Somewhere in February of my senior year in high school, one of my classmates was going on a college visit to the University of Illinois. I knew this place called 4-H House existed, but I hadn't given it a lot of thought. I figured I'd live in the dorm. And I don't know what came over me that day, but I said to my classmate, "If you happen to run into Kelli, ask her about 4-H House for me." We'd gone to high school with Kelli, too, and she was a sophomore at U of I and 4-H House.
And while she was on campus, my classmate ran into Kelli. Right outside the undergrad library, on a campus of 36,000 people. I believe in providence, not coincidence. It turned out that interviewing weekends were coming up the next weekend. I went, I got in, and living there was the best thing that could have happened to my college career.
On top of discovering my passion for agricultural communications, I met some of the best friends of my life. It's like that back-to-school commercial, where they show the two little boys dancing together and say something about being back with the people who "get" you. That was us. Judy, Rachel, Genny, Julie, Amy, Jane, Krystal and many more. We solved many of the world's problems, just hanging out in our rooms. I miss those times so much.
At 4-H House, I learned to get along with 55 women at any given time. I learned what responsibility really was, and leadership, too. I learned that sometimes you need to ditch studying for a quick roadtrip, because in 10 years, what will you remember? That quiz? I think not.
It's hard to describe what makes 4-H House special. The common backgrounds, or the reasonably common goals – many of us in agriculture? Maybe. For me, though, it was that place where I finally felt my life come together. Independence. A future. A career. A purpose. A set of friends and future colleagues. Success. Disappointment. Heartache.
I've written before about my friend, Rachel, who died very unexpectedly in childbirth in 2005. I've always thought how blessed we were to have a friend so dear that it hurt so badly when she was gone. I think in many ways, that's what 4-H House was, and is. A place where deep and abiding friendships can flourish.
I am unbelievably grateful for it.
Thanks & Giving Day 25: Farm Friends