Those of you who know me well, know that since a young age, I was always part of something, whether it was the Cub Scouts, then 4-H, Junior Optimist, Key Club, S.A.D.D., FFA, Junior Achievement, Church, Band, and now Purdue Collegiate FFA, Farm Bureau, Agriculture Future of America, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, and hopefully Ag Council if things go well in the next few weeks (fingers crossed). This involvement taught me from a very young age the importance of learning not just who you are, but what you wish to become.
I vividly remember my Cub Scout days... wayyyyy back when... I remember selling popcorn door-to-door, and making friends with people who later became faithful customers and friends ever since. What I learned was that by getting involved, I was putting myself "out there." This phrase is used often and too few people really understand what this means. I had to take myself out of my typical comfort zone and do something new. This fall at the Agriculture Future of America conference, our first session was done by the well-known Mr. Tim Clue. Everything Mr. Clue did was with one goal: Get out of your comfort zone. If you are comfortable where you are, you probably aren't doing anything new. This was something I found to be a very good lesson for life in general. I look at when I moved to Purdue. There were a handful of other students from my high school here, but only one in agriculture, and none of them were people I am just incredibly close to. I told myself when I decided Purdue was where I wanted to go to school that if I didn't get out of my comfort zone and try new things, I would never make it to graduation. My first few weeks here, what did I do? Well I realized painfully fast that all of my best friends from high school were hours away, so I better figure something out, and fast.
During my first few weeks in class I did what every other first time student has to do, and stepped out of my comfort zone, tried to make friends, and I signed up for different organizations, and bought sports tickets to give myself something to do a couple evenings a week and on some weekends. I knew that if I didn't do these types of things my first year, I would be missing opportunities to make friends and give myself reason to stay in school. Too many students struggle in college because in the beginning they get scared, realizing they know no one, and keep to themselves. This is the worst thing to do and can sometimes lead to your leaving school without a diploma because you never found a place. Part of the problem is, feeling like a part of something requires you to try and make yourself a part of the entity.
From my early days, I wanted to help others, and make a difference in the world. I got involved. First it was Cub Scouts. Then in third grade, I left the scouts and joined 4-H, and loved what I was doing and who I got to work with. I was a club president in 8th grade, and vice president the year before. This summer I was recognized as being a graduating senior and 10-year 4-H member. During middle school, I got involved in our R.O.O.S. organization, which is a Junior S.A.D.D. chapter, educating students on the dangers of drugs and alcohol, as well as promoting respect and fair treatment of all students. I was also quite active within our Junior Optimist club. In high school, I got involved in Key Club International, just as my sister had done, and all in the footsteps of my grandfather, who has been a member of Kiwanis Internaional, the parent organization, since the mid 1960s. Within Key Club, the world's largest student-led service organization, I held many offices, including class representative, club president, and Indiana Lincoln Division Lieutenant Governor. The experiences I gained through my work with Key Club alone have proven extremely valuable in life. I was also a student council member for two years, heading the community service committee my senior year, as well as serving as sergeant at arms, keeping tabs on attendance, and membership status. During those four years, I was a four year member of S.A.D.D. (Students Against Destructive Decisions), a two year member of the Junior Achievement Company Program, a one year member of the F.I.R.S.T. Robotics team, handling bookkeeping and finance management, I was one of the heads behind our senior project, and was a two year member of German Club (Ich spreche kein deutsch.).
What I learned from all of this overwhelming involvement (and yes, it was very overwhelming at times), was a lot about myself, who I was, and who I planned to be. You also learn a lot about others. Working with people from a young age teaches you skills that cannot be taught in a classroom. We can learn a lot in school, but what you have to go a little further to learn is how to work with people from different walks of life, how to handle high stress, but delicate environments with grace, and how to become a better person. By working with others for all of these years, I got to do a lot of personal development, and I have all of those with whom I have spent time to thank for their part in shaping the man I am today. I look back and cannot imagine where I could have been today if it had not been for all of the good influences I had, as well as the outpouring of positive encouragement that is always behind me. No time is too late to involve yourself in a cause or organization which you deem important. Time will only tell what good will come from it. Surprise yourself, and never get too comfortable. Learn to live putting yourself "out there," out of your comfort zone, and the experiences you may have are endless.
Linking up with Holly and the other "30 Days" bloggers here.