Chantelle Simon delivers State Treasurer’s retiring address

Chantelle“Chantelle, move the grain cart over here! Chantelle, your combine is going too fast! Slow down! Chantelle, why is the truck parked over there? If you are going to work on my crew, you are going to have to do better than that!” There I was, standing in the middle of the field, getting yelled at by my brother, Jarrett. Apparently, I was not following directions very well, and was one step away from getting fired. My brother and I were playing “harvest” on our tall, green shag carpet. He had pulled out every toy semi-truck, combine and tractor and grain cart he owned, and was very focused on the task at hand. Our crew consisted of Jarrett, the boss man, myself and a couple of Barbie’s that were real slackers when it came to running a combine. Unlike the Barbie’s, I tried to do everything my brother asked quickly and efficiently. I did not want to upset my brother because he had spent so much time strategically setting up each semi, plotting the path for our combines to follow and mapping out which carpet field we would harvest next. My brother was undoubtedly trying to be the best carpet farmer he could be.

By not reaching the standards we set, we can feel less then our best, and sometimes, it can affect us in more ways than one. It is always difficult to be okay with feeling as if we have fallen short of the expectations we create for ourselves. It is just as difficult when we struggle to see the visions we have set.

I must admit that I am a perfectionist. I want everything to work out flawlessly, and when it does not, I take it out on myself. I think, “You should have done this part differently or have been better prepared. You should have tried harder and studied longer. You could have done better. ” This way of thinking affected me personally, but it also affected my role as a state officer. I wanted to be the perfect state officer, never making any mistakes, never feeling stressed and always being confident.  I should always be the social butterfly, always positive and always happy. I told myself that I would do anything and everything in my power to ensure that my level of perfectionism was achieved. I pushed myself to be perfect so much that if I made the slightest mistake I would criticize myself, and doubt would creep into my mind. This doubt would tell me that I was not good enough, that I was failing and that I was not perfect enough. Eventually, this doubt consumed my every thought. I would think to myself, “I am supposed to be the happy one! Why do I feel sad? I am supposed to be the one who greets everyone with a smile! I cannot be reclusive! A perfect state officer would be able to handle all of this. Why can’t I?” I would compare myself to my teammates: “Well, Bethany is way more talented at public speaking than I am. I will never be as smart as Kyle or as strong as Taylor. There is no way I can be as good as them.” With doubt and comparison came hurt and frustration. I made myself feel worthless and unimportant.

I set up the illusion that everything was fine. I refused to tell my teammates and friends about what was going on in my mind, and tried to get through the demands of my daily life without them noticing.  In total, I went through about two months of playing pretend. One day, it all seemed to be too much to handle anymore. I had torn myself down to the very core. In my mentally exhausted state, my knees hit the floor, and I began to pray. After summoning the energy to stand back up, I began calling my family, telling my teammates and seeking out friends that would act as my support system. I was able to share with them my exact emotions, thoughts and feelings, while removing a giant weight off of my shoulders. I felt good, and was ready to begin make myself feel whole again.  I could finally be “undoubtedly me” by focusing on loving myself for who I am.

I learned that it is ok to not be ok. We are allowed to feel down sometimes, have an “off-day” and become overwhelmed by issues out of our control. We must recognize the difference between pushing ourselves to meet a goal and being so caught up in being “perfect” that we fail to see what we have already accomplished. In life, it is inevitable that these moments of doubt will happen.

See, doubt is like our reflections staring back at us in the mirror telling us all the awful things about ourselves. It picks at our weaknesses, and tries to expose them. Then, it takes our strengths and puts them on an unattainable pedestal, mocking us the entire time. What do you see in your own reflection? Are you only looking at what you are lacking? If your closest friend stood next to you and looked in the mirror, what are the strengths they would see in you? Sometimes, it can be hard to be see those strengths in ourselves, and that is when we are not okay. But, it’s okay to not be okay when we can identify those who can help us see those strengths. These individuals could be our family, friends, teammates and so on. Who are those people in your life who you can turn to in a moment of doubt? Grab onto those individuals and do not let go until we start to feel like our real selves again! These individuals can also assist us in remembering our purpose.

In January, I was given the opportunity to travel to South Africa to attend the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. While there, we toured numerous farms, enjoyed a 14 course meal of African cuisine and I even got to see the ocean for the very first time. One of my favorite adventures, however, was traveling to a place called Kliptown. This community is entirely made up of tin shacks, and is home to over 45,000 people. While there, we were taken to the Kliptown Youth Program. This program benefits the children of the community by providing tutoring, athletics and art. When we arrived to the site of the program, we were greeted with performances by the youth. Afterward, us state officers were able to interact with the youth. That is when I met Princess. (PIC OF PRINCESS) I walked up to her, introduced myself, and before I knew it, she had grabbed my hand and began pulling me in all sorts of directions. Finally, we found a resting place, and Princess began to share her life story. She was so confident in the way she spoke that I honestly forgot about what was happening around me. She told me that she was proud to live in Kliptown because it made her stronger. She said that she never let her circumstances define who she was or who she wanted to be. She then told me that she was planning on starting an after-school-choir for the youth at the program because she wanted them to have something to look forward to each day. She proceeded to tell me that her end goal was to become a famous singer in America to raise awareness for communities like hers, but she had to make sure that before she left, she made Kliptown a better place. I was in awe of this girl. Here was this small girl, who lived the worst conditions, telling me about her desire to make others’ lives better before focusing on her own dreams and aspirations! It seemed as though she completely understood her purpose in life. She embodied what it means to be “undoubtedly you.” I remember telling her that she was an inspiration to me. She smiled and looked up at me and asked, “Chantelle, how are you going to change the world?”

That. That was the exact moment where I felt so very small. Princess lived in much worse conditions than myself, and yet, I was the one with self-doubt. She had nothing, while I had everything. She had joy, and I felt pain. She lived each day with purpose, and it was then when I realized that because of my self-doubt and strain to be perfect, I had lost sight of my own purpose. I had failed to see the bigger picture of my actions because I was caught in a haze. Then, I tried to look at it from Princess’s point of view. She taught me that in order to live out our purpose, we must embrace each day with confidence and belief in ourselves.

It is only when we believe in ourselves that we can truly live with purpose, and undoubtedly be ourselves. Purpose is the idea or goal that stems from our hearts, and drives our every move. What drives you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? For some this might mean having the opportunity to compete in a new CDE, trying out for the varsity basketball team or seeing your hard work pay off. For others, it is believing that you can make it through an entire day with a positive attitude. So what is your purpose? Believe that you have what it takes to pursue your purpose. Have confidence that you can chase big dreams or small tasks and be successful.  E.E. Cummings once said, “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” Would it not be worth it to be worth it to be undoubtedly you?

When I think about it, our lives are like Jenga towers. At first, we seem like a strong, firm tower, but then we tell ourselves, “We’re not strong enough (takes our Jenga piece). We’re not good enough (take out Jenga piece). We do not matter (knocks over tower). Building ourselves back up can seem like a daunting task, but remember that you do not have to do it alone.

You are undoubtedly you when you are willing to reach out to the outstretched hand to help you see your strengths through the doubt. You are undoubtedly you when you discover the confidence to pursue your own unique purpose. Be okay with not being okay, and believe in your own purpose. Kansas FFA, be undoubtedly you!