If you would have told me all the places my blue corduroy jacket would take me when I first put it on back in 2019, I would’ve taken an extra second to savor the moment before zipping it up.
The National FFA Convention is by far one of my favorite trips I have ever taken. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to attend the “big trip” (four days and three nights running on less than 15 hours of total sleep and the adrenaline coursing through about 65,000 FFA members from all over the country) for the past two years now.
To give some perspective of just how huge this is, we saw FFA members from all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Throughout the event, myself and 15 other chapter members attended several sessions at Lucas Oil Stadium, got to cheer on two of our own as they were awarded fifth in the nation for their Agriscience Fair project (go Abbey and Emma!), ran circles around the exposition hall, and got to mingle with thousands of young people from across the country who all have at least one thing in common with each other: an undying passion for agriculture.
I never realized I could form such a sentimental attachment to a football stadium. Several other members and I got in the habit of saying, “Hi Lucas!” each morning when we arrived. It became less of a building and more of a friend. We knew we were about to have the best time of our lives every time we walked through those overly crowded doors and scrambled to find enough seats.
If we weren’t participating in a session or spending too much money on food, we were going on a midnight Meijer run, playing cards, line dancing, driving our advisors crazy on all-too-fast van rides, or singing karaoke whenever and wherever we pleased. Honestly, I couldn’t begin to count the times we randomly burst out into song.
One of my favorite things about this event is how much individuals involved in FFA support one another. It truly feels like you are surrounded by thousands of your closest friends at all times. It’s one big family once we all zip up those blue corduroys.
When I woke up the morning after leaving, I was already missing all of those friends. There’s no other feeling like it. If there is a single kid busting a move during a pre-session, you can bet your bottom dollar that in no time fellow members will start screaming and cheering them on. If someone at the karaoke stand in the Expo Center is losing confidence, you won’t have to wait long before other members start singing along or swing dancing to the beat.
And you can always count on competitors of the same events to congratulate each other after learning the results — even in something as significant as the induction of the 2022-23 National FFA Officer team. Right before the new officers were announced all of the candidates stood up and swayed to the music arm and arm. There were about 25 candidates who made it this far, and only six got an office. After each name was called the other candidates would jump and scream for them out of genuine happiness.
Finding such love and support among individuals who hardly know each other is just as rare as it is incredible. I caught myself tearing up during this final session, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing about any of the new officers. Other than the fact that I know exactly how each of them was feeling from my own experiences.
I went into this trip knowing that it would fly by. I wasn’t wrong. I blinked twice, and it was over. I worried about how fast this trip would go long before I ever got in the school van. My mom has always told me that we get to live every second — I can say in all certainty that I felt more alive over the last few days than I have in a long time.
The ride back home from Indianapolis was rough. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that I will never go on a trip like that again. During the first hour and a half of the trip back home to Ohio, the van was pretty quiet. Partly out of sheer exhaustion, but mostly because of this realization.
We stopped at a gas station to grab some snacks when we were about 30 minutes away. After that, we perked up a bit and cranked up the radio. I will say, nothing makes me feel better quite like belting out some of my favorite lyrics with my favorite people. Even when the song is Five More Minutes by Scotty McCreery. Tears were shed during that one. We closed out the ride with Wide Open Spaces by The Chicks. If there is one song that can pick me up when I’m down, it’s that one, especially when with my FFA girls.
It hurts more than I could imagine realizing that I am nearing the end of my time in FFA. I watched several members take off their jackets for the last time yesterday and by the emotions written on their faces I know it was anything but easy. I am forever dreading the inevitable goodbye, but I am so thankful that I said hello the first time I slid my jacket on. To say that I am blessed to have the friends and advisors I do in this organization is a huge understatement.
Thank you all for being by my side through all of my favorite memories, you’re the reason why they’re so special.
This article was written by Anna Moeller with Talawanda-Butler Tech FFA in Ohio. She submitted this after attending the 2022 National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis.