It’s only been the second day our team has reentered the United States of America again after having traveled first to New York for New Year’s Eve and secondly to South Africa on the 2019 adventure of the National FFA International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (ILSSO).
If only I could put this experience into words.
There was so much seen, felt, and learned, I couldn’t possibly write it all down and truly capture what this experience was like. So, for now, I’m mainly going to focus on the one thing I feel has truly changed my perception on life: the pursuit of happiness (not the movie, because that would be copyright).
There was awe in absolute beauty of South Africa.
Frustration at the crowded streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, etc.
Inquisition of the culture of South Africa.
Admiration of the steadfastness of a country still in turmoil.
Love and appreciation for my fellow travelers, group leaders, and friends.
But the thing that changed the most is where I find joy.
This may seem like a really cheesy, flowery thing to admit, but it is true. The people of South Africa, and those I experienced South Africa with, have taught me a new definition for the word. Joy, and happiness, come from everywhere around us. A lot of the time, we find them in the material things we receive like the new iPhone, more livestock, or the great meals we eat. At least, these were the things that I thought brought me happiness. After being disconnected from my phone for a while, being away from my livestock, and having to generate a new palate in a place that definitely was not like home, I was able to perceive South Africa in a completely different light.
South Africa defined happiness in a way that nothing else could. Happiness is making new friends from around the country that are doing and will continue to do great, amazing things. Happiness is learning from the earth around us and the people who inhabit it. Happiness is
listening to others’ opinions and respecting them even if they don’t align with your own. Happiness is finding a way to make others content with themselves even when you are not.
Happiness is doing for others what they cannot do for themselves. Happiness comes from what happens around us just as much as it comes from within ourselves. It may be hard at times to find that happiness. I get it, but we cannot fixate on the negatives in our lives. If we do, we create a toxic atmosphere around us that others recognize and feed on. When something bad happens, take a moment to process the moment, then place it to the side and continue on with your life.
I have a huge amount of learning still left to do about how to find my inner happiness. The pursuit of happiness is an ongoing, continuous journey with many side roads and forks along the way. Follow your inner compass, trust your instincts, shed negative thoughts, and surround yourself with positive people.
Most of all, be willing to change in order to find joy in your life and be happy.
Kansas FFA Secretary