Monday, May 1, 2017

The Beginning of the End

This past weekend the Miss New Jersey Class of 2017 gathered for their orientation.  Saturday morning they teased their hair and glued on eyelashes, all while fighting the butterflies in their stomachs.  Maybe the butterflies were excitement to see their friends and maybe they were nervous butterflies- which number will I be?  Will I mess up my talent?  Will I fit in?  Maybe the butterflies were a result of too much caffeine in their morning coffee.

For four years, I felt those familiar butterflies as I woke up on orientation day.  This year was not a whole lot different.  As an almost-has-been, my stomach was not void of butterflies.  I have spent (almost) an entire year speaking off the cuff, giving advice, and meeting strangers in the hopes of making a good impression.  I kept wondering why, with all of this experience under my belt, was I still nervous?  Upon further consideration, I've decided that nervousness exists, not for a lack of preparation, but for an understanding of importance.  I knew that there was so much I wanted to say to these women- so many stories I could tell and so much advice to give.  How could I possibly explain to them what this year has been like and how could I help them best prepare to take over my job?  The truth is, no one can prepare for becoming Miss New Jersey.
As amazingly talented, intelligent, and articulate all of the contestants are, none of them are fully prepared to be Miss New Jersey.  That sounds harsh- let me explain.

I say this, not as an insult, but as a fact.  That is, because there are days when I'm still not fully prepared to be Miss New Jersey.  No one can prepare for the unpredictability and the pressure that comes with being a state titleholder.  Each day brings a new challenge and the reality is that even after 315 days of service, I'm still striving to be a better Miss New Jersey every day.  
One of the greatest lessons I've learned this year was understanding that you can't please everyone.  Being someone who is simultaneously a perfectionist, control freak, people pleaser, justice seeker, and peace keeper, makes for quite the internal struggle.  I'm the type of person who yells at someone for not using their turn signal and then feels guilty because they might have already been having a bad day.

This type of internal conflict has come up often throughout my reign.  I struggle to be the Miss New Jersey that everyone likes and the Miss New Jersey that makes a difference- I used to think that you could be both.  I know now that making a difference sometimes requires a bit of discomfort and a lot of courage.  Every time I decide that I'm going to stand my ground and appease the justice seeker in me, I have to accept the fact that the people pleaser in me won't be happy.  So where is the happy medium?  As one of my Miss America Class of 2017 sisters said, you must be 100% fire and 100% at peace...fighting for what you want and what you deem "right," but understanding that the mere fact that you've done that is enough and you can't please everyone.  I think no one can prepare for being a state titleholder because every new obstacle gives you new insight that helps you evolve and exceed your own 100%.
That being said, I looked out at a crowd of women on Saturday knowing that they have the determination and grit to take on the unpredictability, the internal conflict, and the unforgettable experiences.  I saw difference makers, people pleasers, justice seekers, perfectionists, comedians,  introverts, and everyone in between.  The truth is, you cannot prepare to be Miss New Jersey, but you can strive each day to be your best self.  To me, accepting and nurturing all of the aspects of your personality is the only way to do that.  While closing this chapter of my life will be nostalgic and scary, I know with absolute certainty that it has had an irrevocable impact on my life.  Here's to another month and a half of discovery and learning!