The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Lauren

“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.

**********

This week I have been traveling for work in Oregon, which meant that I had the chance for a long weekend at home with my family. This afternoon I met with a group of students at my school, and one of the key things we talked about was the importance of building your network and how it evolves throughout college and into your career.

Lauren, my guest feature today, is a perfect example of that.  Lauren is a part of my AFA network, and while I know that we have “known” each other for while, she’s an example of someone in my outer network (because of AFA)  with whom I’ve more recently connected with directly when our jobs led us to cross paths again at a conference last summer. Lauren is a fellow ag comm grad, and like me, moved to an entirely new place for her job. Lauren is incredibly kind, has a heart for agriculture and people, and she is tackling the ups and downs of what I call “the crazy post-grad life” head on. I am excited to share Lauren’s story with you. It’s refreshing and sincere, and she has some great advice!

-Amanda 

Lauren summary picture


Basics

Name: Lauren Prettyman
Age: 23
Hometown: Marion, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): Agriculture Communication
Current Location: Columbia, South Carolina
Current Job: Media Specialist for South Carolina Farm Bureau

Background Story:
I often tell people I had the best of both worlds growing up – living in the city close to my school friends, yet being able to escape to the farm whenever I wanted. My parents divorced when I was too young to remember; I lived with my mom in Marion, Ohio, a city of about 35,000 just north of Columbus, and visited my dad often, who lives on a beautiful farm right outside of Marion.

I have three younger siblings, and growing up with them was nothing less than crazy at all times. Tyler (21) is in his fourth year at Ohio State to become a small animal vet tech – I know he’ll be great at this because he is totally a dog whisperer. Wesley (15) is already a hundred times more motivated than I was in high school, and will someday reach the prestigious goal of ‘dotting the i’ for the OSU marching band (The Best Damn Band In The Land). Halle (14) has all the athletic ability that the older three of us didn’t get – she’ll be famous one day.

As it was for many farm kids, my love for agriculture grew from helping my dad on the farm. I started 4-H as soon as I was old enough. My two favorite weeks of the year were county fair week and 4-H camp week. In typical ag kid fashion, I joined FFA in high school, continuing the projects I had started through 4-H. I was the Star Greenhand freshman year, spent two years as the chapter treasurer, served as the chapter vice president my senior year and received my American Degree two years later. I was hooked on FFA and, inspired by my advisor, I set off to college to become an ag teacher.

IMG_1906
Hiking with my family in Asheville, NC this past Thanksgiiving

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
When I initially started my college search, I looked for schools everywhere other than Ohio. Knowing I wanted to pursue a career in agriculture, I studied the list of the country’s top ag schools before making any decisions. I visited Purdue, Penn State and a few others, but none of them seemed to fit what I was looking for. At a loss for other options, I applied to OSU and was accepted.

I started as a freshman majoring in ag education, but after participating in my Early Field Experience in a classroom setting, I knew ag ed wasn’t for me. Halfway through my junior year at Ohio State I changed my major to ag communication. I excelled in my ag comm classes and knew that was where I needed to be. I minored in production ag, which allowed me to take an entry level class in just about every part of the Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences  – food science, plant science, animal science, soil science, meat science and ag business.

Despite initially not wanting to go to Ohio State, I quickly fell in love with the university – the campus, the people, the traditions. I am so thankful God had greater plans for me than I could have ever imagined, and led me to Ohio State.

IMG_2279
Ohio State football game with my friends and 100,000 other Buckeye fans!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I started freshman year in a scholars program – Mount Leadership Society – which focused on scholarship, leadership and service. I quickly learned that MLS was not for me, but because of my involvement in that program, I was able to connect with the other CFAES students, and meet my best friend, whom I attribute much of my college involvement to.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year, that I truly grasped college for what it had to offer. I became involved in anything and everything I could possibly fit into my schedule – Ag Ed Society, Ag Communicators of Tomorrow, Meat Science Club, Ag Business Club, CFAES Student Council, among other things. I was accepted into Alpha Zeta Partners, an OSU ag honorary, which allowed me to travel to Brazil for a semester. I caught the travel bug and also traveled to Chile, Ireland and Costa Rica through CFAES programs.

One organization I became involved outside of Ohio State was Ag Future of America. This organization was the true catalyst for my desire to become an ag leader. The AFA Leaders Conference connected me with students from around the country who were passionate about making a positive difference in the ag industry, and also allowed me to meet industry professionals, presidents and CEOs who were passionate about educating us to be the future leaders of agriculture.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Motivation was something I struggled with freshman year. I didn’t have the desire to become involved, I wasn’t worried about my grades and I skipped a lot of 8 a.m. classes. Thankfully I snapped out of that, got my grades up and became uber involved. But once I took all of that on, the time management struggle was real. I had to learn how to balance my classes, a million organizations, two jobs, my social life, oh, and sleep at some point. Not entirely sure how I did it, but I must have learned something because I came out on top with good grades and lifelong friendships. Shout out to my parents and friends who supported me and kept me sane!

Do you have any regrets in college, or anything you would change if you had the chance?
I am so grateful for all of my experiences during my four years at Ohio State – good and bad. I am a firm believer in the cliché saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ and because of that, I try not to regret any decisions I have made. However, if I could change anything about my experience, I would have gotten more involved sooner. College is about new experiences and personal growth, and often we do not realize this until we’re already halfway through the journey. And internships – I would do so many more internships!

IMG_2280
The farm I stayed at during my homestay in Costa Rica.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far.
My current position at South Carolina Farm Bureau is new to the organization, making me the first media specialist they’ve ever had! My job description includes responsibilities like writing news releases and creating social media content, but because I’m in a brand new position, I’ve been really fortunate to sort of make it what I want and what the organization needs. I write a lot – news releases, newsletters, magazine articles, government relations content, you name it. One of my favorite aspects of my job is that I get to travel around the state visiting farmers, hearing their stories, using that for content.

I had no idea the steep learning curve I’d face when I started. I was introduced to crops I’d never even seen in a field before – peanuts, cotton and tobacco. I didn’t know what they looked like, how they were grown or how they were harvested. I didn’t even know peanuts grew underground! But I so loved learning about these crops. And parts of South Carolina have a growing season of nearly 300 days, which allows producers to grow fresh produce almost year-round. I have grown proud to be part of this amazingly diverse industry in South Carolina, and I love that my job allows me to tell the story of South Carolina’s farmers.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Each of the clubs and organizations I was involved in have impacted my professional life in unique ways. The hard skills like time management and budgeting have definitely been helpful in post-grad life, but the soft skills were really invaluable. Communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving – these things are used in the workplace and in life every single day! My study abroad trips had an exceptionally large impact on my soft skills and who I am today, too.

Throughout college you meet so many people in classes, organizations and conferences. This is the basis for your network. All of my involvement created a large network of peers and mentors all around the country. I think that has had the largest impact on my life post-college. No matter where I am, I always know someone. But networking doesn’t stop after college – we have to be intentional about expanding our networks and staying in touch with people we’ve met.

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?

Moving out of state to a new city where I knew no one. This was one of the best but most difficult decisions I’ve ever made; it was so much harder than I imagined. I thought that after interning in Kansas City for a summer and having a blast, moving to Columbia and making friends would be a breeze. I was wrong. It was difficult, but SO worth it. I have grown so much as a person since my move. I learned a lot about myself and was put way outside my comfort zone to get out and try new things and meet new people. I joined a kickball league (my team won the league), discovered I actually like to run (three 5k’s in 2015) and I’ve expanded my taste for seafood!

Feeling lost. I think Kayla talked about this in her post. When you graduate college and land a job, you expect everything to be awesome. You graduated college – what could be harder than that? Life, y’all. For me, working world is basically a 180 from college world. But the encouraging thing is we all face many of the same challenges. I get in my own world and think no one else understands what I’m going through, but when I actually talk to my friends about it, they’re all experiencing similar ups and downs with their jobs. Don’t get discouraged!

Lessons learned: budgeting is scary, home improvement is hard, termites are evil, a good glass of wine can cure just about anything.

IMG_1841
Kickball team photo after winning our league.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a strong writer, a problem-solver and an excellent listener. I also have a huge imagination which leads me to be curious and adventurous in just about every aspect of my life. I love to try new things. My weaknesses include long-term planning, focusing on tasks, dark chocolate and wine (hehe). If you really want to know my personality type, I’m an ISFP to the core!! (http://www.16personalities.com/isfp-personality)

And apparently I’m a perfectionist (it took me three days and about a hundred drafts to craft my perfect answers for this questionnaire).

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

My faith, family and friends keep me motivated and on track every day. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by amazing peers, friends and family who inspire me to be my best. When I’m feeling unmotivated or too far from home, it’s the long phone conversations with my parents or close friends that encourage me to keep moving forward.

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

I had the option of getting rid of my personal phone and switching over to my work phone when I was hired. I didn’t do that. Initially because I didn’t want to sell my soul to Farm Bureau, but it has actually worked out great for many reasons. When I leave the office I don’t have to be constantly seeing my work emails pop up. I can periodically check my work phone to make sure nothing urgent has come up, but otherwise work is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Be intentional about keeping personal life and work life separate. I try not to take my work home with me or let my personal life influence my work.

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

I planned a U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogue this past November. Initially, the project was not fully mine, but because of happenings around the office, I had to take over planning. It was my first solo project. To plan out every little detail, pray people show up, and then see the event succeed was enormously rewarding.

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

My free-time is spent traveling, hiking, running, playing kickball, exploring Columbia, and staying involved at church.

My relationship with God has grown a lot since moving to Columbia. I found a church I love, was baptized and have recently started a bible study group for young professional women in the area.

My love of hiking has also grown. South Carolinians are big on the outdoors. I’ve always loved hiking, but thanks to South Carolina’s basically year-round beautiful weather and close proximity to tons of parks and trails, I hike a lot more than I ever have. It’s awesome because I’m spending time doing something I love and I’m getting a good workout at the same time!

Just for Fun

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

I always check the weather before leaving the house – wouldn’t want to get caught in the rain without an umbrella. And I love to listen to K-Love on my drive to work – it starts my day off on the right foot.

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

Green tea! It has the perfect amount of caffeine to wake me up but keep me focused. And music. I’m addicted to Spotify.

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

Something that would allow me to travel a lot. Travel blogger/writer, or if I work on my photography skills, a travel photographer.

IMG_0041
Visiting McWay Waterfall in Big Sur, California with my best friend Mara.

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

My friends! A lot of us who graduated together have moved out of state. I miss being a short walk from all of my friends.

The beauty of campus. There’s nothing better than the start of a new season on The Oval – the first snowfall, all the flowers blooming in the spring and the leaves changing in the fall. South Carolina hardly has seasons.

And football, of course. Oh how I miss being surrounded by thousands of Ohio State fans every Saturday during the fall. Living in SEC country is rough, y’all.

*****

Lauren, thank you so much for participating and being so genuine in sharing your story. I enjoyed getting to know you a bit better and am even more thankful now that our paths have crossed again!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Chandra

“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.

**********

When I originally asked Chandra to be featured, she hesitated, worrying that she didn’t have something fabulous to share. I am so glad that she did though because her story of struggles and hard work finally starting to pay off are the type I want to share. This is a crazy time in our lives and a lot is left to chance and the unknown. I just hope that other young professionals read her story and feel encouraged.

But let’s not jump the gun. This is Chandra. We went to high school together and were friends through FFA. And really, if we are being honest, “friends” was probably a conditional term because we spent most of our time competing against each other, unless we were on the same team, and even then we were probably still trying to best each other. Looking back though, I do have some really fun FFA memories with her and it makes me laugh because I really think that much about our personalities were really similar. Chandra was smart,  creative, witty and very passionate about her interests, and as she’ll tell you below, always had a good sense of who she was. There is not a doubt in my mind that those qualities have evolved and made her into a strong young professional. I have been following Chandra’s story through Facebook over the years and admire the risks she’s taken and the determination she’s had toward pursuing her dream.

– Amanda

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of The RoadI Traveled-

Basics
Name:
Chandra Magnuson
Age: 23
Hometown: Hermiston, Oregon
College: Oregon State University
Degree(s): Bachelors of Science, Merchandise Management
Current Location: Brooklyn, New York
Current Job: OMEN PR, Showroom Manager

Background Story: I was born and raised in Hermiston, OR which speaks volumes for itself. I’m the oldest of two with my sister Morgan being 4 years younger than me. From a young age my parents instilled a certain sense of “self” into me and a competitive spirit. My father especially always pushed me to go the extra mile no matter what I was doing. I remember he would make me listen to the “Patton Speech,” before big events, so that gives you a glimpse of how much I hated letting people down. I was always very busy growing up which is something I miss now! From about 7 years old I played soccer, danced, showed horses, held a basketball and baseball bat on occasion and leapt into the 4-H program headfirst once I was old enough. I always felt a little out of place in high school, while I had friends in many different “cliques” I never exactly fit in with just one so I often felt out of place. I immersed myself in sports and school activities. I took soccer very seriously and was offended by people on my team who didn’t take it as seriously as I did. I tried to be an over achiever in FFA participating in just about every public speaking event, showing horses, pigs, steers and sheep. I developed a deep passion for public speaking once entering 4-H and I was further groomed in public speaking when I got into FFA and I served as the student council Activities Coordinator for two years. In high school I never would’ve guessed that my love of planning events and speaking would come full circle and I would later find myself working in fashion public relations in New York City.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
While I applied to other colleges based off of how prestigious their horseback riding programs were I think there was never a doubt that I wouldn’t be going to Oregon State. I entered my freshman year as a General Agriculture major thinking I would graduate in 5 years ready to be an Ag teacher somewhere in Oregon. Little did I know halfway into my freshman year I would fall into a deep depression that left me feeling lethargic and wondering what I was doing with my life. While I loved the agriculture programs and opportunities I grew up with I knew I needed a change. I met a friend in a writing class that winter that introduced me to Oregon State’s School of Design and Human Environment that along with an apparel design program also had a Merchandise Management program. I had always had a love of fashion, running a small blog not worth mentioning, a love of vintage clothing and its history and in interest in the “behind the scenes” of the industry, so I felt very at home with my major switch.

Standing in front of the old Conde Nast location before it went to 1 World Trade.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations?
There aren’t nearly as many opportunities in the Merchandising program as there are in the apparel program at Oregon State. So during summer term my sophomore year in a Styling class we took matters into our own hands. Our teacher had our small class of 8 create Oregon State’s first Fashion and Lifestyle Publication, DAMchic, a project we are still very proud of today. I served briefly as the first Fashion Director than as the Women’s Fashion Editor and finally the Business Director. One of the biggest takeaways personally from the class were the industry tours we did that summer in Portland. After visiting a small production/event planning house in Portland coupled with the fact that I had recently started watching Kell on Earth from Bravo (I have since met and worked for Kelly Cutrone and I absolutely don’t recommend it. If you are wondering if she is as mean in person as she is on America’s Next Top Model, the answer is yes) I was hooked on the idea of working Public Relations and going to Fashion Week in New York.

What internships were you involved in?
It can be very, very hard getting an internship in New York when you live in Oregon. My school had a decent internship program that would assist you in finding an internship, but, for the most part it was up to you. I applied to probably 50+ internships the fall before the summer of 2013. I finally got hired by Marc Fisher Footwear as a public relations/marketing intern. While I was in New York I figured I would probably never get another opportunity to come back to New York and I was determined to get to experience fashion week. So I scoured the internet and a website called Freefashioninternships.com until I came across an internship that would take me. I spent the month following fashion week working with the PR team at Yigal Azrouel on his Spring 2014 show. It was a really amazing experience and both of my first internships hold a very special place in my heart. When I moved back to New York in September of 2014 I took an internship at BPCM, which is a very large agency and a lot faster paced than what I was use to at my prior internships.

One of my DAMchic Shoots I styled and directed.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
I truly feel like my biggest challenge was finding a place where I fit in. College can be scary at first and I witnessed a lot of my friends fall victim to the same things I experienced at first. You may be depressed because you’re away from home for the first time, you have to make new friends – or maybe you’re growing apart from the friends you went to college with from your hometown. You start questioning if the major you choose is really what you want to do for the rest of your life and you wonder what it would be like to do a complete 180 with your life. One I found a core group of friends who I could depend on, found an organization I could get passionate about and actually be able to envision what my future could be like, I felt a lot more comfortable and ultimately happier.

Do you have any regrets in college, or anything you would change if you had the chance?
If I could do it all over again I would’ve joined more clubs. Maybe club soccer or speech and debate. Anything that I could’ve done to make myself a bit more diverse, I’ve found not all interviewers after college care about what you did in college but, there are those few that actually want to hear about the things that get you excited and what you’re passionate about.

Post Grad

How have your experiences and involvement in college impacted your career and life post grad?
My styling class directly affected my career choices. While in high school I did not even know what public relations was! I’m pretty sure my parents and friends still don’t understand what I do and what I want to achieve. Internships in the fashion industry are an absolute must and if I hadn’t had them I would’ve probably of even been invited in for an interview.

What are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced moving from college to post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I wasn’t prepared to spend so long unemployed. Despite having the degree, despite having the internships, despite being what I would consider an easily adaptable-get a long with nearly everyone type, it took me a solid year to finally find a full-time position. I thought I found my “home” a couple times in jobs only to find that opportunities aren’t always what they seem. I would estimate that I’ve probably worked 10+ jobs over the past year. I temped in administration/special events for companies such as One Kings Lane, Calvin Klein, One Jeanswear Group and Dior. I held freelance fashion positions with Lanvin, was a Public Relations assistant at People’s Revolution, and was the Internal Events Planner and Receptionist at Rent The Runway. After my department was let go at Rent The Runway all I wanted to do was come home. I live with my boyfriend and at that point I was begging him to move back with me. I was ready to throw in the towel, New York clearly was not loving me and I wasn’t loving her anymore. Thankfully after my department got let go at this point I have some pretty good relationships with a handful of recruiters and I was able to get immediately placed into jobs. I spent a couple months at Ideel working logistics before we were told the company was going under. JUST MY LUCK.

Fashionable feet in New york_

However, a silver lining came with this. While at Ideel I had been applying to jobs like crazy and had two very good opportunities to choose between. I could go to Krupp Group as an Executive Assistant or I could go to OMEN PR as a Showroom Manager – a position that isn’t entirely glamorous or well-paid but would allow for me to be in an environment where I would at least be immersed in PR and be apart of the day-to-day functions of a fashion showroom. So I took the position at OMEN PR and I am hoping to be here for quite awhile.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Is coffee an app? Cause it keeps me in the right mindset to stay organized! Google Docs is my life, this questionnaire is the first time I have opened up Microsoft Word in a long time! We use a website called Apprello to track our samples in and out of the showroom, find out which magazine or stylists has what and when it is coming back to us. I use Instagram and Twitter a lot to make lists of influencers, track press hits and just stay up to date on what is going on. I like to start my day looking at Refinery29.com, Fashionista.com, Fashionweekdaily.com, and of course Vogue.com.

How do you stay motivated?
I have no family in New York, which has been very hard on me. My boyfriend and I got our first place together this October and he is pretty much my rock. He fully supports my dreams and ambitions and I don’t know what I would do without him and the family I have back home in Oregon. I have been so close to throwing in the towel a handful of times but, I pull motivation the most from my competitive past. Also, my boyfriend got us a kitten in June. Having a fur child around has helped me to stay positive enormously. His name is Jon Snow and despite popular belief he actually knows quite a bit. All in all, I’m not ready to give up just yet.

jonsnow
Jon Snow.

*****

Chandra, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and taking the time to participate — especially since I took a holiday blog hiatus and your questionnaire sat in my inbox for two weeks! I wish you all of the best in New York and am excited to see where your career takes you!

As always, thanks for reading friends!

Cheers.

Year in Review

Where It All Begins: 2015, A Year in Review

With the new year approaching, I was struggling to come up with a witty way to review my 2015, like I did at the end of 2014. But then again, that post always makes me laugh, because so much was about to happen and I had NO CLUE. Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about that new year’s celebrated on San Antonio Riverwalk with my friends during our Alamo Bowl trip. I remember being really happy, and though I had told myself two months before that I wasn’t going to look, but was going to be open to new job opportunities, I really did love my life in Kansas. I had no clue that just nine days later I was going to apply for a job in Washington D.C. and that a very short two months later I was going to start all over and move halfway across the country AGAIN to the place I had dreamed about since I was little.

2015 was full of adventure and taking risks. It was a year where I challenged myself and when I really learned about value. How to work toward better valuing my friends and family, criticism and praise, life and opportunity. Many of my values were strengthened and some I chose to question. And I learned to better value myself. In the book “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie F. Downs that I have (very) slowly been working through there is a line that says, “–that I am who I am on purpose.” That thought really struck me and I’ve carried it with me ever since (literally, as the picture on my phone’s lock screen.). In the blogging world, a lot of people talk about choosing a “focus” word or phrase for the coming year and at the end of 2014, I thought I would join. My Grammy had given me a token that said “Shine From Within,” and I thought about how that sentiment could mean so many different things. I don’t know if I “focused” on that phrase as much as I said I would, but I do believe that I worked toward being my more authentic self. Of course there are always many more miles to go, and maybe I’ll find new definitions for that phrase, but I can say in full confidence, that I like where I am headed in 2016.

IMG_1446

Let’s not skip past 2015 though, because it’s certainly not a year that I ever want to forget.

In 2015, I took a new job and moved to Washington D.C.

On January 9th I heard about a job opening at U.S. Wheat Associates
On February 9th I accepted a job there as a Communications Specialist
On March 9th I was all moved in and had my first day as a “wheatie.”
And by April 9th, I knew I had found someplace special.
The learning curve is still really steep and I might live by “fake it till you make it” forever, but I honestly love my job. I love my office environment, the work, the farmers I work for and feel so lucky to have so many great co-workers. I love the feeling that I’m doing something that benefits others and in an industry that I believe in with every part of me.

I REALLY miss both Kansas and Oregon, but I am confident that this is where I need to be in my life right now.

In 2015, I explored my new home.

Looking back I don’t really remember much in March and April. I think it was all I could do to go to work and learn as much as I could everyday and curl up on the couch when I got home. But I’ve always dreamed of living here and eventually I began explore. I am fascinated by this place. So much history, so many unique people and there is always a dozen or so fun events going on here. I am continuing to slowly work my way through the tourist attractions (saving some for when I have visitors) and searching out some of the lesser known sights. I love visiting Arlington Cemetery, running on the Mall and saying Hi to Lincoln. I crossed off an item off of my bucket list and watched fireworks on the Mall and enjoyed the cherry blossoms in the spring. Anyone who would like to visit, let me know, I am honing my skills as a tour guide 🙂

In 2015, I had so many opportunities to travel.

My job took me back to Kansas, San Diego, Phoenix, Lake Tahoe and on my first big international trip to Guatemala.
I had the chance for a quick trip home and to the cabin over the summer, celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday in Las Vegas, my 25th birthday back in Kansas and witnessed my friend Blaine’s wedding. I spent Friendsgiving in North Carolina and Christmas at home again with my family.

At one point in the summer I went 8 weeks where I never spent more than 8 days in a row in D.C. This is the life friends. There is a lot of ugly that goes on in the world, but I still refuse to believe that it’s not beautiful.

In 2015, I really valued my time with my family and friends.

My grandparents are the true rockstars of the year. They cut their anniversary trip short to fly to Kansas to help me pack and then made the drive East with me. And I don’t know which was more horrible, the weather on the drive or my attitude. I put all of my stress and worry on them and all they did was love me back. I am still incredibly grateful for the help and support.

Even though I moved to the East coast I still got to spend quality time with people that I love and as I mentioned above, shared many celebrations together. I had a few visitors to my new home, including my best friend Richole from Oregon and my college friend Chelsea, who is now a fellow Virginian at Virginia Tech. And most importantly I am starting to build a life here and making new friends

In 2015, I did things that made me happy.

I became a resident of Virginia and began to embrace my new home.
I began a window garden again, and failed, AGAIN.
I continued to do some DIY projects and finished my very first crochet project.
I discovered the BEST semi-annual book sale at the local library and added so many new books to my own library.
I finally got a professional camera and am enjoying learning how to better use it and sharing those images with others.
I really dove into blogging, sharing my love for music, scrapbooking my life and felt so rewarded and motivated by my new “The Road I Traveled” series. And those are all just SOME of the highlights.

There is a lot that I am hopeful for in 2016.
I hope that I continue to grow, build my self confidence and be someone that I can be proud of.
I hope that I keep learning and become a better communicator and agriculturist. I hope to better serve others, both in my career and everyone who deserves the best from me. I hope to continue to have wanderlust and be brave enough to take risks. And most of all I am always hopeful for health and happiness, for myself and those I love.
There are a lot of things that we can be in this life, but I think just being simply happy, is the best there is.

I have lots of goals and adventures to be had, so 2016, I hope you are ready, because I am not slowing down.

And of course, my list of favorite music this year is long, but these four songs are what motivated me and spoke to my heart this year.

Cheers, and Happy New Years!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Kayla

“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 the series introduction post HERE.

**********

I am so excited to introduce you to my first guest feature, Kayla! I met Kayla through our involvement in AFA. I know we started out as freshman in the program together, but I didn’t get to know her until a few years later when we went to a couple of country concerts together with our mutual friend Lance. As we both got involved with AFA leadership, I learned that this girl has simple, steadfast love for agriculture. She’s genuine, very sharp and has a great sense of humor. Part of the reason I chose Kayla for my first feature is because I admire her strength. As she’ll share below, she comes from a family farm and her first job has taken her 2,000 miles away. I also come from a family business and I understand that when your family’s livelihood is such a big part of your everyday life, it makes it even harder to leave those things behind.

When I reached out to Kayla about being featured she shared that the quote above that I partially chose the name of this series from, is actually her favorite quote. I am not one to believe in coincidences and that in itself, encourages me. Kayla’s story is unique, but it is also relatable and I’m hoping like me, there is something in it that either inspires you and just makes you feel a little less alone on the journey of being a young professional. – Amanda

The RoadI Traveled_Kayla main image
Basics

Name: Kayla J. Petree
Age: 25
Hometown: Tipton, MO
College: State Fair Community College and University of Missouri
Degree(s): Plant Sciences, Crop Management emphasis (MU) and Associates Degree, Chemistry (SFCC)
Current Location: Chico, CA
Current Job: Production and Supply Development Program Associate, Syngenta

Background Story:

I have your average Midwest farm kid story. I grew up in Tipton, MO, a small town smack dab in the middle of the state on a family farm as the second oldest of five children—Marcus, myself, Laura, Jessica and Angela. Our farming operation includes both crop and cattle. We grow corn, wheat and soybeans on rotation, have hay ground for our own use, and raise Black Angus cow/calf pairs. When I wasn’t helping out on the farm growing up, I was playing every sport I could—mainly softball and basketball—and being very active in CTSOs (Career Technical Student Organizations)—FFA, FBLA and FCCLA. I held many officer positions over the years, showed steers at the county fair, and participated on several contest teams. My favorite contest by far was Parliamentary Procedure because of the impromptu nature of the performance and because our team was First Runner-Up in state my junior year.

Throughout my childhood, the farm was always the main focus. We were all expected to help out, whether it was working ground, helping plant, putting up hay, working cattle, combining the crops and/or dumping trucks. We all helped out with everything. The ‘family’ aspect of our family farm was and still is the most integral part. The farm is where I learned to drive a truck across the pasture sitting on my knees while dad tossed hay to the cows. It’s where dad taught me to drive a stick shift grain truck by telling me to get it to the edge of the corn field. (I killed it a few times, but I made it.) It’s where my siblings and I bucked bales that were about the same size as us and led steers around the corral way after the sun when down. Most importantly it’s the place where my parents instilled in me a hard-working determination, an appreciation of the little things in life, and a love for my family. It’s where my passion for agriculture began and it is the place where I hope to return someday.

No disaster can overtake you, no plague come near your tent; He has given he angels orders about you, to guard you wherever you go. -Psalm 91:10-11

hr-0344-187-416--0344187416021
Playing in the shed at 4 years old. My Dad was a Pioneer sales rep when I was younger and he inspired my interest in the crops and seeds business.
IMG_2909
The family at my sister’s high school May 2015 graduation. Front Row (L to R): Laura, Angela and Jessica. Back Row (L to R): Me, Mom, Dad and Marcus.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?

My senior year of high school, I had my heart set on going to the University of Missouri, majoring in Hotel Restaurant Management, opening a floral shop, and becoming a wedding and event planner. However with the cost of tuition, my parents thought it made more sense for me to attend the local community college and commute from home. (I think my dad secretly also wanted me to hang around a few more years to help him with the farm.) While I wasn’t thrilled about it at the time, I do not regret attending State Fair at all. I left debt free and had some really great advisors and professors. One in particular was my Chemistry teacher. Jack was a really inspiring professor who taught using a hands-on approach, forced me to think critically, and taught me to look beyond just getting the answer correct. This type of learning atmosphere and a combination of continuing to help my dad out on the farm inspired me to change degree paths when I transferred to the University of Missouri to Biochemistry in hopes of pursuing an agriculture research position. However, after a year into the program, it was obvious biochem was not for me. After talking to several advisors, my parents, and peers, I made another switch into Plant Sciences at MU and finally found my home. I’ve always known the agriculture industry is where I wanted to be, but it took a few tries and forward thinking to find what fit me the best.

hr-0823-377-685--0823377685014
My Mizzou Graduation in 2014

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

While at State Fair, I became really involved in PBL (Professional Business Leaders), the collegiate level of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). At the end of my freshman year, I became the State Parliamentarian and was able to attend the National Leadership Conference. The following year, I was again elected to my state position and decided to apply for a National Officer position at the encouragement of my adviser, Jodi Fudge. One of the biggest surprises of my life was winning the National PBL Parliamentarian position. It led to a whirlwind year of meetings, trips, conference planning and practice, and meeting people from all over the country. A highlight during my year as an officer was getting the opportunity to attend the National Association of Parliamentarians Convention with other National CTSO Parliamentarians. Call me a nerd, but getting to meet Henry Robert, III and having him sign my Robert’s Rules of Order was incredible!

The constant in my college career and an organization I hold dear to my heart is Agriculture Future of America (AFA). As a senior in high school, I was selected to receive the AFA Community Scholarship sponsored by my hometown, which included the opportunity to attend the AFA Leaders Conference held each year. To put it simple, the ‘AFA experience’ blew me away and my journey with AFA hasn’t ended. I attended all four tracks in college, traveled to DC with the Policy Institute served as a Campus Ambassador in 2012, and was fortunate enough to serve as a Student Advisory Team member my fifth year of college. For me, AFA is so much more than a conference. AFA provided critical professional and personal development, opened my eyes to the diversity of an industry, fostered my internship with Syngenta, and introduced me to some of my closest friendships. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without my involvement in AFA.

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

Transitioning would probably be my biggest challenge going through college. I’m sure several people have felt the same way when you finally settle into the routine of a semester just as it’s getting over and then you have to begin the next. In my case, the biggest transition was when I moved to the Mizzou my junior year and had no idea what to expect. I went from having classes with friends and about 30 people at the most to 300+ class sizes and not knowing a single person. I’ll be honest; it was scary, intimidating and frustrating. On top of it all, there were classes I had to retake because they didn’t transfer correctly, which added to my uncertainty and frustration. That first year at MU was rough to say the least. However, I wouldn’t change it. I look back on that time as a growing experience. It forced me to get outside of my comfort zone, create new friendships, and really figure out what it was that I wanted to do.

The one thing I might have done differently was to explore additional classes or looking into getting a minor. Based on the things that I now enjoy in my job, I think a communications minor or a few more ag business classes would have been fun and beneficial.

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

I would give two different types of advice. To freshman, I would tell them to take the time your freshman year to explore different interest areas and get involved with several organizations. However over the course of your college career, you need to hone in on what organizations are most meaningful, what experiences will really benefit you in the long run, and what classes will challenge you in a good way. My advice to seniors would be to enjoy your last year to the fullest. Cliché, I know, but extremely true. My senior year/victory lap was my favorite year of college. My classes were the most enjoyable because they aligned with my interests, I spent as much time with my friends as I could going to country concerts and having study nights, and I just soaked up as much as I could about Mizzou and Columbia because I wasn’t sure when/if I would ever be back. So to put it simple, enjoy it.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

My career so far has been quite the adventure. Never in my life have I lived more than an hour from home. So five months before I was to begin my first big kid job, I found out I would be moving almost 2,000 miles from Missouri to California. To say the least, I was scared and nervous and excited all at the same time. I work for Syngenta in the Production and Supply Development Program. The program allows associates to experience 3 separate rotations within different areas and locations of Syngenta during a two and a half-year time period. My first rotation was in Santa Maria, CA working with brassica (broccoli, cauliflower, endive and celery) production and processing. This past February, I moved to Northern California to work in Glenn, CA in the production and processing technology group for sunflowers. This rotation entailed assisting with the sunflower plots and different trials at the site. My third and final rotation will begin sometime in January when I moved back to the Midwest to work in Waterloo, NE at one of our corn sites.

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

I would definitely have to say that outside of the skills and learning experiences I gained growing up on the farm, AFA would be the biggest experience that helped foster my success in post grad life. AFA’s programming is unlike any other. They provide opportunities for delegates to not only hone their professional skills, but also develop those soft skills and personal skills that employers are looking for in candidates. I also have to mention my parent seed internship with Syngenta in Washington, IA, which lined me up with my current job. During college, I spent most of my summers at home helping out on the farm. The summer before my senior year of college I was able to work in Iowa in parent seed corn production. This experience gave me my first real look into the working world and opened my eyes to the hundreds of opportunities available to me outside of my hometown.

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?

I’m not sure I have enough room for this question. There are hundreds of things I never had to worry about before and another hundred I thought I knew about but was severely mistaken. My biggest struggle without a shadow of a doubt is being so far from home and my family. I never thought in a million years I would be living on the other side of the country so far from mom, dad, Marcus, the girls and the farm. My family is probably my biggest life-line, biggest support system, best friends and comfort zone. Being so far from them is something I still struggle with every day. However, I will say that technology has become my biggest resource for staying connected with them. It’s not the same as being in the same room with the people you love, but I would definitely say it lessens the pain of being so far away.

On another note, no one ever tells you how hard figuring out these first few years of a career can be and how lost you can feel at times. I think sometimes we put blinders on at college graduation and think, “Now I’m finally here. I made it. Adult life here I come.” I’ll admit I was in the mindset that I was going to go out into the working world and make a huge impact right off the bat. Not that I haven’t contributed to in each of my roles, but over the course of my early career I’ve come to realize it’s up to me to find the impact behind the tasks I perform and to seek out the little opportunities of growth in a job. No one is going to hold your hand. No one is going to tell you what you have to do every day. It’s up to you. Your career will become what you make of it.

Last thing, lamps are more expensive than you think, Swiffer Wet Jets need batteries, and always set a timer.

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

I am a paper and pencil type of person, so I tend to not use many apps for my job. Now I’m also the type of person who also doesn’t like to plan things out by the minute. I like to have some flexibility in how I work. When I need to buckle down to get something done or plan a meeting, I can set an agenda to get it done. That being said I stay organized without having a set-in-stone schedule by writing lists and I always have my Day Designer planner by my desk when I need to reference my calendar. I use my computer obviously a ton for work, especially Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and my email. The few apps that I do use for work are the weather app, Pandora or Spotify, LinkedIn, and IDWeeds (University of Missouri Extension app). GoogleMaps is by far my best friend when it comes to trying to navigate a new location and area.

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

This question is always a tough one to answer. At this point , I would say that some of my strengths revolve around being very hands on in my job, being willing to take on new challenges and new opportunities, communicating well with others, and being very meticulous when working on a project. Areas where I fall short would center around a lack of confidence in myself. I’m still new to the big kid world and I find myself doubting or second guessing my abilities and knowledge base when making decisions. However even during the past year and a half, I have seen myself grow and become more sure of myself. It’s a growing process and one that I feel everyone overcomes and works through at some point in their life and career.

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

My best friends are some of my biggest life savers. When work bogs me down or stresses me out, I call up a friend. I feel like there are so many of us who are going through the same struggles in their early careers and feeling the same uncertainty as me that it is important to reach out to them. For me, a few hours of talking out a concern or a project with a friend is the main way for me to figure out what my next steps are. It’s also something that I do when I have a success or when I get excited about a new project. Sharing those experiences with someone helps motivate me when things get difficult.

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

Similar to the answer above, staying connected to friends and family is how I stay afloat and refreshed. They are what keeps me going during the day, make me smile and laugh, and talk me through the hard times and challenges I face. A warm bath, good smelling candle, and a glass of wine are my other outlets. And when neither of those options work, I get in my car and do a couple of rounds at the batting cages. There is something about when my bat connects with a ball that relieves my stress. Standing at home plate is the one place where everything disappears and the world makes sense for me. My only goal is making contact.

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

Moving so far from home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I am slowly but surely finding exactly where I fit into this whole puzzle. However, moving away from home and everything I had ever known has to be one of my proudest accomplishments thus far. It takes strength, ambition, spunk and a some nerve to move 2,000 miles from home. But it’s been one of the most exciting times in my life because I’ve met so many great people and learned so much about different crops and different parts of the country. Life right now still seems surreal. I joke with my friends and family that most days I still feel like a 12-year-old trying to figure out life. But it makes me proud knowing the knowledge I’m gaining out here and the personal growth that I’ve had since graduating college.

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

While I work in the agriculture industry, outside of work I am still very passionate about ag. I continue to volunteer my time with AFA by participating in application reviews, programming reviews, and the AFA Leaders Conference. It’s my way of giving back to an organization and an industry that has given me so much.

I try to stay active by playing co-ed softball every week, which has also helped me meet new friends. My other hobbies include exploring Northern California, going to the Chico Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, baking of all forms (especially cookies), checking out the local shops downtown, reading books, and watching sports. My newest hobby would be photography. I bought a Canon camera a few months back and have been getting used to all of the settings and taking pictures any time I can. And of course going to country and red dirt concerts as often as I can!

IMG_1184
Enjoying a Cards/Giants game with a co-worker.

Just for Fun

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

I wish I could say I’m a morning person, but that card has never been in my stack. So to get my day started off on the right foot, I need coffee, coffee and coffee. If I do not get at least a cup of coffee in the morning, then I basically can’t function. I also have a pretty set in stone makeup routine. I have to wash my face every morning (and can’t go to bed without washing my makeup off).

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

Coffee is my vise. I make my travel mug of coffee at home, drink it on the way to work, and usually finish at my desk while I check emails and start the day. After I finish my coffee, I switch to iced water with a straw. I also have to have either my Day Designer planner at my desk or some form of paper and a good pen to write my lists. When I need to be super productive, I put my headphones in and listen to some good red dirt country.

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

This is a tough question because I currently love my job and what it allows me to do. While I changed majors in college away from it, I think I would still love to work as a wedding planner or florist. I’ve always loved weddings, the promise they symbolize, and the joy it brings people and families. I’m a sucker for a good love story.

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

My friends!! I miss all of my friends so much! If I didn’t live on the other side of the country, I would probably visit and see my friends more often. However, I’ve been very fortunate that my friends and I do keep in touch by calling one another. I’m also pretty lucky in the sense that I’ve been able to meet so many new friends and make new connections with people. It’s definitely broadened my network.

The other part of college I miss would definitely be Mizzou football and basketball. There is absolutely nothing like Columbia, MO on a Saturday during football season. So much black and gold, tail gates everywhere, and the excitement in the air is addictive. I absolutely love it!!

0484586232003
My family farm.

**********

Kayla, thank you so much for being brave and stepping up to be the first guest in my series!

Next week I’m stepping outside of agriculture to feature a friend who is rocking her career in interior design, with a great guy and toddler to keep her busy…

Cheers!

Linking up with these other bloggers here, here and here this Monday.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Amanda

“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 the series introduction post HERE.

**********

professional post image

Basics

Name: Amanda Spoo

Age: 24

Hometown: Hermiston, OR

College: Kansas State University

Degree(s): Agricultural communications and journalism; Emphasis in Agronomy

Current Location: Arlington, VA (D.C. area)

Current Job: Communications Specialist for U.S. Wheat Associates

Background Story:

I am originally from rural Eastern Oregon along the Columbia River that divides Oregon and Washington. Growing up, I split my time between tagging along with my dad, who was a high school agriculture instructor, and being raised in my family’s third generation flower shop. I was never a great athlete but I kept active in soccer, golf, cross country, tap and dance team, and basketball. I raised market lambs and hogs to show at the county fair, and was really involved in FFA leadership and contests. My favorite was prepared public speaking.

At my senior FFA banquet 2009
My family at my senior FFA banquet 2009

College

How did you choose your college and your major?

I used to joke that if I had $1 for every time someone asked me how I got to K-State from Oregon, I’d have enough money to pay for my out-of-state tuition. My sophomore year of high school I had to do a report on a college I was interested in and K-State was the only school listed under “agriculture communications” on the website collegeboard.com that my school used for prep. The idea stuck with me, and once I found that there wasn’t any schools in the PNW that had exactly what I wanted, I visited the Mid-West for the first time in my life and knew in my gut that K-State was for me.

I’ve basically known since I was probably 12 years old that I wanted to be in communications, and my parents would probably say they’ve known since I was little. I was the kid who wrote three pages for an assignment that was only supposed to be one page. Overtime that developed into a passion for words, people’s stories and news. The agriculture part developed overtime largely because of my community and FFA.

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

The first two years of college I lived in a women’s scholarship house, a co-op with 45 other girls, where we had cooking, cleaning and leadership responsibilities in exchange for a lower housing cost. That house and the “brother” men’s house end up being the most important community that I had in college, and where I met most of my life-long college friends. I was a College of Ag Ambassador, a member of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and on staff for three issues of the Agriculturist student magazine, serving as editor my final semester. I had an on-campus job with the grain science department as a student communications specialist at the International Grains Program (IGP), as well as two internships with K-State Research and Extension and ICM, Inc., a biofuels company. The most impactful experience though both professionally and personally, was attending the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference each year and serving on its national student advisory team in 2011.

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

Obviously I got homesick a lot, more than I admitted to my Mom at the time. Every once in a while I’d go through a phase of feeling guilty and get really anxious. How could I miss home and people so much and still love my life in Kansas? How could I possibly be making so many of my own decisions and not make a terribly wrong one? When I failed and had to retake two classes I felt like a joke. Looking back, I know those were growing pains infused with an extreme lack of sleep, but I wouldn’t change anything. Overtime I learned to embrace my independence more and that failures are humbling, but good building blocks to work harder.

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

There are so many little things, but most importantly I would say surround yourself (if you haven’t already) with supportive people who make you feel confident and be sure to enjoy your senior year. I know it’s cliché to say, but I don’t remember the details I was stressing over on the magazine, but I do remember the all-nighter in the ag mag lab with my friends and all of the silly things that distracted us.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

I spent my first two years post grad as Director of Communications for the Kansas Pork Association. Since it was located in my college town I actually started part-time in February of my senior year until I went full-time after graduation. In March of this year I took a big leap and moved to the D.C. area for a job as Communications Specialist with the U.S. Wheat Associates, the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry. I work on a lot of internal and external communication materials, media relations, manage social media accounts and work on special projects with our policy team and 15 overseas offices.

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

My job at IGP and working on the student magazine gave me real experiences that really helped me build a good set of skills that I use in my job every day and a solid understanding of responsibility. Most of all I continue to see the impact of building and investing my network. My time with AFA helped fine tune my personal and professional skills, and taught me the value of relationships.

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?

One of the things I never imagined would be so hard is building a new social life. In Kansas I had a few friends still nearby after college, but I had no idea how to make new friends outside of a school environment. Now in D.C., I still struggle, but I’ve really tried to change my attitude about it. I’ve learned to really enjoy things that I can do solo (like going to the movie theater!) and I really push myself to always say yes to new experiences and invitations.

Also, taxes! I still don’t get them and have no problem paying someone to do them for me. Really though, there are a lot of a little “adult” things that I wish I had gotten the how-to tutorial for, instead of endless phone calls home to my poor mother. I’m always wondering how people just magically know how to do these things. I can’t be the only one!

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

I’m a little obsessive when it comes to organization and lists, and I need to write EVERYTHING down, so you’ll hardly ever see me without my leather Franklin Covey planner. My favorite phone apps for both work and personal use right now are Typorama, Scannable, Google Drive, Venmo, Spotify, MyWater, WeatherBug, Wallet (for airline tickets) and Timehop.

Hands down my top recommendation is utilizing lists for Twitter and viewing them using a dashboard like TweetDeck. It’s a HUGE time-saver, helps me do my job better and it’s really the only way that I absorb my news.

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

Right now I’d say that I am really creative, detail-oriented, reliable and work well with others. I’m usually really positive and work with a lot of energy, but in areas where I lack confidence I tend to be a lot more hesitant and don’t ask as many questions as I should – and then I end up letting my frustration affect my work. My new job continues to have a pretty high learning curve and I wouldn’t necessarily say it is a weakness, but my new job has definitely challenged my writing skills!

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

I’m motivated by the people around me (a big reason why I started this blog series), so it is important for me to invest in relationships and groups that are passionate about life and their work because that energy is contagious. I also love to get to know the farmers that I work on behalf of. They are some of the kindest, interesting and hardworking people I know, and I want to do my best for them.

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

I know it’s less common, but I grew up in a family who for the most part, genuinely “lives to work” because they really love what they do and find myself striving for that same mindset. I really to try to be “all there” in whatever moment I’m in and make staying organized a top priority so that the details don’t overwhelm me too much. The little things are really important, even if that means just taking a break for a walk outside in the afternoon or not making any weekend plans. I also work really hard to maintain important relationships. It means a lot of time talking on the phone, but those people are my voice of reason and always brighten my day.

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

Recognizing that it was hard for me to feel like I was moving forward still living in my college town and that there was a lot more I wanted to be experience personally and in my career. I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to do something about it.

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

I’ve been in the D.C. area almost seven months and it is the first “city” that I have lived in. There is so much to see here, and always a fun event going on, so I am still enjoying exploring the city. My hobbies include reading, blogging, being crafty, live music, cheering on the Wildcats, practicing with my new camera and traveling home to Kansas and Oregon.

National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial
National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial with Richole.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?

Honestly I don’t know what’s next. The last few months have been such a whirlwind getting settled in my new job and home. Ultimately the dream would be to eventually move back to the PNW or Kansas someday, but I love my job and where I’m at right now, so I’m focusing on that.

Just for Fun

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

If I can wake up early and get a workout in I feel like a rockstar, but if I’m being honest I struggle pretty regularly with consistent mornings. Every morning while I’m usually still in bed I check my weather app, read a blog post or a few news articles and check my email (we have overseas offices so I like to see what’s happened overnight and get an idea of what to expect when I get into the office.) I try to pick my clothes out the night before because I’m really indecisive and that never fails to make me late. But I really believe that when you look the part and feel good about it, then you perform better (thank you FFA!) At work I write my to-do list at the beginning of each week so every morning I’ll highlight the priorities for the day and quickly scan through my emails to see if there is anything to add.

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

I’m a solid two-cups of coffee a day person. I also have a bad nail-biting habit when I’m stressed or struggling through a writing assignment. In college I found that eating sunflower seeds was a good solution, so I still do that now. Above I mentioned that I obsessively make lists and write everything down so in my workspace you will always find a dozen different types of sticky notes.

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

I’ve always said that my career back up plan was to be hair stylist. I also love sports, so I could see myself in some sort of sports journalism or marketing.

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

Taking a least one nap a day. And all the free stuff. Yes, I have a salary, no I’m not be above free pizza and t-shirts. And obviously, my friends and having the freedom to be really spontaneous. Those are my favorite memories.

Kyla and Megan
Kyla and Megan, my college best friends and roomies.

**********

Thanks for reading! Tune in nest week for my first guest feature. I am really excited to see how this series evolves!

**********

Linking this post up with the October Country Fair Blog Party  and these bloggers

country fair button

Kansas, Love Letters

A Love Letter to Manhattan, Kansas

There is one thing I remember from the second time I drove into Manhattan, Kansas. I remember quite a bit about the first time too, but at that time I was a high school senior, and even though I knew that this was where I wanted to go to college, it all seemed so surreal and far away.

But my second time it wasn’t to visit, it was to stay. Manhattan was going to be my home, and I was terrified. I had no idea what I had committed too, and still wasn’t above begging my dad to take me back to Oregon with him. But the single thing I remember from that drive in from the airport was the sound. The sun was starting to go down in my beloved west, and what should have been a beautiful evening, was ruined by what sounded like a surround sound generator. When we pulled up to Smurthwaite Scholarship House, the very first thing my dad says to the girl welcoming me in is, “What the hell is that sound out there?”

They were cicadas and at that point I was pretty sure there was no way I could live in Manhattan, Kansas.

**********

Fast forward 5.5 years later, not only did I stay and graduate from Kansas State University, but I chose to stay in Manhattan for my first job. Now I’m looking at a new job and adventure in Washington D.C., and with two days before my move, I keep thinking back to those stupid cicadas. I couldn’t tell you when it happened, but at some point they became a normal part of life, and then I didn’t notice them at all.

I think it would be easier to leave a place if you were running from it. But while my life seems to have always moved at a full sprint, I never felt like I was running away from anything. I’ve said this a million and one times, but I never could have known what the choice of a stubborn eighteen year old would become. The phrase “Home is where the heart is” is a common one, but I think it needs to be taken a step further. Home is a feeling, and the strongest, truest, best feelings are the ones that you can’t quite describe. Those are feelings of love. And somewhere between those cicadas driving me insane and now, I fell in love with Manhattan, Kansas, and it became my home.

So here’s my love letter to you, because these are that kind of feelings that should be shared.

**********

IMG_1551

I love you at 7:00pm in the summer. The day’s temperature might have been unbearable, but when the humidity evaporates a little and the harsh sun splashes itself across the western horizon, everything else seems to wake up. Your smell, your color, your people and the promise of a little relief and time to enjoy being outside always got me through until the end of the day. As a K-State alumna I always loved the heartbeat of our campus, but in the summer you slow down and become almost peaceful. I love that you could be both and that the college and the community were a part of each other. I don’t know if you could have one without the other and still fall in love.

But my favorite season has always been fall, and that will always be my favorite time of year here. An oasis amongst the Konza Prairie, I don’t think I will ever tire of looking at the palette of fall leaves against your traditional limestone buildings. Fall also meant the city came alive again and while I quickly became a townie after graduation, K-State is what brought me here in the first place. And when my last day on earth comes, a seat in Bill Snyder Family Stadium with a roaring crowd is a strong contender for how I want to spend it.

I love your culture and your quirky personality. Often, when you say you are from Manhattan, people don’t know that The Big Apple has a little sister settled out in the Midwest. But invest a little time here and give it a chance and you’ll find you don’t need those big city lights. I’ll miss lazy days out at Pillsbury and Tuttle creek, and eating ice cream up on Manhattan Hill. Every time I thought I had finally ate at all of the unique places, there was always on more to try. And man, I’m sure going to miss Nancy’s and raspberry chipotle bean dip at So Long’s.

I’ve seen Aggieville packed with purple, packed with green and just plain packed. Every time I hear red dirt music I’ll be taken back to taken back to sticky floors, neon lights and two-stepping in Longhorns, back when it was in its country prime. She brought me new friends, great memories and terrible stories to laugh about later. And sure it’s great to reminisce about a time when my roommates and I knew its sidewalks better at last call, but I fell in love all over again each time I discovered it’s daytime personality. I loved getting lost in the Dusty Bookshelf, bacon maple donuts at Varsity and cheering on the Wildcats and Royals from the seats of whichever bar wasn’t “cursed” at the time.

You know, I could have written this letter to K-State specifically to reminisce about college but I’ve had time to do that since I graduated, and as much as I miss it, I’m okay with those four years being memories. Really great memories. And like college has, you’ll soon become a part of my past. But you see people pass through with their eyes on the future year after year, and you should be pretty darn proud at the role you’ve played in the success of so many of those futures.

Most people agree that it’s the simplest things in life to enjoy and surround yourself with. Well Manhattan, you sure do simple well. It’s ordering the Blackhole at Bluestem Bistro, exploring the Konza and waking up to see the sunrise on “Top of the World.” It’s driving “the city loop” at midnight with the windows down and blaring your favorite playlist. It’s the fact that you could meet someone new everyday, then see five people you knew at the grocery store. It’s all of your silly traditions. It’s tailgating on Gameday and fighting back the tears when they open the game with “Proud of the House We Built.” It’s showing you off to my family every time they visited. It’s forgetting how many times you’ve seen Logan Mize live and the crowd singing along to “Never Gonna Change.”

I love you for the people you brought into my life. Some were temporary and only shared a short part of their lives with me and others I’ll be connected to for the rest of my life. These people changed me. They became my best friends, partners in crime and soul sisters. They taught me to love Kansas.They welcomed me into their families. I’ve always believed that you will find good, kind people wherever you go, but I’m pretty convinced that the best ones have lived in Kansas at some point in their life.

This was a long love letter, not short and snappy like a blog post should be, but I needed to write it. For others, because I want you to know how much it hurts my heart to leave. My life here was full in every way. I feel selfish to think that maybe, just maybe I can find what I had here in another place. But if I don’t, I know that I lived more in these 6 years, then some ever do.

I mostly wrote this though, for myself. It’s a strange feeling, when you’re about to leave a place. I know that I’m not only going to miss the people I love, and this town, but I’m going to miss the person I am at this very moment and place, because I know I’ll never be this way ever again. But I am so very thankful for that person you made me become.  You taught her to laugh louder, write better and think for herself. She learned to love and she learned that as long as you kept moving forward, it was all worth it. You showed her what life could be when you embraced the crazy. She finished growing up here, became independent and passionate about the world around her. If it wasn’t for you, she might have never been brave to take another risk and make a move like this.

To Manhappiness, this purple little town that I’ve called home,
I’m so thankful those cicadas became a normal, welcomed part of life.
I can’t wait to come back and visit.

Love,
Amanda

Click HERE to Watch My Farewell Video

Career/Professional, Washington D.C.

Why Not?

I’m a planner, an organizer, a control freak and a worrier. So when opportunities and change are thrown my direction, they better yell REALLY loud. Otherwise I’m perfectly OK with keeping this road of mine straight and calm.

It’s hard at this stage of life, to know what’s right for your life. You did the college thing, got a first job and are making a good effort at being an adult. But now all of your peers are headed down different paths, and suddenly, for first time, it really feels like its just you, on your own, with SO MANY OPTIONS.

IMG_1301
The day after I decided to apply, this was my daily desk inspiration quote.

For me, it started out by people asking “You stayed in Kansas after college, do you plan to moved back to Oregon someday? When?” And every time, the only honest answer I could give was “someday.” From high school on through college, I have always had lots of ideas and dreams about what I would do and where I would go, but when the “future” is now the “present” it’s a lot more intimidating. But for the past couple of months I’ve kept returning to the same thought. I love Kansas and Oregon. I love what I have in both places. But neither of them have what I need right now. In Kansas I feel like I’m in a rut and in my mind, if or when I move back to Oregon, that’s it, I probably won’t leave ever again. There’s just so much more I was want to do and experience. I want my career to be bigger. I want my life to be as colorful and cheesy and fulfilling as possible.  I’ve never wanted to be the person that looks back and regrets what I didn’t do.

So about five months ago I finally asked myself: Why Not?

why not blog 2
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/265923552973087927/

If there was ever a time in life to pick up and go, this would be it. Of course, I sat on that question for while and slowly started to bring it up with people who understand me and aren’t opposed to calling me out. And they all would nod and smile, as if they had arrived at this conclusion for me a while ago and were just waiting for me to bring it up. I finally decided that I wouldn’t actively search for something new, but if something came up that was worth looking into, I would.

Fast forward to five weeks ago, when I saw a job opening with the U.S. Wheat Associates in Arlington, Virginia. I looked at the description, liked what I saw and then clicked out of it. Cool, that would be a great job for someone. But by the end of the day, I had reread the description six times, and decided that no, that would be a great job for me. I loved working in the grains industry when I was in college and Washington D.C. has always been a place that I was fascinated by. It’s the only place outside of the Pacific Northwest or the Midwest that I have pictured myself living.

Pinterest | weheartit.com
Pinterest | weheartit.com

So that’s it. I have accepted a new job as a communications specialist with the U.S. Wheat Associates and will be moving to the DC area in just about two weeks. There are so many details to sort out and decisions to make that I’ve reverted to my old college stress combat mode. I am so scared, but I’m more excited.

I thought that after going through this I’d have some worldly advice about timing, transitions and risks. But this can’t be something that’s held to a list of steps and how-to’s. It’s singular and it’s personal. But I can offer encouragement. Trust your instincts.  Let your faith and the good things in your life be bigger than your fears. Lean on your support system. There’s people in mine that go to bat for me regularly and others, that actually surprised me.

Oh, and when in doubt, refer to the Gilmore Girls Pro-Con List Method. Works every time.

I’m excited to share about what coming up for me next. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to Kansas but I know I’m lucky to have a goodbye that’s that hard. Stay tuned. This is going to be fun.

why not blog 1
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/265923552973747929/