Life at Random

Reverse Bucket List

Today the Momfessionals blog is hosting a fun topic, talking about “Reverse Bucket Lists” on her “Show and Tell Tuesday.” I think bucket lists are important to have because they make us think about what we want in life and what it might take to get there. But personally I have always clumped bucket lists together with goal setting. Sure, its important to dream and take the time to write down your list, but I think it is so easy to never get past that step if we don’t set goals and think through the actions we need to take to get us there.

Anyway, I love the idea of celebrating and highlighting a reverse bucket list because I do think it is easy to look at other people’s lives (especially on social media) and feel negative toward your own life experiences and accomplishments. I’m all about looking ahead to what’s to come, but I think its important to remind ourselves how far we’ve come too.

As I was writing this, two things stood out to me:

  1. I included some things that weren’t necessarily on my bucket list or a particular goal before they happened, but they are significant parts of my story that I am proud of.
  2. As I browsed around for pictures to use and to help spark ideas for what to include on this post, I was reminded that though everything might not be a “bucket list” caliber item, I’ve lived a pretty awesome, fun and love-filled life so far, and that thought really made my day.

 

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— Going to and graduating from an out of state college —

DLC Photography.

Graduated from Kansas State University in 2013 with a bachelor of science in agricultural communications and journalism, and was recognized as the Outstanding Senior in my department.

— Serving on the National AFA Student Advisory Team in college —

Not sure I would call this a bucket list item, but more of a “I don’t have high hopes, but I don’t have anything to lose by applying” that turned into one of the most important experiences of my life thus far. A year of traveling with these 8 other college students to plan a student conference and learn about agriculture and careers, has shaped me personally and professionally in a way that is beyond measure, and brought so many wonderful people into my life. And more importantly, years later it is a network that continues to push me and support me in so many ways.

— Traveling internationally —

Thailand in 2017.
The Philippines in 2017.
Guatemala in 2015.
Mexico in 2012.

For three of those I have my job to thank. On those trips I got to do some pretty cool things like boat on the Andaman Sea, ride an elephant and hike a volcano! Obviously there are a LOT more places on my list to check off…with Greece and Australia at the top!

— Building a career I love —

I started out my career in the pork industry in Kansas and now I work in the wheat and trade industry just outside of Washington, D.C. On one hand I know that I am extremely lucky for the opportunities that have come my way and the people who have supported me along the way. But on the other hand, I do feel very proud of myself for the hard work I’ve put in to get to where I am only 5 years out of college. I’ve wanted to be a communicator for farmers for as long as I can remember, and that’s exactly what I am doing.

— Moving to Washington, D.C. —


I often tell people the story about how I went from randomly finding out about this open job position on January 9, accepting it on February 9 and starting in on March 9 (all in 2015). And that all included picking up and moving from Manhattan, KS, to Arlington, VA, a place where, once again, I didn’t know anyone, and was WAY different than anywhere I lived before. Looking back, I really do often think, “who the heck does that??” People have asked me whether moving here was a dream or goal of mine, and for the most part, the answer is no. I visited D.C. four times throughout middle school, high school and college, and have always been fascinated by it, but never thought too seriously about moving there. As I finished college, I looked for jobs in Kansas and the PNW (where I grew up.) I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to make another life changing move ever again and I was happy with those two areas. So when I decided that I was ready to move on from my first job, those are the areas I looked again. Yet, less than 12 hours after stumbling across this job posting on Facebook I called my parents to tell them that I had this really strong gut feeling that this was what I needed and wanted to do next.

— Attending an inauguration —

I could (and maybe should) do a post just focused on my “living in Washington, D.C.” bucket list and reverse bucket list.  But once I moved here and knew that I would probably be here at least a few years, attending an inauguration in person was definitely at the top, regardless who ended up as the President. For me, I just just excited to be experiencing a part of U.S. history in person.

— Getting a sister tattoo —


While the other major things on my list above are accomplishments and great experiences, this is more of fun to-do that my sister and I talked about for a long time before we finally decided what we wanted to get and followed through on it. Tattoos aren’t for everyone, but this is extra special because not only it is our last name, but it is written in our mom’s handwriting.

— A few others —

– Keeping up with this blog, even if it has seen some hiatuses 🙂
– Building genuine, lifetime friendships and relationships with my family
– Finding a church community I am comfortable in
– Traveling to all 50 states… I have 35 done (plus Guam) and 15 left to go!
– Buying a DSLR camera
– Visiting NYC
– Watching Independence Day fireworks on the National Mall and at Mt. Vernon
– Taking my sister to Vegas for her 21st birthday
– Learning to crochet
– Becoming a Lifetime Member of the K-State Alumni Association
– Becoming of a AFA Lifetime Alliance Member
– Traveling to watch K-State play in a bowl game (done this twice in 2014 and 2015)
– Rushing the field and the court as a college student
– Attending a game of every major pro team sport (covered football, basketball, baseball and hockey, missing soccer!)
– Too many bucket list concerts to count…and so many to go!

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 20

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

These “So There’s That” posts really have become my favorite thing to blog and are essentially the core of what I share on here. I love that it allows me to properly journal what is going on in my life in a straightforward way and also share what’s making me laugh and influencing my life at the moment in various ways. Unfortunately, I went a little too long without posting one again… the goal is at least every 3 to 4 weeks. So I apologize if this post is a tad long, I’ve been busy since my last series post in mid-December!

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DIY New Patio Furniture

To know me is to know how much I hate the winter and being cold, and how much I LOVE sunshine and being outside. My family has always been all about creating spaces outside that are perfect for comfy evenings (or mornings) spent enjoying the weather and good company. All through college and afterward when I lived in Manhattan for 2 years I always had a porch/patio/balcony that allowed me to create that, but my first place in DC didn’t. I moved to my current place almost a year ago now, but by the time I found some extra time last summer it was almost too late to worry about furnishing my new balcony.

So fast forward to this spring, which I have been impatiently waiting for so I could tackle this right away. I did a lot of looking around to determine what I wanted to buy but finally decided that I wanted to go the difficult direction and make a project out of it.

This below was my inspiration from Pinterest. (Original link here.)

I used (14) 8x8x16 cinder blocks and (6) 4×4’s cut to 5.5 feet.

It was actually pretty easy to put all together. It was the loading onto the store cart, then into my car and then 9 trips from my parking garage and up into my condo (I did use a cart for the blocks) that really did me in. Eventually I will take it back apart to stain and seal the wood, and I might end up using nail glue on the top upright blocks.

I splurged a bit too much on the decorative pillows, but I couldn’t help it. Once I saw the crab pillow it all came together quickly! I do need to get rid of an extra coffee and end table set that I was stashing out on the balcony, but once those are gone I will do some planning for small table/rest of some sort and possibly some other decor and something to hold my plants that are currently inside on my window sill.

Soul Sisters

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I originally shared this picture a few months ago on Instagram, but I wanted to bring it back around because really, how cute and PERFECT are these mugs! They come as a set (obviously) and I gave Megan hers for Christmas. You can find them on Etsy from “The Sister Studio.” I love so many of her items!

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This picture is also a few months old… You see I am always building on these posts so that they are supposed to be easier to pull together and edit once I’m ready to publish. Anyway, I couldn’t not share this photo. That drive way leads into my old apartment complex and I still can’t believe that a bus driver thought it could manage it.

Travel Journal

The biggest thing that has happened in 2017 so far is this little adventure I went on in February and have been busy posting just a few posts about….

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Travel Journal: Karon Beach Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Candid in Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand

Sister Act

These are all photos and videos with Jancz during my visit home in December. We love to send silly Snapchats back and forth to each other using the selfie filters, but doing them together ended up being really funny… well at least to us.

The Giving Keys

This is my original post from Facebook:

“I spent yesterday afternoon enjoying the DC weather in Georgetown and we stopped for some food and to watch the end of the Masters. A family of four walks up and asks if they can share the other two seats at our high top. Later as they are getting ready to leave the 8 (?) year old girl turns and hands me this necklace and says, “Thank you for being so nice, I want to give you my Giving Key.” Then she explains that you are supposed to wear and embrace your “word” and then pass it along to someone else when you feel ready or when you feel that someone else needs the message more than you. Dear sweet Luchina, thank you for making my day and the little lesson on love. Check out The Giving Keys movement my friends. We certainly need a bit more of this in our lives. #BeTheKey

Happy People

Currently obsessed with this tune. Really in my mind, Little Big Town can do no wrong.

Happy Thursday

Thursday’s are friends, fellowship and impromptu celebratory ice cream cakes.

Administrator of the Year

Back in January my Dad was recognized as Administrator of the Year for the Hermiston School District. I am proud to see him recognized for all of this hard work!

Read HERE —> http://hermiston.k12.or.us/blog/tom-spoo-2016-17-administrator-of-the-year/

Inauguration

Since I moved to the DC area one of the top things on my bucket list was to attend a presidential inauguration and was so thankful that my friend Logan signed us up to get tickets through Senator Moran. I did have a few people question and even shame me for wanting to go. I simply explained to them that 1.) You have no idea who I voted for, nor is it really any of your business to know or make guesses and 2.) I was definitely going to go REGARDLESS of who was being sworn in because I was there to experience a really cool and important part of history.

ANYWAY…
Aside from the 6(ish) hours that we stood in the misty weather, it really was a cool experience.

*Stole this picture from my friend was working the event up close.

Friends Are Part of the Glue

There are a couple of blogs that I read regularly, and one of those is a young teacher in Texas who mostly falls into the “mom blog” category. A while ago she had a friend pass away from cancer and shared this quote that I cut out of her Instagram comment. The quote resonated with me in so many ways that I immediately took a screenshot.

I didn’t want to share her whole personal post, so I sincerely apologize that I am not properly crediting it. You can find her blog here though: http://www.momfessionals.com/

AFA Alumni Spotlight

My best friend has a pretty unique job and I was so proud to see AFA, an organization I love so much, feature her in its spotlight! Go Megan!!

Read HERE —> www.agfuture.org/meganalumni


AFA Policy Institute

Speaking of AFA, the organization brought students to town for National Ag Day and I had the opportunity to join these fellow alumni for some round table discussions with the students about career paths and our own experiences. No matter what the event is, I always leave feeling refreshed and a bit more centered when I surrounded by the people brought together by AFA.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.

Girls Night Out = Korean BBQ and Karoke

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Snaps from Janci on the family farm are my favorite.

#Bromance

Last minute free tickets to Red Hot Chili Peppers? Why the heck not?!

Watched my Portland Trailblazers while they were in town to play DC. It was a pretty disappointing loss but great company!

My sleepy puppies back in Oregon.

Original caption from Facebook:

“Nicole and I always joke about how we practically have the same life story. Both Northeast Oregon girls with roots in the Oregon FFA Association who went to K-State Ag to study ag comm and had internships in the grain industry. And both of us ended up on the East Coast where I eventually hired her to do freelance work for my organization… which happens to be part of the grain industry. And that doesn’t even cover all of the other interests we have in common. But while we laugh about it when people ask us how we know each other, its actually the perfect example of how important it is to cultivate and invest in meaningful relationships, both personally and professionally, because you never know where that connection might lead you to or how that person might impact your life many years down the road.

On Sunday, we were able to share that together with Agriculture Future of America (AFA) students visiting DC for National Ag Day. We shared that we are better people and better ag communicators because we blend our personal and professional relationship. We support each other’s careers, the successes and DEFINITELY the challenges, but we are able to do that because of our friendship and respect for each other. And as a BONUS, it is just plain fun to have people to continue to share those life experiences, like #AgDay with.

This is year’s theme was “Food for Life” and I choose to think of that in terms of the relationships and my network in the agriculture industry, and how that fuels my life in every way. Without that network of people that makes me want to always strive to be better, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am in a job and industry that I absolutely love.”

My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.

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Wesley and Robin

Obviously I was long overdue for an update on my favorite two little kiddos who both celebrated their birthday’s in the last two months.

Robin: At Christmas time wearing her new bow from me!

Robin: A new one year old!

Wesley: Fortunately my trip home over Christmas meant I got to spend lots of time with him!

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So, There’s That.

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Taylor

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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When I stop to think about it, I have quite a few interesting stories about how I’ve first met people over the last couple of years. My feature today is a good example of that. Taylor was a fellow Agriculture Future of America (AFA) student, but she was only starting to get really involved as my involvement was slowing down so though I knew who she was, I don’t think we had ever chatted prior to the summer of 2014. I was traveling to Austin, TX, to participate in my first #AgChat conference and the way my flights worked out, I got in before 10 am and didn’t have to be at the hotel for events to start until that evening. I decided to be a little brave and reached out to Taylor and her friend Taysha who had mentioned in the conference Facebook group that they would be in Austin earlier in the day as well. They ended up picking me up from the airport, and then we floated down the river for the afternoon. I still vividly remember how fun and spontaneous that day was!

Taylor has a contagious personality. She’s open and honest about what her goals are, and is not afraid of putting in the work to get here. She’s outgoing, independent and kind, and happens to be a a bit sassy to top it off. There really haven’t been that many, but I remember many of conversations with Taylor because she is genuine and pours herself into the conversations and people around her. Taylor’s post grad life has already took some twists and turns, but I really respect that she continues to go her own way and put the things that are important to her first. No doubt she’s another great addition to this series!

-Amanda

The Road I Traveled- Taylor

Basics

Name: Taylor Truckey

Age: 23 (and a half!)

Hometown: Leonidas, MI

College: Two years at Western Michigan University before transferring to, and graduating from, Michigan State University

Degree(s): Crop and Soil Sciences (MSU)

Current Location: Michigan, for now!

Current Job: I’ve built an online-based business focused on empowering women to be confident and healthy. I want to inspire people to take risks and live outside the norm if that’s what they feel called to do. Although my primary income isn’t in the ag industry currently, I still do freelance work and have a passion for the ag industry that has shaped my life.

Background Story:  I grew up on a small hobby farm in southern Michigan. After years in 4-H, FFA, and a misguided attempt to be a Poli Sci major, I found my home at Michigan State where I dived into the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

College

How did you choose your college and your major? This might be a long answer! Honestly, when I began looking at collegiate programs, I didn’t want to go to Michigan State. I felt like EVERYONE went there and I’ve always been the person to want to do things a little differently. I was thisclose to going to K-State to study ag but ended up deciding to go to WMU to keep showing in 4-H and to be closer to my grandparents.

After a year, I wasn’t happy in my program. I loved WMU and the Lee Honors College, but I didn’t feel like I fit in there. My heart missed the ag industry and my political science/environmental studies classes were missing the mark for me. I started looking again at K-State, in addition to UNL, OSU, and A&M (let’s be real, I just wanted the ring LOL). I was burnt out. I started considering two-year programs just to be DONE. A family friend forced me to check out Michigan State, and to humor him, I said I would.

After he drove me to campus for a visit, I was hooked. The passion professors had for the program, the energy in East Lansing, and the Spartan pride convinced me it’s where I needed to be. Let’s be honest, ag is also where the jobs are!

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What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? The groups I was most heavily involved in were the MSU Agronomy Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Agriculture Future of America. I had internships with B&M Crop Consulting, CHS, FarmLink/MachineryLink, ZimmComm New Media, and worked on campus as both a teaching assistant and in the MSU Weeds research department. I feels like it was already so long ago that I might be missing a few!

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What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? Deciding to transfer out of WMU was a hard decision. I felt like a failure when I decided at the end of fall semester my sophomore year that I needed to leave Western. I signed up for online classes that spring, moved home, and jumped into an agronomy internship working with some of the best minds in the industry while I waited to hear from MSU. That internship helped me choose my Crop & Soil Sciences major at MSU. I don’t believe in regret and I will always treasure my time at WMU; I met some of my best friends there and had a lot of great opportunities!

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What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year? Just enjoy it. Stress less about your GPA, and more about making memories. Do all of those bucket list blogs that past seniors wrote for you and drink a beer with one of your professors. Celebrate this chapter of your life, but be smart too. Recently, we had to say our final goodbyes to a great friend of ours that graduated from the CSS program last May with us. Without getting too philosophical, those memories are way more important than a GPA that no one asks me about!

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far? Twists and turns! Graduated, started a job, moved, didn’t work out how I planned, moved again. Basically, I’ve learned to just not plan, ever. I’m not doing something I ever would have planned on (there that word is again), but I am happy, my work is incredibly rewarding, and I’ve met so many amazing individuals along the way!

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? Overall, I experienced a lot of things that I think most don’t by the time they graduate because I applied for a lot of things I probably didn’t qualify for, then figured it out as I went. #realtalk.

I traveled quite a bit the last few years, worked with various groups, learned to work with many personalities, took scary leaps, made a few mistakes, learned from them, survived a knee replacement, almost failed Trig, did fail Chemistry, and yet, somehow, I had a 100% record of surviving. That gives me the strength to continue taking risks. I’m willing to fail, as long as I fail forward and learn from it. I think this is important in any career. In mine, I was willing to take a chance on a job that follows a non-traditional path just because I was willing to say, ‘why not?’ I’m thankful that I took that chance every day. It’s worked out pretty darn good.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? Learning that in a workplace, co-workers aren’t necessarily friends. I value relationships and consider many people a friend. It can be a hard pill to swallow learning that not everyone values relationships that way!

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What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job? Wunderlist is near the top; any kind of tracking app or CRM that helps me stay on track of things because #scatterbrain. PocketCasts/Audible for personal development and training. Instagram, Facebook; my business is primarily on social media/my phone. I’m learning Google Streak to see if that can help my business grow as well. I also have the Passion Planner that I try to remember to write things down in!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?  Motivating and training teams, engaging people, and renovation vintage campers are current strengths. I’m not a detail-oriented person, that is something I have to constantly work at. But I realize it. And luckily you can spend $ on apps that serve as personal assistants to keep you looking like you have your life together.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? You have to dig deep and find your why that is going to keep you pushing through the hard shit (can I say shit?). It will fuel you the moment you get a message that says, “I believe in myself again because you believed in me first.” The idea that some people have no one in their corner, I want to be that person for them. I want to give them the tools chase whatever life it is they want to be living. The tough days are made easier by having my Airstream parked outside my window; it keeps me looking towards a life of flexibility on the road. That will come with it’s own perks like being able to give my time freely in service to others.

 

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed? Lots of personal development, adventures, vacations, weekend trips, and the occasional pedicure.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far? Learning to go after what I want. I spent so many years doing the things I thought I had to. It’s been fun figuring out life with a new set of lenses that college and post-grad life seem to give you.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? Outside of work, I spend a lot of time traveling. I’m also renovating a 1974 Airstream in preparation of an epic roadtrip. The plan is that by the end of August, I’ll be able to hit the road full time for a cross country roadtrip in my Airstream! Donations accepted gladly accepted.

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Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? A strong cup of coffee, time with Jesus and personal development make it hard to have a bad day! My morning workouts also just make me a nicer person in general HAHA

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? My phone for sure. It’s what I run 80% of my business off of!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? I freakin’ LOVE what I do, but I think if I could do ANYTHING, I’d have sponsors pay me to go on my Airstream adventure this fall/winter and just take lots of cool pictures, drink a lot of craft beer and meet amazing people along the way.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? The people! This is a growing phase and shifting phase of life, it gets hard to keep in touch. But I’m forever thankful for the friendships and memories made during those FIVE years!

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Taylor, thank you so much for taking the time to open up and share about your post grad journey so far! I am excited to see final pictures of your Airstream. You know… Virginia and DC are really pretty in the fall… you may want to add that onto your road trip!

Cheers!

Career/Professional

AFA Alliance Member Spotlight

This month the AFA Alliance featured me in its monthly member spotlight.

Being involved in AFA in college had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally. I truly believe I would not be where I am now without those experiences and the network that it helped me build now includes mentors, colleagues, a support system and many friendships.

Becoming a Lifetime Member of the AFA Alliance was important to me not only because I want to continue to learn and develop as a young professional, but also because it signifies that I want to be committed to seeing the organization grow and continue to influence college students for years to come.

Thank you Lauren and Celia for selecting me as your spotlight this month!

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In the Spotlight:
(View the original on the AFA website.) 

Organization: U.S. Wheat Associates

Current Position Title: Communications Specialist

Education Summary: B.S. Agricultural Communications and Journalism from Kansas State University, 2013.

1.      Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Hermiston, OR, which is located in what is known as the Columbia Basin in rural Northeast Oregon. After staying in Kansas for a few years after I graduated college, I moved to the Washington D.C. area just over a year ago. I currently live and work in Arlington, VA.

2.      What does your current position entail?

USW does export market promotion for the U.S. wheat industry, with two U.S. offices and 15 offices overseas. I work on a three-person communications and marketing team, so we cover a lot of tasks. About half of my work is cyclical with a number regular newsletters, press kits and reports that I help write and manage for a variety of audiences. I manage social media and incoming media requests, and often collaborate with our state wheat members and other commodity groups. The other half of my work is on support projects. I work closely with both our trade policy and programming teams, on their projects and events, to plan and implement any communications strategy and support materials needed. I am also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel quite a bit for board meetings, conferences and other events.

3.      What is the biggest professional challenge you have overcome? (or biggest professional challenge you face?)

In college there is so much focus on “self-discovery,” leadership and honing in on what our skills and goals are. As a young professional, it is a different environment and I found it really difficult to feel confident in how gauged where I was in my career, and what was the best next move for me. A year into my current job and my move to DC, I think my current professional challenges is the learning curve, work-life balance and applying myself with confidence.

4.      What advice do you have for young professionals motivated to lead?

Don’t patiently wait around for life after college to start or think that you need a few years under your belt before anything you say or do will matter. Confidence, energy and the willingness to learn are qualities that are respected no matter where you are in your career. And living in a place like DC has showed me that young professionals can have a huge impact when they are motivated to lead. Find a mentor, speak up and be open to new opportunities and networks.

5.      How do you balance your personal and professional life?

Honestly, I know this will always be a challenge for me, because unlike many, I grew up in a family who “lives to work” instead of “working to live.” And when properly balanced, I think that is OK. I am the type of person who pours my personality into everything I do, including my work, and I need to strongly believe in what I’m working toward or for. That also includes my relationships with my co-workers and colleagues. But on the day-to-day I find that the more organized I am, the better I am able to separate my personal and professional life. I think it is also important to have hobbies and interests away from work that add value to your quality of life.

6.      What is one of your habits that has helped shaped your professional career positively?

My network has been the single most important thing in helping shape my career so far. So maybe it’s because of my love for communications, but I always strive to ask really good questions and focus on being present and intentional in my conversations, whether they are in a formal meeting and a casual chat. I want to understand who a person is past just their name, where they work and where they went to school. I believe we all have something to teach one another, and a negative experience is a missed opportunity. Since I moved to DC I set a goal for myself to write a few handwritten notes a month, to express my thanks for something specific or just to further invest in that relationship.

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Of course I couldn’t make an AFA post without a few team pictures…

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2011 AFA Leaders Conference
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2011 National AFA Student Advisory Team
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The team at John Deere in North Carolina, July 2011.
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Royals game, September 2011.
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Ice cream with AFA founder, the late R. Crosby Kemper, October 2011.
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Washington D.C., March 2012.
2011 AFA Student Advisory Team and Interns at the Capitol
National Ag Day in D.C. in 2012
Reunited with my AFA Student Advisory team family.
Reunited at the 2012 AFA Leaders Conference.
So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 14

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

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1. Welcome to the World Wesley Ray

Wesley Ray

My childhood best friend Richole finally welcomed her little guy into the world on March 4! Isn’t he adorable! I am so excited for this next season of life and know that she and Dustin are going to be great parents. Unfortunately I will not be able to meet Baby Wes until I am home again in July, so for now I am Richole and her family’s number one Facebook stalker…

2. A Mentor and A Friend

There is no other experience in my life thus far that has been more rewarding, humbling or encouraging, than AFA, and I am so thankful that Russ Weathers is someone I personally call a mentor and a friend. As a student on the leadership team, we always ended our day by each sharing a “word of the day” and what it meant to us. To hear Russ choose words as simple as “friendship” and “teamwork” to describe his career, reminds me why agriculture and the people who make it their livelihood are things that I believe in with my whole heart. It is my goal to look back many years from now and be able to say, like Russ, that I have loved every job I have ever had because of the friendship and teamwork around me. Thank you Russ, for sharing so much of yourself with us and dedicating your life to students.

3. Brunchin’

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Love brunches with new friends.

4. Scaredy Cats

I am pretty sure 75% of the random stuff that my  sister and I send each other are funny cat videos…. SO. FUNNY.

5. Can You Name All 50 of These 80’s Movies From a Single Image

THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Because I can, and I did.
It is my favorite movie era, and I don’t know if my mother has ever been more proud of me ace-ing a test.
Take the quiz here.

6. Bill Murray KNOWS.

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7. Excuse Me While I Fan-Girl

The Bachelor is one of the few ridiculous things that I have no shame in being a fan of. It’s the perfect combo of hopeless romantic and quality mockery. My friend Brandi and I have watched it together since we met in college and consider our live-tweeting  a serious sport. Now that I live in D.C. we FaceTime and watch it together that way.

Obviously, our favorite season was our fellow K-Stater (and football player), Sean Lowe. During the most recent season’s finale, we both tweeted images of tweets from Sean’s season that came up on our Timehop apps, and about died when he responded.

#EMAW

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8. Hammy-Downs

Most people would tell you that my sister and I are opposite of each other in a lots of ways. This includes the fact that while writing is my favorite thing in the world… Janci, not so much. Her grades in college are WAY BETTER than mine ever were (she’s on the Dean’s list almost every semester), but I still edit most of her papers. She’s not going to happy about this but I literally teared up from laughing so hard at her error on “hand-me downs.”

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9. Criminal Minds

http://canstatic.cbs.com/chrome/canplayer.swf?pid=ZR9MRXIhgoBQ&partner=cbs&gen=1

I’ve spent the last three weeks thinking that Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds was going to be killed off the show. Of course, this last week just as I am calming myself back down, the story leads to him just plain leaving.

Friends, as an owner of every single season and an obnoxious super fan, it was just brutal.

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10. National Ag Day

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One of my favorite days of the year, and this year was another success! I love the industry that I work in!

11. Snaps and Screenshots

A couple of randoms  from my phone lately that make me smile.

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12. Easter Sunrise Service

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This past weekend for Easter I attended the Sunrise Service at the Lincoln Memorial. It was a pretty early morning as I got there shortly before 6, and it was a little disappointing that it was so overcast that we didn’t get a beautiful sunrise. But aside from that, it was a pretty cool experience. There wasn’t a formal service, but a few pastors gave short messages and led a few prayers. Most of the morning was spent in song. Another reason I’ll never get over all of the unique things that happen in this city.

13. Obnoxious BFF Memes

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I am sometimes concerned by how Buzzfeed seems to know my life.
But more importantly,  I am SO EXCITED for my girls weekend trip to New York City with Megan this upcoming weekend.

If you follow me on any social media, consider yourself warned…

So, There’s That.

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Michael

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This new series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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Everyone, meet Michael. Featuring someone in grad school has been on my list of priorities for this series from the beginning and Michael is a great example of someone who spent a little bit of time in the industry after his undergrad, before returning to academia for grad school. I also want to make sure that he gets a proper shout out… generally student schedules are a bit more hectic and all over place, especially near the end of a semester. Well this kid still went ahead and returned his questionnaire back to me well-before the deadline. That’s impressive! Anyway, Michael is one of my fellow AFA Student Advisory Team alums. A few years younger than me, I first remember meeting Michael in Track 2 at AFA Leaders Conference when I was on the team and leading that track. Since then, I’ve always been able to count on him for a witty tweet and a good laugh. I think Michael is a great (and somewhat rare) example of someone who pursued a degree in production agriculture, without really having a true background it. His passion and curiosity is genuine an contagious. Plus, he’s just an all-around fun,  great guy to be around.
– Amanda

The RoadI Traveled- Michael


Basics
Name: Michael Carlson
Age: 23
Hometown: Johnston, IA
College: South Dakota State University
Degree(s): Bachelors of Science in Agriculture: Agronomy
Current Location: Brookings, SD
Current Job: Graduate Research Assistant

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?

Having grown up in Des Moines, I didn’t even know until my senior year of high school that SDSU existed. I grew up right next to Dupont Pioneer’s corporate headquarters, so I had quite a few neighbors and family friends involved in agronomy and plant sciences. I didn’t really know what all was involved, but thinking that it might be interesting I decided that I should major in agronomy and figure it out as I go! That narrowed down my choice of schools to primarily land grant institutions. I really enjoyed my visit to SDSU, but what sealed the deal was going to a program called “A Day in the Life,” which was put on by the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. This program allowed me to interact with professors, sit in on a class and network with agriculture students. After that visit I was counting down the days until I could head up north!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?

I was heavily involved in the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences Ambassadors, where we went out to schools in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska to talk about why students should study agriculture and why they should consider attending SDSU for their post-secondary career. I was also involved with the Agronomy and Conservation Club, serving as the club president for a year. I was also able to serve as the Honors College Student Organization Secretary for a year, along with being a mentor as a Teaching Assistant for the Honors 100 class. The last organization that I was involved with was Agriculture Future of America where I served on the Student Advisory Team in 2013. I had an internship every summer between semesters. After my freshman year I worked as a crop scout in SE South Dakota. The following summer I worked as a field research intern for Dow AgroSciences in South Dakota, and during my last summer as a college student I was the seed treatment intern for Winfield, a Land O’Lakes company.

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With 4 of my closest friends, and past Student Advisory Team members at the AFA Alliance Forum

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?

Time management was by far my biggest obstacle! Getting to know and understand how to manage time between classes, work, social life and different activities. Another obstacle I personally had was my very limited knowledge of production agriculture, but I soon found that all I had to do was ask and someone would willingly answer my questions! Personally I think the only thing that I would have changed were maybe to have taken another year of college to finish out some different minors or an undergraduate research project.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?

As cliche as this sounds I would say to enjoy all of the experiences from your last year of college. And when looking for a career, don’t worry about if it doesn’t work out like you think it is supposed to, as life likes to take different twists and turns, most of which you never see coming.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

After I graduated from SDSU I started as a sales trainee for Dow AgroSciences in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I was able to learn about the sales process and to begin to call on customers for different reps while working on different projects. I then made the jump back to graduate school this past April to work on an organic weed control system.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?

Working in the corporate world has definitely given me another view which I think has helped me succeed now that I am back in graduate school. The idea of bringing added value to tasks performed isn’t emphasized as heavily in graduate school as it is in the world of sales but the idea of bringing more to the table than what is expected is still a big deal.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?

The biggest challenges that I have would be getting used to different managers. I’ve found that it’s best to ask more questions than you think you should because it’s better to ask to much than come back at the end of the year and not have done enough.

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My mother and I at our first Green Bay Packers game back in October!

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?

I use my MacBook Pro every day, but the calendar is my biggest life saver! Putting down any appointments, classes or due dates definitely helps keep my cluttered brain back in order!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?

I would say my biggest strength would be drive and a strong sense of responsibility. I would say a weakness would be sometimes jumping the gun on things without asking all the questions I should.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?

I take a lot of breaks! I don’t worry about whether or not I will get the project done in a timely manner as I tend to not put tasks off to the last second. Sometimes this means I may work wild hours, especially with my field work I have to do the work when Mother Nature allows me to.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?

In grad school it sometimes seems as if there is not much of a balance, but as I found from working in the “real” world it’s all up to yourself for creating that balance. I have a good group of friends here in town which helps me to detach from the constant questions I have about my project.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?

I am most proud about making the jump back to graduate school. It was a nerve wracking decision but I am glad that I chose to continue my education and contribute to new ideas and information.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.

Life looks hectic! Running my samples and finishing up my classes this semester are taking a lot of my time lately! But I make time to go out with friends and read a few books when I’m not reading some scholarly articles!

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Me and my close friend Whitney touring hiking around Spearfish canyon in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Just For Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?

Coffee! And looking over a simple plan of what I have in store for the day! As this has been important when trying to get my field or lab work complete when everything is a rush!

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?

Definitely caffeine — coffee makes my world go round. Also, my music. When doing doing lab work, field work or office work,  it seems about impossible without excellent music to get me motivated.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?

I would be a ski bum! Just relaxing on the slopes living in the mountains sounds like the perfect life to me!

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Me on top of Lone Peak at the Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana.  Turns out I still have work to do on my technique to ski from an alpine like peak!

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?

As a graduate student, I miss not having to worry about my project and any lab work that is looming over my head at all times! Haha!

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Michael, thank you so much for taking some time out your hectic schedule to participate and share a peek into life in grad school. Good luck on your research and projects!

As always, thanks for reading friends!

Cheers.

Linking up on this Monday with these bloggers.

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The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Nathan

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This new series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn.
Read past posts in this series HERE.

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Everyone, I’d like you to meet Nathan. He ties a mean bow tie, and other than some healthy sports banter… he is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. I first met Nathan in 2011 when I was on the AFA Student Advisory Team and he was a AFA Student Ambassador. Over the years we both continued our involvement in the organization and remained friends. What has always stood out to be about Nathan to me is his sincerity and energy. He’s driven and a great agriculturist, but he is also witty and fun, and one of those people that you know you’ll like and trust after just a few minutes. As you will read below, Nathan above all, values his faith and family, and has an adorable love story. It is always so encouraging to see others who got their start with me in AFA, go out and start making a difference right away. – Amanda

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Basics

Name: Nathan Johnston
Age: 24
Hometown: Stanhope, IA
College: Iowa State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Business
Current Location: Ames, IA
Current Job: Seed Advisor for Beck’s Hybrids

Background Story: I grew up on an acreage south of Stanhope, Iowa. Faith and family were the cornerstone of our lives growing up. My Dad (Pops) works as an Investment Banker and my Mother (Mom) works for a company that trains and sells Dairy Quality Assurance practices to vets and large dairy farmers. I am the oldest of three children. Matthew, 22, is the hardest worker I know. Break through his quiet personality and he is the funniest, goofiest person you will ever meet. He is currently a sales rep for Ziegler Cat. Melinda, 18, just started college at Iowa State University. She is the nerd/bookworm of the family and shows it by pursuing her degree in Chemical Engineering; this way she can go to MORE SCHOOL to become a doctor.

The latest and greatest family member to my life is my beautiful bride, Alison. We met at Iowa State. We were in the same friends group for two years and had never met. I went to her birthday party twice and never met her. There are pictures of her where you can see me in the background- never introduced ourselves. The night we met, I took her swing dancing and she pretty much took my heart right there. Wow did God have a plan! We have now been married for just over a year and love the adventure we have set out on. We enjoy supporting ISU athletics, going on walks, camping, hanging out with friends and family, and being involved in our church.

Nathan and his wife Alison on their wedding day. ( Amanda: This is such a great photo!)
Nathan and his wife Alison on their wedding day in 2014.

College

How did you choose your college and your major? Like many high school seniors, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I looked at a couple different colleges, a couple different majors. Eventually I narrowed it down to the Agricultural Business major at Iowa State University. Iowa State was right in my backyard growing up, both my parents were alum, and hands down it was the best Ag Business program in the nation- how could I turn down that opportunity!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
Outside of class, I was involved in a lot of different organizations. My first semester of college I buckled down; I was there to focus on my grades! That got old quick, and I got my start on Freshman Leadership Council planning with the Education Committee. I liked being busy, meeting new people, and working to accomplish a goal to help others. Before long, I jumped in and got involved in Student Alumni Leadership Council, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassadors, Ag Business Club, Agriculture Future of America, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council. I worked as an Ag Business Peer mentor for two years during school, for the College of Ag Career Services Office, and as a Blogger for the office of admissions. Busy was better for me!

I cannot forget my friends- I always had time for to socialize with them and meet new people too!

As for internships, I worked for Mycogen Seeds as a yield trial intern, merchandising intern for ADM, Winter Intern for Waterstreet Solutions, and a Chemical Sales Intern for Dow AgroSciences.

I also had the opportunity to travel to Argentina on a 10 day study trip with some great friends. It was amazing to see life from a different perspective (southern hemisphere). The best (maybe only) grass-fed steak I’ve ever had was on a farm, cooked on an open wood-fire flame, in central Argentina. Those folks know how to host a meal!

My 4 years at Iowa State were a blast. When I look back, I can’t believe the opportunities I was blessed with; the people I met, fun we had, friends I made, free meals I ate, wild stories I’ll be able to tell, adventures undertaken, classes I took, and things I was able to accomplish. What amazing opportunities we have if we only take a step of faith, put in some hard work, and dive into life!

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
When I was in college, time was the biggest challenge. Time to study, time for organizations, and time for friends. I liked the shuffle of being busy, but I would make more time to work while in school so I could take more travel courses.

What is one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Enjoy the time you have- you have an extremely low opportunity cost in regard to your TIME in college! Make the most of it by enjoying your friends, your school traditions, and the free time you have in college!

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Ah so young we were! And look at that bow tie! (2011)
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Nathan’s AFA Student Advisory Team (2012)

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
Right out of college I worked for Union Pacific Railroad in their Marketing Development Sales Center. I managed small to medium sized fresh, frozen, and refrigerated business. I also got to explore new business and bring them to rail. It was great! I learned a lot about big business and got to explore many sectors of the agricultural industry I had not seen before. I love flipping over a bag of potatoes in the grocery store and knowing exactly where they came from!

I left the railroad to come work for Beck’s Hybrids. The company culture (faith, family, and farming) and the empowerment we are given to serve our customers is what led me to Becks. It is a company where we are encouraged to take a chance, think out of the box, and develop creative solutions to bring to the farm gate. I believe that this employee empowerment is behind Beck’s rapid growth and the tenant that will sustain their growth far into the future (along with great products). I was blessed to start a territory near my home and love working in central Iowa! I have enjoyed a great year meeting farmers across Iowa, learning about the seed industry, and bringing farmers a great new opportunity!

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Diverse experiences, networking, and never turning down an opportunity served me well in college and I will continue all of these into the future!

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I love my iPad with 3G service- you can get business done anywhere!

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I love thinking of how I get to serve someone else. When I bring a new idea, product, or practice to a farmer I’m not always sure how I will be received; however, I feel refreshed when I think of serving the people I work for!

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Tough question: it is hard to keep work and life separate. You have to take time away from your phone, not check your emails, and seriously put down your phone! Intentionality is important, that’s why it is important to take time for LIFE! Exercising, spending time with friends, and enjoying my family are what I like to do away from work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
#BeingMarried #bigboydreams

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I like running outside, working out, fishing, reading, spending time with Alison, serving in the community, and being active in my church.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Reading my bible and praying is a great way to start the day!

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I love coffee; tall and dark black. You bet I’ll make it at home, in the coffee maker I bought on Black Friday for $9.89 four years ago. I figure this keeps my average cost/cup down to approximately $.07 for Starbucks roasted coffee.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Some combination of a design/construction career. I like putting together a plan to make something work and really like the physical work/ problem solving it takes to make a goal a reality. I’m not a huge fan of calculus and engineering.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the free time, friends, and atmosphere. I’ll always be a loyal son, forever true, to my ISU!

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Nathan, thank you so much for participating and being you!

Next week I’m featuring a fellow Oregonian that I’ve technically never met before…

Cheers!

Linking up with these other bloggers here and here this week.