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.