Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Be unique, Be you, Be together

If I asked you to tell me a story about rhubarb and running, what would you tell me? It might be a strange story, so I will tell you mine. At the beginning of every summer in my hometown of Lanesboro, MN, there is a Rhubarb Festival. Yes, a gathering of people to celebrate rhubarb. A few years ago, the library decided to put on a 5k for the first time - the Rhubarb Reading Run. This would also be the first time I had ever run a 5k in my life, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. It was the summer before my 7th grade year- around the same time I was trying to decide what I was going to do in the fall. Was I going to do football like every other guy in my class or was I going to be different and run in cross country? This question sat in my head for a very long time. I wasn’t sure if football was for me, but I didn’t want to be in cross country all by myself. 

It was a long 30-something minutes, but I did it! I completed my first 5k by running to the finish line while being cheered on by leaves of rhubarb. I had such a great time that it was then I knew I was going to do cross country in the fall. It didn’t matter I might be all alone, because I knew it was what I wanted to do. However, this isn’t how the story ends. One of my classmates also joined cross country and there were several upper classmen. There may not have been a ton of us, but together we had a great time and were able to be ourselves.

Fast forward a bit.  Now let me share a story about an exciting new adventure in Iowa. This was a story that was a little difficult for me to imagine at first but has become very real, very fast. This story began about two years ago, the first time I toured Iowa State University. There was no doubt in my mind I was going to go to the University of Minnesota, but I decided I should probably check out a couple other colleges while I was at it.  It was on that first trip to Iowa I began to be faced with a major decision. This time it was "should I go to college in a new place with the major I want" or "should I go to the college where most of my friends are going and that all of my family went in the past?" I struggled a lot  with this question much like my cross country decision. There were a lot of people pulling me toward the University of Minnesota; I didn’t have a base of friends in Iowa at the time.  But through all of this, there was an underlying feeling I needed to go somewhere new that had the major I wanted to pursue.

I am now a little over a month into my first year at Iowa State University. I made the decision to do what I felt was right, and I have been having such a great time! I have been able to be myself, meet many new faces and discover many new places. I have not had to go into this new adventure alone.

In times like these two examples, we often have a desire to do what everyone else is doing because we don’t want to be alone. However, if we can be unique and be true to ourselves, we will find other people we can be together with. If you find something you enjoy or you believe is right, act on it!

Be unique. Be you. Be together.

Stationed at the emblem of Washington,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Royally You

1,500 high school students sat in silent anticipation. Through the pitch black gymnasium came the blinding spotlights, which intensified the nerves of the homecoming king and queen candidates all the more. Over the sound system, the candidates’ biographies started booming. “Your next queen candidate is..." I looked around at the packed stands, turned to my mom and dad beside me, and together we walked to the center of the gymnasium floor.

 As we walked, the lights made my nerves even more evident.  What do the other students think of me? Am I nice enough? Have I done anything that would make them not like me? The questions, doubt and excitement were whirling around in my head. I made it to the center, hugged my parents and made my way to the front.

I watched from the stage as the third and final king candidate entered the gym. Each candidate so far had received cheers, hoots and hollers from the stands, but none like this one. One name was chanted, over and over, filling the large gymnasium:


Yoko was a student with a learning and developmental disability. While this meant he had to work harder in some areas, making friends was not one of them. Every time I saw Yoko in the hallway, I received a “Hi, Mariah!” with a friendly wave. I always returned the greeting and as he’d pass I would hear, “Hi, Emily! Hi, Trevor! Hi….” Yoko gave each person he knew a genuine greeting every time he saw them. He always seemed to make my day with his one simple gesture.

Yoko never cared what anybody thought of him. He didn’t dress based on what society said was cool. He didn’t need to be involved in every club or organization to be recognized. Yoko lived each day with joy. He made a difference in the lives of students by being kind to everyone, regardless of how they acted in return. Yoko was... Well, Yoko.

Yoko was who he was meant to be, regardless of his circumstances. Like Yoko, we need to live each day proud of who we are.

Why live life in a way that only pleases the demands of others? Society has this thought for us, that we are to live up to the standards that it sets. But when you look at the people around you, who are the happiest people you know? Who makes the decisions that will take them far in life? Who makes a difference in others’ lives, despite the response they might get? Those people you’re thinking of stay true to themselves and who they are. Are you one of them?

Just be YOU, because YOU are good enough. YOU are smart. YOU are capable. YOU have what it takes to accomplish anything you set your mind to.

Dr. Suess had it right when he said, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Never forget the lesson I learned from the 2013 Forest Lake High School Homecoming King, Yoko Yang:

Just be YOU.

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons.

School is starting up, the weather is cooling down, and most of all- the leaves burst into the beautiful colors of autumn.  I love taking long drives and watching how the leaves paint a story in the scenery, each leaf adding something different to the picture. Then, eventually, the beautiful leaves jump from their tree’s and begin a new journey.

Growing up, I always loved jumping into a pile of leaves.  My brother and I would wait eagerly with rakes in our hands for dad to get in from milking the cows so we could all rake up the biggest pile of leaves.  Then, once we thought the pile had gotten as mighty and tall as it could get, my dad would say, “Jump in 3...2…1!” and without thinking, a few seconds later, we would find ourselves laying on the ground in a pile of leaves, laughing.  This would repeat over and over again until we were all laughed out and it was time to go in and drink delicious hot coco that my mom had prepared for us.

     As I got older, the piles of leaves began to form less and less.  I slowly became afraid to jump into the pile of leaves.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Morgan they are just leaves… how on earth could you be afraid of them?”  Trust me, it wasn’t the leaves that scared me but what could be under the leaves that did.
    As a child, I jumped into a pile of leaves without taking the time to consider whether there was anything lying within that could hurt me. But now, I worry too much about what could be, instead of just jumping in.

Can you see me? Yeah, me neither. 
 This fall I made one of the biggest jumps of my life- I jumped into college.  I packed up my life and moved to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.  Although this is one of the most exciting times in my life, I can’t help but be uncertain about what is to come.  However, I know that just like when I would jump into a pile of leaves, I’ll be laughing all the way through it.

You see, jumping into something new and unknown can be scary.  Whether it’s trying a new CDE, going out for different sport, or even just sitting at a different lunch table, the fear of what could be ends up holding us back.
We need to be like little kids again, jumping into opportunities that come our way.  When it feels scary to jump into something new, that’s exactly when you jump.  Otherwise we end up staying in the same place our whole lives.

  Embrace the uncertainty and get ready to jump in 3…2…1…

Stationed by the plow,

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Change is coming...and that's ok


Oofta, that can be a scary word!  In fact, it can be one of the scariest things we will encounter.  Change means leaving the familiar for the unknown.

We are approaching fall, and already change is upon us.  School is starting up, and some people are beginning their first year at the high school.  Meanwhile, some people are moving to college, while others are participating in fall sports.  We all have change happening in our lives constantly, and as scary as that can be, it is also incredibly good.
Me leaving Plainview on move-in day

I can think back to the big changes in my life, and every one of them was terrifying at the time.  Probably one of the biggest changes that has occurred in my life happened this very time last year.  That was when I made the big leap from living at home and going to high school to living in the cities and going to college.  Everything about this transition was new and scary for me.  I went from living outside a small town to living in the largest city in Minnesota.  I went from sharing a room with my brothers to sharing a room with some random stranger.  And to top things off, instead of being put in the dorm I applied to live in, the one filled with people I already knew, I got put in Middlebrook, a dorm in a completely different part of campus away from all but one of my friends who lived in the other wing.

When I first got there, I didn’t give it a chance.  I felt alone and assumed I would continue to feel that way all year.  I remember how sad and stressed out I was; I felt heavy as the usual bounce in my step wasn’t there.  Things were just not how I wanted them.

But then a funny thing happened.

Things got better.  I started to get to know everyone on my floor.  I started to build relationships with people even if I previously had no idea they existed.  My roommate and I became close friends.  My entire floor became one big family.

Pretty soon, we were having nights where we all ate tons of mac & cheese while watching the show New Girl for hours.  We went on to make a comical pump up video of each other studying to get excited for finals.  We even had a 40 person wide Secret Santa for our floor’s Christmas party.  I can’t even list all the adventures, heart-to-heart chats, and unforgettable memories I had last year.  And throughout the year, I saw myself growing.  I saw the impact these fantastic people had on me and the way I think.  Middlebrook was the scariest change I have ever encountered, but it turned out to be a tremendous blessing in my life, and I’m so thankful that I did not give up on the change when I was unsure.

Now, I can’t say every experience will be like this one.  There are always times that work out and times that don’t.  But time in and time out, I see the best experiences have been the ones I wasn’t so sure about.  Like joining Cross Country, which turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of my high school career, or going to Washington Leadership Conference (WLC), which is where my spark was truly lit for FFA and serving people.  Both times I did something I wasn’t sure about and went on to be thankful I gave them a try.

When change comes, it’s ok to be scared.  It’s ok to be nervous, but we cannot run from change. We need to embrace it with an open mind.  If change presents itself, whether as an FFA opportunity, school, or anything, we need to make sure we are looking for the positives in the situation in front of us.  We need to stop asking ourselves, “How will this be a bad thing?” And start asking ourselves, “How can this opportunity be a good thing?” And know that even when things are changing, there will always be people in our lives to add some stability.  Parents, siblings, friends, teachers.  All people who want to help and be there for us during the unknown times in our lives.  We can go to these people when we feel we need someone.

This year, a lot of change is happening in my life once again.  I am now living in St. Paul.  I am now taking less math and science classes which I’m familiar with, and more economics, American history, and world development classes.  I’m now trying to juggle FFA State Office with a busy course load.  And yet there is something different about this year.  This year, I am confident that no matter what this upcoming year looks like, it will all turn out for the best.  I know there is not reason to worry about all this change, because I have seen how good change can be.

Things are constantly changing, and a lot of that we can not control.  But the one thing we can change is the way we look at it.

Stationed by the Rising Sun,