Jumping into July. That’s the title of my ever-so-daunting to-do list, filled with errands, meetings, tasks, reminders and a grocery list, because walking across the street for pizza is no longer suitable for my bank account or my waistline. This whole adult life—not too sure how I feel about it. Sure, I’ve always had a job and bills to pay, but you tack on a rent, utilities and heightened responsibility and suddenly you wish you were still living at home with mom, greeting you with a good morning and a short stack.
I’m going through some pretty life-altering changes and transitions that sometimes send me to my bed at 7pm with no hope of moving until I have it figured out. I am a thinker, a lover, a dreamer. I have always looked one step ahead and up until a month ago, I thought my plan was pretty awesome. At that point, I’m sure God laughed and said ‘wait til you see what I have in store for you.’
Shift change. I knew at some point, the vision I had for my life was going to shift and take a different path. We can’t have it all figured out all the time. For five years, I set out to break barriers and set an example for women everywhere. I thought to myself—“How cool would it be for me to be the girl that made history? To be the first Hispanic Miss NJ and open a dialogue about diversity in this organization and in this state & country—maybe even the world.” I wouldn’t deem myself totally crazy, but that’s a hell of a lot of responsibility for one person, and I fought like hell to be that person. I want[ed] every single woman out there to know that you are never too young or too old to dream big, even if circumstances force you to shift that dream a bit. I read a few days ago that there are 7% less women in sports journalism this year in comparison to last year. There’s my shift. As a woman getting ready to embark on a new journey, I have found a new statistic to combat and another avenue to not only make my dreams come true, but provide relatability to young girls who were told they couldn’t be or do something.
And with that, I am slowly coming to the realization that competing (in a pageant, at least) is no longer a part of my future. I’ve identified with the consistent schedule of
- Compete in a local
- Win a local
- Complete a year of service—driving up and down the state too many times to count
- Prepare for miss new jersey
- Drive myself crazy
- Miss NJ week
(and a whole lot of living in between all of that)
With the exception of #5, I never have to abide by that rigorous schedule again. I think I’m okay with most of it, but what makes this all the more frightening is feeling like I’m no longer going to be important or relevant. How silly, right? I think of all the moments I’ve colored with children at the hospital, spoke with their families, seen kids too shy to speak because “I’m a princess” or people who have stopped and screamed “HEY MISS (insert title here)!” The little kids who run up and smile, the teenagers who want to take selfies and learn about your life, the adults who share their memories of the Miss America pageant—that’s what I’ll miss the most. I can live with never wearing a crown or sash again, but I pray every single night that I am able to be as influential, inspirational and motivational without it.
What’s love got to do with it? In the midst of all my reflecting, someone said to me “you know, something really amazing is going to happen to you this year. I hope you find love.” To this I laughed hysterically, because I have little to no luck in that department. Then I said to myself, “How thoughtful and kind for someone to wish that for me.” I have found some form of success in every aspect of my life, even in my failures and defeats. Boys—good lord. I found hope once, not too sure where it went. You share conversations and insight with people, and all of a sudden you’re staring at your phone waiting for a sign that something is there. I’ve been told I’m intimidating. I mean—who would want to date a driven college graduate with a background in sports, dance and communications who just so happens to be a beauty queen (I’m mediocre at best). Day in and day out I work to give the best version of myself. What I really want is someone who will tell me stupid jokes, talk about books, news and poetry with me, who maybe wouldn’t mind eating pizza in bed while watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air or Sportscenter. There’s so much more to that, but I believe that a bond between a man (not boy) and a women (not girl) is established when you smile at the sound of their name, find their insight and outlook to be intriguing, but more so when you understand that it isn’t one-for-another but one-for-both –aligning passion with drive and vision and letting nothing but love and support guide that.
Use your words for good. I started a small writing project a few weeks. Fidel Garcia once told me a story behind what it means to ‘pay it forward’ and I sincerely fell in love with the idea of acting in a kind manner, in an effort to repay the universe and those around you for your blessings. I am a firm believer in ‘throwing it to the wind’ and letting what needs/must happen to simply happen. As most of you know, my post-Miss NJ blog made its way to and through the pageant community in a way I never thought possible. Before all of that, however, there was the actual writing. I can’t say it was easy, and that I didn’t stay up staring at an empty screen in my Notes app. Life just sort of happens and you’re forced to deal with it—head on—whether you’re ready for it or not. In these moments, particularly in my own experiences, I had to put my trust in someone to essentially read my feelings and correct the grammatical errors—judgement free. That blog was not a short read, and my friend read it on his phone and sent back screenshots of every single page with every. single. thing I missed—word for word. Once my blog was fine-tuned, published, and getting unreal feedback, I thought to myself, “How do I pay it forward for all the people who sent me messages of encouragement and love in my encounter with defeat (we’ll deem it that for lack of a better word).” In that moment, I found myself writing again—an affirmation of sorts, providing reassurance of life and its pursuits. I won’t go into detail, but that night I sent an e-mail to my ‘proofreader’ that not only instilled words of hope into his existence, but provided me with the understanding that if you use your words for good, you can never truly go array. There’s something so satisfactory about knowing that your thoughts and positivity resonate with people. Being quoted on Twitter is also pretty awesome in my book.
Amidst the affirmations, I was putting myself in a vulnerable position, as my feelings (I have those for boys sometimes) began to take the wheel. This ‘proofreader’ has been my school girl crush for the last couple years. It’s cheesy to think you can continuously have those silly, not-so-logical feelings towards someone, but they happen and you deal. However, sometimes we fall for people who have no intention of catching us, and instead watch us fall into confusion or ambiguity as they walk into happiness. Like real life Miss New Jersey, he never picked me—no matter how many times I tried. And he very well may never choose me. I was never going to be the first round pick of his girlfriend-draft. (Take the friendship, dull the rest).
Find your home. You’re gonna like/ love things and people more than they love you. Feelings aren’t always mutual, and reciprocity comes far and thin nowadays. We live under societal implications that give women authority to think that “swerving” a guy is cool, and men the power to think that having a laundry list of women to pick from on any given day or night is even cooler. To that, I call foul. BUT… At no point should you ever stop loving those things. They serve/d a purpose, and at some point, when things come full circle, you’ll know who and what to give your love to because it will be welcomed, accepted and returned. The home we all long for isn’t just the white house with a picket fence, but the one that is surrounded by red walls and a constant beating to remind us that we are still alive and very much loved.
Life. My advice to you, now and always, is to choose YOU first. The day someone else chooses me, I’ll be sure it’s a choice they never regret. People won’t text you back, Facetime calls will go unanswered, you won’t always land your dream job, and you may even get rejected from your dream school. Understand that you will never truly arrive at a place of knowing it all, but YOU are an expert of your own story and your own life. Own that, own yourself, and you learn to pick up pieces along the way to create the bigger picture. Each piece of the puzzle, no matter how rough the edges may be, will be exactly what you need when you need it and very rarely when you want it. You don’t have to remind someone that you’re worthy of their time. Focus your energy on who and what matters.
“Our hearts are so big. It’s our biggest strength and our biggest weakness.”
I am a work in progress. As a woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mentor, and in love, my career, my dreams and my goals—I am trying. That’s all I can do, right?!
But I am working. Every day. To be better and to do better.
A work in progress, working to progress.