As I pull into the gravel driveway leading down to my house, I tune out the music blaring from the radio and start to reflect over my life.
When I get to the end of the rocky path, I put my car in park and shut off the engine. I pull my tired body out of the car and trudge towards the back door of my log cabin home. All seems at peace in the darkness of my back yard. I could faintly hear the distant sounds of my sheep beading down in the straw, and the normal howls of the coon dogs were not present. The world was at rest.
I walked through the quiet, dim lighted, house towards the stairs to begin my ascent up to my room. While I climbed the carpeted staircase, I begin unzipping my Blue Corduroy FFA Jacket; as I do the thought enters my mind that the past day of my life, at the State FFA Convention, was the last time I would ever wear this jacket that had played such an important role in making me who I am.
Suddenly, the stories that I have heard from FFA members before me, were becoming reality. My eyes swelled up with tears. When I got to my room I stood in front of my full length mirror, and commenced to remove my jacket, the same way as I had many times before. All at once tears began to fall down my cheeks. I laid my meaningful jacket on my bed; and stared at it, observing every aspect.
As I smooth my jacket out with my hands; I flip open the sides and inside lay more than 30 pins representing my accomplishments. As I read the engraving on each shiny, quarter sized pin, I see many titles that I would have once never imagined would be there; multimedia, talent contest winner, showmanship, star green hand, and many more. The most bizarre to my mind, however, is Public Speaking.
As a freshman I would have never stood up in front of a group of people to talk; much less, would I have voluntarily stood up to talk in front of people! But now, I have no problem with doing that, or more, and according to the Agriculture teachers of the Barren River Region I must be pretty good at it, especially, to deserve to be the winner of the Sheep Impromptu Speech competition. Even though every one of these pins was awarded to me to show my accomplishments, I know that these skills will forever play a role in my life.
I gently close the side, and continue smoothing my jacket out, so that it now lies flat so I can see the front. When I look at it as a whole, the thing that stands out against all the blue, as bright as the rising sun, is the gold! Because of the FFA, I have set standards for my life; I believe that these standards I have set for myself are the best I could make. This making them my golden standards! Just like the gold on the jacket, my standards stand out.
As I reminisce over my many years in FFA, I think back to when I set my first goal. At FFA camp, five years ago, I sat in my spot on the cool grass ground and I wrote my life goals, my career goals, and my FFA goals on a little slip of light yellow paper. The words I wrote on that paper would never mean anything to someone else, but for me they were the start of the standards I would continue to set for myself. Today, my standards are so much higher than the first standards I set; but without those, my standards would never be as golden as they are today!
As I run my fingers over the golden thread I read the cursive name, stitched into the fabric, lying beneath them. It’s my name, my identity in this world. Who I will always be no matter where I go, or what I do. By saying a name someone knows who you are, and what you stand for in this big world of people.
There are more than 500,000 FFA members in the United States. At the National FFA Convention each October, one-third of those members meet in Indianapolis, Indiana at the same time. Every single one of us was wearing the same thing: a black skirt or black pants, and a blue corduroy jacket. Even though we all dressed similar we were all individuals, some showing weaknesses others showed as strengths, but all working together as a team. Ours names are a lasting sign of each of our individuality. My name will forever be a reminder that I am the only person like me.
I can lead myself, or others, to do what has to be done to complete any task. I am not a follower, I am a leader!
I pick up my jacket, and turn it over. At the top, in gold, is the name of my state, “Kentucky.” At the bottom of my jacket in gold letters there is written the name “Barren River Region.” This name means so much to me. It’s where I’m from, the friends I’ve made are from, and the family that loves me is from. But, there is one thing that this name means that has nothing to do with anyone but myself. That is the courage to push myself outside my comfort zone, so that I may reach my dreams, and the hard work and dedication of running for a regional officer. That name means the courage to endeavor something I might have never achieved.
Through running for a regional officer I earned the privilege to wear my region on my jacket. On the day of the election, I remember standing all alone, with my hot sweaty palms clutching on to a paper clip, in front of all those delegates who I knew were judging me; but from that I learned, you will never succeed if you never try. I believe in being more than what’s expected, and by being a regional officer, and proudly representing the Barren River Region of the Kentucky FFA Association, those expectations where exceeded and it also advanced me one step closer to my dream of being a state FFA officer!
Throughout my life, there have been so many abrupt changes, and somehow God has found a way to hold me together. When I look at the FFA jacket, there may be gold embellishments, and awards. There may be titles, and emblems, but there will only be one thing that stays the same no matter what you add or take away. That one thing will always be the blue corduroy jacket, which holds everything together. Just like that jacket holds all those “things” together.
I carefully place a white plastic hanger inside the jacket, and zip it up. I hold it up in front of me as I carry it to the closet. I continue thinking of all the memories made while I was wearing that jacket. The friends, the laughs, the crying, the trips, and the people I helped. Who would have known a jacket could change a life? For me, and the countless other FFA members who zipped up a blue corduroy FFA Jacket, we will forever understand the impact that one article of clothing can have.
When I get to my closet I push all the clothes to the front of the rail, and I place the jacket in the back of my closet. I turn off the light and shut the door. I walk away to start a new chapter of my life, with my invisible FFA jacket still zipped up tight.
Chelsea Daugherty is a senior FFA member and president of the Butler County FFA chapter in Morgantown, KY. FFA is a driving force in her life. After graduation this spring she intends to further develop her communication skills while attending Murray State University and majoring in Agriculture Communications and Public Relations.