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From the view of a 20-something dream chaser.

What a Weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

They say an idle mind is the devil's workshop. Well, I must believe that wholeheartedly and this past weekend was certainly proof. It consisted of three interviews, singing the national anthem, competing in a pageant and taking a road trip. And I'm sure I'm leaving something out. You might ask why I decided to undertake so much in one little weekend, and for good reason. I honestly could not tell you, except that a world of opportunities simply fell into my lap on that particular weekend and I rose to the challenge. 

Friday

10:30 a.m. The weekend began with an interview. George Mason University has an incredible Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, which offers several alternative breaks throughout the academic year. If you aren't familiar, an alternative break is a service-learning trip taken by college students to counter the "traditional" summer, winter, or spring break. Instead, the trip focuses on a social issue like poverty, literacy, or in my case, disaster relief. I believe my life is about making a difference in the lives of others, so an alternative break has always been part of "The Plan." When I received word that a group was traveling to New Orleans, I knew my time had come. We are partnering with Operation Nehemiah, a non-profit, faith-based, family-oriented organization whose mission to to help "rebuild the walls of people's lives." 

This is my favorite line, but this opportunity couldn't be more appropriate at this stage of my life. I've never been to New Orleans before, so the cultural experience alone is one that I would enjoy. You can imagine that I wasn't required to do much handiwork the past 21 years, and there's a first time for everything. I conveyed all of this in my interview with the trip leaders, and crossed my fingers that it was enough to get me a spot on the trip.

Find out more about CLCE here:

12:30 p.m. I had made my way to Alexandria for the Friends of Rocky Versace Veterans Day program. A couple of weeks prior, I was invited to open the program with the national anthem as Miss Alexandria. Despite the time crunch of the day, I knew this was an opportunity I didn't want give up. And I'm glad I didn't. To say that I was inspired by the bravery Captain Humbert Roque "Rocky" Versace demonstrated as a prisoner of war (POW) in the Vietnam War is an understatement. Four times he tried to escape, but was unsuccessful. He was executed by the Viet Cong, but until his final days, he remained loyal and patriotic to the United States of America. To share in that moment of memory with Rocky's closest friends and his family is something I will never forget. And I am so honored to have been invited to attend. The men and women who fight for our freedom are truly heroes worth our respect. How proud I am to live in the land of the free because it's the home of the brave! Support our troops!

Me singing the Star Spangled Banner


4:30 p.m. After being stuck in traffic on I-66 for about half an hour, I finally made it to rehearsal for Miss Apple Blossom Festival on time (yay me!). I was so excited to be reunited with my Miss Virginia sisters and to meet more incredible young women. I also really wanted to win Miss Apple Blossom Festival 2012, but I had placed it in God's hands a long time ago. I'm a firm believer that what God has for me is for me and there isn't a thing anyone can do about it. I had been suffering cold-like symptoms for the past week and was losing my voice. Since my talent is vocal, I was beginning to worry. After a seven-hour rehearsal, I went home with my host family and my host mom made a bowl of chicken noodle soup for me. I am indeed lucky that I got the host family I did. I have known them a few years, as I was a National American Miss (NAM) state titleholder with the daughter, Olivia, in 2008. Diane and Olivia really welcomed me into their own and treated me like I was part of the family. Olivia even gave up her nice, comfy bed so that I'd have a good night's rest before my interview the next morning.

Saturday

7:12 a.m. When I woke up the next morning, my first thought was: I need to watch the news! If you didn't know, Miss America interviews on the local, state and national levels are HARD. Any topic you can and cannot think of is fair game and your responsibility to be prepared for. Talk about intimidating! I will say that I've learned there is no way to be prepared for everything. In some situations, you just won't know all the details. In my opinion, those moments matter more than the moments you are prepared for, for they show your poise and ability maintain composure. These are absolute necessities for the job of Miss Virginia. It was no surprise that much of what was being covered on the news was the Penn State scandal. There was also local news that I made note of.

12:15 p.m. I had a rather late interview time, which I had no complaints about and which also gave me ample time to not only get ready, but also take a trip to have my eyebrows waxed and get a pair of lashes from the CVS across the street. All of this was accomplished by noon and we left the house for my 12:37 interview time, arriving just after a quarter after. There I sat with a handful of contestants, some of whom had already finished their interview, and the others were awaiting theirs, like me. I find that time to be very instrumental in clearing my head of anything negative and really focusing on the task at hand. Just talking with the people in the holding room made me feel at ease and ready to show the judges what I'm made of.

12:37 p.m. I walked into the interview room, all smiles as usual and began my second interview of the weekend. I talked about my platform, Communication 101: Creating a Lasting Impression, and the negative impact social media is making on our communication skills. I also spoke of the benefits social media has afforded us, whether or not I thought Joe Paterno should have been fired, growing up with three brothers, and my trip to study International Public Relations in London last winter. After leaving the interview room, I felt really good about the picture I had painted for the judges, and couldn't wait for the show that night.

5:30 p.m. By this time, I was back at Daniel Morgan Middle School after quite an eventful Girls Day Out. To summarize, we met with our friends Tammy and Blaire (Blaire is also a former NAM queen) and went jewelry shopping, had a big lunch full of stories of pageant moms, adult bullies, and breakups, and Diane and I got pedicures while the others found retail therapy at the mall. 

7 p.m. The show got off to a great start with an exciting opening number and the Miss contestants proceeded to compete in on-stage question. You'd be amazed to see how much work each contestant puts in for about 3 minutes total of exposure on stage. And this organization certainly rewards us all for that.

All the contestants
Now, backstage before and during the pageant is where memories are made and where we bare all. Literally. We talked of marriage at a young age, the incident at Penn State, our thoughts on interview, and our thoughts on life in general. People often think that pageant contestants are catty, self-centered and not at all friendly with the other contestants. Some are, don't get me wrong; but through my experience, I have only run into a few like that. And none of them were at this pageant. Everyone was extremely supportive of all the others, their accomplishments, their goals and aspirations and, honestly, their ability to win the pageant. Because we know we are surrounded by incredible people like ourselves, we don't feel threatened, as so many people wrongly think we do. We also all have faith that things will turn out the way they should, because it's all in God's hands.

Opening Number
On-stage Question






Swimsuit
As Top 40 music blasted from my iPhone, we all felt at piece and capable of anything. Knowing that only one contestant is walking away with a crown serves two purposes: it pushes us to limits we may never have reached before because each of us wanted the job; and it reminds us that it isn't about the crown at all. Ok, so maybe it is somewhat about the crown. But realistically, we each had a 1 in 12 chance of winning. Doesn't sound tough, but it is. Eight of us had competed on the big stage at Miss Virginia, Miss District of Columbia or Miss VA USA. We were no amateurs. And I liked it that way.


Talent





Evening Gown

Awaiting the results


10 p.m. I didn't win Miss Apple Blossom Festival. In fact, an incredible young woman named Kourtney Ginn did. You may think I'm not, but I am so happy for her. This was her third time competing for Miss Apple Blossom Festival, and I guess the third time was truly a charm for her. I have no doubt that she will represent herself, the Apple Blossom Festival and the Miss Virginia and Miss America Organizations very well. Congratulations, Kourtney! 

Kourtney Ginn
Miss Apple Blossom Festival 2012


Sometimes things just don't happen the way you planned. In some cases, you think they turn out worse, but I think God answers all of our prayers in one of three ways: yes; not right now; or I've got something better in mind. In that, I found peace of mind at a time when I had so many unanswered questions.

Sunday

1:45 p.m. As you can imagine, I was exhausted after the pageant, so I rode back to Louisa with my mom so I could sleep in the car and got up Sunday morning to head back to Mason for my interview at 1:45. This third interview was for the position as an RA my last semester of college. Being an RA is a great leadership position and one that I can certainly learn from. In addition, it eliminates half my tuition because free housing comes with the job. That should make my parents (and their bank accounts) proud. In every interview, no matter what it's for, I always find a way to state that I believe my life is about making a difference in the lives of others, because, indeed, I do. This interview was no different and I think it went over very well. I shared my philosophy of an open-door policy regarding my residents and a willingness to be there for them in their time of need, be it good or bad. I'll find out the results mid-December and be sure to let you know.

2:30 p.m. With interview #3 over and enough time to catch a nap before work at 5, I checked my email to see if there were any updates. I was delighted to find that I had been selected to go on the Re-New Orleans alternative break trip! I couldn't have been happier, after a weekend that I felt was somewhat of a defeat. But I always say, "Every setback is a setup for something incredible." Without a doubt, this was.

5 p.m. As I sat behind the desk of the info booth on campus, I began reflecting on the weekend and looking ahead. According to StrengthsQuest, Positivity is my number one strength. I could easily have told them that without taking the questionnaire that dictated it; but in that moment, it warmed my heart to know that even a computer could find in me what I see in myself: a yearning for greatness and a willingness to stop at nothing to achieve it, despite all obstacles. 

I am already gearing up for my next local pageant and I wouldn't be me if I didn't give it my all. Until next time, this is my Scholarship, Service, Success and Style story. It shouldn't be too hard for you to figure out how they all fit :-)

Me at the After Glow party. I won a raffle!

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