Greatness isn’t Always Defined by Winning the Race

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

I came across this quote after competing for Miss New Jersey for a 4th time, and walking away with nothing—or so I thought was nothing at the time. My best friend won, so the sadness and disappointment of my own shortcomings dissipated because she needed me and this was something we dreamed of/planned for years. YEARS. I turned into a proofreader, a transcriber (she spoke while driving and I just typed away), a permanent presence in the passenger’s seat, a security guard (I had to stiff-arm a couple people), a cheerleader, but a friend and a partner-in-crime nonetheless. I was vicariously living my dream through my best friend, but she also allowed me to live it with her, too. Fast-forward to September 2014 when I’m sitting in Boardwalk Hall with tears in my eyes as I am watching my favorite person in the entire world dance as my voice filled the space–yes, that really happened. Miss America preparation was a small part of Cierra’s year as Miss NJ in retrospect, but it played such a huge part in my life. As only the second woman of color to be crowned, Cierra’s win inspired me for a number of reasons. She was doing everything she planned on doing if she had ever won, and doing it pretty damn well.

The fire was lit. I ran into my favorite titleholders, met amazing women and I felt inspired and motivated. All I kept thinking was “I can do this.”

And I did. Kind of.

“One of these two ladies will be the next Miss New Jersey…” There I am, standing in front of one of my closest pageant friends… and we’re holding hands. The last two standing.

last two standing_2

We’re both staring at each other wondering what the hell is going on (that may or may not have come out of one of our mouths, but I will neither confirm nor deny that). Every year, I have premonitions on who will win and I am always right. Always. Katharyn Nicolle, Lindsey Petrosh, Cara McCollum, Cierra—I guessed them all. This year, my vision was simply a girl waving at the end of the runway in a black dress. Well, there I am— in my black Kaitlin Monte inspired Shawn Yearick evening gown, and there is Lindsey, also in her black Shawn Yearick gown. I have dreamed of this moment since I watched Kirsten Haglund win Miss America and good lord what a feeling it is. My stomach sank to the floor and all I felt was an ease come over me. No pressure, no nerves, no sadness. I think I’ll deem it complacency—like someone from above lightly graced my shoulder and said “it’s going to be okay.” All I thought was “well, I did it– I got far as I am destined to be.” I looked back at my BFF Devon, I smiled, and I said (in my head) “it’s not going to me.” Things got a little crazy but when the smoke cleared, I looked up, and watched Lindsey waving at the end of the runway in her black evening gown.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t sad after the fact. I got so many hugs and ‘I love yous’ in that moment that nothing else really mattered to me other than my mom being proud of me. I went upstairs, changed out of my gown and into my cocktail dress, grabbed two slices of pizza, ate them (both), put on a brave face and said, out loud, everything that not only I, but every other girl who also didn’t win, needed to hear.

“I have made Top ten, I haven’t. I have won prelims, I haven’t, I have made Top 5 and I haven’t. Tonight, I went from not even hearing my name last year to being 1st runner up. I want you all to know that if you believe in this dream, you fight for it until you can’t fight anymore. Your hard work and dedication, it matters. But above all else, I have never in my life felt so loved and supported by a group of girls and for that I want to say thank you.”

The morning after. Aside from Devon and I having a sob fest at 8am in my room, I sat at breakfast the next day, still totally okay. I looked at my mom, asked her if I sounded okay during my OSQ, and she responded “Oh my gosh, of course! Probably the best I’ve ever heard you speak.” My response, in the wimpiest voice, “Then why didn’t they pick me?” Tears came rolling down all over my Uncle Bill’s pancakes, as my brave face and tough heart could no longer hold its own. However, something really amazing happened in that moment—a woman walked by my table, apologized for catching me at a bad time, and said how proud she was of me and that I have served as an inspiration to both of her daughters.

That is my purpose. Since I was a young girl, I have always wanted to set a positive example, even if that meant being a nerd or not hanging out with my friends as much, because I enjoyed doing well in school, volunteering, singing, etc. I grew up in an environment that had already set me up to fail, as Hispanics were falling to the daunting statistics surrounding teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates. I saw more of what I didn’t want to be then what I actually wanted to be. From that point forward, I made it a point to BE the person others could emulate and look up to. All it takes is one person, is what I always told myself.

Eight years ago… The extent of my beauty regimen was making sure I wore mascara to school, decked out in my khakis, pullover sweater and messy bun. I was the girl with a snack basket at the bottom of her locker, filled with candy and honey buns, who ran to homeroom in slippers every morning just as the bell was ringing (I was a real gem). I entered my senior year of high school with a huge void in my heart, as I wandered the halls that I once heard ‘WHERE’S BIG A AT?!’ in. You lose a friend at a young age and your entire perspective on life changes. My friend, Josh, was killed by a drunk driver. You can try to paint that however you want in an attempt to find purpose and meaning, but I remember when it all happened. The first thing I did was put a ribbon on the fence where he parked his bike. He used to somehow lodge it in between this metal fence and my car, as if my car served as some sort of shield. After that, I walked into my high school, I sat down in front of his locker on the floor in the middle of the hallway and I cried. The girl that never cries was suddenly balling her eyes out in an empty high school hallway. I had to sit there and wrap my head around the fact that I was supposed to be with him, but I missed his call.

The light in my path. I entered my first local MAO pageant in February 2009. You take this opinionated tomboy who spent more time on a baseball field and a basketball court than on her hair and makeup, put her on a stage in a swimsuit and suddenly things change. I met Ashleigh Udalovas (who would later become Miss New Jersey) during this pageant. She took me under her wing and guided me through the chaos and into the meaning of what exactly Miss America is/was. I wanted to be her. I wanted to use my talent and my voice to be a force in my community, with the hopes that bringing attention to social issues as an ambitious Hispanic woman would not only break the mold of what is perceived to be a “Pageant Girl,” but bring relatability and relevance to girls (and boys) who maybe haven’t found someone older to identify with.

Here and now. I had the opportunity to speak at Millville Senior High School before their prom a few weeks before Miss New Jersey, and in doing so, got to share a little bit about myself, as well as Josh’s story. I was a little nervous, because to this day, I still get emotional talking about it. I stood up in front of the first class and literally poured my heart out on the floor. I sincerely believe that transparency and honesty is the best tool in public speaking, especially when you are trying to get your point across. I started to get a little teary eyed and felt embarrassed, only to look down at 20-something staring faces with tears in their eyes. My message was resonating with 17-year-olds. They were actually relating, understanding, but most importantly, they were listening. In that moment, I couldn’t have felt any more accomplished. The mood was lightened with a Q&A period, and then the students had a break before their next block. I took the time to check my phone for any messages/texts and looked up to find chairs pulled up all around the desk I was sitting at with questions coming at me left and right. Students were sitting around me asking about my college courses, internships, Carmelo Anthony, basketball, pageants, singing and football. I could not have felt more blessed in that moment, because I live to share my experiences with the hopes that it inspires people—I mean that. I even received tweets and messages from these students before & during Miss New Jersey week.

School tour_Millville HS 1

THE GOOD STUFF.

Miss New Jersey Week started off with a fun trip to the hospital. I wish I was kidding. Monday afternoon as I was picking up last minute things and running a few errands, my neck was itching. I shook it off thinking, ‘ehh it’s a bug bite.’ Boy, was I wrong. I finally looked in a mirror to find hives all over my neck, and some on my face. CUE THE PANIC. Something always happens before Miss NJ week. It’s just a thing. One year, half of my eyebrow was accidently waxed off. One year, I was sick and could barely talk (super awesome for a singer). One year, I fell and almost twisted my ankle. Stuff happens, right? I laughed, called my mom, got a salad and went to the mall to finish my shopping. Thinking that my stress is getting the best of me, I try to relax for the sake of my face (IT IS STILL A PAGEANT, PEOPLE). I have entirely too many tan lines, so I go to the gym for a quick tan (sorry Fiona, don’t hate me). I arrive back at home to find my ENTIRE face in hives, and my throat is starting to swell up. So, off to the ER we go! Three hours and three medications later, I am home with 4 hours to label and pack all of my things, sleep and gear up for my last trip to The Forum. Sidenote: God Bless my sweet, sweet angel of a mother who didn’t sleep for a single minute because she was up worried, sewing and steaming my clothes.

momma

Sequence of events: Breakfast with my shore family. Move-in. Rehearsal. Dinner. Rehearsal. Breakfast. Rehearsal. Lunch. Rehearsal. Dinner. Parade. Rehearsal. Sleep.

Interview time. I threw the whole ‘this is my last year’ pressure out the window a long time ago because what the hell is that going to do for me now, you know? I walked into that room and made a promise that I would be myself unapologetically. I had an allergic reaction the night prior so I was a little drowsy from my meds, but I somehow fought through it to form coherent sentences (yay me!).  I walked out, looked at Cierra and wasn’t really sure what to think, but it was over and there was nothing I could do about it. Looking back at it now, with less stress, I can honestly say I did okay. I left it all in that room, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

Questions I was asked: What is the difference between a Philly fan and a New York fan?; Do you think the drinking age should be lowered?; If I could give you any advice as a former Miss NJ, what do you think it would be and why?; do you think there is such a thing as a perfect body?; what makes you different from the other girls—why should we pick you?; How do you prove you’re not just another pretty face?; If you could speak to the GM of the Yankees or the Phillies, what would your 30-second pitch be for the HERO Campaign?; What do you say to students when speaking about drunk driving?

Rehearsal. Dinner. SHOWTIME.

My talent song wasn’t supposed to happen. Because of talent reservation mishaps, I had to change my song last minute, but the first time I heard ‘What Kind of Fool Am I,’ I knew that everything happened for a reason. I, like many 20-something year old girls, have never really been in love. You strive to be this successful, accomplished woman with a good head on her shoulders and a pretty face- but sometimes ya just wanna be loved! Hasn’t happened for me quite yet, but the song held special meaning, so I walked out in my Christmas-Barbie inspired two-piece red gown and sang my heart out. I, then, won a talent preliminary award and lost my marbles. I was so happy. Singing has always been a part of my life, and to be recognized for that was important to me. I shared the night with [the future] Miss New Jersey, who won swimsuit that night and proceeded to talk about pizza on-stage.

crazy faces

Friday night was the real nerve-kicker—Swimsuit and Evening Gown. For years, I have been bullied by those stupid Voy boards (and to my face, actually) about my body and my weight. I said this in my interview, too. I have battled outside demons, online demons who have said I needed to push myself away from the dinner table, and the doubt and fear inside my head telling me I couldn’t do it—an ex-boyfriend once told me I would never be Miss New Jersey because I was fat and not white (he’s an ex for a reason). Challenges and adversity presented itself in the summer of 2013 as I was graduating college, trying to find a job and also battling minor depression that was caused by a number of things in my life. I finally took charge and control a few months ago and FINALLY feel like myself again. I used the Miss New Jersey stage to show that Anna, the REAL Anna, was back. I stepped out on that stage in my Irene West swimsuit with zero cares, because I knew I had worked extremely hard to achieve a feasible, realistic and maintainable body image. Thousands of kettle bell swings, endless squats, too many resistance sprints and deadlifts later, I confidently strutted my 145-pound self proudly. I stopped worrying about the number on the scale and started worrying about what mattered-my health (and my fit bod! Haha).

Swimsuit 1

Why won’t you just love me? I think competing for Miss New Jersey (or any local/state title) is kind of like trying to get the guy you love to love you back. You do everything in your power to be the most beautiful human being with an intellect like no other, a hot body, a heart of gold, great with kids and the ability to hold a conversation long enough to contribute something worth listening to—and for some reason he still doesn’t love you back. He’s just there—and if you’re what he likes, he’ll choose you. If you aren’t his cup of tea, he moves on to the next lucky lady. That, my friends, is life. It is all a matter of preference. The only difference? You don’t chase boys, you chase dreams. If you’re bringing everything I mentioned to the table, you wait for the one who will run with you.

The rest is history. Would I have loved to be the first Hispanic Miss New Jersey? Absolutely. Would I have loved to utilize the Miss New Jersey name to reach students and essentially everyone across the state in spreading optimism, positivity and my platform message? Certainly. My friend Jaren reminded me of something so very important at lunch a few days ago that put everything into perspective. Amidst my story telling, he said to me, “But you’re always going to be Anna– the driven, passionate Anna that makes things happen. You don’t need a crown or a title for that.” Cierra said the same thing to me Saturday night and everything came full circle.

Greatness isn’t always defined by winning the race. I have certainly been on a rollercoaster of emotions, but I finally came to a realization—I am already Miss New Jersey in the eyes of those who look up to me. Over the last five years, I have spoken to/with thousands of students across the state, spent countless hours at the Children’s Specialized Hospital of New Jersey—meeting and connecting with the most amazing families and children, worked with nationally recognized organizations, as well as state officials, met truly remarkable women that I get to call my friends, but above all else, I have grown into a woman that I am proud to be. I defied stereotypes and became a first-generation college graduate, obtaining a degree and establishing a career in an industry people thought was “too competitive & male-dominated” for me to succeed in. I have performed the National Anthem live on national television at the World’s Most Famous Arena—twice. I completed five internships in New York City. I fearlessly speak and sing in front of thousands with a confidence I developed over time. I technically sang on the Miss America stage. I have learned that there are people out there who can still hold meaningful conversation about music, art, poetry, sports, politics and pizza. Most importantly, I have learned that women of substance, those who radiate knowledge, servitude, selflessness, kindness, optimism, positivity and quirkiness, are not only valued, but an asset to our society and world. This journey, the years of service– they are not about anybody but you and the people you are impacting. #byehaters

Lessons Learned. I disregarded the assumptions and negative thoughts/opinions of so many people and took it upon myself to be exactly who I am and nothing less. I believe it’s important to rise above any setbacks and face challenges head-on, because it gives you the chance to grow and flourish as a human being. I have said this from Day 1—I want to lead a life that leaves people feeling motivated, inspired, empowered and important. It is my hope that I have left every single person I have encountered better—as each person I met has, in turn, affected me in the best way possible. I learned that every person, every situation and every experience has something to offer, so long as you keep an open mind, open ears and an open heart.

THANKS. To everyone who believed in me— my sincerest thank you. It most definitely takes a village to deal with a girl who is meek hearted, laughs too loud, speaks outright and says “YAS,” “I love you” and “are you kidding” too much. In all of that, you have reassured me that being Anna is always enough. Every single message, hug, smile and conversation helped me find the light in my darkest days. I have what feels like a MILLION thank yous and I want to save them all for my farewell (July 18th– be there), but I want to take a moment to thank a gal pal who became one of my closest friends, as she won’t be at the pageant in a few weeks.

Dev– There was never a moment when you weren’t texting me, Facetiming me, holding my hand, or pinching my butt throughout this journey. Whenever a single notion of doubt even crossed my mind, you were there to swat it away. I very sincerely don’t think I would have been standing on that stage next to Lindsey if it weren’t for your friendship. I mean that. You pushed me in the gym, out of harms way and into a space of sight and faith. I think I tell you I love you a thousand times a day, but here’s a thousand and one. I love you.

Devon

Thanks for crying with me, hugging me and saying how proud you are of me. You don’t know the impact that you have had on my life, and the lives of so many other people, simply by being the Pistol that you are. So glad I have someone to be weird with #wheresthesaranwrap #groupieheadnod

Y’all, my heart is so full of love and appreciation. I am never ‘losing’ because this organization has provided me with scholarships to pursue higher education, amazing sisters and friends, memories that will last me a lifetime, the confidence to use my voice to be a staple in my community, and the skills and tools to succeed in life long after the crowns have tarnished. Above all else, I have gained an identity, a clearer grasp on my purpose and the greatest best friend a girl could ever ask for.

CICI

Everything happens for a reason. Whats meant for you will never pass you by.

See you in Hoopeston 😉

eg 2

Kindness Reigns

For the last several weeks, the phrase “you seem so happy” has been spoken to me. That compliment means more to me than any other, because I believe happiness is the best makeup. I try each and every day to exude a level of energy and positivity, with the hopes that it will become contagious and infect those I encounter.

It wasn’t always like this, though. I wasn’t always running around, wind in my hair, humming Fifth Harmony and Rihanna with a giant smile on my face. I went through some things, some manageable, some not-so-manageable. I’ve learned to ‘make it work,’ in any case.

I read a feature story about a week ago on espnW that touched my heart for a number of reasons. Madison Holleran, a jersey girl, scholar and track runner at UPenn, committed suicide after a dark and lonely battle with anxiety and depression. Her parents shared the beautiful memories of their daughter, friends told stories of parties and dinners and in my head all I could think was “what went wrong?”

The feature was centered around the idea that we have the ability to paint a picture of what we want people to think via social media. Instagram posts and tweets can sometimes mask the daunting struggles we face on a daily basis, as we fill people’s timelines with smiley selfies, pictures with friends & family, and food and art. Madison sounded like a girl full of life and spirit and promise, and so I decided to look at her Instagram to see what it was that her parents were exactly talking about.

I sat in silence, tears in my eyes for a few minutes as I scrolled through her photos. “What a beautiful soul,” I again thought to myself, reading through the comments of her posts.

Whenever I read of loss or death of young men and women, my mind immediately races to the day Josh was killed. The day, the week, the funeral… every single detail plays in my head like a horror film you can’t turn away from. Not for the sake of wanting to watch it, but because you have no other choice but to face what’s in front of you. You wish you could save them. You wish you could tell them to leave a few minutes later, or to stay home, or not to jump or give up because thousands and thousands of people would feel the pain of their absence.

Life is fragile. Technology has taken over full force, providing advantages and disadvantages to all. We communicate a little less and rely on someone’s tweets or Instagram posts to reassure us that our friends, or even ourselves, are living and breathing and okay. Someone tweets a little less and we worry, but never address it. Weeks go by without a picture, but we assume they are just busy. Then there’s the people who post every single day—their outings, their birthday shoutouts, quotes, opinions.

What makes either of those circumstances a justifiable means by which we can say someone is ‘ok?’

I value phone calls. I value “I miss yous.’ I value people going out of their way to speak or see me, because I’m allowed to want to feel loved and important and wanted. We are all allowed to feel that way. But what happens to the people who don’t think that way—the ones who face darkness on a daily basis with no escape other than self-harm or making that darkness permanent?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”

We have the power to influence the world around us—with words and with actions. I don’t think I realized the validity of that until I was standing in front of a classroom of 20 students with tears in their eyes as I shared stories and details about my platform message. When you have the ability to relate or connect with someone, you do it. Find the words, find the message, find the dots, connect them and you instill hope and motivation and faith into a soul that may have been broken or maybe just needed to be lifted.

I won’t go into full detail, but battling through the challenges and adversity in my own life gave me an entirely new perspective on life, and reading about Madison Holleran heightened that perspective.

Life is too short to hold grudges. There is sometimes this incessant ambiguity of what tomorrow holds for us, praying the sunshine graces our faces and lights the smile we have within. We may fear risk, and I think there’s always a fear of the unknown, because we never truly know what’s coming our way.

Whatever you do, do it with the mindset that you are adding value to your life and hopefully enriching the lives of others. Who you surround yourself with, how you handle situations, what words you use and how you at upon them… it all matters. You don’t want to live your life with regrets. Closed mouths don’t get fed and sometimes the fear of speaking up keeps us trapped in our own silence and we become mute and emotionless as we battle to break free. My advice to you, to everyone, is always to speak up and speak out—because silence is a slow killer and I’d rather live in the honesty of my words than crumble under my silence.

And hey, you matter. Everyone matters, to someone. I know that’s sometimes a difficult pill to swallow when we are neglected or torn or getting mixed signals from a girl/guy we like or you get into a fight with your mom, but we all have mothers and fathers and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends who love us unconditionally, despite the flaws [that we ALL have]. Negativity is out of style and optimism is totally in, so let’s get with the trend and make positivity an everyday thing.

You can’t teach passion, you can’t teach drive, you can’t teach tenacity. That’s all within you—so be strong enough to know that those attributes and a really awesome attitude will take you far beyond your wildest dreams. You have to believe. Clear eyes, a heart full of love, open ears—be welcoming to the good, bad, pretty, ugly, great, unfortunate things.

“Bad things don’t happen to good people—bad things make good people”

Someone’s inability to see your worth really isn’t your problem—especially if you’re working and hustling and grinding. You could have and be willing to offer everything you have and sometimes it still isn’t enough—but by no means does that diminish your worth. It just means that you were meant for something better, something else, someone better or someone else—in love, in your career, in food (forgetting that Chik-fil-a is closed on Sundays is the worst).

We are guided by our inner fire, our faith and the universe to provide us with who, what and where we are meant to be. Trust in that and don’t halfass a single thing you do.

It all starts with you.

until next time,

Anna

Anna_Fidi-3731

There’s hope in every tomorrow… Don’t Settle.

This blog has been a work in progress for a few weeks now, as I’ve been taking mental notes about what the subject would be and what angle I would take. The experiences and occurrences of my [personal] life often set the precedent for it, so here we go!

Countdowns, in my opinion, give us something to look forward to and allow for heightened excitement and productivity.

My countdown?

Eight weeks. 56 days.

Miss New Jersey 2015.

In two months, I will be on a brightly lit stage competing for the job and opportunity of a lifetime.

While most only see the pretty faces, stunning gowns, teeny bikinis, fit bodies and entertainment, the work and stories behind those pretty faces and in those pretty minds is what matters most. The courage to stand up in front of hundreds and potentially thousands is SCARY (trust me, I know), but a unique chance to prepare you for other facets of life. I have obtained communication skills, an appreciation for drive and passion and the ability to serve as an advocate for women’s empowerment. Above all, I have acquired the skills and appreciation to live my life in a way that is conducive to who I am and where I’m going. It’s taught me tenacity and that settling should never be an option.

There’s a world outside of the four walls you are confined to, the mindset you’ve adapted and the heart that may be hiding behind a heavily guarded fence.

Living means loving. I am someone who hangs onto every word that is spoken or written to me. There’s validity and value in speaking words with and of sincerity. If you love for the sake of mere convenience, you are cheating yourself of what the meaning of love actually is. There’s a love for life that has to be present, not only for people, but for occurrences, work, experiences, cultures and the idea that each day holds a new light and new message.

“If we empty our hearts every night, they won’t get too heavy or cluttered. Our hearts will stay light and open with lots of room for good new things to come.”

Believing is understanding that your purpose, your value, your contribution to this world and this society is more than you could ever anticipate or expect. Everyday encounters shouldn’t go unnoticed or undermined. I have attempted to take the reins on my life, but most times I simply have to let go and let God. If the hard work, dedication, passion and drive are present, the rest is in the universe’s hands. The road less traveled is a dusty one, but you have the ability to clear the way and make your own path as you move along.

Tomorrow? It starts today. It starts with you, with telling yourself that the dreams and goals and needs and wants you list in your head and on paper are obtainable, achievable and reachable.

One of my favorite books/social media campaigns is Humans of New York. This post I loved more than others, so I want to share.

“I wish I’d partied a little less. People always say ‘be true to yourself,’ but that’s misleading because there are two selves. There’s your short term self and there’s your long term self. And if you’re true to your short term self, your long term self slowly decays.”

Interpret that how you will.

You deserve the best in life. Tell yourself that every single day that you are living and breathing, because you grow through the happiness, the pain, the anger, the sadness, the laughter, the mistakes, the regret and the lessons. And when you grow, you take the necessary steps to be exactly who you are meant to be in that particular time and space. Trust the process and remember to enjoy the ride.

The people that pass up on you? Screw ‘em. The ones who doubt you? Prove them wrong.

Remember who makes you laugh and who makes you happy. Those are the ones that you work to keep around.

There’s hope in every tomorrow. Don’t settle for anything less than what you want and what you deserve.

Until next time.

Forward February Thinking

today I decided I was going to be better.

I find myself in a Groundhog Day type scenario the second the sun (or sound of the wind chill) awakens me each morning. by habit, I check my phone for any text messages that I didn’t answer abruptly at 3am, as well as important emails. I read theSkimm and scroll Twitter for the latest news and then the lock button is clicked.

“I’m going to get my life together today.”

that’s the daily sentiment. as a young, ambitious person who’s accustomed to working 12-14 hour days and sleeping for a sixth of the day, having the time and schedule to sleep in until 11am is just bittersweet and frustrating all in one for this 23 going on 24-year-old.

I chose my field of study because I was passionate about it. people will say “why sports” and at this point, my response is “I love it.” and I do. during my internship interview with the New York Mets, David Newman told me that if you choose a career you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

I want to work. I like to work. I need to work.

life is changing.
admist this [what I hope to be] short stint of unemployment, I’ve come to realize that I’m skating on the line of adulthood. bills are rolling in, friends are graduating and moving and I have some serious decisions to make about what’s next for me. While I was preparing for an interview a few weeks ago, I wrote “today I’m going to be better” in my notebook. that was the only thing on the college-ruled sheet, centered directly on the first line.

I fear being ordinary. it isn’t shame-based, but more so the thought of always striving and wanting more for myself and those around me. I’m not sure if it’s societal implications of what it means to be “basic,” but I don’t want to be that either.

I want to be great. shouldn’t we all? in life, in love, in happiness, in family, in friendships, in relationships, in my career, in my talents… greatness is what I hope to achieve. the second you sell yourself short or settle for what you think could or can work “for now,” you’re cheating yourself. treat a temporary situation as just that–temporary. consider temporary as a stepping stone for permanence & what you REALLY want.

and so, I spend my days working out, applying to jobs I dream of working and just waiting. waiting for the universe or someone or something or God to answer my prayers. I pray every night– for my best friend, for my family, for a boy and lastly myself and my dreams. Slowly but surely the universe is responding. I attribute that to Mercury being in retrograde, but you take advantage of these things while the planets are in your favor.

Cierra and I had this long conversation the other day about our tendencies, sadness, wants/needs and fears. (the idea that in a few short months I could be states away from my best friend is just creepy, but I won’t go there right now.) In this convo that went from talking about Disney’s Tarzan to paragraph-long words of wisdom, I was both enlightened and comforted not only by her words, but by my own. And then we talked about tacos.

taking it day by day.
within those paragraph-long texts, we both found little pieces of hope and of ourselves. in my opinion, we are all puzzles, but we don’t own all of the pieces. our jigsaw is solved daily as the people we meet, the experiences we encounter and the love that grows within us continuously adds a tiny piece to the big puzzle. if we had everything figured out, life would be hella boring. as Hannah Brencher put it, “I am mapless and I thank God for that.” There’s so much spontaneity and excitement and wonder for what each day holds. and that’s such a treasureable trait of life that should never be taken for granted.

“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous. Everything else is crap…”
amen. there’s so much validity to this statement. there are certainly a lot of other things that are sexy and aren’t crap, but intelligence, thoughtfulness and generosity are beautiful characteristics to uphold and maintain in every facet of life. it insinuates a sense of confidence and allures all the right people and respect.

never give up hope.
hope is present in the strangest, most random and even the most obvious of places. don’t give up on people or yourself. if you speak truthfully and honestly about your wishes, they will be sent out into the universe and it will be heard.

move forward.
take the necessary steps everyday and march towards your goals. be open-minded, wear a smile, stay informed and don’t lose sight of what’s ahead. you never know what blessings could come your way, so be alert and pay attention.

let today be the day you choose to be better.

xo.

The Art of Letting Go

I love with my entire heart. I mean that sincerely. If you can call yourself a family member or friend of mine, you know that without a doubt, I would go to the end of the world with/for you and ask zero questions.

I’m all about life lessons, but the art of letting go is sometimes difficult for me to swallow. I could totally pull an Elsa and just sing life’s problems away, but what happens when the people who once served purpose in your life no longer do so? I mentioned this in my last blog, but some of my relationships have dwindled or diminished and it’s so confusing. The texts stop coming, the phone stops ringing and you’re forced to reevaluate how to take the next step. Is it a matter of trying a little harder or walking away? In my opinion, it’s a little of both.

You can’t walk away from a situation, ANY situation, without being able to say you did everything you possibly could. This goes for relationships of any kind, friendships, an ambition, a job, trying new food (did you really think I wasn’t going to throw that in there?) or watching or playing a new sport. People deserve second chances. Mistakes are made in life and you either take that as a lesson and push forward to be better, or you fall into the same trap over and over, in which case time is wasted and you might as well just make your own movie entitled Groundhog Day.

My friend posted this on Instagram a few days ago and with it she wrote that it was the reason she couldn’t hate people.

“I think I fall in love a little bit with anyone who shows me their soul. Their world is so guarded and fearful. I appreciate rawness so much.”

I find it very difficult to hate people, so I don’t. It takes entirely too much energy, you have to avoid them and all that nonsense. You either spread love or remain indifferent. There’s zero room for hate in this world, and putting that type of negativity into the air is so bad for your karma. Flaws and all, we must accept that sometimes people grow up and grow out of things, even if it’s you.

If someone isn’t making you a priority or isn’t making time for you, walk away before your feelings get hurt. I put every part of myself into my work, my family, my friendships, my hobbies, my ambitions. If my environment doesn’t complement that, it doesn’t belong with or around me.

I don’t believe in ‘new year, new me,’ but I do believe in making meaningful strides to creating a better version of myself (and you!) everyday. One of the promises I made to myself in this new year is give my time and my heart to the people who show me theirs as well. Being immensely selfless is an admirable trait, but also the one thing that can get you hurt over and over again.

It’s amazing what a 20-min phone call or a “catch-up” lunch will do to your mood and your mind. Keep the people that matter, that make time, that make promises and keep them. Those are people who understand you, who value your life and your presence in theirs. We all get busy, but pay attention to what you value most, because I highly doubt it’s how many likes your photo got on the ‘gram.

Love fully, love sincerely, love all the time. What’s meant for you will never pass you. If it’s for you, hold tight. If not, walk away and move on.

“Change is inevitable. Why hold on to what you have to let go of?”

‘What is meant for you will never pass you.’

For the last four years, I’ve had the opportunity to sit and write a “reflection” blog at the end of each year, explaining my year as a whole and my hopes for the next.

Well, this year I was in San Antonio working for U.S. Army All-American Bowl, so I had no time for that! It was all football for me when I traveled to Naples, Florida for Football University National Championship from December 16th – December 22nd, made it back home for a few days in the office and Christmas, and then back on a plane as I headed to Texas. If you would have told me last June that I would have been working on this game, I probably would have looked at you and laughed. I don’t really think I understood the importance of the work or gravity of the situation until I arrived in San Antonio. The nation’s top 100 high school seniors receive the invitation and honor of a lifetime to represent their country and their sport in a prestigious East v. West match-up. In its 15th year, NBC-broadcast game really is breathtaking when push comes to shove. The sleepless days and nights, stress and work were all worth it when I met the athletes, who will most likely go on to be hot shots at their Division 1 football programs (USC, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Oregon to name a few). While my role with All American Games is over, I am truly thankful to have gained the truly unique experience. There’s this old saying “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Not many people can say, at 23, that they wrote their own media advisories and press releases for distribution, established relationships with media, conducted media training for 100 athletes and coordinated interviews each and every day post-practice for them. I think above all else, I gained some really great memories and friends (not coworkers) in the process. To my crew of Stunnas– thank you for the laughs and the swag. You’re my favorites.


Derrius Guice Field Kahlil McKenzie_NBC ST squad Texas A&M commits

While work absorbed almost all of my time, I did manage to do other fun stuff! Basketball season started (which means many National Anthem performances!–my favorite time of the year), I’ve been working on completing my Duke of Edinburgh award and just trying to enjoy my last two months of being 23.

Selfie with Augie CSPNJ_Ben CSPNJ_blocks CSPNJ_Frozen Party

To say 2014 was a rollercoaster is an understatement. You can think you have it together, and all of a sudden this 90mph curveball comes and you miss. Then what? Keep it moving, just keep swimming. I’ve learned that you can have control on your fate if you simply believe in yourself. Certain things may not pan out the way you’d hope, sometimes things happen for no reason, but most times they happen for a reason. Trust the plan that the universe and God has for you and enjoy the ride. Friendships were gained and lost, people moved, I lost some battles and I won some, but most importantly… I’m alive and well. I’m here, ready to ‘get after it’ each and everyday. I am thankful for those who are still around, for the ones who check up on me, for the people and things that make me happy.

Never settle, never digress.

‘What is meant for you will never pass you.’

2015- I’m ready for you.

xo,

Anna

Pageants and Sports and Journalism… oh my!

I can remember being a sophomore in college, overly obsessed with my favorite Miss America contestants and falling in love with writing. Having enrolled in Writing for the Media during my Spring semester, I was learning the tools and tricks of being a good writer and journalist. My professor was probably one of my favorites, constantly sharing her most memorable experiences as an investigative reporter for the New York Post. The time came for our final project–a Feature story. We had the choice of picking who we wrote about, so long as they were a notable figure and, in her words, “were ACTUALLY interesting.”

My choice was a no-brainer, as I approached my professor after class and enthusiastically said I wanted to write about the current Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte.

“If you can get her to sit down and speak with you, sure.” she said. “Good luck!”

There wasn’t a sense of doubt in her voice, but more-so just a little shocked that a 20-year-old was trying to interview a young woman who had just been on national television and was 2nd Runner Up to Miss America. Casual.

I reached out to the Miss America Organization, who directed me to the Miss New York Business Manager, who then directed me to Kaitlin herself. GULP! I explained what my project/story assignment was and Kaitlin responded to my e-mail with zero hesitation, in less than a day, with a time and place to meet with her. [I died inside.]

Fast forward to that evening, as I patiently sat at the Starbucks in Rockefeller Center–questions, notebook and audio recorder prepared. “Kaitlin Monte” appeared on my Blackberry screen that was on the table and the jitters began. Hello– wake up, this is happening. 

I grabbed my things and met her right outside and we relocated to another table just a few steps away from where I had been preparing for the last 2 hours. She respectfully declined after I offered to pay for her Starbucks order and two hours later, an actual dream was lived out. Can you imagine your first real writing assignment, regardless of whether it was for school or not, being on a person you idolize?

I remember walking to Penn Station (yes I walked all way there because I was in a great mood) so excited to get home and write. I got home a little late, but sat at my dining room table, notes everywhere and earphones plugged as I transcribed the answers she gave to my questions. At 3 a.m., my feature story was complete. I stayed up practically all night writing it, having not even realized the time passing or how tired I was. With minor edits to be made after my professor proofread it, I received an A and I was gleaming from ear to ear.

In that moment, after having been so inspired and dismissive to everything in the world aside from the words I was typing, I realized I wanted to tell people’s stories. I’ve said this time and time again, but I’m TERRIBLE at sports. I can shoot a ball and lift weights and all that jazz, but it was never really my thing. However, I love sports. That makes sense, right? When you grow up with a mother who raved about the Bulls and Michael Jordan, you really just have no choice in the matter.

To be able to tie pageantry into writing, writing into sports, sports into journalism and journalism into life is the goal and the dream. I will forever remember the kindness Kaitlin exuded and how she lived up to every single expectation I had of her, even now. Yesterday afternoon, she spoke at Seton Hall as the Women’s Basketball team launched their anti-bullying campaign. As I nervously greeted her because I’m a child, she gave me the biggest smile and hug. Listening to her speak, my mind went directly back to the Starbucks and I took in every word that she spoke. She also equated kindness to donuts, so #winning. AND SHE TWEETED AT ME #doublewinning

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My doubts about my success have been dwindling lately as I have been getting mixed reviews about Graduate School and the broadcasting industry as a whole. I believe God sends us little reminders here and again, so shoutout to the man upstairs. It’s my dream to be a Sports Journalist, dammit. And I will work like hell to be what I want to be, because I WANT to put in the work and I WANT to be successful. Oh, and thank goodness for the Miss America Organization for not only giving me people to look up to, but being someone who is looked up to. It truly is a HUGE blessing/honor/responsibility that I do not take lightly.

Inspiration can come at the strangest, most unexpected time. Remember to be kind and courageous, and never let anyone or anything taint your dream. When you’re dabbling with doubt, follow your heart. Like Kaitlin said, “You know how you become a big deal? By making choices everyday.”

Make the choice to be better and take every step necessary to be who YOU want to be. Your success is a reflection of how hard you’ve worked; your character is defined by how hard you’re willing to work for what you want. Do you, boo. *insert hair flip emoji*

Xo.

Embracing the Phase: the Transitional 20’s

There’s a difference between living and simply being alive. We all battle finding the happy medium. The one thing that remains prevalent in that is our purpose. We all have one.

To say I’ve been stuck a weird rut is partially true, but I think it’s more so a transitional period in my life that leaves me ambivalent about what my purpose actually is. I certainly know and understand that each and every day I wake up as a daughter, a sister, a best friend, a niece, a granddaughter, a cousin, a titleholder, a 23-year-old, a woman, a PR associate, a journalist, a singer and so on. With all of those roles, my thoughts always wander back to “Am I doing enough?” or “Is this it?”

Complacency and contentment has never been something I settled for. So many mediocre words, right?

complacent. content. settle.

Those are ugly words to me. Hideous words that should never be in your or my vocabulary unless you’re talking about things you never want. My aspirations stem far and wide, but by no means do they reach a level of simply being content- especially at 23. Yours shouldn’t either.

People always ask me “Are you working? Do you love it?” My answer is yes. It will always be yes because I take pride in the decisions I make. But I’m always left wanting more. Wanting to BE more, to STRIVE for me, to DREAM more, BELIEVE more, WORK more. In the last year I’ve been dealt many different cards, some played well and some not so much (I’m really bad at UNO). I (will probably continue to) spend countless nights in my room, in solitude with my thoughts. I try so hard to shut out the world sometimes, seeking wishful silence in my empty room and it seems like the noise of the world couldn’t be any louder. I think and think and think… “did I do enough at work today… why hasn’t so&so texted me today… why am I so tired.. I shouldn’t be this tired I’m in my 20s… should I go back to school… should I drink wine tonight (that should always be a yes, btw)… I wonder how my brother is doing… when should I take the GREs… need to call Ari and see how she is… I should probably do my laundry… maybe a purple gown would suffice for Miss NJ… I hope Cierra is okay… basketball season is next month… where will I be in 5 years…” Aimless, various and sometimes crazy thoughts that I am consumed by on the regular, and all at once because HEY why not.

First things first [I’m the realist. Drop just to… nvm].

Seriously, first things first, you don’t have all the answers *Kanye West voice.* I don’t even have all the answers. Your thoughts—let them steer you TO and THROUGH your fears, your insecurities, your dreams, ambitions, aspirations. I have spent more time doubting myself than believing in myself these days and it makes me sick. I’m not good at taking no for an answer, particularly when it pertains to my career. People always looked at me with a tilted head and squinted eyes when I explained that I wanted to go into sports. An undergraduate degree and five internships later, my response to that is BOO-YAH as I sit at my desk in my job at a sport management company.

Let that be the fuel that lights your fire. Why should you (or I) waste time doubting myself when other people do it for me, right? LOL. Really though. You don’t know my life, so don’t try to tell me what I can’t do. If you aren’t or can’t provide value and growth to my life, you don’t belong in it. I am inspired by people with goals, who have a plan, who value their education, who choose to smile instead of surrender themselves to the negativity our society seems to swim in. Tell me what I CAN do, talk to me about what I CAN do to be better. “Before I am your daughter, your sister, your aunt, niece or cousin, I am my own person and I will not set fire to myself to keep you warm.” Anyone that knows me knows I would give the world to and for my family and friends, but I refuse to lose my identity to become a part of someone else’s. I am Anna before I am anything else, and that will never change.

Purpose.

“You will always be too much of something for someone; too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone—profusely. But don’t apologize for being who you are.” Amen and godbless. That quote literally sinks right into my soul. Embrace the days that make you feel like an ant the same way you embrace the days that make you feel like a king/queen. Being human involves consistency, so no matter what the world throws at you—good or bad—you have it handled, sorta like Olivia Pope. I am very much “what you see is what you get.” I get so irritated when people I’ve known for months don’t understand my sarcasm or my humor or my word use and then I think “are you paying attention?” Probably not! It’s important to see and listen to others as much as people see and listen to you. Newsflash. y’all: the world does NOT REVOLVE AROUND YOU. That’s the trick to understanding and embracing your purpose. It could change from day to day, but remembering that sometimes people need you more than you need them on a given day could really make all the difference. Details matter, so pay attention. Sometimes I wake up ready to conquer the world, and other days I wake up and sit in my bed texting Cierra until 15 minutes before I have to leave for work. It happens. You are allowed to be happy, powerful, sad, angry, etc. Embrace the face, embrace the phase.

I thought I’d have my life figured out by now, especially thinking about an 18-year-old Anna and what my plans were. Now I just laugh and think “YOU’RE JOKING.” I wish I had things figured out, but then it wouldn’t be as fun wondering what the day-week-month will bring along. Being stuck in rut, that’s temporary. But it’s only temporary if you choose to treat each day as a new beginning. We get one shot at life, and you are no younger today than you were yesterday. Oh yes, let that one sick in– you’re getting old, what are you gonna do about? Mope around? NAAAHHH.

You want to be the change you see in the world?… then BE IT. Stop crying about the boy/girl that won’t text you back and get out there and do something. Be somebody. Find your purpose.

I started this blog a few days ago when I was in a really crumby place. To be perfectly honest, I still am, but half the battle is choosing to fight back and putting your trust and confidence in the people who will keep you from falling. The other half is coming to terms with the fact that life WILL throw you curveballs and you just have to be ready for them (BATTER UPP).

Want some advice? Here it is, per usual:

1. DO NOT CHASE PEOPLE WHO WON’T RUN WITH YOU OR PICK YOU UP WHEN YOU TRIP AND FALL.

2. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO BE EMOTIONAL. TALK IT OUT, HUG IT OUT, KEEP IT MOVING.

3. YOUR MOTHER HAS MOST OF THE ANSWERS TO YOUR UNANSWERABLE QUESTIONS. AND IF SHE DOESN’T, ASK HER TO MAKE YOU FOOD. FOOD ALWAYS HELPS.

4. IF YOUR MOM ISN’T AROUND, EAT CHIPOTLE. AND GET THE GUAC.

5. EXPLORE YOUR INTERESTS, WEIGH YOUR OPTIONS. YOU NEVER WANT TO WONDER ‘WHAT IF’

6. YOUR BEST FRIEND(S) WILL NOT JUDGE YOU. TALK TO THEM, CRY TO THEM.

7. NEVER SKIP YOUR MORNING COFFEE. IT JUST SETS A BAD TONE FOR THE DAY. JAVA FOR THE SOUL, EVERYDAY.

8. ALSO, DRINK WINE. IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR HEART AND YOUR MIND AND YOUR LIFE (21+ THOUGH. MY YOUNG BUCKS, HAVE A MILKSHAKE)

9. THE SUN DOES NOT RISE AND SET BY YOU, SO TREAT PEOPLE KINDLY. WE ALL DESERVE RESPECT AS HUMANS.

10. DO YOU, BOO. I MEAN THAT. YOU COULD BE BROKE AND EATING RAMEN NOODLES, BUT AS LONG AS YOU’RE MAKING WISE DECISIONS AND DOING WHAT YOU LOVE, NOTHING ELSE REALLY MATTERS.

Pray for one another. Pray for me. Pray for the world. We could all use a little prayer every once in a while. Keep the faith, remain humble and be kind.

Here’s to hoping we all find our purpose, whether it’s for ‘right now’ and forever. Keep ya head up!

xo.

Es La Vida (That’s Life)

I wanted to give myself a couple days to process this last week and transition back into work (still struggling), but I have to share and express a few things before they leave me and my tired mind.

Let’s start with Miss America week.

I could go on for days, weeks, months about how proud I am, but I’ll try to keep it short. Miss America week was so unbelievably exhausting because I actually felt like I was going through it. To see someone’s resilience, patience, strength and charisma remain prevalent and consistent at all hours of the day is honestly just unreal. I witnessed firsthand what it means to be a state titleholder and let me tell you.. it’s no easy task.

For those who took the time to ride the negative train and tried to put Ci down with hurtful words, shame on you. I would be lying if I said I didn’t see or hear what was being said about my best friend, both good and bad. It truly hurt my soul to think there are people out there who would take the time and energy to place negativity in the air and be so distasteful in sharing their thoughts and opinions. Until you walk in her shoes or ANY of the girls’ shoes, you cannot place judgement or hate. Actually, you should never place judgement or hate upon women who work tirelessly to be a positive staple in their community. Being a titleholder, at any level, is a job, a blessing and a gift. Those roles comes with a lot of hard work, servitude, kindness, care and responsibility. Day in and day out, women in this organization live and breathe their platform, their talent and their gift to be a communicator and advocate– contributing to the betterment of society and empowering others to do the same. That should be APPLAUDED, never scrutinized.

No one knows or understands the amount of time and effort that goes into Miss America week. There are endless fittings, mock interviews, designing, practicing, more fittings, traveling to every end of the state, oh and that cool little thing called trying to keep your sanity and be around your family, friends and significant other (if any). Being around some of the girls and getting to talk to them left me with this everlasting impression that these women are REAL and GENUINE and all share the same dream of making a difference-but there can only be one Miss America.

I had to opportunity to get to know Kira over the last year or so through a few run-ins and being connected through mutual friends (Facebook does wonders for the pageant world). Her story is impactful, her smile is infectious, her down-to-earth demeanor is admirable and her resume-academic and professional-speaks for itself. TIME Magazine put it plain and simple: “These women were reduced, by the very people who oppose the objectification of women.” I encourage you to think before you speak or tweet. As a woman, as a contestant, as a friend… your words are seen and heard. We are all human beings deserving of the same respect. Verbalizing hate against someone you don’t know not only defines your character, but defeats the very purpose of what the organization and this country stands for. How do you expect someone to flourish or build confidence when you are constantly putting them down? Kudos to Kira for owning every aspect of her life and keeping it real. I look forward to following her year because I KNOW she’ll be great.

These are some of the wonderful people I’ve met as a result of being a part of the Miss America Organization. #blessed

Cierra.

I don’t think anything will ever replace the emotion(s) I felt watching you light up that stage over the week. Your attitude going into the journey, after coming back from a 10-day trip to India and working orientation for Douglass at Rutgers on top of a MILLION other things was so positive and so uplifting. AND GIRLFRIEND YOU CAN DANCE!!! I sat in AWE, trying to absorb the fact that you were dancing on the Miss America stage to my track. How flipping cool is that?!

Not to mention the fact that you were named Top 10 Best swimsuits bodies at Miss America (to which her reaction was “Anna. I’m dead. I’M SEXY!”hahaha.) Werk, honey.

CiCi, crazy girl is always proud of you. Like I said before…

To say this dream has been lived is an accomplishment in and of itself. You aren’t just my best friend, you’re my family. I feel ever so thankful to have witnessed this come to fruition, especially after the last 3 months, and hell– the last four years. If there is ever a moment when you feel intimidated or doubtful, know that you have inspired and moved the lives of SO many people by telling your story and simply being you. “Only when a woman ceases the fretful struggle to be beautiful can she turn her gaze outward, find the beautiful and feed upon it.” I found that quote while reading and thought it fit today perfectly. You have thrived off of the notion that your life should be dedicated to bettering the lives of others, and in turn bettering yourself. Telling you that you’re beautiful isn’t anything out of the ordinary, so I will remind you instead. “Embrace the face” whatever it may be. Happy, sad, passionate, excited. Your emotions are felt by everyone in your presence. You once told me that this is a dream in the making, just as you are. Whether that dream is becoming Miss America, getting a law degree, working for the Department of Education or being a football wife and mom, you will always be someone who grows and flourishes through her accomplishments. There may be a Top 16, Top 10, Top 8 or Top 5– but always remember that you ARE the top and no placement should ever define or determine your place in life. You have lived with quality standards and morals. I feel so much pride reading your articles and watching you interview because it’s nice to know that women of quality still exist in this world, despite the flaws of society. You have battled through adversity, some of which has been made vocal and some that remains in your heart. You are strong. You are driven. You are passionate. You are beautiful. You are intelligent. You are relevant. You are relatable. You are funny. You are articulate. You are gracious. You are humble. You ARE a Miss America in the eyes of many, no matter what.

I’m just happy to have my best friend and partner-in-crime back. Here’s to the roadtrips, GREs, grad school applications, Jose Tejas trips etc. that lie ahead. Love you foreva, CKJ.

MY LIFE.

Oh yes, I have one of those! I have a job, guys! I have been working as a PR Associate for All-American Games for about two weeks and I love it. I will be working on all things marketing/public relations for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. Check it out! http://www.usarmyallamericanbowl.com/

I’ve also converted to a Rutgers fan (JUST Football.. Go SHU!) and am now trying to understand football. After the Show Me Your Shoes Parade, I sped up to New Brunswick to catch the second half of the Rutgers-Penn State game with Cierra’s (and mine, she shares) Dad. It was really great until they lost, but we won’t go there.

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In the last two weeks, I’ve also relocated to Long Valley as the Rizzuto’s have graciously welcomed me into their home so I could take the position I was offered with AAG while I save and search for an apartment (MOVING IS EXPENSIVE). I am beyond grateful for their hospitality & kindness and am thrilled to add more members to my extended family 🙂

After a very productive meeting with Bill Elliot of the HERO Campaign, I am proud and excited to announce that I have been named an Official Spokesperson for the organization. This has been a goal of mine for many years, so to see it through is a really big deal for me. I am looking forward to increasing my involvement and bringing awareness to the dangers of drunk driving. If you would like to join in my efforts, please consider registering to be on my team for the HERO Walk October 5th on the Ocean City Boardwalk. It is a wonderful event that raises funds for educational programs and materials that are used during presentations and events across the state. Join here: http://herocampaign.donordrive.com/team/5383

My friend and role model since I was four years old (I’m not kidding) & very first Miss New Jersey Roommate got married and I sang at her wedding. Casual. She looked so beautiful and the wedding was SO much fun. Love still exists out there, for everyone. I promise. It is a beautiful thing to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Hopefully I find that love, but UNTIL THEN I’m glad I was able to witness such a beautiful union. Yay for Kate and George!

I also had the opportunity to judge tryouts for the 2014-2015 Seton Hall Sapphires! Congratulations to the 13 ladies that were selected and I look forward to watching your performances during the season!

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I cut all my hair off and did ombre for the fall (thank you Lyssie!).

I’m feeling more and more like myself each and everyday and that’s all I can be grateful for. Life throws you curveballs & presents adversity and you just have to deal with it. I’m glad I am able to grow through every experience, making strides to be the woman I want to be.

I think that may be it. Whirlwind, I know. I’m looking forward to the next couple of months. I’m a sucker for a good pumpkin spice latte, fall weather, boots, oversized sweaters and football and basketball games. OH, and going to Brooklyn for the 30th Anniversary party for Def Jam. See you soon DMX, Rick Ross, Ja Rule, Jhene Aiko and friends. Hip-hop til I drop.

I’ll be singing the National Anthem at the FIRST Preseason game for the New York Knicks v. the Toronto Raptors October 13th (holla atcha giiirll). I almost fell to the floor when I got the request, but I’m SO PUMPED. I love the Knicks, I love MSG. (I also have a huge crush on Tim Hardaway Jr. but we won’t go there right now). *insert heart eye emoji*

As always, thank you for reading. I hope I can provide entertainment and hope to everyone who reads this. My life is a crazy one that sometimes….err all the time, leaves me sleepless and tired and wanting ice cream. But it’s my life to live and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I love a closing, so here it is.

It’s okay to be your own person. It’s okay to promote change. Whoever you are, BE IT. Do you. Unapologetically. The beauty of being your own person is living comfortably in your skin, but never being afraid to take risks. Have fun, explore, be happy.

Til Next Time!

xo.

Just ‘be’

Be a Person.

Sounds simple, right? We wake up, go to work or school, hang out with friends, spend time with family, sleep, eat, breathe, etc. Functions of a human being. But what does it really mean to BE a person?

It’s important to be somebody, whether it’s for yourself or for others. You have to be: Be present, be alive, be happy, be a functioning human being.

We are always learning the art of being a person. Different people present different perspectives and opinions on things, giving us the opportunity to form perspectives and opinions of our own. Each day brings news, laughter, fears and growth. I’ve always been one to keep an open mind on everything, because you never know the silent battles people are fighting every day or how they live their life. The ultimate goal is to always be understanding and receptive. You make the choice to be accepting of certain things and people, but you must always be receptive and respectful.

Each person, each experience, each moment is a gift or a curse, a blessing or a lesson, good or bad. All of that depends on our approach. This crazy idea of open communication and conversation is far and beyond for some of you, and for that I feel sorry for you. You live to be a closed book with a lock and no key and you will look back wondering ‘what would have been’ if you had just opened up just a little bit. We can’t fight for people’s attention. That’s just absurd. I fall to a level of guilt in not always sticking to my plans, but I am always, ALWAYS about my word. It’s such a daunting task nowadays to be honest and straightforward. People would much rather retweet something or subtweet someone with the hopes that they’ll ‘get the hint’ (Yes, that’s a thing. I don’t understand it either). Newsflash: The tweets and Facebook statuses and Instagram filters you hide behind aren’t the words you SPEAK, the facial expressions you MAKE or the emotions you FEEL. The physicality (technologicality?) of that is thin–thinner than cappellini. You see, I appreciate the art of communication, because I believe wholeheartedly that the conversations you share and the in-person exchanges you make are the most valuable experiences to be had. When you live to be ‘figured out,’ you set yourself up for a lifetime of headaches and loneliness. I hang onto the words of many, because I like to believe that those words are thought and said with sincerity as they roll of your tongue. So do not tell me one thing when you mean another. There’s a level of insensitivity I’ve dealt with over that last couple of weeks (no fault but my own), but regardless of what may occur—I need everyone to understand that respect is at the forefront and as a PERSON you are deserving of that, if nothing else. Too often we place our own tendencies in front of our awareness for others and forget that, while YOU may not care, other people do. Being bitter and unthoughtful is ugly. Where’s the love? I need the love.

Be present.

This does not mean scroll through your twitter timeline as you attempt to remove yourself from an awkward situation (It happens sometimes, I promise. If someone is ignoring you when they shouldn’t be and you know ZERO people around you, scroll away my friend). However, the beauty of being a person of character is knowing when to speak, how to speak and when to listen. Take in the world around you. Walk around aimlessly if you have to, but embrace the people and the environment you’re in and take good mental pictures. Change is constant.

Be alive.

Complacency, contention, settling for mediocrity… none of those coincide with being alive. In order to get what you want, what you dream, what you deserve, you have to be willing to take some risks. In moments where you are unsure of the next step and your heart is racing as your mind is wandering, know that those are the feelings of a person who is very much alive. You have to FEEL the moments or you might as well be dead.

Be happy.

You derive your happiness from yourself. I mean that. No one is going to wake you up and tell you to be happy (unless you still live with momma, in which case you should just hug her and say thank you bc moms really are angels on Earth). You dictate the happiness you feel. No person, no situation could ever influence the happiness within your heart so long as you continue to tell yourself that sometimes it’s okay to fall, it’s okay to have fears and it’s okay to be angry/sad. All of that is temporary. Until that day you find someone who provides the balance, the love, the commitment and additional happiness you’ve always deserved and desired. Then you can rely on that person, because that’s what it’s all about, right!? Until then, you really only have yourself.

My last tidbit…. I tweeted this earlier in the week and it’s seriously the most fitting thing I’ve said for my own life and some of my friends. History has a way of repeating itself when you don’t leave the people from your past where they belong. You put yourself in a similar situation and you are bound to experience the same deceit, heartbreak, dishonesty and games you experienced a week/month/year ago. Everything happens for a reason and unless someone is coming back and approaching you properly (see what I did there), you need to run faster than Kanye did when grabbing the mic from Taylor Swift at the VMAs. The people in your past are there as reminders of what you didn’t want, what you didn’t have and what you rightfully deserve as a functioning human being.

And here… if someone gives you a second chance after you’ve screwed them over or toyed with their emotions, don’t be stupid. Seriously. Consider it to be good karma working in your favor and work to BE AND DO BETTER. Otherwise, god bless and goodbye.

Sometimes we just have to BE, and that’s okay. You are a person, you are important. Be a person. Be alive; be happy; be present and you will be what you are working to become.