Have you ever been so close to your dream that you could almost touch it… twice? I have, and it’s pretty indescribable. Allow me to rewind.
Six years ago I entered my first Miss America Organization local pageant. Bright eyed and clueless, I found myself on the 2012 Miss New Jersey stage. To say that it was a catastrophe would be an understatement. After walking out in swimsuit competition for the wrong contestant’s number, forgetting half my piano piece, and bombing my interview, I swore I would never return. (If you know me, you’re most likely laughing at this point). I decided to take a “year off” as I watched my fellow competitors go on to compete. I later sat in the audience watching a beautiful, talented, charismatic blonde sweep the competition and become Miss New Jersey 2013. I had to come back. Fast forward three years later- I had made top 10 in 2014, 3rd runner up in 2015, and 1st runner up in 2016 (aside from interview and talent awards throughout the years).
Could I possibly have asked for better improvement?
Besides my growth, there was always one constant – I wanted the job more than anything, each year wanting it more and more. Sure, the sparkly crown and sash were appealing, and who wouldn’t want to compete on the Miss America stage? But I wanted to implement monthly arts & crafts nights hosted by Miss NJ contestants across hospitals in the entire state. As Miss New Jersey I planned to meet with congressional representatives, school boards, and local nonprofits to bring “Arts for Everyone”. I wanted my little star Taryn to experience wearing the Miss New Jersey crown and sash. I had plans to repay all those who’ve helped me along my journey. Yet two weeks ago those dreams came to a screeching halt. Have you ever felt complete happiness for someone else, punched in the stomach, and wanted to cry all at the same time? Like I said, it’s pretty indescribable.
All those years of working tirelessly towards a dream, that now could never happen. The 6:00am gym sessions, four-hour marathon piano practices, endless hours of alterations, dozens of mock interviews, and countless trips across the state, with no Miss New Jersey crown to show for it… at least that’s one way to look at it. I (not surprisingly) always imagined what winning would feel like. But I never imagined what losing would feel like. Now that I’m on the other side, I’ve come to find in some ways they actually feel very similar. I imagined an outpouring of love and support if I had won. Ironically, I’ve received more love and support than I could ever imagine by not winning. I imagined a sense of placidity had I won. Yet now I’ve never felt more curious about what lies ahead and a hunger to persist forward. When I pictured winning, I pictured the glitz and glamour. But I never imagined walking away with best friends whom I once called competitors. Each year that I competed, I gained (and will always have) a new extended family comprised of an eclectic group of people all with different backgrounds. To this day there’s a thread that weaves us all together- it’s the genuine love we have for each other, this crazy sport, and the lasting memories made together. I guess you could say I lost the pageant, but won more than I could have imagined.
Despite my thirteen years of catholic schooling, I don’t exactly go to church every Sunday. However, I do believe in a higher being and I do believe we were each put on this earth for a purpose. So technically this dream of mine didn’t come true. But after pouring my heart, soul, and every last ounce of me on (and off) stage I’m at peace with that- maybe there were other plans for me. I find comfort, and a smidge of excitement, in knowing the best is yet to come, after all “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”. – Jeremiah 29:11