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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Allison Penner presents her retiring address, "Defined"

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.

I’m an art geek, and a Disney freak. I’m a sorority girl giving premed a whirl. I’m sarcastic, a little spastic. Apparently I can rhyme too. I’m a Dr. Pepper drinking, t-shirt and jeans wearing, cheeseburger eating, bible reading, purple bleeding, tree climbing, country music listening, FFA corduroy sporting, small town girl. Word. Who are you? What defines you? Here’s a better question do you even know? Dictionaries are a frequently used item at my house. Every time I need to know how to spell a word I would of course go to the ever trustworthy Momopedia. After yelling “mom!” about five times because I’m too lazy to walk up the stairs to talk to her my question of how to spell a word would usually be answered with, “well why don’t you go look it up in the dictionary?” Okay I HATE this answer. If I don’t know how to spell a word how the heck am I supposed to find it in a dictionary? Whatever. Dictionaries are also used as daily vocabulary lessons whenever an interesting word comes up in conversation because just telling us the definition would be waaay too easy. We must always consult Mr. Webster. No matter how much dictionaries are used in everyday life whether it be in your house, school, or any of the many sites on the internet and no matter how much information they can tell you – none of them will ever define you. This is a task that is to be taken on by you and you only. So how hard can it be? Well, if you’re anything like me – harder than you think. But, it boils down to three things: knowing yourself, filtering out influences, and finally – living who you are.

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.

Defining yourself is not a one step process. Once you realize what you want in life – it’s time to take a look at who might help you get there. Filter the influences that are in your life and see which ones will help you to be successful. Take your parents for example – they gave you life – sometimes you should listen to them, how about your ag advisor who, let’s be honest, is probably the coolest teacher you know, maybe it is a mentor or a close relative you can trust, all of these could be positive influences in your life. But then you also have influences in your life that you might want to tune out – ones that are negative that might pull you back. How do you decide what to listen to and what to ignore? How do you filter all of the outside influences of your day? By a show of hands how many of you have gone white water rafting? Haha I am just kidding I really cannot see a thing past the front of the stage – but for the sake of this speech we will just pretend that some hands went up. I really love white water rafting. I have only gone a few times but each time is always a new experience. One time your advisor might fall out of the raft twice – don’t worry Mr. Regier I won’t tell anyone it was you. And another time you might stage a pirate attack on another raft in your group. One thing that is always changing is the river. Depending on what time of the season you go, what the weather is like, and how experienced your group is will affect your trip downstream. This is where your guide comes into the picture. The guide’s responsibility is to get your group safely down the river by telling you when to paddle, which way to go, and most importantly – getting you through the rapids. On the last rafting trip I went on, our group started talking to our guide about how you learn to be a guide and how they know how to get through all of the rapids. He explained to us how there are certain currents flowing on the river and that they are trained to know which ones they need to take and which ones will make you end up swimming downstream. It takes a lot of time and practice to be able to know when to paddle right and when to paddle left and be able to take people down the river. What currents do you need to take in your life? Which influences do you need to pay attention to to get down the river successfully? Think of all of the inputs of your day. You wake up to your radio alarm clock. As you get ready for school the news is on. Your parents lecture you about how messy your room is. You go to school and see your friends, your teachers teach you. And that’s only about the first three hours of your day! So how do you know how to filter all of these influences in your life? How do you decide which currents to take? First – be purposeful about it. Know what you are looking for in your life and which direction you want to go with it. From there, find which influences are positive and which influences are negative. Which ones add something good to your life and which ones pull you back? Notice I did not say which ones are ones that you WANT to listen to. If your parents ask you to do your homework before you can go out with your friends, remember that they want you to succeed and have your best interests at heart. If your coach puts you playing a new position that he thinks you could excel in, realize that he may see something in you that you might not. Also, do not write off a possibility just because you haven’t tried it. Your advisor thinks you could be awesome at Entomology? Why not give it a shot? When you filter the currents or influences in your life and you know which ones you plan on taking – the rapids really do not seem too scary.

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.

Who are you? What defines you? It is time to find out. Take the time to have a heart to heart with yourself. Know who you are. Do not let yourself fall off the roof trying to please others. As you go along in life know which currents and which influences to follow and which ones to avoid – it is the only way to make it downstream safely. And most importantly – live who you are. Live your life like it is YOUR life. Strive to make it awesome, dare to make it incredible, never settle because your life is worth more than that. Dictionaries are helpful. They get us through essays, through reading assignments with words we just do not understand, and they help us define most of the written world. What they will never define is you. You can search endlessly through the words of Webster, through Urban Dictionary dot com, through Wikipedia and you will never come across what defines you. This is your task. Do not risk going through life not knowing who you are. Look at who you are, look at who you want to be, the time is now. Not tomorrow- not two weeks from now, not when you get around to it. Life is too short to go another second not knowing. Kansas FFA, know who you are. Live who you are. That is when you will be defined!

1 comment:

  1. What a great speach. I hope all those kids were listening, she made some great suggestions and if they all go out and find out who they are now think what a great world we will have when they are my age.

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