• Zoning out in a large group of people, someone looks at you, and thinks you are staring at them. 
  • Scrolling through someone’s social media, liking a post, then realizing it’s from 2017. 
  • Meeting dozens of people in a day and a middle school FFA member asks, “Do you remember my name?” 

So many awkward moments that can either make you want to shrink down to three inches tall, change your name, delete all of your social media, and run away, or they can turn into magic moments that reignite your belief in the power of connection and influence.

Flying home from spending my Thanksgiving break with Papa and Grandma in Arizona, my seat on the airplane was much further up than expected. Usually, I have what I like to call the “bathroom” seats that don’t lean back because they are up against the aircraft lavatory. I’m short and always on a plane ticket budget, so sitting in a row four seat felt boujee. With all my belongings in the overhead, I begin to think, “The worst part of plane rides alone is that I never know who is going to sit next to me. Just don’t be weird, Jonwyn.” Hyping myself up, I thought, “If you can get middle schoolers to pick their own SAE and happily write on a sticky note about it…you can do anything.” (My little mental pep talks are absolute nonsense, yet they usually help me through situations like these.) Anyway, we can all agree sitting on an airplane for hours, next to a stranger, and not saying a word to each other is the worst. Right as I tell myself to not be weird, the kindest lady sits next to me. She is so excited to have a good seat, just like I am. Come to find out she’s from Indiana, a traveling nurse going to Medford for four weeks, wants to know all the fun things to do in Southern Oregon, and knows nothing about FFA. 

The curiosity in a person’s eyes that knows nothing about FFA when I say I’m a State Officer is priceless. I told her what State FFA Officers do; how I had just gone to Pendleton to speak at the Oregon Cattlemen’s Convention. Explaining how, everyday we work with youth interested in leadership and agriculture, and how many opportunities we have to serve those in the organization and beyond. Then her eyes went down to the book I was reading earlier entitled, Defending Beef written by Nicolette Niman. She immediately asks me about the book and comments on the passion I have for the cattle industry. After talking about how cattle can be a tool in managing our planet, thanking a good nurse for her hard work in keeping our loved ones healthy, a few naps, some corn nuts (#cornclub) for a snack, a new friendship and understanding was ignited in seat 4C going to Medford. 

So in my head about being awkward, I almost missed the opportunity of advocacy, being grateful, and learning new perspectives. Your influence stops when you start to overthink. Go all in, start the conversation, reach out, and don’t be afraid to show your true self. 

What’s your conversation starter the next time you 4C something being awkward? 

I can guarantee you are “cooler” than you may overthink about. 

You wear the blue jacket, you are a part of agriculture, you are the youth people want to have a conversation with…start talking! 

Happy New Year Oregon FFA! 

I 4C it being a more connected one! 

Jonwyn Ayres 

State Secretary