Scaling Back, Trying New Things, & Making Changes | Thoughts On This Year’s 4-H Projects

The county fair is almost here! I have to drop off my 4-H projects tomorrow night, then everyone’s projects are judged over the next few days, and then the fair officially begins on… Thursday, I think?

This is my tenth and final year in 4-H, and you would think that by now, I’d be used to, well, everything 4-H related. 

Except I’m not, because this year I made some changes in terms of what sort of things I’ll be exhibiting at the county fair. I’m sure I made the right choices here, but it’s still just weird because CHANGE IS A VERY WEIRD THING SOMETIMES. Especially if I’ve done something in a particular way for, like, a very long time. 

More specifically, I made some decisions concerning the Music and Photography projects. I’ve participated in these projects for years now, so it’s not as if they’re brand-new and I’m feeling weird about a lack of experience/knowledge. Instead, this feeling stems from my decision to create slightly different exhibits for each project than I’ve done in the past.

Let’s start with Music. I’ve been a member of this project for ten years, and I’ve competed in the performance category for the past nine years.

But not this year. The recital was yesterday, and I spent the entire morning feeling odd about staying home.

So what am I doing instead? This year I’m going to exhibit something in the poster category! There are a bunch of possible topics – music theory, the history of a musical instrument, a biography of a composer, et cetera. Basically, the poster competition is all about music education.

So I made a poster about one of my favorite modern composers, Hans Zimmer! I had so much fun researching and creating this poster. I hope my poster is very informative, and I hope my ENTHUSIASM for Zimmer’s fantastic film scores shines through.

I chose to make an educational poster this year because… well, honestly, I haven’t so much as touched our piano in months, let alone spent time learning new pieces. I really let practicing fall by the wayside during this past school year, because I was busy doing stuff like A) scholarship essays for college and B) pursuing other interests, such as writing.

I chose to spend my time on other interests and activities. A few months ago, I had to choose which category to enter – recital or poster – and realized that playing the piano again just wasn’t realistic anymore. I haven’t played in months! I didn’t have the time to learn (or relearn) a piece and practice it over and over until I was satisfied that it was competition-worthy. 

I stil feel weird about that choice because I’m so used to playing before a judge (and being super nervous before doing so), but hey – it was the best option. I tend to get caught up in the mindset of “this is how I’ve done things for years, so I’ll just keep doing that and not make any changes ever ever ever.” But I almost always end up loving those changes!

And as I said earlier, I had so much fun creating my poster! I’ve been talking about switching Music categories for years – you can only exhibit in one or the other, for some reason – but it wasn’t until my last year that I finally did so. And I’m really glad I made that choice! Now I kind of wish I’d done so a few years ago, maybe starting the summer after my freshman year. 

As for Photography… ha ha ha, I had basically the opposite problem there! Members are allowed to exhibit their art in multiple categories. 

I’ve been in the Photography project since seventh grade, soooooo… this is my sixth year. 

In seventh grade, my exhibits consisted of two posters: One with ten black and white photos, and another with ten color photos. 

However, in the years that followed, I always added two other exhibits: A black and white salon print, and a color salon print. (I have no idea why they’re called “salon prints,” but anyway… a salon print is basically an 8″ x 10″ photo with a matte but no frame. We get to pick the colors of our own mattes to complement the color scheme of our photos!)

Well, this year I’m turning in only two exhibits: A poster of ten color photos, and a color salon print.

OH MY GOD YES I CAN’T BELIEVE IT EITHER. Engie-who-adores-black-and-white-photography won’t be exhibiting any at the 4-H fair?!

Don’t worry, I still love black and white photography. However… I didn’t take that many black and white photos this year, and certainly not as many as I have in previous years. Instead, I ended up with far more color photos.

There were only three or four black and white photos from this past year that I really liked, and I didn’t think any of them would work well as a salon print. I still adore black and white photography, but I experimented a lot more with color in the past year or so.

Yes, I suppose I could’ve attempted to take a bunch of black and white photos, but I really didn’t feel like stressing out over an exhibit I was not obligated to create.

So I REALLY scaled back the amount of time, effort, and money required to complete my Photography project.  

And I’m so happy I did! I’m incredibly satisfied with the quality of my color photos. I’m so, so glad I chose to focus on creating a few excellent exhibits, rather than on a bunch of not-particularly-inspired exhibits. Quality over quantity, right?

At the same time, I can’t quite get over the niggling feeling of guilt, the feeling that I’m a huge SLACKER for turning in only two exhibits. I mean, there are plenty of members who create only one exhibit, but I’ve pushed myself to do much more for so long that it’s hard for me to accept that maybe I can’t and shouldn’t do everything. I can be very competitive about the Photography project, and entering multiple categories means more opportunities to win something.

I’m trying to talk myself out of that attitude by saying that this year’s black and white exhibits probably would’ve been fairly crappy, and I wouldn’t have won any special ribbons.

Also! Funnily enough, even though black and white photography is MY PRECIOUS, the judges always like my color photography more! I won “best of show” for my grade level in freshman and sophomore years, so… who knows, maybe I just need to accept that color photography is where I truly excell?!

At any rate, all of this has been a learning experience – and I’m not just talking about the photography techniques I practiced, or all the weird/cool facts I learned about Hans Zimmer. 

I learned a lot about trying new things. About changes in tradition and habit. About scaling back my goals in one area to focus on another and truly excel in it. About making decisions I wasn’t entirely confident about at first, only to realize that they were probably for the best.

And those are very, very good things. They’re probably some of the most important things 4-H has taught me this year, or indeed within the past few years!

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
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4 Responses to Scaling Back, Trying New Things, & Making Changes | Thoughts On This Year’s 4-H Projects

  1. Cait @ Paper Fury says:

    Oohh, CHANGE. Change can be scary. *nods* I’m like entirely opposed to change, but if i do get around to snabbling up the courage to do it, it can be quite fun. xD GO YOU, also. And I hope you do well in these categories! (Omg, I’ve not missed playing concerts or before judges since I dialled back on my music. gAH. Worst part of musician-ness ever.) AFJDKSLA HANS ZIMMER THO.

  2. Pingback: 4-H Fair 2015: Photography | Musings From Neville's Navel

  3. Pingback: 4-H Fair 2015: Aerospace, Holiday Ornaments, Junior Leaders, Music, Foods & Nutrition, Creative Writing, And Personality | Musings From Neville's Navel

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