Dear 17-year-old me,
Thank you for deciding to get involved with the Miss America Organization by competing in the Miss America Organization in the fall of your senior year. You don’t know it now but this program is going to immensely impact your life in more ways than you can even imagine. It will lead to you ultimately finding the right major and minor in college for your future career, help you establish lifelong friendships, improve your speaking skills drastically, and most importantly, it will allow you the opportunity to positively impact countless lives in your community.Understand that placing as 3rd runner-up in your very first pageant is exciting and such an honor to say the least. But I also understand that it’s frustrating to work tirelessly preparing for something over a long period of time and not ultimately walk away having achieved your goal. I’m here to tell you that despite how mature you felt, aside from the grasp you thought you had on life and what you wanted in that moment…you had absolutely no idea. This isn’t the only time I will say it, but it’s important you realize the Miss America Organization fosters immense growth, knowledge, and change. Your involvement in the scholarship program will provide you with great insight for your future endeavors, it will teach you invaluable life lessons, and it will help you become the woman you were destined to be.
I’m here to tell you that you will go on to compete in two other open pageants before you ultimately win a title on your fourth attempt. First, you’ll compete at Miss Fox River Valley in the spring of 2011 and not place. Quite frankly, you are going to feel like a small fish on an ocean and that is okay. Why? Because again, this scholarship program is about growth and half the fun is the journey that unfolds as you work to discover who you are and what you want out of life. You will go on to compete for the job of Miss Seven Rivers in the winter of 2012 and again, not place. I realize that open pageants can be extremely nerve-racking in the sense that closed pageants (especially locals) guide you through step-by-step preparations for the show. Not to mention, open pageants typically include many girls who are returning titleholders looking to gain another title or individuals who have competed numerous times; but this can be a very valuable tool for you. Feed off of them, ask them questions, watch them, and learn from them and most importantly, trust in God’s plan. I know you might not understand it in the moment but His timing is everything.
Also, don’t fret about phases of competiton, your platform, or your personal image too much. Rather, shift your focus inward and allow yourself to listen to your heart. When you take the time to place a priority on your values and beliefs and figure out who you are and what you want out of life, everything else will miraculously fall into place.
P.S. With time you’ll learn how to brush out those Shirley Temple ringlet curls and how to contour your own make-up. It may not seem like it but life only gets better from here and the future is bright, sparkly, and compassionately rewarding. Continue chasing your goals within the MAO and keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, great things come to those who work hard and never stop believing in the power of their dreams.