Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Bullies Gave Me My Most Successful Year

This month marks one year since the beginning of my last year at Colby-Sawyer.

Unsurprisingly,  I have seen a lot of posts, tweets, and so on with nostalgic musings. Also unsurprisingly, I didn't feel a lick of sentiment.  It is no secret that I didn't love my time at CSC - for a lot of reasons. But these waves of public nostalgia got me thinking, about the last year, about those two final semesters. It occurred to me, pretty quickly, that this has been my most successful year - in a long time, but maybe ever.

Here's the crazy part, it was also the hardest year of my life, hands down.

Backing up a little bit here... I have never been one to say I was bullied. Chiefly, because I had never really thought I had been. Yeah, at one point I was the chubby new girl from private school. But I never felt isolated because of who I was, or targeted simply because I was, or was not something.

But then by this time last year, I had to amend that thought.

In fact I spent the entirety of my last  year of college being talked about, treated like absolute trash, disrespected, and laughed at. And I wish I was kidding. And I wish I was being dramatic. And sometimes I wish this wasn't part of my story.

Because I was desperately unhappy. Devastated, can't eat, don't talk, wish-this-wasn't-my-life, unhappy.

But here's the thing, when I found myself surrounded by people who were cruel, disrespectful, selfish, and so focused on being negative and critical towards everyone around them, I saw how dismal a life that was. I saw how extremely unhappy they made themselves. I saw how they treated their siblings, their significant others, and their best friends, like they were inherently flawed, like they always must be seeking approval.

And I decided there was no way they were going to influence my life in a way that I would lose happiness, or opportunities, or anything because of them.

So I focused on school, and my internship, and reading good books. I competed in Miss Auburn, and then, Miss New Hampshire. I tried - and loved - new recipes. I dedicated myself to a workout regimen, and healthier diet. I fostered great friendships and relationships. And I found myself constantly recognizing how much I valued the truly kind, caring, funny, smart people that I had in my life.

I was more successful (guys, I graduated college, I got my dream internship, I placed 2nd Runner Up at Miss New Hampshire, I hit my goal weight, I eat broccoli regularly - c'mon) - I was more successful this year, while living in the most oppressive and destructive environment I have ever been in, than I have been in probably the 21 years that preceded it.

If I had to do it all over again, I don't know that I would.

It's hard to think that I would willingly put myself in a situation where people intentionally act maliciously towards me. But at the same time, I don't know if I would still have the amazing friendships that I have gained this year, or the experiences that have forced me to grow as a person, or even the appreciation for the good things that did happen this year.

I can't say I'm thankful for them. I'm not. I won't ever be thankful for them forcing me into a corner, emotionally, mentally, (and physically, if you consider how damn small those singles are.) I won't be thankful for the position they put me in, with my parents, and with my professors, and with my friends.

But I'm thankful for what it made me be. I know I wouldn't be the same person if I hadn't seen how negative, and cruel, and self-conscious, and horrible people can be. I'm thankful for the people that did care, and did remind me of the good things, and did support all of my crazy new endeavors. Because without those people, I surely wouldn't be able to sit here and say, that yeah, this last year, has been my most successful one...yet.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Favorites

Sometimes I just need to sit down and remind myself of the good stuff, so here we go:

This week was the first time I have been paid since I started working in June. And as shallow as it seems, sometimes it really takes a solid paycheck to make you feel like all that hard work you've been doing is actually worth something.

Annd I got to working on my August PowerSheets this week... you know, that's not been easy in the last few months, as I'm often left feeling like I'm not accomplishing things, and my life is dragging in a way I never expected for myself. But there was something about sitting down this week and refocusing myself, and my daily life, towards grace and patience. That was good.

I also took to organizing all of my pictures in iPhoto into separate albums (which, if you know me well enough, is enough to be a good thing in a long week,) and when I finally got to putting photos into "CSC Senior Year" I actually felt a wave of nostalgia. Honestly, I don't know if there was ever a time in my four years there that I would have said, "Yeah, I'll miss this." But there it was, missing, and it was nice. It helps ease that how-the-hell-did-I-waste-four-years-there feeling. Plus, I found these gems:

Truthfully, there is really nothing like a sunrise over Mercer...

Beaudry wasn't so bad second semester... 

...and I'm not sure what I would've done with myself without that tiny shop on Lovering Lane. 

See, that's why we have Friday Favorites, for fond memories, and good reminders. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Weight (Again)

Most people that I know these days have known me a long time. Long enough that they remember what I used to look like in grade school, middle school, high school, even my first year of college. I looked very different than I do now.

I wasn't fat, but I wasn't healthy, and I certainly didn't look my best.

From my senior year of high school, to the end of my sophomore year of college, I lost about 30 pounds. Since that time, I have gone down about another 20. (To be honest, I don't own a scale. But I use the one at the gym, and go the doctor's enough that I've gotten pretty good at guesstimating.)

So, loosely, that's 50 pounds in five years.

A lot of that progress was motivated by a swimsuit competition. I have competed in swimsuit four times in the last three years (five, if you count walking the Miss NH stage in my swimsuit twice, which I like to, because dude, that is still not easy.)

Frankly, not much else could have motivated me to run, and to eat exponentially more vegetables and less bagels.

However, as much as I do truly enjoy running, and strength training, and eating more than Cheetos and pizza, it's become very clear to me (particularly in the last two months) that the weight that I was the week of Miss New Hampshire, is simply unsustainable. 

For one, knowing that you are at your lowest weight - that you are at a weight that you would compete in - is very daunting. It's a focus that I don't want for myself. I don't like the idea of constantly thinking about not eating certain foods, or for that matter, how long I have to run to negate the calories I consume. That's not enjoyable. And it's far too time-consuming.

I don't look that different from what I looked like when I walked that stage. I look like me. I look normal. I look completely average for a 22 year old, 5' 4" female. But I don't look pageant ready.

That takes some getting used to, and it takes a lot of understanding. Reassuring myself of what I know to be true - that I am healthy, that being skinnier won't make you happy, that enjoying food is important - even if pizza makes you bloated.

It's unrealistic to live like you are always two days away from competing in swimsuit. It's unrealistic for me, personally, to not enjoy food, and to spend five nights a week on the treadmill.

It feels really good to be at your lowest weight, to confidently strut across a stage in less than two feet of fabric, to know that you are at your most fit. I'd be lying if I said all of that doesn't feel amazing.

In the end though, it's not real life. Being constantly concerned with your body, your weight, how you might look to...anyone, it's not normal. And it's not healthy.

It takes a lot of patience to be okay with returning to pre-pageant weight. Do I plan on gaining back 50 pounds? Hell no. But, sliding back to my "non-pageant normal" is definitely taking some getting used to.

And you know what? That's really okay. Because as okay as it is to be thrilled with your unrealistically sustainable competition body, it's just as okay to be less than thrilled that you are losing it. After all, I worked damn hard for it.

What's nice about "normal" is that I can reach for the Oreos now and not feel bad about it. I can skip one workout and not feel like I have to also skip dessert, or carbs at dinner. It's not always easy, but honestly, it's so much better than living unrealistically.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Guilty Graduate

The amount of times that I have found myself on my couch, in my underwear, looking at seemingly endless lists of jobs I cannot do, or am not qualified for, is getting a little ridiculous.

Here's the thing: as it stands I am applying for, and looking for jobs, and I am employed part-time. So I have found myself in a sort of employment limbo.

I knew that I wasn't going to find my dream job right away - I was hopeful, of course. (I mean, c'mon. I compete for crowns and I go to Disney World regularly, how could I not be?) But I was realistic, I knew I was going to need to do some settling, some compromising, and a lot of searching.

And that's where I am. I am right smack where I am supposed to be. I am making money where I can. I am applying to jobs that I am qualified for, and that I do want. I know that I am doing what I can, and what I should be doing here.

However, it doesn't seem to negate the anxiety or the guilt.

Oh, the guilt.

The one thing no one ever told me about post-grad is how damn guilty I would feel. All. The. Time.

I sleep in? Feel guilty.
Spend the day afternoon reading and sitting in the sun? Feel guilty.
Eat Cheetos for breakfast? Mega guilt.

But! It's not like looking at those long lists of job postings really helps. Feeling endlessly under (or even over,) qualified is equally defeating.

I know everyone says that something will come along, that I just need to keep doing what I am doing. I know that this compromising and settling is nothing like what I felt when I was in school, so I know I'm not locking myself into anything as horrible. But this is hard. This doesn't leave you feeling successful almost ever (at least when I was a filing temp I could set and meet daily goals - sheesh.)

When it came to graduating I spent the last two months of school anxious because I didn't know what the summer would bring, at all. And now that I am here...well I just didn't think it would involve so much free time, and so much guilt.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wait, So It's a Swimsuit Competition?

In the last three years I have been asked many times, and in many different ways, why I have decided to compete in pageants. Frankly, it is a pretty confusing endeavor to many people.

It doesn't sound entirely appealing when you say it in the most basic sense - you compete for scholarship dollars by interviewing, walking in patterns in dresses and a swimsuit, and present a talent in 90 seconds - all while wearing a lot of makeup, glue on some part of your body, and heels.

However, you will meet some of the most intelligent, talented, and kind young women (and volunteers.) You will develop a greater understanding of yourself, of what you are capable, and of the limits that your mind and body (and patience) are able to go.

Competing in Miss Vermont, and Miss New Hampshire, did not just teach me how to apply false eyelashes (near) flawlessly, or the value of a large can of hairspray and always having double-sided tape on hand. It gave me friends that I will have hopefully for the rest of my life, it brought me jobs, it made me a healthier and happier person. 

I'm a very different person than I was when I started this journey - in the best way possible. I could not have asked for better experiences in each of the pageants that I have competed in. They are not easy, they are not slipping on a dress and slapping on some lipstick and walking on stage. They are hard work, and they are challenging, and they genuinely force you to grow in each aspect of your life.

That is why I compete in pageants, because they make me better. They have made me smarter, more competent, healthier, more confident. They have allowed me to become a person that I could only have hoped to be as watched Miss America crowned year after year. It is still a little confusing, to a buy a swimsuit that won't touch water. It is still a little odd to be referred to as a "pageant girl." 

But I wouldn't change a single moment of it.

Well, it except for the first time I inhaled spray-tan. That was gross.

Let's Try This One More Time

Coming back to this is a bit weird.

I didn't stop writing here for any reason other than I found that I was censoring what I wanted to really say. I found that I wasn't really being honest about what was going on with my life. And I knew that if I was to be honest, I would regret it. (After all, this is the internet.)

So, catching up...

I graduated college - and in the end, it wasn't emotional, it didn't feel like 'a long time coming',  and it was just a really good reason for two drinks and lobster BLT.

I competed in Miss New Hampshire - which was wild, and amazing, and I could not have asked for a better outcome, or to have been surrounded and supported by better people.

I ran, a lot - chiefly because I couldn't stand still, or stay in my apartment - and pageants, but, you

And that's about it. 

I wrote a lot of fiction in my last semester. 
I eat more vegetables than I did six months ago. 
I'm pretty serious about my Pinterest game. 
I only just discovered Fruit Ninja. 

Oh, and I'm pretty sincerely unemployed, which, it's not for me.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Internship

Everyone has an internship at some point. The idea being you gain experience and knowledge in the field in which you hope to work.

Here's the thing, as internships go at my school, I'm a bit behind. Most people don't wait until the second semester of your senior year, I did. Not by choice really, but necessity. As someone who is majoring in Creative Writing, most internships would fall under the writing and reading category. As someone who is hoping and praying to end up event-planning in the South post graduation, an internship with that kind of experience is necessary.

So I was late to the game, and looking to find an incredibly unique opportunity.

By some miracle, some dream come true, I got the internship of an aspiring event-planning, Creative Writing major's dreams.

Not only am I in an environment that is bound to foster creativity, amazing learning experiences, and downright fun - it is filled with outstandingly talented, supportive, and interesting individuals.

I am so lucky, and overwhelmed, and thrilled.

If you know me at all, you know that my first day, which included paper flower crafting, and Gossip Girl watching, was enough to leave me smiling for the rest of the semester. It is no secret that this year has not been easy, or that I am more than ready to get out of this town, and this school. But I cannot say enough how much of a silver lining this internship has been.

Whether or not I land the job of my dreams after graduation, I'll at least know I'm headed in the right direction. Three weeks in, and this is a unicorn-sequins-craft-filled perfect fit.

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