Throughout the past sixteen years of my life, I have been morbidly shy. I used to be so shy, in fact that I had a difficult time talking to people whom I had not known my entire life, which in turn made it difficult for me to make friends outside of my family when I moved to Texas from Alabama my freshman year. During that year, I was socially awkward and made about two friends in total. My biggest obstacle in life was an unexplainable introversion. Fortunately for me, I my counselor by chance placed in an ag class as a freshman and I became a bona fide, dues paid member of the greatest youth organization in the world- the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Little did I know that this one small action would have a lasting impact on my life.
I can remember drifting through my freshman year, not really understanding what this whole FFA thing was about, yet still wanting to do more with it even though it challenged my shy nature. And then came sophomore year, where I finally moved to the high school and became able to be fully active in the FFA. From judging range to showing goats, I believed that I was doing pretty great in the whole scheme of things. But I still had a problem. I still failed to come out of my shell beyond competitions and make any real connections. But then came my big opportunity to burst out of my cocoon. I wanted to campaign for a district officer position. The only problem was that in addition to a test, there was a required three minute long public speech to be given to delegates from all across the district. And that petrified me.
For weeks I agonized over different speech topics ranging from serious and thought provoking focuses to more lighthearted matters. Finally, after my ag teacher decided to make a few jokes about Alabama, my accent, and my preference for brown gravy because “white gravy just isn’t natural where I come from,” I decided to face the crowd the only way that I knew how- with self-deprecating humor relating to my “hillbilly” origins. At last I got up on stage and spoke my heart out and by some miracle, I was elected to become a district officer. I believe that the day I received my corduroy jacket with Lake Whitney District embroidered in gold across the back was the happiest day of my life. But my struggle with introversion was not over- in fact, in some ways, it had just begun.
The summer of my sophomore year turned out to be the most hectic of my life. From State Convention to Farm Bureau Camp I was busy most of the break. But the most important camp for me turned out to be Area Leadership Conference where our district team bonded and learned how to properly conduct the business of our district. The entire experience was new to me because it forced me to make friends and come out of my shell no matter how nervous I was about having to talk to new people. I made it my goal for the camp to not seem like I was nothing more than a timid little girl from Alabama who did not really know how to communicate with people on a personal level. And sadly, I realized that I failed. I arrived home still thrilled from the camp only to open my happy gram folder (happy grams are pieces of paper with notes to other people from the camp) and find that more than half contained the exact words “you need to come out of your shell.” Right then and there, I challenged myself to not make excuses to shy away from other people, but to take those opportunities to make lasting relationships.
All in all, the FFA allowed me to recognize my shortcomings and become a more engaged person. I can say with little doubt that without the FFA, I would still be shy and not really fit in anywhere. The FFA has changed me for the better and allowed me to make many valuable friends all across the great state of Texas. For that I am forever grateful.