It plays an important role in each of our lives. It’s the driving factor that helps us create meaning in our work. When we understand purpose, we can easily grasp an understanding of what to do next. But, what if we lose sight of our purpose?
Many times this year, I have experienced moments when seeing the purpose behind what you’re doing is difficult. Recently, this feeling for me has stemmed from a good friend of mine, virtual learning. As connecting with others through a screen has slowly encapsulated our world, I’ve come to understand the exhaustion that accompanies this way of living. From tech troubles to faceless screens, everyday seems to chip away at drive behind our work, but recently my eyes were opened to a new perspective through watching the 93rd National FFA Convention.
As our team attended the National Convention virtually, our expectations were exceeded as we participated in a one-of-a-kind experience and heard powerful words from our National Officers. One message that instantly stuck with me, was Tess Seibel’s retiring address which conveyed how we can move from powerless into purposeful. Each word shared characterized how rather than focusing on what we can’t control, how could we pour our energy into what we CAN control.
Since I first heard that saying, I’ve thought about it often: what it means, how it plays into my everyday life and most of all, how I could live with the intentions of moving forward in uncontrollable situations. Looking back on these past few months, I realize that our team did exactly this. We focused on what we could control. Together we reimagined a world of in-person leadership events and brought students together, virtually. Through 4 sessions of a statewide chapter leadership conference, countless daily chapter visits and sitting in on monthly chapter meetings, we, in the words of Tess Siebel slowly shifted from powerless to purposeful.
And, in this process, I’ve learned that purpose isn’t always present. There will be days you feel fulfilled and days when you feel empty, but the reality is, if we live purposely and remind ourselves of our why, it can help us to understand the impact we can make on others. So, before you close your computer screen or set down your phone, I challenge you with this question:
It has been a busy month and a half for the six of us! Ever since we moved to Corvallis in early September, we’ve hit the road! Well, kind of. Starting out with Celilo and Jenna, I got the opportunity to visit four chapters virtually. After that, we went down to my home district and had the Umpqua District leadership camp! Between amazing skits that chapters performed, great connections made with people from my home district, and watching the current district officer rock their part at camp, it was great to be back home. Then we went back to Corvallis, where my teammate Alivia joined back up after recovering from surgery, and together, we have visited a bunch of chapters virtually, and have been teaching out of Strand Ag Hall at Oregon State University. We’re also conducting leadership camps virtually as an association and have been connecting with members from around the state for the past couple of weeks. Our team is currently living in the dorms at OSU and thriving on the cooler weather, with plenty of Starbucks & Target trips, late nights full of laughter, and memorable stories to tell. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have five amazing teammates who are up to any challenge, adventure, or photo shoot (You get a lot of those when your teammates are all girls, by the way).
Right now, we’re getting ready to hit the halfway point in our year. And lately, a lot of people that I know have asked this question: “Isn’t it frustrating that your year isn’t going like you planned?”
And after five-ish months of being a state officer this year, I think I’ve got a pretty good answer.
Sure, there’s a few things that we sadly haven’t gotten, or going, to experience this year because of COVID-19: State Fair, traveling to Washington D.C., and going across the world to ILSSO. And I would agree, compared to state officer teams prior to us, it’s been a little disappointing to miss out on those experiences.
But it’s also been super exciting.
Oregon FFA has been more creative in interacting with people than we’ve ever been. With most schools being online, we’ve connected with students over Zoom and Google Meets, had lunches where members around the state can log on and hang out with us for an hour, and have been able to meet with business and industry members to advocate for agriculture, which has kept going strong in the world of COVID. Instead of looking at this as a setback, we’ve used this year as an opportunity to innovate new ideas to connect with people, get Oregon FFA more connected with our chapters, and look at using our experiences in 2020 to set a precedent for Oregon FFA in a post-COVID world. I’ve been thankful for all of our State Staff, B&I partners, and ag teachers for being absolutely amazing with us so far this year and squeezing in every opportunity for us and all of the members.
You see, it’s easy for us as people to get frustrated when life does not go our way. We often see changes to our plans as setbacks, like they’re negative or harmful because they might affect our end result. Going into this year, I’m sure a lot of us have felt frustrated because we weren’t living our plans that we thought were going to happen. As someone who likes to make plans and live by those details, 2020 has thrown me for a loop. I’m telling you right now that my vision for our state office year in March was different than the year I’m living now, but instead of looking at it as a setback or a bummer, our team has used this opportunity to make our own imprint on this organization, and continue to connect with people, even if it looks different.
There’s a lot of things we can still do, and we can continue to make an impact and find the positive things that are going on in our lives, because I promise you, there are good things happening. We just have to look past the negativity and frustration to find it. Like our virtual camp theme, know that our missions are possible and we can continue to make an impact wherever we go.
So, in the end, I wouldn’t say that I’m frustrated with how this year is going. I’m genuinely excited and hopeful for us as we continue our journey as state officers. I have no idea what the rest of our year looks like, but to quote Babs Hoffman, “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” I also challenge you to be hopeful as well and to enjoy the journey we’re going through, because there’s only so much time we have to make an impact on our world and the people around us, and we should be more focused on the great things going on our lives to continue our journey rather than let the bad things hold us back.
In this crazy world that we call “2020,” stay positive, and utilize this time as an opportunity, not a setback. I’m excited to see where these next five-ish months take us.
Thinking analytically but living impulsively,
Colby J. Fairbairn
State Sentinel on the not-so-normal 2020-2021 Oregon FFA State Officer Team
We’re back to school, or at least some version of it. Surely a form that is unlikely to be preferred among students, school may not be fulfilling our ideal dreams that we’ve imagined for years. As FFA members, we have heard Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” so often. But with this virus forcing unique precautions and Oregon literally burning right before our eyes, it may not seem like we have anything to give at all. Lots of hands feel bare and worn right now, and too many physically are; but the truth is, there is always a part of each of us that someone else or other people need.
When the evacuations started, my team and advisors jumped into action immediately. They opened the State Fairgrounds and started to take in animals that didn’t have anywhere to go, alongside other county grounds throughout the state. Species from house dogs and cats, to cattle have been brought in seeking refuge. And while many have been lucky enough to be graced with humanity, too many haven’t had the same privilege. Fires and Covid-19 do not discriminate against anyone or anything. Those who have been lucky enough to have missed their path have a chance to do so much good right now and offer humanity where these destructors have demolished it. If I could leave you with one thought, it would be: your ability to help is powered by the absence of humanity.
There are so many helping hands actively working, but there are even more people and animals that are victims of this inequivalence of humanity. But that also means there is so much we have the ability to do. What you have to offer will look different than what your peer does, but whatever you can give is welcomed all the same. Your distinct skills are needed right now. As leaders in a world where it is difficult to be one, it is important that you stand when no one else will and simply be the light where the darkness is vast. My team and I are here to support you, physically and emotionally, as much as possible.
As we take on this new rhythm of living and adjust to the mishappenings of ourselves as well others, OR FFA is adjusting and living this right along with all of you. We will continue to strive to empower our members and shed light on those around us as frequently as possible. The band Mumford and Sons sang,
“Keep the Earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn”
May we live out those words now more than ever before. We are the lending hand. Stay safe!
A couple days ago while looking back on photos from our year, I started reflecting on the crazy year we have had so far. In March, schooling went virtual. In April, while we were in quarantine, we were elected as state officers via Zoom. In May, we finished our last month of high school. In June, we graduated. And in July, many of us sold our senior year projects virtually. Through each season, I learned one thing: even though it is easy to see the negatives in these situations, we must adapt to the times.
Everyday, people ask me about what our year looks like and how we as a team feel about it. I always answer, ”This year is full of change.” Change can be scary, but once we step out of the mindset that it’s going to be scary and step into a positive mindset we…
Learn to live…
In August we were supposed to attend Summit in Washington D.C., but instead we sat in our houses and met with state officers from across the country, via Zoom. Even though our only option was to attend Summit virtually, we made the most of the awkward situation. We had virtual dance parties, got to listen to icons (like Bill Nye the Science Guy), and had some pretty sweet giveaways. On top of it all, we got to meet 40 other amazing state officers in our small groups. Seeing all these people make the most of the situation made me realize that to truly live, you have to learn that change isn’t scary.
Going into leadership tours, camps, and competitions, we have to remember that this year is going to look a little wacky, but change will allow us to make our mark in history. Without this pandemic we wouldn’t know how to live, but now we have learned to live.
My teammates and I just wrapped up a phenomenal training called “Delta,” led by Mr. and Mrs. Cant in the beautiful small town of Imbler. Part of our training was creating workshops we will present in classrooms. While we were each sketching out our workshop onto a piece of white paper with colorful markers, it was at that moment I remembered one of my favorite phrases…
“The best is yet to come.”
I had been eagerly looking forward to the Delta Training, because this is where we would create our workshops for students. The idea of myself creating an entire workshop for middle school/high school aged students was intimidating. Although with my five teammates, Joenelle, Mr. and Mrs. Cant, we all got it done!
Even though we may not know exactly how this year will look, as 2020 has been anything but “normal,” I do believe we all have something to look forward to. It may be a huge moment, or multiple small moments throughout this year. We all have the choice to look forward to the future, or to fear it. There will be bumps in the road, but it’s again our choice to remember in those moments that the best is yet to come.
I hope just as my teammates and I have been able to continue preparation for this year no matter how it looks, you too can also look forward to the future.
Stay safe, be kind, and remember, the best is yet to come!