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Let's talk about our why

About two years ago I was in the first cohort for the Food Security Scholars (FSS) at Kansas State. To be honest when I was accepted into the program I was GOING THROUGH IT. It seemed like every time I would round a corner and thought “*sigh* I’m out of the woods”, something would come and knock me back down. Let me just give you a few examples of what was going on:

  1. I lost an entire group of friends

  2. Got dumped

  3. Got covid (twice- in 3 months)

  4. Lost loved ones- and then couldn’t attend their funeral because I had covid

  5. Got internship rejections (and was told I didn’t seem passionate by one of the recruiters… yikes)

  6. Scholarship rejections

  7. I was BROKE trying to save for study abroad

It felt like the weight of the world was compounding on itself, and finding it's resting place on my shoulders. So like I said I was going through it. I was reading self help books and searching for some type of normalcy to keep me grounded. I needed hope and a hug. Somehow I knew this was a season of pruning, that this pain would help me to grow and bloom greater than before, but that didn’t make any of this less painful. This life is a marathon, not a sprint I kept reminding myself. I knew I couldn’t give up on all my hard work and goals just because life was hard. I can do hard things.

So here I am in my very first meeting with the FSS and our first exercise is to articulate our “why”. “What did I get myself into?” I thought. This was not an easy exercise, and I simultaneously knew that I was in the right place and that this group was going to take me through the trenches.

My why is this:

To live with intention, to serve with compassion, to feed, invite, and love humans across the globe.

I used to have the phrase “to make a difference in the world, even if it’s just my own”, in the middle of that, but have since refined the phrase. During the exercise all of us in the room met one on one and talked about our why’s. I was sitting across from this well spoken sophomore when she said “tell me about the importance of making a difference in your own life”. My eyes started to swell, and I thought, are you really going to cry in this very first interaction with this girl? I don’t think I hide my emotions very well, and honestly I’m okay with that. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I value this because I go all in, I don’t try to shield or dampen my emotions because frankly they are too valuable to only feel half way. I used to feel ashamed that I was a “crier”, but now I feel gratitude that I am in touch with the deepest part of myself. I don’t remember what I said to her, but looking back I had included that phrase because I needed to know that while I was going through the trenches, I was still worth investing in. My life had just as much value as the next, and that if the only thing I could truly make a difference in was me, that would be good enough.

I wish I could tell you how many times I have come back to my why phrase to ground me. It’s too many to count. How many times I’ve asked, “does this action align with my why?” “Do these relationships help me to live through my values?” “Does this internal dialogue help me to live out my why?”. My why statement was born in a season of struggle and it has followed me through the high highs and low lows of the last two years. How thankful I am that I was involved in a group that facilitated hard conversations and created space for people’s growth, pain, and curiosity!

My question to you is, what is your why? What values do you want to walk in? It can be scary and painful to sit in the uncomfortableness of diving into what makes you tick, but it’s so rewarding. Learn and lean into your values, and ground yourself into your why. Because in any situation, if your why is strong enough, you’ll figure out the how.

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