One Man Can Change the World.

After throwing all of my belongings into bags and suitcases Friday evening, I slowly slumped onto the hardwood floor in the bedroom of my apartment, looked in the mirror and started to get teary eyed (I don’t cry, but water was forming around my eyeballs.

My thought: I don’t look good. I’m not going to fit into my clothes. This isn’t going to be good.

Instead of keeping these thoughts to myself, I sniffled a little, grabbed my phone and texted my go-tos—Mom and Cierra (Devon doesn’t know how to answer her phone anymore). I communicated those exact sentiments, to which the responses were realistic but very much tailored to my mindset.

“Negative thoughts out. Everything is going to be fine.”

I shrugged that off, put the phone down and told myself to GET IT TOGETHER.

In that moment, the song switched to ‘One Man Can Change the World.”

Aghh, Big Sean. Saving souls.

“I hope you learn to make it on your own
And if you love yourself just know you’ll never be alone
I hope that you get everything you want and that you chose
I hope that it’s the realest thing that you ever know”

My girl Brenna Jo spoke so highly of me in her last blog, but in moments of weakness, where I fall victim to my own insecurities and the ridicule of others, I start to doubt the very thing I preached about just a few weeks ago. I refuse to give into the critics, but how do you fight the floating thoughts that linger?

“Oh god, if my gown is tight, people will probably compare it to Miss New Jersey week.”
“I shouldn’t be going”
“I’ll probably be the biggest girl there.”
“Making Top 15 isn’t even an option because my swimsuit won’t be the best.”

I don’t take many things to heart, because being unapologetic about who I am has and always will take precedent. If you aren’t real, than what’s the point you know? However, what I have learned is that the reality of someone’s being versus the  perception you have of them, or what you think they are, aren’t one in the same. Here I am talking about the one thing that holds no real correspondence in the grand scheme of my life (or yours, to be honest), but it’s important to address it. I read on Twitter that a study showed that men prefer “skinny” women over “curvy” women. Guess what? Neither of those words describes a person’s drive, ambition, goals, personality, heart, mind or soul. I don’t care if you are deemed “attractive.” If you don’t have a heart/mind that is humble, colorful, understanding and open, you ain’t it. #sorrynotsorry

I have been doing a lot of reading and reflecting this summer, and what I’ve learned is that caring less about the negativity and more about your personal growth is and also will be the most important thing in this life. The people who love you, support you and appreciate your presence will be there. Hell, they’ll even book half a plane, fly 800 miles and drive two and a half hours to stay in the middle of nowhere to watch you compete in a pageant when you are no longer relevant in pageant world. That’s what matters.

Like Myra always says, you can’t win them all—but if you learn to derive the necessary, purposeful and meaningful lessons from your experiences, you can never really lose. Amirite?

You can’t grow and flourish as a person and contribute to society if you stay stagnant in your thoughts and actions. I am not the same person I was two months ago, and I sincerely believe that I am better because of everything I’ve gone through—both this summer and in my 24 years of livin’. With that, I am still living, still breathing and still working to be and do better. I thank God for the hopes, goals, career, friendships and family that keep me on my toes and always striving for more.

I am SO excited to be representing the people, community and state that have molded me into the woman I am today. I have been to Hoopeston, Illinois twice as a spectator and admire each and every girl who competed. I CAN’T BELIEVE I GET TO BE ONE OF THEM THIS YEAR!

My mindset, after a few clouded thoughts hindered my almost-always optimistic noggin, is that this is an honor, a privilege and something I essentially worked to get to. I am certain that this experience will bring me memories, laughter, love and 40-something amazing young women who I get to call my Sweetheart sisters.

This is it for me. It’s hitting home, and the heart, pretty hard. I sat up yesterday skimming through five years of photos thinking “this is it.” I know the whole ‘once you’re in, you’re never really out,’ but I’ll never be a contestant again after next week. I’ll never get to cuddle with 12 girls in one bed while slowly nibbling on one cookie before a swimsuit prelim and talking about life. I’ll never have to do two-a-days for three weeks straight to strut in a swimsuit for 30 seconds ever. again. I’ll probably never get to wear a sparkly crown as a ‘princess’ and visit the Children’s Hospital again. So with that, I plan on taking advantage of every single aspect of this experience—because when push comes to shove, I’m not going to be talking about how I looked a little chubby in my swimsuit while I hold and talk to my future kids and grandkids. I’m going to talk about the amazing, talented, exuberant young women I met, who taught me about tenacity, goal-setting, perseverance and selflessness—the women who, in my 20s, pushed me far beyond my wildest expectations simply by being who they are day in and day out. The women who became doctors, teachers, journalists, senators, legislators, mothers, businesswomen, etc., all while serving as catalysts for change to make this world a better place to live in. After all, One [Wo]Man Can Change the World.

I ask for your kind words, prayers, smiles and hugs as I enter this ‘final phase of competition.’ I hope to make you all proud of the sassy, opinionated gal that you decided to put on a plane and send to the cornfields of Illinois. My heart is already full and I am grateful to end this chapter on such a sweet note.

Hoopeston, hope you’re ready for the
“Fresh Sweetheart of New Jersey.” 

ME

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