My years in the MAOTeen and MAO pageant world have shaped me. The people I have met and experiences I've had gave me a solid foundation on which to build my adult life. I was recently reminded just how much the NJOTeen title prepared me for the Miss New Jersey title when I saw this picture photographed and posted by Richard Krauss:
I realized that while my ability to tease my hair (thankfully) improved, my core values and ambitions have remained. Below are just a few of the things I've learned in my experiences as both Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen and Miss New Jersey.
Your fan club will grow- sometimes exponentially. Remember those who have stuck with you through it all and appreciate those who join along the way.
White shorts are probably a bad choice, but you will inevitably wear them for the toe dip. I can remember how honored I felt to actually participate in the Miss New Jersey tradition- I never imagined that I might someday get to do it again. Keep your hopes high and dreams big.
Packing never changes. Packing is always impossible and stressful. Learn to accept over-packing and carry heavy luggage ;)
Always take the opportunity to chat with Miss America- she will leave you feeling awe-inspired and proud to be part of such a prestigious organization.
It's never too early to start visualizing your dreams- don't let anything discourage you from pursuing your goal.
Adventure. Experience. Laugh in between.
Never take for granted the people who stay by your side. Realize how much they add to your life and appreciate all they do to keep you sane (and in Sally's case, laughing).
Never let go of the post you're meant to hold on a float- it isn't there for decoration. Also, realize how cool it is that you get to take part in such an historic event.
Learn how wonderful it is to represent the community that raised you. I was asked multiple times if I planned to compete in North Carolina once I became eligible for the "Miss" division and began attending High Point University. I knew I was a Jersey girl at heart and am forever grateful I stuck around.
For goodness sake, learn to love your body. Do push-ups because you like a challenge or because opening the pickle jar by yourself is pretty cool. I don't care why - just take care of yourself mentally and physically. The older you get, the harder and more important it is. Abs may fade, but self love will never get old.
Never (I repeat) NEVER let competition distract you from the most important aspect of the MAO- sisterhood. I have some of the fondest memories from Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2010 with Savvy girl.......she's Miss America now.......and I saw it happen on stage at Boardwalk Hall. These friendships that began when were just such babies will last a lifetime. Cherish them.
Learn how to lose. Understand that you can perform at 100% and still go home without a crown. Be happy for the woman who represents you and lift her up. You'll never know what it truly means to win if you can't first learn to lose with grace.
Soak in every moment. Before you know it, your competitive pageant career will be over. The memories and friendships will last forever- nurture them and be grateful.