There is something I don't really like talking about when meeting new people. It's the fact that I took a year off of my college education to pursue a dream and a once in a lifetime opportunity. On June 16th, 2016, I was elected to serve as the 2016-2017 Illinois FFA State Secretary to represent the over 17,000 Illinois FFA members.
This position requires a year's worth of dedication, crazy hours, courage, and spending each week with only a few bags in a car as you travel all over the place. I am proud of this experience I gained. The reason why I am hesitant about sharing this fact because one, there is more to me that this year off of school, and I want people to get to know me rather than just this position I served in. Secondly, I feel like there is a lot more to me about myself is that I think some people don't understand that sometimes you need to take the path less traveled and do something different, like take a year off of college.
How many people in their early twenties have the opportunity to speak in front of several thousand people about their life and personal journey without fear of public speaking? How many people experience going to the National Capital to talk with staff members about the importance of agriculture and their passions while being taken seriously? How many of you can say you feel like you have made a positive impact on individuals around you while being positively affected by them at the same time?
I learned about so much about myself during this year. You do a lot of self-reflection when you are traveling non-stop and are meeting people from all over. Being on a team that lives and works together taught me about how I fit into groups and how to maneuver through the good and the bad. I found role models, family, and friends that will help me for the rest of my life. I discovered my love of travel because of driving across the state of Illinois, traveling across the country, and being able to go to South Africa for ten days. Each and every moment of that year of my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly has changed me for the better.
I realize that I have delayed my life by a year. I am older than most people in my grade. I will graduate a year later than most people my age, and I won't start in the workforce until I am 23. My plans in life are all pushed back now.
Admittedly, sometimes I wonder where I would be if I wouldn't have taken that year off and think about the what if's of my life.
Reflecting on everything that has happened to me since that very moment in June, I can confidently say I don't regret taking a year off because the experiences I gained during my year of service have helped me grow and learn so much more than I ever would have learned in a classroom. Isn't one year of tremendous personal and professional growth worth taking a year off of school?
I'm not saying that everyone and their mother should take time off from education, I am saying that if you are offered something that won't ever happen again in your life, take it. There will always be colleges and some sort of educational institutes once you are finished. So you can call me a college dropout during that time period, crazy for delaying my future, and give me that "you're crazy and lazy for taking time off of your education" look. I know that taking a year off of college and this experience has been one of the best things that has happened to me so far in my life.