Thursday, June 2, 2011

Anthony Meals gives state secretary's retiring address

Anthony Meals, state FFA secretary, Clay Center FFA, delivered his retiring address, "Lost?" during the second session of the 83rd Kansas FFA Convention on June 2.

There is only one piece of equipment that makes it on all top ten survival lists. The item can cost anywhere from ten dollars at Wal-Mart to over $100 at a specialty outdoor equipment store. It tells us where we need to go, redirects us if we get lost, and it is never wrong. There are plenty of stories out there about how it has saved the life of a lost hiker or an overzealous bushwhacker. That piece of equipment is the compass.

By using our compass we can begin planning our own adventure! Today we will become professional bushwhackers. To be sure we do not get lost on this adventure let’s map out the keys to finding our destination…first we need to discover our compass, then persevere through the obstacles, and focus on our destination.

As a newly named professional bushwhacker, we need to be sure to grab all our needed supplies, beginning with our compass. This compass is what we will use to discover our passions.

My brother used his compass to find his passion for the guitar. He spends almost eight hours a day playing consistently and he is always excited to tell me about the newest sheet music he bought or the next gig he has lined up. Sadly during our high school years, I was not a source of motivation. Constantly my brother would hear me say how I thought he would live in the poor house as a traveling musician or that no one wanted to hear music on a classical guitar. What I had forgotten and needed to relearn was if we have the drive and the passion it will always work out. Playing guitar is my brother’s passion; it is what he has set his heart upon and thus the direction of his life. Next year my brother will either be going to the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University or the Music Conservatory in Puerto Rico. My brother’s passion has led him to these two phenomenal schools which he has the privilege of choosing between.

Fellow FFA members it is not hard to find the compass in our lives. My brother’s compass is music, for the rest of us it could be rebuilding cars, writing a short story, or even hiking in the great outdoors. If the passion is not clear, try something new, journal about the things that bring enjoyment, or even talk about possible passions with friends and family. We were each made for something special and our passions are a reflection of this. If we chose to disregard our passions, then we are choosing to throw away the purpose of our lives. Let us remember, following our compass does not mean we will suddenly become happy or instantly successful. In choosing to follow our passions we are deciding to invest in ourselves so as to make the greatest impact in the lives of others.

After we have discovered our internal compass, our passions, it is important to realize that like any trail bushwhacker we may be going into territory that has many obstacles, but we must persevere through them.

My friend Cody and I have gone on our fair share of adventures. This past summer we went canyoneering in Zion National Park, Utah. Our canyoneering adventure was a first for all of us. Canyoneering is considered one of the most dangerous sports in the outdoors. It has this infamous title because of the combination of skills that has to be learned by rock climbing, scrambling, swimming, caving, and even scuba diving, so as to successfully navigate through a slot canyon. We took on Keyhole Canyon the first afternoon at the park. To give you a brief description, slot canyons are defined as a canyon that’s walls can be touched easily by both hands standing in the middle. They are carved in sandstone by wind and water, from the top of a mountain down to the valley in a staircase like structure. Each decent could range from ten feet to over two hundred feet and with each decent the canyon would become tighter, darker, and colder. In addition there would be water 100% of the time at about 55-60 degrees and these canyons are prone to flash flooding. Knowing all of this we still went. It was after the first two rappels down we realized how woefully unprepared we were for the reality of a slot canyon. We were all cold, stressing out, and we could not decide if we were lost or not. The trail description said one thing and what we were seeing was another. It was so dark we could not see beyond the next rappel. We started to ask the question…what have we done? We were faced with the decision, turn back and try to climb up through a chimney shaft or persevere through the darkness and hope that we were on the right route. Cody being the brave one went on ahead, with me staying back to care for our friend Joel. We could hear Cody rappel down the line and slosh through some water. Then, we heard a big splash and that was it. The next forty five minutes were the longest in my life. We kept waiting freezing, huddled on a small sand bar surrounded by the dark water. It was then, we heard a voice above us saying, “Hey guys the rest of the slot canyon is awesome, but I didn’t have time to take pictures.” Cody had managed to find his way out of the slot canyon and climb back above the opening into the canyon. He then sent down the rope and we climbed back out. Two days later Cody and I would descend down the Keyhole Canyon again and this time make it the whole way. Cody was right the sights were awesome and because of his perseverance he was able to experience the beauty of the untouched canyon!

As we discover our passions, making them a reality is going to be just like traveling through a slot canyon at times. We must recognize that the challenges ahead will be significant, but through perseverance we will overcome any obstacle facing our passions. We will encounter many different obstacles in our lives, yet it is the choices we make to persevere that will determine how everything turns out. Like failing a physics test, we can make flash cards, study two extra hours and find time to get a tutor. If we are not elected to our chapter’s officer team, volunteer to chair a committee and find other ways to help the new officer team. Having to choose between two sports, talk with the coaches to see if there is a way we can do both or compete in one and have fun playing with friends in the other. Will we turn around or will we choose to persevere? Perseverance is the ultimate state of determination, when you know that no matter what obstacles you face, success is the only option.

As bushwhackers it is easy to get distracted by side hikes and other cool spots along the trail, but if we do not stay focused on our destination how will we ever get there?

In Zion National Park aside from all the slot canyons there are spots you can catch spectacular views of the valley. One of these spots is entitled Angels Landing. My friends and I decided to go out the day after our near catastrophic adventure into Keyhole Canyon and climb this behemoth cliff. Angels Landing is secluded into the back of the valley and one must take the shuttle bus system to get there; all along the shuttle system there are numerous trails that catch the attention of the eye. There was the Grotto trail, Emerald pool trail, Hanging Gardens trail, and the Hidden Canyon trail. It was tempting to hop right off and go explore. A number of passengers who told us they too were hiking Angels Landing got off saying, “WOW, this sounds so cool! We will catch the views of Angels Landing tomorrow.” We were focused on getting to Angels Landing; we had seen pictures of the summit and knew what was awaiting us. When we arrived at the stop for the trailhead, yet again we were tempted to lose our focus as other alternative routes that would wind close to the cool and refreshing Virgin River. It was a hot day in that Utah valley and we almost took them, but we knew that if we chose to be distracted by these side hikes the afternoon storms would roll in and we would miss our one chance to summit Angels Landing. It was the moment of no turning back the destination had been permanently set in our minds, no one needed to tell us where we had to go. Three hours later we arrived at the summit with white knuckles having held on to the chains keeping us from dropping 1,200 feet. We were so glad we had focused on accomplishing this hike because it was worth it. No other hike in the canyon would unveil views as spectacular as these.

Fellow FFA members what are we climbing for? Is it to see the great sights or to fulfill our purpose? All of us are heading towards a destination and that destination is unique to each of us. For some of us it might be going to State football championships, quiz bowl regional’s, or getting an A in Algebra. We must find our destination and focus on it. Focus is so hard in this world with all the distractions that exist that can steer us in multiple directions. Ways to keep yourself from being split in multiple directions come down to somehow reminding yourself in those moments of what you are focusing on. For me this looks like putting a piece of paper above my bed post reminding me of my destination, writing down steps of how I will get closer in developing fully my passions and giving them to an accountability partner to help keep my focus. Each one of us will find different ways to remind ourselves of the destination we are focused on because the instant we lose that focus we will miss the opportunity to attain success. By keeping focused it will help us be able to bask in the glorious achievements of our hard-earned success.

Our great adventure is about to come to its last bend, but a look back on the trail will show us where we have been. We have discovered our compass which has allowed us to find our passions to live a fulfilling life, impacting others. Through our perseverance we have overcome a multitude of obstacles in our personal slot canyons. Finally, we stayed focused on the trail choosing not to be distracted and applying that focus no matter where we are, whether it is on the trail, in the classroom or on our jobs. Our passions will define our lives, we must choose to discover them, persevere through the obstacles, and focus on our destination. The trail ends here, before us lies a wild and uncharted land. Kansas FFA find your compass and blaze that trail!

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