Kyle Apley delivers State Reporter’s retiring address

Living with Purpose

ksffaconv15jcday2-104Kyle, what do you want to be when you grow up?  That is a daunting question to be asked as a five-year-old, I mean half the time I couldn’t even decide what I wanted to eat, let alone know which toy I wanted! Over the past 19 years I have considered almost every job there is, including a fireman, engineer, veterinarian, and even an astronaut. For most of my childhood I’m pretty sure my future aspirations changed on a daily basis, depending on whatever TV show I had just watched or whatever story my dad had told me.  But as I got older I started to realize that picking a career path holds much more weight than I had ever expected. Instead of thinking of all the fun I could have in a specific career I begin to worry and fret over what would happen if I chose the wrong one. Without an end goal in mind, I began to think that anything I accomplish could become worthless, and this mindset began to penetrate my everyday life, giving a feeling of failure and inadequacy.  I desperately needed to find my purpose and live it out.  What do we need to focus our energy on to make sure everything we do gives a positive return?  Even though we may not know our path through life, we can still live with purpose by defining ourselves, risking boldly, and serving others.

Making the transition from middle school to high school can be pretty overwhelming between getting use to a new building and harder classes. I found this transition to be especially difficult as I was caught between trying to impress my older brother, and my classmates. Instead of standing up for the things I always believed, I found myself switching personalities between each group I talked to, just trying to fit in.  I saw myself skirt the edge of becoming a different person, and struggled with this for a long time, until the summer of my sophomore year.  I was elected as the chapter sentinel and attended SCCL with my teammates and advisor.  Over those 4 days at Rock Springs Ranch, I was immersed in an environment where I could express my desires and was actually encouraged to develop them.  I learned and saw what it was like to be someone of integrity, who holds their values wherever they may be.  After receiving a note from a state officer thanking me for my specific contributions, I saw the importance in maintaining my own identify. From then on, I began to make decisions based on what I wanted to accomplish in the future.  I built my character up to be one that valued hard work and was founded on responsibility.  Since that summer long ago, I have added to and even deleted values from my list, but always clung to it, leading me in the right direction.

When we have yet to identify our end goal, it is easy to be swept away by the masses of people who are just following the status quo. It is easy to just go along with our friends in what they do, but will this get us any closer to finding our true purpose? They say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.   And while I can say I have been positively influence by some of my closest friends, sometimes we need to take a step back, find what really matters to us, and blaze our own trail.

So what are some things that really draw our attention? What core values do we hold ourselves to? As we find these things that are so important to us, start to add them to our ever-growing list of who we are. Sometimes we are so lost in finding our path through life that we miss out on the little things around us which are guiding us in that direction. Be alert, be intentional, live with purpose by defining your self.

This year I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the beautiful country of South Africa.  When I first heard of the opportunity I was very hesitant.  At the time, there were many risks in play.  I mean, Ebola had returned as a world-wide threat, there was great unrest in Eastern Europe, and crime is commonplace in the country.  I was also worried if I would get enough out of the trip to make it worth the cost.  At first, I had no intentions of traveling the world.  I though I didn’t need to spend 16 hours in a plane to experience life in someone else’s shoes when we have extensive online resources.  I feared those two weeks to just be a boring sightseeing trip that wouldn’t develop me to be a better person; but looking back today, I am so thankful that I chose to take the adventure. I saw beautiful places, met amazing people, and ate delicious cuisine.   Because of this trip I was able to explore what really interested me. Seeing all of the disease, poverty, and turmoil first-hand opened my eyes to what I had only seen in the foldout pages of National Geographic.

Nothing thrills me more then the opportunity to go where I have never gone before.  I believe that I have been born with a love for adventure, and exploring a new part of the woods nearby my house or a national park all gets my blood pumping.  More often than not, a new passion or even our purpose in life can be found just around the corner.  But these passions are not sitting about in the open. We have to find them, we have to search for them relentlessly and take some pretty big risks. When we risk boldly, we show that we are not taking what we have for granted. Rather, we are taking advantage of these precious opportunities and moments.  That trip to South Africa was only a one in a lifetime opportunity, and I am still embarrassed that I had reservations in the first place.

By exposing our selves to the elements we will find ourselves drawn closer to what we do love.   Even though you may not know what career you want to have, or where you want to go to school, or even what classes you want take next semester, by putting ourselves out there and risking boldly we will be able to narrow down what excites us.  And risking boldly isn’t just limited to two week trips; we have the chance to risk boldly everyday.  Go ahead, go outside your comfort zone and compete in the public speaking CDE, add some diversity to your SAE, and make some great memories. What often hurts us most is not making a wrong decision, but rather choosing to not make one at all. Seek the unknown, explore the world, live with purpose by risking boldly.

In high school my class only had about 20 students in it and one of those students was Trevor.  Trevor and I became pretty good friends over the eight years I spent at Blue Valley, and in 8th grade we both joined the FFA.   Over the years, I saw myself become a chapter officer while Trevor never even ran.  Even so, I found Trevor and I working alongside often.  I can remember that Trevor was one of the few people who would stay an hour after each football game to help our adviser clean up the popcorn stand, and he even beat me to our community service events. At lunch, Trevor would always sit at a table with underclassmen; and during one particularly cold football game, Trevor lent me one of his gloves while we were playing in pep-band so that my fingers wouldn’t get too cold. That was just typical of him. Trevor found a way to serve in everything that he did. But the morning after the football game, I received a phone call from our neighbor informing us that Trevor had been killed the night before in an accident with a drunk driver. Trevor really had never identified his career aspirations, or expressed lifelong goals.  Whenever our school counselor would ask him his future plans, Trevor would often brush him off with his signature “It’ll be alright bud.”  Even though he was often unsure of his next move, Trevor served every day and found a purpose.

We are often so focused on ourselves that we forget about the misfortunes of others; but honestly, our success means nothing if we do not help the less fortunate along the way.  Trevor also served as our basketball and football manager for nearly four years, positions that see little to no recognition.  He came to nearly every practice, not just games, to help prepare our team. And it was on those days where he would have the biggest smile on his face.  Not only does service benefit our community, but it allows us to refocus on what we find important in life.

Each one of us can find a way to serve in our own chapter, school, and community.  We have all experienced those moments when we see something that needs to be fixed.  It might be a fellow member struggling with the stress of classwork or problems at home, but we don’t do anything about it.  We might have seen our advisor show up to school exhausted because they had to stay late working to make our program a success.  It could even be our own community that just needs some love and labor to clean it up, which lifts more spirits than you think. Work from the heart, share success, live with purpose by serving others.

Even though we still have doubts about where we are going in life, we can live each moment to the fullest and with undoubtable purpose.  Remember to reach out everyday, find out what you are interested in, and define yourself.  Search for opportunities to grow your comfort zone, dare to do the unthinkable, and risk boldly.  Find time to impact those around you, work from the heart, and serve others.  Do not allow these precious moments to go to waste just because our future is unclear!  Define yourself, risk boldly, and serve others!  Kansas FFA, seize the day and live with purpose!