Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Support System

It’s been way too long since my last post. Let’s see what has happened in that time?

…earned the title of Miss Hanover 2013
…celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday
…rang in the New Year with my mother and a glass of wine
…traveled to Vegas for the first time and watched the Miss America 2013 Competition live! 

In all that time I've been thinking about writing a post, and now I've finally sat down to do it. Tonight, I want to talk about support systems. Mine in particular…

As the local pageant “season” is quickly coming to an end there is a mix of emotions going through this bizarre land of pageantry. You have the girls who have passed on their titles, to watch “baby sisters” continue to develop the legacy of a local title; you have those who are now “too old” (to compete) and who will go on to impact the world with their compassion and determination, without a crown; there are young women who have been fortunate enough to have had a crown placed on their head at some point in the past few months and who will be gracing the state stage sometime this summer; and then you have those who are still reaching for that goal – reaching for that 4-pointed crown/ticket to the state competition.

It made me think earlier today…what helps a girl realize her dreams; and, in the event that she doesn't,  how does she go on? The answer, at least for me, is the same for both questions. No one can make it in this (pageant) world without a support system. This support may not come in the traditional sense, like mothers and fathers, but the support is there nonetheless. And it is because of this support system (along with other factors, I assure you) that girls will return year after year to realize a dream. Knowing that someone believes that you can is inspiring; knowing that someone is willing to stand beside you no matter what the critics say, that is empowering.

I am blessed because I have received support from my family to realize my dream of competing at Miss Virginia. My younger sister is my number one fan. She has not bought me gowns, or given me interview advice; but, her humor, her reassurance that I didn't bomb my on-stage-question (or my talent), and her hilarious text messages while I’m back stage competing, are encouragement enough. I am reminded daily that she looks up to me and that by competing in this pageant system I can remind her that dreams are worth chasing, working towards, and they are certainly worth fighting for.

Not only do I have my family, but the directors of local pageants have also offered support to me over the years, like you wouldn't believe. You don’t have to have their title on your sash, or even wear a sash at all, for them to love you as their own. This is where being kind and approachable comes in handy, ladies! Directors who feel and can see that you want to grow and improve will be more than willing to encourage you and give you suggestions that could make your next pageant YOUR pageant. Directors are volunteers, they do this because they love it; let them love on you, as well.

And now I will shock the “regular” world with this next facet of the support system that I have slowly built over the years: fellow contestants. No, we don’t all hate each other (yes, I do realize this is a competition). No, we are not all out to sabotage each other (yes, some of the girls are really nice). I have found that if you find the right girls – those who treat you the same, whether you’re in competition mode or not, those who give you advice that is true and honest, those who you don’t have to wonder about a hidden agenda – then you've found a winner. Just like in the “real world” though – not everyone is your friend. (People throw the word “friend” around too loosely these days, anyway.) But, if you notice that a girl has won a particular award (interview, swimsuit, talent…) ask her if she has any advice – if she’s confident enough in her own abilities she should have no problem helping you improve. Girls who want to keep everything to themselves defeat the idea of sisterhood and service – but that’s just my opinion.

Lastly, there’s the community at-large: the blessed people who are not consumed by all things pageant. Sometimes it can be those lovely people who have known you since grade school and gush every time they realize you have grown into this lovely young woman with goals and ambitions. Sometimes it is the father who you've had a quick conversation with, who is grateful that you've explained to his stubborn daughter that college can be exciting. Sometimes it is the stranger in the mall who tells you are beautiful. Relish in these moments, with these people – the ones you may never see again...the ones that you meet on pageant day...or during a day of service. They are the people, surprisingly, that will create the stories and memories that you will share with others.

Wherever it is that you find your support, be thankful for it, and LOVE those individuals back. It is your support system that cheers you on to the gold…but it is that same support system that should be there – with the same enthusiasm – if you don’t even make it onto the podium. I can say that my system has been there for me through the sunshine and the rain. Can you say the same? Start building your support system, your network (whatever you want to call it) and make sure it contains individuals of quality (this is an instance where "it's quality, not quantity")... 

I do my best to tell my system that I love them whenever I am given the opportunity. So, if you’re reading this…thanks!