To The Jacket Hanging In My Closet

ffa

I know you inside and out. On the inside you’re filled with pins and accomplishments, in the left pocket is a piece of paper that reads, “Understanding”, and on the right elbow is a stain from cupcake icing. On the front is my name and on the back says where I’m from. You’re hot in the summer and cold in the winter. You were my life for five years, and today I took you off for the last time; so there you hang in my closet.

Since I was fourteen, you taught me lessons most don’t learn until they’re well into adulthood. I can nail the perfect job interview and give a strong handshake, interact with a room full of strangers, and run a proper meeting. You taught me to give the perfect sales pitch and even how to properly ask for a donation to support a good cause. You taught me how to help others not only in their time of need, but on a regular basis. You taught me to be a well-rounded adult, well before I ever reached the age of eighteen.

You’ve traveled across the United States with me. You’ve traveled the state, visited the nation’s capital twice, and taken part in conventions in Louisville and Indianapolis with me. No matter where we went together, you allowed me to connect with others and build lifelong friendships. At Washington Leadership Conference, you gave me the boost of courage I needed to open up with a room full of strangers and find potential in myself.

When I was standing in front of a room of people, nervous as can be, you managed to comfort me. You made me a leader and confident that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. When things did not go as planned, you were still there waiting to give it another try when the time came around. You took a shy little high schooler and made me into a courageous leader.

So, to the corduroy jacket hanging in my closet – I’m going to miss you. I’m going to miss the adventures we went on and the great times we shared, but always know I will never forget you. Every experience we had together taught me a new life lesson that I will carry with me. You gave me the chance to become the best that I could be and still allow me to strive to be better. You made me who I am today, and I am forever grateful.

This post is the original To The Jacket Hanging In My Closet. In October 2015, it was also posted here.
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10 thoughts on “To The Jacket Hanging In My Closet

  1. So proud of all you have accomplished and I expect great things from you. You have always been at the head of your class and I know you will continue to excel! !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great! Just left an FFA Alumni meeting where we discussed how so many people don’t quite understand what’s in that blue jacket. This really speaks to our conversation and I’ve shared with our group. Thank you for putting it on paper!

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  3. I love this!!!! My Jacket has been in my closet for 14 years but still some of the very best memories of my life and great life lessons in all areas of my life. I always remember marveling over my dads blue jacket for years before I had my own…his is still in his closet–almost 50 years! I wish you all the best in the years to come! Enjoy the next few years…you’ll never quite have that freedom again once you settle down and if you decide to have a family!

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  4. What a beautiful tribute! I think that anyone who has worn the blue jacket and really opened themselves up to what FFA has to offer feels much the same way. It’s been 19 years since I took my jacket off for the last time, but it remains to this day one of my priceless treasures. I hope one day to share it with my daughter and pass on the amazing legacy and power of the FFA!

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  5. Reblogged this on DirtRoadWife and commented:
    I came across this blog post in my Facebook news feed today. Reading it brought tears to my eyes, because I know exactly how that girl feels. It’s a sad moment when you hang up your FFA jacket. You know you are closing a chapter in your life. And it’s hard. I’d imagine athletes, military members and others who have dedicated their careers in service of an organization have much the same feelings.
    It’s been 19 years since I took my jacket off for the last time. It was after the 1996 National FFA Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. I had run for, but not received, a national office. I was devastated and angry. A national office was something I had been dreaming about for years, and I’d put in hundreds of hours of work in preparation, but fallen a bit short of my ultimate goal.
    In a bit of a temper tantrum and feeling sorry for myself, I pulled off my jacket and stuffed it in my backpack. I replaced it with a college sweatshirt. My parents were giving me a ride to the airport so I could catch my flight home, while they would drive the 1000 miles back to Wyoming. My dad had been watching me in the rear view mirror noticed what I’d done. As I climbed out of the car, he gave me a hug and nodded at my back pack.
    “It’s gotten you this far. Don’t you think it deserves a little more respect than that?” he asked me. “Finish your FFA career just like you started it, proud as hell to be wearing that jacket.”
    I don’t remember what I said back to him. I just remember grabbing my backpack and my bag and running for the comfort of the airport. Away from my parents sympathetic eyes that were less a reminder of the amazing support network I had and more one of my failure.
    As my United flight winged me across the night back to the Rocky Mountains, I thought about what my dad had told me. And he was right. I didn’t want my FFA career to end this way. The organization had given me too much. The jacket had carried me too far. I was too proud of being an FFA member to skulk around like a sullen teenager who hadn’t gotten her way.
    So when my flight landed, I got my bag from the overhead bin, put my FFA jacket back on, wrinkles and all, and went to collect my luggage.
    As I stood in line for a late dinner in the terminal, the lady at the counter asked what flight crew I was with.
    “I’m not with an airline. I’m an FFA member,” I remember telling her proudly. Then I fingered the sleeve of my corduroy jacket with love. It definitely deserved some serious respect.

    #BlueJacketsGoldDreams

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The last time I wore mine, October 1985, was to cross the stage at the National FFA Convention in St. Louis to receive my American Farmer degree! No one can ever know the impact that an organization make on a life in four years! Katy, Texas FFA and my advisor, Mr. Gerald Young raised me well! #threegreatmeninmylife,daddy,husbandandyou! 😊

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  7. Over forty years ago I wore my jacket for the last time but in truth I never took it off. This year as I watched my youngest son walk across the stage in Louisville to receive his American Farmer Degree I saw how this blue jacket still continues to influence lives generation after generation. And except for his Bible I hope it will always be the strongest symbol in his life

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  8. Awesome! This is all so true…it’s amazing the changes 4 years can make in a person. Last time I wore it was for our last meeting before high school graduation, sometime in May of 1976.

    I was just thinking of the terribly painful (for a shy person) public speaking classes this morning as I walked up the aisle to read the lessons in church this morning.

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