I was a Newton 4-H’er for eight years, following in my dad’s footsteps. I worked for the 4-H Foundation and as a secretary. I tried out finance, journalism, and retail jobs, but 10 years ago I moved back here and announced I was ready to commit to an extension career.
I was so excited the day I started. My first club meetings were at Palmer-Stone. I stood in the classroom where I was first a 4-H’er and nearly cried.
Some days, I have to remind myself of that feeling.
Some days, some months, the balance between family and work just doesn’t work. Parents and colleagues have said critical things to me that keep me up at night—for weeks at a time. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do the important, life changing stuff for all the other little requirements. Sometimes, I see a job posting and wonder, “what if?”
The day my district supervisor told me I should apply for the Extension Academy, I nearly told her no. One of those days had turned into one of those years. I almost admitted I was this close to applying for a job with 8-5 hours.
And having taken a lot of other leadership courses, I assumed this would be like all the others.
But I did apply, and I have never been so pleased to be so very wrong.
Seventy hours of training, six personality and management assessments, a leadership book, goal setting, a new mentor, three presentations and nine days away from home later, I learned things about myself that I had never considered. The activities and reflection after each assessment pushed us to go deeper.
On the day we met with our new mentors, we sat in a room of several hundred years of experience. It was beyond humbling.
My doubts and fears came back. I thought about my classmates and thought I’ll never measure up.
And really, I love working in Newton County. Are they wasting money and time on me if I never want to be in a district or state office?
Then I had to share my goals with my mentor – and I just wanted to hide them in my notebook and pretend they were much loftier, something like, “write a nationally recognized curriculum” or “cure cancer.”
Instead, I had to admit to her that my biggest frustrations are digital calendars and our reporting system. I hate to submit anything that isn’t perfect, so instead I’ll avoid it at all costs.
And you know what, my mentor didn’t let her jaw hit the floor and tell me I wasn’t cut out for extension. She told me personal experiences and made some sensible suggestions for home and work… and I took a deep breath.
Stepping back and asking for help has already had a positive effect on both my reporting and my stress level.
But then all our mentors left and we were asked to reflect again. I tensed up, sure that everyone else had crafted a plan to change the world.
I hesitated to share anything until others commented that they, also, had been afraid of not measuring up.
We all carry those doubts about ourselves, and sometimes it’s simply reassuring to know we’re not alone.
When I said I was thankful that so many others were echoing my thoughts, there was a general murmur of agreement across the room, and I knew then that we all truly were meant to be there.
I read somewhere recently the idea that we all just need to know that we’re in the right place, right now. To know that whatever other decisions we could have made, this was the right one.
I tell 4-H’ers these things all the time – that you’re never the only one, that you can come to me with any problem and it won’t be the end of the world – but I’ve been so bad at taking my own advice.
I’m thankful to the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Cooperative Extension for this amazing opportunity to not only build my leadership skills, but also to find my passion again for the work I do here in Newton County.
If you’d like to hear more about the program or the lesson I’ve learned, I’d love to share them with you. Drop me an e-mail or give me a call anytime.