend Ben and I to get on the roof of the back porch to reach the area we were supposed to be working on. No big deal right? Well, it wouldn’t have been had it not been for two small details. One, there were wasps EVERYWHERE. And I do mean EVERYWHERE. And two, I. hate. Wasps. One or two I can deal with but this was just ridiculous. Ben apparently had no issue with wasps. He climbed up on the roof and got to work. I climbed up after him and also got to work. Killing every wasp I could. Oh yes, it was war. As soon as I set foot on that roof I immediately went into ninja mode and started dodging wasps as I attempted to kill them. This created another problem as the part of the roof we were standing on was about 10ft by 10ft. Not that much room to be jumping around. After one near death experience with me almost jumping off of the roof Ben turned to me and says “I hope you know that if you jump off this roof I’m not going to try to catch you.” Thanks a lot. He then finishes by saying, “Why don’t you just do what you came up here to do and ignore them?” Jump. Back. You mean instead of letting them dictate where I go I just do what I was supposed to and get on with life. Hmmmm. I mean I guess that could work. I’m sure every one of you is sitting there thinking - duh? How hard could it be to live my life and ignore the outside influences pushing me in directions I don’t want to go. Well you tell me. As you go along in life – how hard is it to live and be who you want to be? To know who you are – what you like, what motivates you, what interests you, to try new things. How hard is it? Many times we get so caught up in pleasing people around us, whether it be our teachers, our parents, our friends, even our ag advisors that we forget about ourselves. I know in high school I struggled with this. Do you only do what others expect or do you take ownership of your life? When I graduated and was ready to start my life outside of high school which required me to know what I wanted to do, that’s when I realized – I don’t know who I am. I know who my parents know me as, I know who my friends know me as, I know who my teachers know me as, but I don’t know me. I then had catch up work to do. Listen to yourself. Know yourself. You have spent 15,16,17,18 years with yourself – you should know you by now! Take time to try new things, to see what motivates you, to know what your interests are. I think some might surprise you. A few things on my bucket list are: skydiving, bungee jumping, be in a play at K-State, and learn to break dance. I can guarantee that my mother is cringing right now. But that’s me. I sat down and decided that these are things that I want to try and I can honestly say that I am pumped to get started on that list. So don’t let anything force you off the roof – sit down and get acquainted with yourself, what are your interests, your likes, your dislikes. I think it could be the start of a great friendship.
Now, all of this hard work that has gone into writing the definition of you will really be for nothing if you do not act on it and truly live who you are. I have a friend named Tyler. Tyler is probably one of the craziest people I know. Actually, scratch that – he is the craziest person I know. He does Tae Kwon Do, he loves to build with legos, he’s a Physics nerd, a star wars geek, plays the drums, is goofing off roughly 90% of the time, one of his life goals is to go skydiving and if this is not accomplished before his death he wants someone to drop his corpse out of an airplane at a few thousand feet and oh I forgot to mention – he’s 28 and has a wife and two kids. Yeah. That about sums it up. Now, like I said, Tyler is a physics nerd. He is also crazy smart – and I mean smart. Tyler was employed by NASA as a mechanical engineer. He had a seemingly perfect job – I mean how much more legit can you get? But, Tyler decided it was not where he was supposed to be. And I do not just mean NASA. Tyler is currently enrolled in North Park Theological Seminary College and will graduate in 2012. Talk about a career switch. If you are anything like me your mouth is gaping at this moment. I could not believe it when I heard that he had quit his job at NASA! We are talking about NASA here – like put someone on the moon, 3-2-1 lift off! THAT NASA. And he quit? Yeah he did. He is living who he is. Tyler may be the craziest person I know but he is also one of the most content. While people might think he was nuts for quitting the “perfect job” – he didn’t care. His family supported him in his ambitions and he knew that God was calling him to this and that was more than enough for him. You have one life to live – and it is yours to do with how you please. Do not ever settle for okay or kind of alright go for extraordinary, go for amazing! Always look for chances to further who you are. Think of the opportunities FFA has given you for this. The chance to try your hand at judging, to meet people from across the country at conferences and conventions, to truly live who you are in hundreds of arenas spanning from owning your own business to improving your public speaking. Try something new just because you can. Try a new sport, learn a new skill, find a new hobby, compete in a new CDE – whatever – the possibilities are endless. Live who you are.