The Beginning of The End

A month from now, someone is going to be getting ready to be given the job of a lifetime. A month from now, the first girl of the Miss America class of 2017 will be crowned. A month from now, will be my last day as Miss Vermont.

That's it, there is only a month left.

Eventually you'll see my farewell video - but in it I say, "in some ways, it barely feels like a year, in other ways it feels like all six [years] have just happened."

Honestly, that is so true. Some days I wake up and I feel like I have been Miss Vermont for hundreds of days. Other days, I feel like I just got here.

Sometimes I feel like this has been the busiest year of my life. And sometimes I feel like I cannot possibly squeeze enough into the next four weeks.

Obviously, I'm kind of in a dichotomy of emotions at all times right now.

So, not much to my surprise, as soon as someone hears that I'm almost done, I get a handful of questions. Usually people are surprised I'm almost done - true, summer pageants are more common. But in some regard that goes back to the fact that every day that I am out there and on the road, I am going somewhere I have never been. Still I am meeting new people, and having new experiences.

Anyways. I have been thinking about these answers a lot - especially given that I am so torn with this weird final window of time...

Is it hard to believe you're almost done? 

Mostly no, it has felt like almost a year. Some days it is hard to imagine that the last few weeks have flown by this quickly. But all in all, no, I believe it. It's been a wild and amazing year, but yes, a year.

Are you sad?

Kind of. 

I think most titleholders will say there is this bittersweetness that fills your last few weeks. In some ways, I'm ready to pass on the title. I'm ready to see someone else live this dream. I'm ready to show someone else how amazing this job is. 

In other ways, I'll miss it. I'll miss being able to take the time every single week to visit a new community in Vermont. I'll miss being able to walk into a room of kids, and know that they're going to hear a message from me about service. I'll miss the magical moments, the little things you don't expect, but at the end of an eighteen-hour day make you go, oh my God, this job is everything.

Do you have a favorite memory?

All of it. My favorite parts have been all of it.

Every person, every appearance, every chance to share what I do. From Florida to Maine, from Fenway to Magic Kingdom, from preschools to Project Independence. I have loved it all. I have loved every exhausting day, every long drive, every hour of sore toes. All of it.

What will you miss most?

Getting the chance to show someone - at every appearance - who Miss Vermont is, and what she stands for.

From the time I was crowned I kept in my mind at each event, that I may be the only Miss Vermont they ever meet. That every person that I see, speak to, hug, and take a photo with - I might be their only brush with the Miss America Organization. And knowing that, I truly made the effort to make every meeting, every photo, every hi, and every thank you as heartfelt and genuine as possible.

That instant connection, gratitude, and deliverance of the kindness that each Miss State has - I will miss sharing that as much as possible. Not that I won't be walking into situations without that mindset, but I will be walking in without the title.

What do you want in the next Miss Vermont?

Kindness. Commitment.

That's it. I want someone who loves Vermont so much that it spills out of her at every appearance. I want someone that genuinely cannot wait to meet as many Vermonters as possible - to hear their stories, to learn who they are. I want someone who knows that above all else - above the beauty, the hair, the clothes, the shoes, the sponsors, and the fanfare - that kindness is what she needs to have in order to be successful at this job. I want someone who knows that when that comes from a true place of service, from the deep down desire to serve others, it's the realest form of kindness out there.

And I want someone who is committed.

I want someone who knows, really knows, that this is job. A hard, challenging, constant, expensive, rewarding, amazing, one-of-a-kind job. That no matter how tired you are, or how sore, or how sad, or how...done you are - you still show up, and you still show up 100%.

Because she was picked for this. Because she is always going to be capable - regardless of the exhaustion. I want someone who expects all of that and still says, "I want that."

I want someone who's never going to back down from what she wants out of her year. I want someone who is committed to the program, to the service, to Vermont, to her platform, to making Vermont just a little bit better by sharing her story.

Finally, what's next? 

Pizza. Sleep. And no heels for three months, at least.

Honestly, more time in the gym, more time with friends, more dinners with family, more lazy weekends, more days in the sun, more hours writing, more relaxing. And still, meeting Vermonters, serving Vermonters (and Vermont couples whatwhat.) 

The beauty of this job is the crown opens doors, but they stay open as long as you are willing to keep asking if you can come in, and keep welcoming others through the threshold.

Please come, by the way, on April 21st. Please come support the next girl who will be in these shoes (maybe literally, if she's a 8.5/9.) Please come wave goodbye to this wild year with me.

Big Changes

Are we ready to talk about that huge life change that I had to hide from you guys for a while?

Yes? Good.

Okay, so I got a new job. And I've had this conversation a few times, but I'd like to explain how I got here.

First of all, it is a shift, it is not a lateral move at all. But it is a shift. And it was one that took me a lot of time to be okay with honestly.

Second of all, I always knew there was something else for me, outside of Montpelier. It's not that I don't love that whole town. It's not that I didn't want to be there. But my highest climb was not the job I was in. That was never my end-game.

Third of all, this time, it is about way more than the job.

So, ready to break it down?

It's not a lateral move...and I wasn't instantly on board.

Here's the thing, I got very lucky. I got very very lucky my senior year of college. Within a few months of being home in Montpelier, I was planning weddings. I spent all the time complaining about how my dream job wasn't falling into my lap, and there I was, planning weddings.

That was a really safe place to be. It was a safe place to plan weddings. It was a secure job. But it wasn't going to be the thing that kept that little fire in my planner's belly alive. Because - just to be really frank - I was never going to go anywhere. I was never going to be more than a wedding planner, in a small town, who's position would only change in terms of years logged.

Knowing that? I wasn't happy. I wasn't happy to wake up a realize that I was stalling my own dreams, my own career goals, because I was comfortable. Because I felt lucky.

And that's how I knew it was time to start looking. Like some of the craziest things in the last two years of my life, The New Job, fell square into my lap.

But The New Job, isn't just planning weddings. And yes, it's a bit out of my wheelhouse.

It is forcing me to learn, and grow, and ask questions daily. That is new. And that, I knew, was going to be a challenge. So yes, I was nervous.

Yes, I did not instantly apply. I did not instantly know if this was the right yes for me. I didn't know.

So I took a leap.

I looked at how I could grow there. I looked at how I could learn there. I looked at how even if this wasn't exactly the next move I had in my mind, it was still a move worth making.

And that takes me to number three, because this time, it's about way more than the job.

It's more than the title. It's more than the comfort.

Now, I'm in a community. Now, I'm in a new culture. I'm in a new place that opened it's arms and said, hey come on in, we have a chair for you right here.

And they know I'm learning. And they know I'm trying. And there's nothing that makes me feel like - despite all of that - I don't belong here. There is nothing that makes me feel less than while I'm at work. There is nothing that makes me feel like I am sacrificing what I want, or who I am, to be at work.

I can honestly say I closed my eyes and ran off the edge of the cliff at a few points in this journey.

And let me just say, so far, so worth it.

For The Kids

You might have heard, you know, in the last few years, that I have been raising money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospital in Vermont (the University of Vermont's Children's Hospital, literally, in my back yard.) 

And you might have let all the pleas for money run over your heard and out of your newsfeed, which I totally understand. Sometimes it feels like everyone is asking for money for something, right?

I get that. To some extent that's probably true. And that's probably how I've raised more than $5,000 for the children and families in Vermont since joining the Miss Vermont program. 

This year though has been different. This year, I get to work with the hospital, and with the families they serve to raise even more money.

Actually, to raise $314,667.16. With one gigantic, state-wide, community-driven fundraiser. 

And it all starts with coins. 

Seriously. Change, pocket change. The stuff you get after bag of Cheez Itz  and a bottle of water at the gas station. The change from grabbing some deodorant, and a box of K-cups at Wal-Mart. The change that you dig out of your pocket for the Boy Scouts who so politely greet you. 

It's just a whole bunch of change. Pounds and pounds of change. 

That add up to more than three. hundred. thousand. dollars.

Change that lets families who have to be in the Emergency Department, visit with doctors in a quiet, kid-friendly space. Change that gives the hospital the chance to fund the position of child life specialists. Change that makes sure there are fresh toys, art supplies, and home-like spaces in the hospital, year round. 

I cannot even explain how real the change is, because people give us their coins.

I can't even count how many people give their time and their energy to pool tournaments, bake sales, chili cook-offs, crazy hair days, free services, auctions, dances, craft fairs, and every other thing you could imagine, to pull in those dollars.

I am not exaggerating when I say this spans the entire state. This is for every kid that has to visit the hospital in Burlington. This is for every family that has to go through that horrifying process. This is for everyone. Because when we keep the care local, we keep the care the best.

It is easy to look at this as just a fundraiser. It is easy to say, that doesn't affect me, but that's nice. 

But when you meet these families, when you meet these kids - when you realize that they could be anyone you know - you get it.

It just clicks. And you get why people come back, year after year, with pounds and pounds of coins. 

Because it makes a big change. 

12 Things I Still Don't Know How To Do

You will not believe how many new things I learn day-to-day as Miss Vermont. Seriously.

Appearances are the best, because more often than not, you're in a completely strange place, with complete strangers. At that point, if you aren't learning something new from each of them, you are doing something wrong.

Of course, it's also no secret that I'm an informational vacuum. I keep updated throughout the day on Twitter. I listen to VPR/NPR on my drive in and out of Montpelier every weekday. And I'm a sucker for shows like The Daily Show and other "news-based" TV.

So throw me into a brand new environment with strangers, and I'm probably going to just stand around and ask questions.

Which is probably how I (thankfully?) realized I still have no idea how to do these things...

1. Change a tire by myself

2. How to explain the difference between a 401k and a SIMPLE IRA

3. How to perform CPR (other than my quick training from The Office)

4. Speak more than one language fluently

5. I still don't know how to drive stick.

6. How to check my own blood pressure (seems easy enough, I know. But math.)

7. Speaking of math I don't think I ever technically mastered fractions

8. How to make a Thanksgiving turkey, start to finish

9. How to pair the right wine with a meal (in fairness, I don't drink wine.)

10. Self control when it comes to pizza.

11. How to properly set the aperture and focus on a camera

12. Fold a damn fitted sheet

What It Feels Like

A few weeks back I started writing out something about metaphors, euphemisms, know. I wanted to say something about how we talk about depression, anxiety, and mental health. I wanted to talk about why we describe it the way we do, and what that does, for those that understand those metaphors, and those that need them so that they can understand.

I'm not quite sure I've hit the nail on the head, but I wanted to finally hit publish anyways.

Sometimes I am reminded that people don't really know what it feels like - what depression feels like. I remember usually when I am on the other side of things, and it just becomes so clear again how hard it is to articulate. I think so often we hear things like, "it feels like darkness. It feels like hopelessness. Depression is being at the bottom of an empty well. It is sadness."

And every time I come back to the fact that, all that? It's not doing me, or anyone else any justice. That isn't serving to make my reality any more clear to people who have never actually experienced depression or anxiety. And moreover, when I am unable to communicate to them not just what it feels like, but why it leaves me so physically useless, I am not helping anybody.

So I figured, if I can articulate something now, I should. I should at least try. Because that's gonna benefit you more than anything else. It is going to give you a little window into what my brain does, and maybe give you some more room to empathize, or a better idea of how to help someone else.

It aches in my entire body.

There is a weight that sits in you, and kind of just presses on your chest.

It is humiliating some days; to be the person that doesn't text back, and can't do the dishes, and definitely cried while brushing her teeth.

Sometimes there is just a giant vacant hole in your chest, and it is sucking little pieces of you away. And it doesn't feel like anything anymore. It doesn't feel like it's time to cry, or be mad. It just feels like you are supposed to lay in your bed and stare at the curtains and wait for that little black hole in the center of your chest to swallow you whole.

I am - on the best of my worst days - about 30% of myself.

It's a lot of guilt. To be the burden on people, to be the snail in the room, to be the person that can't go to the grocery store. There's a lot of feeling bad for yourself for feeling bad.

Food doesn't taste good. Eating doesn't help.

God becomes really confusing. The fact that Someone made your brain this is crushing. You feel betrayed. You feel so slighted, that He chose your brain. You feel so mad that He thought you were capable of handling this constant throbbing sadness.

It pulses through your body sometimes. It gets hot in your chest, and you feel it just...pulse through you.

That's usually when you feel the hole open up I think.

One last thing...sometimes, it just lifts without you even knowing it. Sometimes it is just your day to get a free Starbucks. Or someone finally gave you a hug. Or you ate pizza and didn't feel guilty, or nervous. Sometimes it just passes.

I wanna say, before I keep going, I've mentioned that the fall was hard. It's not the fall anymore. And I'm in a great place professionally, personally, financially - I'm living a good life. Like I've said before, like I'll say again, the times to talk about how, why, and when it hurts, are when it doesn't hurt.

It's so much easier to articulate that now, when I'm on the other side.

When I cry driving to and from work every day - for no reason - seriously, I have found myself sobbing, in my car, and not knowing why. I know I am scared, and anxious, and worried that I am ruining everything but I have no evidence or reason to believe that - when that happens, I can't tell you how that feels.

Because I don't know how to say to you that I feel completely shattered, and almost like I am slowly just...evaporating.

But when I am here, and I can look at those's easier to explain the hole I get in my chest.

And I think one of the most common things I have run into since opening up this discussion is this notion that depression is a technical way to say "sad."


I am sad when I finish the last slice of cold pizza. I am sad at the end of every season of Grey's Anatomy. I am sad when I look at my credit card bill.

When I literally talk myself through getting out of bed, taking off my clothes, getting into the shower, washing my hair, getting out of the shower, pulling on the same sweat pants, and getting back into bed - with tears streaming down my face - whispering to myself that it's going to be okay, one more step, just wash your face, one leg at a time, there's your bed. 

That is not sadness.

The pain that rips through me when I realize again that this means I have missed plans, or backed out of something, or let someone down - the guilt that that doubles down on - that is not sadness.

Mind you, I know that many people have not had this experience. I am so damn thankful that many people have not had this experience.

Every time I give my talk on why my platform is so important - that's the kicker, right there. That those of us on this side of the fence literally cannot tell you how it feels to be there.

And if you have never been here, you just don't know. We know you don't know.

We know that we don't often have the language to explain it to you.

Which is where my platform comes in - at least for me. At least for me, it is has been important because that discussion is so complicated. It has been the key that has unlocked every single public conversation that I have had about depression, anxiety, and general mental health.

I know it's not fun.

I know no one walks away from something like this and says, wow that was great! It's not great.

But it is important.

And to someone in your life, there are days when it is everything.

The Goal Digger Podcast, Go Listen

This is gonna be quick, but I have to share this with you.

This podcast: The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher.

Okay, if you aren't in the creative-wedding-planning-photographer world, you probably don't know about Jenna.

But if you have an inclination of working for yourself, working in a creative industry, or focusing on intentional and heartfelt moves in your career and personal life - this podcast is worth listening to.

For me, the guests are some of the biggest names in my industry. Some of the people I have looked up to for years through blogs, Twitter, and Instagram. So, I'm also doing a bit of fan-girling from episode to episode.

On top of all that, the show notes. Oh, the show notes. Insane resources from each of the very talented and capable guests are reason enough to even click over to the podcast site and scroll around a bit.

Anyways, that's it.

Give it a listen. And feel your heart go oh my goodness yes.

The Books: January Wrap-Up

Alright, let's talk about a quiet goal I started with this year: read more.

It's so simple right? And for an absolute book-nerd like me, it should be easy enough.

I decided that I was going to try to read one book a month, but at the very least, I was going to read six books this year. And y'all? There was a time when I read six books in a month. And I miss that. I miss the constant immersion in a story. (I mean, Shondaland is nice and all, but waiting every week - ahem - months to see what happens on Scandal? Ya girl needs more.)

Frankly, I also have a ton of books on my to-read list, and ton of books that I have accumulated that I still need to read.

So, off I went.

And so far so good!

Here we are, January 31st, and I have nearly finished Chip and Joanna Gaines' The Magnolia Story. By which I mean I'll likely finish it tonight. Not done yet, but you know, death happened, and Scandal happened, and Greys happened, so yeah, the book took a back seat this week.

I also tried Audible for the first time this month - huge. fan. I plowed through Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone in less than three days.

Then, I downloaded Trevor Noah's Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Let me say this, if no cheesy Audible commercials have convinced you to try it yet, let either of these books do the job.

If you don't know, Trevor Noah is the current host of the Daily Show, and yes, South African. While his accent is a great addition to the story, it's his knack for language (of which he speaks eight,) and his perfect comedic timing that just make this audiobook so worth it. Seriously. I'll be recommending this book all year - but the audio version is going to give you a 100% better experience.

Side note: I don't read many autobiographies, so the fact that I have loved this one so much, and made it about half way through in less than a week, that says a lot. I've also learned a lot about the intricacies of South African apartheid culture - which I am loving. 

And I don't think you need an argument for immersing yourself into the world of Harry Potter at all - let alone via audiobook. But if you haven't reread in a while, get to it.

Next on the list?

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit (a classic, which I started rereading just after her passing last year.)
The Ship of Brides, Jojo Moyes (I've ranted and raved about how wildly I love her books before, I assume this will be no different.)