Girl, Bye

You know the feeling you get when you think everyone is talking about you?

Sometimes, they just are.

Welcome to being a Miss State.

People will talk about you behind your back, on the internet, and right to your face. People will criticize what you wear, how your hair looks, and how you do your makeup. They will talk about your talent. They will talk about your interview. They will talk about your smile. They will talk about your body. And 9 times out of 10, they've never even met you.

But worse than that, that means sometimes, they have.

Often the same people that will actively spend hours of their own lives finding ways to critique you while you're giving a year of your life to serve your state, actually know you quite well.

That is rotten.

And that is the job, right?

They tell you when you start out in this pageant-world, don't listen to the haters. You've got to do your own thing. Run your own race. Block out the people that want to talk about you. Know your own worth. If they are talking about you it is because they're jealous. Don't worry about the strangers on the internet.

That is all true, 100%.

You absolutely have to come into a job like this with an open mind, and a steel trap around your self-esteem. Your first night on the job there will be people in the audience critiquing your every move. Especially if you weren't "their" girl. Move on, block them out. And understand from night one that people begin to think that you are an object, not a person.

Because when you get this job, people start to believe they get have a right to you. You're a "public figure" now. Which, to some people, means that you are subject to any and all public scrutiny, regardless of the fact that you may be a normal human being who doesn't love that. When you get this job, you get a stamp across your forehead that says, say anything to me and pretend like your momma never taught you manners or basic humility. 

This will happen, this notion that you are present only to take on useless criticism, often.

But that's not the job. That's rotten, and does not need to be a prerequisite for being a Miss State.

Sure, plenty of people that you meet during your year will say things that make you go, seriously?! But the people that know you, the people that are supposed to support you, the people that are telling you they are on your team do not need to be those people. Anybody that has the gall to pick at how you dress, how you look at all, how you speak, or who you are as a person, needs to go.

It's that simple.

Listen, have you met Rodney? No? Well, they need to be cut out of your bubble.

It took me six months of this job for me to turn around and wave buh-bye to people that clearly didn't have the right intentions in their hearts when they acted like they were supporting me. It took me six months to see that some people will always be critical, or jealous, or just mean. It took me six months to see that the people are still genuinely supporting me on this crazy endeavor are the only ones I want there.

And look, I know about trolls. Sure, the internet can suck. And no, I don't recommend looking to see what people have said about you online. Because for every kind comment there are 6 nasty ones. But the internet is not my problem.

After all, I had already been prepared to not listen to the haters, to run my own race, to know my own worth. I came into this truly believing that strangers on the internet had nothing on me.

They still don't.

But now, neither do the people in my life, that say things out loud, that are downright shameful.

But You Ain't Seen It Shine

I used to have this really crippling fear that my life was never going to look the way I wanted it to, and that I'd always have these big dreams that weren't coming true.

Slowly I started to prove myself right. Around the time I graduated high school was the first time I really panicked that everything was very quickly, and very obviously not going as planned. I clearly remember driving home one night, just before I left for college, and thinking, Oh my gosh. I'm never going to be happy like that. That is never going to happen  for me. 

It was crippling. It was so damning to hear myself realize that some things were never going to happen for me and that was just going to be how it was. End of story.

This continued, here and there through my time in college. And finally my senior year, you might remember, I had some pretty literal come-to-Jesus discussions with myself. Well, it finally occurred to me that if things weren't going to happen for me, and I wasn't going to fall in love with so and so, and I wasn't going to instantly move somewhere, or get a certain dream job - that I was going to be just fine.

See it took oh, let's go with five whole years, of periodic sheer panic at the changes in my life for me to realize that those were the best changes that I could have never predicted. That no matter how set on it I had been, no matter how sure I was, no matter desperate I was, that these little things would prove to be true - I was wrong. 

Falling in love with my childhood crush? I would have never even recognized the accomplishments I have under my belt today.

Taking that internship in Orlando? I would have regretted leaving so many important things behind, in an effort to chase something that might have damaged me.

Not taking a year to live quietly in Montpelier after school? I would have been dead broke and wildly unhappy.

And here I am today, repeatedly stunned at the turns my life has taken. I'm constantly surprising myself when I say things like: I live in Burlington. I'm Miss Vermont. I'm a wedding planner. I ran a half marathon. I've been to Miss America. I'm happy with this weird chaotic version of a life I imagined.

So, recently, as I have been catching myself saying, Uh oh, this isn't going like I thought it was supposed to, I've been forced to remind myself...well, that is the plan.

In the last few months especially it has been important for me to recognize that, every time I feel even a centimeter of panic about the changes and the shifts in my life. Down the road, maybe a day, maybe a month, or three years, when I realize I am downright blessed by the sheer magnitude that shift, I always look back at those single moments of panic and think, see? See, it takes only a second of life feeling so royally effed up to generate a freakin colossal onslaught of happiness.

That patience though, to wait for the colossal onslaught of happiness? Well, we know how I do with patience. And we also know I'm quite good at taking a centimeter of panic and letting it turn in to a mile of misery. So it's been...a lesson, recently. It has been a bit of a test, you know, to see if I can keep from making myself crazy as I wait for the little problems, the big annoyances, and the scary things that weigh on my heart, to pass into something great.

The cool thing is, I can see it now. It's not as downright terrifying as it used to be. It used to feel like everything was passing me by. It used to feel like every amazing thing that came my way, was promptly ripped right out of my hands.

Now, I can't say that changes aren't ever scary. I definitely still sometimes feel like I was meant for things that I don't get. And yes, things have exited my life when I was so not ready. But now, at least know, it serves a purpose.

I know if I can wait it out, the good stuff comes.

And you guys, I know I've been quiet, and I know things have clearly been a little harder lately...but the good stuff? It's real. As hard as these few...weeks, have been. As rough as some things are...the good stuff is so real.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

This is me saying that some things have been really hard recently.

Not everything, not even mostly everything.

But a lot of things have left me struggling bit in the last week. I think part of it is exhaustion. I know some of it is fear. Plenty of it is confusion. Any way you slice it though it includes one panic attack, quite a few tears, and not enough long mornings in bed.

And I'm saying this not for sympathy, but because I think many people would be surprised to hear that this is this hard. Particularly because so many good things are happening. Particularly because it (hopefully) doesn't look like that is the case. Particularly because I promised we would talk about this. I promised I would make my voice heard on this one.

Because this is important. It's important to say that not every day is the end of the world, and not every day is easy. Even the days with good food, and some laughs, and plenty of water, and almost enough sleep...even those days are not great sometimes.

That's okay.

Remember, that is okay.

But I'm saying it here. Because some days hurt, and that's okay. Because I'm still going to go to an appearance and enjoy myself in live entirely in those moments, and that's okay. Because I'm still going to acknowledge this, and work with it. Continuing through each day with a smile that takes effort isn't ignoring it. It's living with it. It's learning that hard days make good day brighter. It's asking for help when you don't feel like it. It's sending the text that says, I know this is stupid but I need to freak out about this for a few minutes. It's not wearing makeup to work, because heck yes extra sleep. It's saying out loud that this is not what broken looks like. This is just what I look like. This is just what my brain and my heart have gotten together to create.

That's okay.

I don't feel guilty about taking care of myself.

I don't feel guilty about saying that some parts of my life are really hard right now.

I don't feel guilty about this life being messy, and full.

But I sure as hell would feel guilty if I kept quiet about this struggle when I know that saying something has the potential to help someone. 

More Practice, Less Perfect

I don't know if it's a me thing, or an everyone thing. But I would say around the time that I was in high school I started to realize that there was a distinct difference between who you are in "public" and who you are "at home." You know, you don't burp at the lunch table. But you would totally burp in your kitchen at home.

Wait, that one is definitely a me thing. Sorry.

Anyways you get it, right? That moment when you actually understand what it means to focus on your authenticity. That moment when you realize that you get to present exactly who you are to people around you. Or you get to decide not to.

I think somewhere in my first year of high school is when I realized that I could taper my own authentic self. I figured out that I could be the weirdo that loved Disney, and sang off-tune, and really could not kick a soccer ball to save her life. Or I could be the girl that was likable, and not too annoying, and still not too pretty - but slightly funny, and quiet when necessary.

Luckily for all of you, I gave that up somewhere in the end of high school, and dove head first into being this authentic balls to the wall weirdo day in and day out.

In doing that, I do still try to be a lot of things. I try to be kind, humble, compassionate, forgiving...but I still am doing it while being wholly me. And it has been interesting, really in the last six months, how people respond to that. You know, not everyone will support you being authentically super weird. Not everyone will get it.

Actually, heads up, a lot of people will just shoot you dirty looks. It's cool, smile back.

But I think what I've found most important is that while you're out there singing Disney songs, and taking a strong stance on pineapple on pizza, and being really sure that leggings are your most flattering piece of've gotta remember, there is nothing to be gained from being anything less than everything that you already are.

Right? You don't become someone stronger, or kinder, or more capable because you've pushed parts of yourself to the wayside. You don't become someone who supports the individual weirdness of others, by not letting your weirdo banner hang high.

I look at this way, I am a living breathing testament of the power of working hard, and honestly trying so hard not to give up, and not always being patient, but trying so hard to follow His plan for my life.

My life is just one long example of putting faith over fear, going to bed saying forgive me, and waking every morning to renewed grace. That's it. That's what I've got on my side when it comes to living my whole life as And if that is what keeps my head above the water, and my little lifeboat from capsizing, well that's not enough for me to justify thinking that my authenticity is any less weird than someone else's.

You dig tuna salad? Watch horror movies? Mess with numbers for a living? Wear corduroy? Man, more power to you. That is so not my shade of weird. If that's you, living your best, authentic, life. I say, go for it. Let me stand back and you ride that motorcycle.

I think that's also probably why it's been hard for me to keep reminding myself that it's okay if other people aren't riding this train. Because I just don't care. So long as your weirdness isn't also, I don't know, racist/sexist/homophobic/xenophobic or otherwise just hateful for no purpose - girl, you do you. Right?

Right. Usually. And yes, to some degree it's a consequence of the job I have, that people will look at me, scrutinize me, and attempt to decide if how I live my life measures up to how they think I ought to be living. But just as the input of others doesn't sustain me, it doesn't destroy me either. As hard as it can be. As rude as it can be. As ridiculous as it can be, to hear other people attempt to sway you.

Well, above all of that comes this really outrageous bout of peace and fulfillment, when you recognize how your pursuit of this authenticity will so perfectly lend your heart to kindness, compassion, humility, and downright happiness.

Look, it's not easy. It's not easy to just put all of what you are out there and say, accept it, or don't. I think every day I keep some weirdness in, because it's scary. But I think that if you can give yourself some room to be uncomfortable, at least for a little while, you'll really learn to love what it's like to know you aren't hiding the parts that make you whole.

Miss America: Light The World Up, For Just One Day

Unsurprisingly a lot people have been asking about my Miss America experience. They want know how it felt, what the other girls were like, if it was fun, if I'm tired, and how I feel about not winning. 

If you aren't one of those people, probably best to peace out now, 'cause this isn't going in a different direction.

So here's the deal, Miss America is hard work. You think you know that going in to it. After all, you've been preparing for this single opportunity for years. For some girls, it was for the better part of their lifetime. All that prep, all that time in the gym, all the mock interviews, all the walking practice, all the talent rehearsals...they all come down to two weeks of your life. And in a span of 10 minutes, you find out if one of the biggest dreams you've ever had is about to play out in front of your eyes. Or if you'll watch it happen for someone else from five feet away.

That is the reality.

All of that build up? Well it plays out for a whole week beforehand. You rehearse your heart out. You study your paperwork. You bounce mock interview questions off of each other. You do your best to actually sleep. You eat more green salad in 10 days than you ever did in the last 10 years. And the whole time you're doing it, you're "on." 

You are camera ready. You are smiling. You are excited to be at Miss America. You are exceptionally kind, and gracious, and accommodating. You do it all while being tired. While thinking about the fact that this is the longest and largest job interview you have ever been part of. While having the weight of other people's expectations sitting squarely on your shoulders. 

That is the reality.

Miss America is hard work from the moment you board that plane in August, to the moment you fall in to bed at 3 A.M. after show night.

But I think the biggest thing that I've been telling people since I have been home is Miss America is hard. Personally, that is a way for me to be honest about what being at Miss America did to and for me. Being in that environment for longer than those two weeks would have been awful for me. It was stressful and exhausting. But being there for those two weeks was extremely character building. It forced me to really consider who was in my bubble. It allowed me to really push out of my own comfort zone, constantly. It gave me the opportunity to perform on one of the biggest stages in the country.

It also forced me to listen to, watch, and read about, other people vehemently critize me. Some of the same people that were supposed to be supporting me. It opened my eyes to who truly wants the best for me. It showed me that the girls from around this country that were there with me are the only people who know how hard this job is. 

And I'm so thankful that I was able to gleam nearly all of that before I even made it to finals night. Otherwise I truly believe that night would have been so painful for me.

It is also wonderful, and magical, and you laugh a lot, and you truly meet people that change your whole world. Your sisters make you better. The difficulty of the whole process makes you better. You spend every hard second of that journey reminding yourself that you are at Miss America. 

Let me stop right there and say this - not making it into the top 15 is incredibly difficult. It's heartbreaking. I worked just as hard as the 51 girls that stood on that stage with me. I had just as much skin in the game. I had my whole heart laying out there for the judges every night too. 

I also didn't have history on my side. Miss Vermont has never made it into the top 15. I also have a "nontraditional" talent. I also was up against the literal best of the best. So lucky for me I did have a rational head about the whole thing. But also had my hopes up. I also believe the very best about myself. I also 100% thought I that I had a chance to be the last one standing.

Now, that is all just to say, not hearing your name is damn hard. But luckily, you just witnessed 15 of your best girls get called. And each of them just had part of their biggest dream play out right in front of you. And you got to stand there and lose your dang mind with glee as it happened.

That softens the blow. A lot. Because seconds later you get to sit right there, closer than their moms, dads, boyfriends, boards, and coaches, and scream your head off cheering for them. Right as they are doing the thing you have watched them dream for, for the last two weeks. 


What do I have to say about how it felt, and if it was fun, and how I feel about not winning?

I think that competing at Miss America is hands down one of the hardest things - mentally, physically, and emotionally - that I have ever done. And trust me, I have done a lot of hard things. Like run a 10K willy nilly, and then sign up for half marathon a week later.  I think this experience truly forces you to decide who you are under that kind of pressure. I could chalk up "not winning" to being embarrassing. I could be pissed that I tried so hard and "got nothing." Or I could remember that not winning means nothing when you still get to say - for the rest of your life - I competed at Miss America. And that trying that hard, for that long, is amazing, admirable, and it feels fricken great. 

To top it all off, I watched Savvy - a deserving, kind, good-hearted girl - win the job of a lifetime.

And yes, the sisters. The sisters make the whole experience everything and more. They made it fun. They made it exciting. They made it endurable. They made me laugh. And I still get to say, hey girl to someone in every single state.

Here's the thing, when you leave Miss America you've just spent two whirlwind weeks trying to run 
for your life in the coolest marathon ever. When you leave, it's a complete blur. When you leave, you don't know if you need to sleep for six years, or eat carbs for three weeks straight, or cry, or laugh. When you leave, it is still hard to put in to words that you just literally had your dream come true.

But when you're home, surrounded by your people again, slightly more well-rested, and staring at pictures that leave you feeling like it was both yesterday and a lifetime ago - that's when you remember, that was Miss America. That was me, at Miss America. And regardless of anything, that is the best feeling in the world.

Wait For It

Let's switch gears real quick. Not that you aren't loving this pageanty saturation though, right? 

So, a fun thing happens when you get 52 girls together, somehow you all so easily end up talking about your love lives. Still hate that term. The girls that are in mushy, adorable, totally-gonna-get-married, true-love-does-exist kind of relationships tell you all about how much they love their guy. The girls that are doing that "fun" dating thing tell you all their best stories. The girls that just dumped a dude that so deserved it tell you why.

That environment, while hilarious and awesome, is just basically asking to be the catalyst that makes you reevaluate whatever relationship situation you might be in.

Should I be dating again?
Probably, but dating is like 68% awful.

Should I just wait and see what happens in 8 months from now?
Maybe, but then you could miss something really great.

But what if I don't wait for this magical job to be over, and then...
...And then you ruin everything because dating can be chaotically awful?

Yes. That. 

The reality is I have no idea what I'm doing. Clearly. And maybe even though it is the hardest, and lamest thing to do, I just have to constantly wait and see. 

Right? Isn't that what we all keep coming back to? You just have to wait and see. Because you can get on tinder and swipe right until your thumb falls off, but that doesn't mean you'll find someone you're supposed to be with. And you could go to a different bar seven nights a week, but that doesn't mean that you'll find someone that really values how bizarre and amazing you are. And heck, let's tack on the idea of meeting someone randomly, or at work, or in the gym. Because you could force awkward small talk on 45 guys a day, and that still doesn't mean you'll find someone who also thinks that pizza should be eaten at every meal.

And, let's just cap it off right here and say... as many times as I have done any of those things - I won't say all those things, because the idea that I would talk to someone at the gym is laughable to literally everyone in the world. Anyways. As many times as I have tried any of those things - so far - they have all resulted in a guy that, in the end, just is so wrong.

Yes, I know, I know - but it's so hard to tell! It is. Usually. Sometimes. I don't know, who are we kidding I wear Asshole Blinders basically every day. But here's what I do know: if you're keeping your heart open enough to try to find someone that you genuinely want to be with, and you want all that mushy adorable stuff with, and you want to find someone that'll be the person you'll date forever...well, it comes down to finding someone who is sure of you, doesn't it?

Because it really is that easy, if you aren't certain about me, I'm certain this isn't going to work.

I know what I've got to offer. I know it is good, and valuable, and usually really fun. If you don't see that - or worse - if you do and you still can't be sure about me, I can't be with you. I can't be in that relationship with you, romantic, or otherwise.

I spent plenty of years being uncertain about me. I was unsure if I was pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, funny enough, cool enough, happy enough. I have been there. I don't need you to take me there again. And if you're still there, I get it. And in fairness, I guess you can be uncertain about you and still be certain of me, but I have yet to see it happen. If you're still there - we can't do this.

Because it boils down to something so easy: I deserve more than that. I deserve someone who knows they want to be with me. I deserve someone who doesn't just know it, but acts like it. I deserve someone who treats me with respect, and holds me to a higher standard than someone you can text at midnight. I know that about myself, I'm certain.

And to find find even someone with 80% of that, I still think you just need to wait and see. I still think that when you put yourself out there on a search for the greatest love ever, you're setting yourself up for failure. Because, yes, as someone who admittedly has often, and aggressively, worn blinders, if you're constantly looking for something specific, you are often willing to let too much go in the name of finding that.

I won't lie and say that hearing a handful of girls, who are madly in love, talk about their guys with hearts in their eyes didn't make me envious. Of course it did. But it also gives so much perspective. It will set you up to see how happy you can be, how happy you deserve to be. It gives you a little hope that the right circumstances do exist. It reinforces every pep talk you've given yourself to not text him back, or to walk away, or to value what you are bringing to this party.

And if you're lucky, it fills your wait and see tank. It gives you that push to say, yeah, not settling is still working really well for me. Even if that means you're still finishing large pizzas by yourself.

The Season Continues

Before we really dive into what happens next, you know for me, as Miss Vermont, let's knock out the first five questions I have been getting for the last 8 days.

How are you, you must be so tired huh?

Exhausted is putting it lightly. I'm the best kind of deliriously tired. Yes, I ran flat out for three weeks (yes, I'm including the week before I left, 'cause duh.) Yes, those were late nights, early mornings, and long days. Yes, it was two weeks of being on all the time. No, I have no idea when I will have time to actually catch up on sleep. Yes, I would love that coffee.

Was it amazing? I'm sure you had so much fun!

It was absolutely amazing, and loads of fun. And no, I cannot break down how magical every day of it was for you because I literally have no perception of how time worked while I was there. I don't remember on which day we went where, or visited what. But yes, so amazing.

Are you happy with the winner?

How could I not be? I got to watch Savvy's dream come true last Sunday. What the judges saw in her, and what America gets to see in her now, I so get it. She is already an outstanding Miss America. 

How do you feel, are you disappointed? 

Uh, we'll get there. But in short yes, and no.

Okay, but what happens next, right? The quick answer is that I get to keep having the best job ever. I'll still be Miss Vermont. I'll still be going to appearances, and traveling the state, and talking to people about my platform. Psst, book me, seriously if you know of something cool that's happening, tell me. I definitely want to come.  And yes, I'll also still work at The Hotel, and Pure Barre. 

So, nope, my plate is not getting any less full any time soon. That was the plan though. From the beginning, I knew I wanted a full and purposeful year as Miss Vermont. Coming home is just a confirmation that that is what I am supposed to be doing. 

In some regard things will get easier now, as I am not technically in prep anymore. Sure, I still plan 
on finding time for the gym as often as I can. And yes, I might entertain the idea of a social life now. But the truth is, I'm still planning on being the best dang Miss Vermont I can possibly be. And yeah, that means my life isn't going back to "normal" just quite yet. That is so okay.

Like I've said a hundred million times since May 27th, I just need to say it again, thank you everyone.

Thank you for cheering me on. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for checking-in on me. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for being on my team. Thank you for making the job of Miss Vermont so enjoyable, so cherish-able, and so doable.