Friday, June 4, 2010

Alyson McCall presents her retiring address, "Making It Real"

State FFA Vice President Alyson McCall, from the Minneapolis FFA Chapter, presented her retiring address, "Making it Real" Friday morning, during the fifth session of the 82nd Kansas FFA Convention.

“Can we go outside and play now?” I agreed to my little sister, Addy’s request and we headed outside. On our way out the door, we started creating our pretend scene. The driveway that wrapped around our shed and led to the corrals would be lined with houses, creating our small city neighborhood. The concrete slab would serve as a bakery, school, and our house. The cinderblocks stacked on one side of the slab were ovens for the large rocks of “bread” we collected from the driveway. I was the baker and Addy had a newspaper route before she headed to school, where I also conveniently served as the teacher. It seems a little crazy now in one game of pretend, I could be a baker, business owner, and teacher, but in the imaginary world, anything is possible. As children, our dreams had no limits. We imagined things and created them in real life to the best of our abilities. We could be anything we wanted: a cowboy, Power Ranger, baker, teacher, bus driver, or the next Reba McEntire. Somewhere between the days of pretend and the present day, many of us have lost sight of our ability to make our dreams happen. So maybe seeing myself as the next Reba was a little far-fetched. And I probably couldn’t be a baker and a teacher at the same time. But in my pretend world, I could chase any dream I wanted. Is chasing our dreams impossible without this childhood game? So what if our dreams seemed unrealistic and near impossible? The facts never slowed us down before. Today, we still have the ability to make anything happen. But for some reason, we are often incapable of acting out our dreams. What good does it do us to dream big if we just let our dreams sit in our heads? Dreams were meant to be chased, so creating our dreams in reality is a must. Chasing our dreams means stepping out, overcoming our fears, and refusing to settle.

Snow days are without question the highlight of the winter season growing up. Like many of you, Addy and I would bundle up in our snow gear and head outside to play. We usually started with some sledding and a snowball fight, but our favorite snow-day activity was seeking out snow that no one else had walked in. We could usually find a solid white sheet of snow with no marks of footprints. Addy and I would stand and stare at the snow for a brief moment; seeing how perfectly smooth it was and all the potential it had. We had a choice. We could leave it as a perfect sheet of snow, or step out and create a masterpiece. We always chose option 2 and planned out designs like spelling out our names or creating some awesome shapes. Then we would choose a spot and take our first step. The only footprints in that patch of snow were our own. Our future is the solid white sheet of snow, waiting for us to step out into it. We must make it our own—chasing the dreams we’ve set for ourselves. We plan out our masterpiece and take a step. We all have big plans—things we want to accomplish, places we want to visit, impacts we want to make. Take the first step to pursue them. Myles Munroe said, “The poorest man in the world is a man without a dream. The most frustrated man in the world is the man with a dream that never becomes reality.” Live above that frustration. Take the chance. Step out and take advantage of opportunities that come your way then build more to follow. Make your first print in the snow. People may tell you your ideas are ridiculous and impossible. Do not let their opinions stop you. Taking the opportunity to make our first step can help us turn our biggest dreams into the greatest realities. If you believe enough in your dreams and the abilities you have, even the toughest of critics cannot stand in your way. Run for district office. Fill out the district proficiency application. Initiate a recycling program in your hometown. Set your mind to achieving whatever it is that you dream of. Create the path in your head and take the first step. Do not just stare at the white sheet of your future. Step out into it and pursue your dream.

After the first step will likely come a second and then a third. Then somewhere along the way, we recognize our fears and begin to question our abilities to chase our dreams. We consider giving up and turning back. But fear cannot stop us, nor can it serve as a legitimate excuse for not pursuing our dreams. Commit to overcoming your fears. If you don’t, your dreams will never become reality. The 5th grade school year was winding down and I was looking forward to a great summer. My new horse Jetty and I would finally be getting riding lessons. We went to a few horse shows that summer, and as the calendar turned to October, the show season was coming to a close. Jetty and I were almost finished with the last class of our final show when something went wrong. She started bucking and after a couple high speed laps around the arena, I was on the ground. After watching the tape that evening, we realized these innocent-looking little kids on the side of the arena had slingshot a rock at my horse, causing her little tantrum. Since Jetty was now terrified of arena fences, we could not make it through a single show without her shying away from the fence or bucking. Like many of you, I’m easily overcome by fear. I was afraid of never winning another class, Jetty was afraid of the arena fence and I was terrified of being bucked off. Still, something inside of me refused to give up. I spent countless hours in the saddle over the next two summers, working to overcome the fears Jetty and I had. We still had rough days, but we were improving. After being bucked off more times than I care to count and having lots of really colorful bruises, things were finally looking up. Jetty was less afraid of the arena fence attacking her and I had ridden so many of her bucks, I was no longer afraid of hitting the ground. No matter what your fear is, it cannot control your life. Fear may cause you to question your path, to look back, or maybe even turn around and consider going back. Stop there. Why turn around when you have made so much progress? We cannot let setbacks or obstacles cause us to quit. Commit to your dream and creating the reality. If your dream is to be a chapter officer and you didn’t get the office you had your heart set on, do not give up on the dream. Serve as a committee chair, volunteer to set-up for banquet, and find other leadership opportunities. Most importantly, keep striving towards your dream. If you want to compete at the state public speaking CDE, do not let the fear of failure keep you from delivering your speech at districts. Joshua 1:7 says we must be strong and courageous so that we may be successful wherever we go. Conquer your fear and commit to your path, chasing your dreams. Why would you let something as small as fear stop you from achieving greatness? Keep heading down your path and refuse to look over your shoulder. You have to keep moving towards your dreams, regardless of how difficult it may become. Overcome your fears so that you can run towards your dreams.

While taking this path towards our dreams, we must truly go for it. Settling for anything less than our best effort is simply not acceptable. My friend Whitney’s dream is to be a photographer. She just finished her sophomore year, majoring in fine arts here at K-State. In order to be accepted for the photography program, Whitney had to go through several other classes like drawing, sculpting, and pottery. Whitney’s determination with her artwork is unmatched. Even when her professor tells her to start over on a project, she takes the criticism in stride and sits down with a fresh piece of paper. Whitney often brings her work around the house and asks all of us our opinions. We tell her what we see with our “untrained” eyes and she goes back to work. She can spend hours putting the final touches on a drawing or providing the perfect texture to a sculpture. Whitney refuses to settle for anything less than her very best work. This past semester, her hard work paid off. She was accepted into the photography program and is one step closer to her dreams. As the semester came to a close and we were all packing to go home, Whitney gave away some of her photos. I picked out a few pieces of her work and told her I thought the photographs were excellent. She said they weren’t her best work, but proof that she is constantly improving. Whitney has her eye on the prize and she won’t rest until she reaches her goal. It is imperative that we refuse to settle. Hold nothing back and chase your dreams. By refusing to settle, you will never have to ask yourself the awful question of what if. People say they wish they could go back and pursue the big dreams they had set for themselves. Why spend the rest of your life wondering? Chase your dreams and refuse to settle for anything less than 100 percent effort. If you dream of being the top fruit seller, put all your effort into selling that fruit. If being the Kansas Star Farmer is something you dream of, do not half-heartedly put your books together. Remind yourself of the goal, do the necessary paperwork, and refuse to settle for less than your best percent effort on any aspect of your work. You have already stepped out and committed to chasing this dream. Why give up now? Give your best effort and refuse to lower your standards. Do not doubt your ability to reach your dreams and do not settle for anything less.

You are capable of anything you set your mind to. Even though we aren’t little kids anymore, we can still dream like they do and make our dreams become reality. Our dreams may have changed over the years, but our ability to make them happen has not. Take a look at your future. What do you want to see? Create your path and take a step. Conquer your fears. Push yourself and refuse to settle for anything less than what you deserve. Chase your dreams- no matter how far-fetched or impossible they may seem. We do not need to play pretend. Kansas FFA, take your dream and make it real!

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