Let’s cut right to the chase…
For quite some time, I’ve continuously stated how eager I was to kiss 2017 goodbye and begin a New Year. The truth is, this time last year was extremely difficult for me mentally and emotionally as I tried to cope with changes in personal relationships with people I deeply cared about and considered a big part of my life and an overwhelming desire to push myself outside of my comfort zone in order to accomplish long-term dreams and goals. There were parts of the past 365 days that absolutely stunk (for a lack of better words) and it’s very easy to become enthralled in those negative moments; overthinking what we did wrong and questioning how we could’ve possibly changed the situation — all while dwelling on the past. For instance, seven years of passion, hard work, and literal blood, sweat, and tears culminated to me finishing as 1st Runner-Up to Miss Wisconsin 2017 in Oshkosh in June of this year. And while countless people were quick to congratulate me on my devotion to the program over the years and accomplishments at state (which I am and forever will be appreciative of), those who know me well had quite a different approach. I remember returning to work the week following the competition when one of my coworkers called me into the conference room. He said, “None of us know what to say. We know how hard you worked to prepare for this and we know this isn’t the outcome you wanted,” he went on to express that despite how proud of me they were and that he wasn’t going to congratulate me because he knew at that moment in time that’s not what I wanted to hear…and he was right. The following couple of months were consumed with a lot of tears, reflection, and countless attempts to stay busy at work and socially as to take my mind off of everything.
I also knew prior to Miss Wisconsin that if it wasn’t in God’s plans for me to serve the state, that my two year contract with WXOW News 19 was coming to an end and I would have a small window of time to search for a new job. Mind you, this was something I put off because I wanted to focus all my attention on preparations. Well, reality hit hard on that Sunday when I returned home to my parent’s house and started to tweak my resume. I vigorously added news stories to my YouTube channel over the course of the following weeks just hoping a station would get back to me. I received responses regarding job openings and had a couple interviews at stations in larger markets, but couldn’t wrap my head around the crazy hours and inadequate financial situation that came with being a reporter. As much as I loved telling stories for a living and connecting with people in the community, the stress and anxiousness that came with long, late hours and minimal pay became overbearing. With that clarity and my instincts guiding my decisions, I started to look for marketing, social media, and sales positions in Madison. In that moment in time, part of me felt like I was giving up a dream and man is that a heartbreaking realization to grasp. However, I trusted in God’s timing and greater plan through it all and could not be happier where I am right now, in this moment.
So, why should you care and why am I sharing these raw feelings with you? I’m going to be honest with you (well, let’s face it, I usually am) … I am a very open, optimistic, and outgoing person. However, I also know that I tend to encapsulate my emotions because I was taught to focus my attention on others’ needs first. In turn, there are countless times when I diminish my own feelings only to have them build up and resonate to an unnecessary level. Again, my point? Despite how upbeat and positive a person may appear, you never really know what obstacles or life events they’re battling at any given moment: the loss of a loved one, big life changes…whatever it may be, remember to be kind and compassionate. Challenge your own mental and emotional boundaries. Put yourself in other’s shoes and most importantly, embrace all of the positive, supportive relationships you do have in your life whenever you are struggling with something. While many parts of 2017 were challenging, I would’ve never pushed through them without the kindness and love from co-workers, friends, and family. With that being said, I encourage you to come to terms with the past, stop analyzing the negative aspects, and embrace all the positive elements of your life as we embark on 365 days of new adventures, memories, and opportunities.
Here’s a look back on a lot of the good from my 2017…
In January, I supported some of my favorite ladies as the open pageant season began. Making the drive to Stevens Point with the best copilot a girl could ask for, my mom, for the Miss Northern Lights pageant. I also celebrated my 24th birthday and let me tell you, buying balloons for yourself takes some of the thrill out of the ordeal, but it’s worth it!
In February, I visited Charleston, South Carolina and played golf on a beautiful course along the water. I also hit one of my drives far right near this pond where an alligator was basking in the sun, needless to say I left the ball. My Miss Harbor Cities teen, Sarah and I did an impromptu photo shoot with Denise on Monona Terrace on a rather balmy 60+ degree day in February and I attended the Miss Madison-Capital City pageant.
In March, I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with my Oktoberfest family and friends at the annual Forks & Corks fundraiser. I attended the Miss Fon du Lac and Miss Wisconsin Central Pageants with my mom and crowned my Miss Harbor Cities successor the following weekend (phew)! I also paid a visit to Watrous Photography in Waukesha to take a new headshot for the Miss Wisconsin Sweeps Pageant.
In April, I got to visit and enjoy dinner with some of my fellow West Side titleholders at one of my favorite annual events held in La Crosse for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Emerald Ball. I also was able to do live interviews with one of the CMNH heroes, Willa prior to the event beginning. I co-anchored for the first time, attended the Miss Kenosha pageant with my mom (also for the first time) AND was blessed with the title of Miss Badgerland 2017 at the Miss Wisconsin Sweeps pageant, a preliminary competition to Miss Wisconsin.
In May, Miss Wisconsin preparations we’re in full force as I attended Prep Day and Miss America Serves Day at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King. We, as local titleholders spent the afternoon visiting with veterans and performing our talents. My favorite memory from this day is having the opportunity to reconnect with Sally Olson (pictured) who I had the pleasure of eating lunch with during Miss Wisconsin week the year prior and keep in contact with with letters. May also brought marked my fifth half marathon, which I finished alongside my best friend, Liv and mom; in addition to my first time turkey hunting. Unfortunately, we didn’t get anything, but it was a whole lot of fun talking with them across the valley and nothing beats a good sunrise…especially in God’s country on Wisconsin’s west coast! I was also able to speak at my high school about “Let’s Talk: Skill Sets 4 Success” and the importance of college and career readiness. That same weekend my mom and I held our annual garage sale benefiting CMNH and raised more than $800 for the kids!
Oh and my not-so-little brother was voted PROM KING #SoProud
In June, I packed up my jeep and made the drive to Oshkosh for Miss Wisconsin week, feeling the most prepared and relaxed I had ever been entering the seven day stretch. My heart was filled with so much contentment and love thanks to my support system at work, friends, family, and the Morrall family. I made a point to embrace every moment of that week and I can honestly say I did just that; ultimately finishing as First Runner-Up, winning the Overall Evening Gown Award, and performing to a caliber I had not experienced ever before in my eighteen plus years of dancing.
In July, I made a point to focus on myself and to indulge in my favorite items (like way too many McDonald’s French Fries) after months of sticking to my healthy diet…don’t worry there were absolutely cheat days mixed in there. I attended Riverfest in La Crosse for the first time and celebrated with Oktoberfest peeps, drove home for an early Fourth of July celebration and fireworks with my family, celebrated my sister and brother-in-law at a joint Bachelor/Bachelorette pool party, and was able to get out on the river skiing with my dad and brothers.
In August, MY SISTER GOT MARRIED! What? After over a year of planning and preparing the big day finally arrived and it was the most perfect day. All the stress of long phone calls, day-long text messaging, countless pictures of decor and details all culminated in the most beautiful wedding and bride! I may be a bit biased, but heck, look at the pictures! We took a day trip to one of my favorite spots in Wisconsin, the Chain O’Lakes and I saw Toby Keith in concert for the first time at Fort McCoy.
In September, I bid farewell to the city I had called home for the past 6 years and moved home to my parents’ while I searched for a new job. I emceed the Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest pageant after helping to choreograph the opening and closing numbers this summer and putting the production elements together — a whole new perspective being on that side of the show and watching the contestants grow and learn! September also brought forth the start of my favorite season: football season, celebrating Oktoberfest in La Crosse with my dad, mom, sister, and brother-in-law (and Gary meeting Frank Fritz), and rounding out with my brothers’ senior homecoming.
In October and November, I officially moved into my new apartment in Madison — a city I’ve loved and wanted to call home for quite some time. Shout out to my brother, Reece, dad, and sister for loading up three vehicles and making the trek down from Rapids. I attended the Badger vs. Iowa game with Katie thanks to one of my favorite Festmaster’s last minute invite and welcomed three of my best friends for the Michigan game and ESPN College GameDay.
I also visited my bestie’s new home in Bloomington, Indiana with another dear friend, Taylor. We explored the city and attended the IU vs. Michigan game…sporting “Beat Indiana” and “Beat Michigan buttons, of course!
And to wrap up 2017, I adjusted to my new work environment and made new friends at my office; setting new goals for the upcoming year. My Grandma Bonnie and I tasted our first Old Fashions from The Old Fashioned in downtown Madison with my sister and Andrew and got our first, addicting taste of their glorious cheese curds before driving home for an extended weekend a few weeks later to enjoy the Christmas holiday with my family.
So while it’s easy to get wrapped up in the negative obstacles life throws your way, it’s much more exhilarating and rewarding to soak up all the good. As you’re busy setting goals and expectations for this year, take some time to recognize all the blessings, positive experiences, and moments of growth in an effort to not only feel contentment with your life in the present moment, but to look forward with eagerness and optimism at the New Year. You got this!