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Embracing the Extraordinary

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Fear is a universal force that often restrains us, limiting our potential. Yet, some defy expectations, shattering boundaries to achieve what others deem impossible. We always hear of athletes, motivational speakers, and actors facing their fears or defying the odds, but what about the rest of us? We all have our fears and we all have experienced setbacks that could prevent us from embracing our very own extraordinary. 

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From a very young age, I had one thing that could have kept me from embracing my extraordinary. When I was just eight months old, I had my first open-heart surgery. The reason for the surgery is a rare heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. A birth defect that affects normal blood flow throughout the heart, my Pulmonary Valve was failing, and I had holes between both my left and right Ventricles as well as my left and right Atriums. A large surgery for any person. With a great team of physicians, surgeons, family, and prayers from so many, my first surgery was a success, but the battle was not finished, and it may never be.

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While many may never know I have this going on from the outside looking in, it is still a fight, especially growing up. A kid who was limited in the things he could do. While it was not easy to always do the same things my friends did, I did the things that I could. My two favorite things in the whole world, golfing and being in the seat of a piece of equipment! Two very odd things for a kid, I know, I know, but I enjoyed being able to relax on the golf course and spending time with my friends and family at the same time. And for that big yellow iron, well let me tell you, I could run it better than my dad! For me, this was me embracing my extraordinary, but I was not done yet. 

When I was 11, I would have to have another surgery to replace my pulmonary valve, and another one when I was 16 to replace it once again. While at these times, I thought that this was the end of the world, this may have been exactly what I needed. Sure, I was a train wreck, but after each surgery, I became stronger and more resilient to what was happening. My goals became more focused and I was achieving them at a faster pace than ever before. These tough times throughout my life helped form me into who I am today, and over the years I have come to realize that you only get one chance to live the life you have, so why not do everything that you can with what you have?  

The path to the extraordinary involves self-reflection, a shift in mindset, and the courage to face and conquer fears. As you embark on this transformative journey, remember that remarkable achievements often arise from the willingness to defy limits and embrace the extraordinary within yourself. While we may have many reasons to quit, never let that stop you from achieving your dreams. My journey to today was not easy, but all that it took to get where I am today built character and perseverance that I am so grateful for. While I am happy with where I am at today, we are not done yet, and I cannot wait to see what you have in store too! Embrace the extraordinary within yourself, and let it propel you to heights you never thought possible.

Christian Pena

Can’t wait to see how you will embrace your extraordinary,


Christian Pena

2023-2024 Kansas FFA President