Have you ever gone through that time when it feels like life is changing? Maybe you’re going through empty nesting or you realize that you always give to everyone else and want to do something for yourself instead?
I have been there—as surely have many of you—and it was during that time about five years ago that I did some self-reflection and decided that it was my time to shine. That is, it was time for me to focus on what I want to do next. What will my next chapter in life bring? Recently, I had a career change, and I went back to school to obtain my master’s degree. It was then that I started feeling empowered again. Moreover, I found an amazing personal trainer and started focusing on nutrition and fitness.
At that time, my daughter started asking me to participate in the United States Pageant. Me? I am a tomboy, a volunteer firefighter/EMT, and an outdoors person. What do I have to offer?
You see, my daughter had been involved for a few years in the pageants, and as the momager, I was impressed by how it was shaping her and playing a part in the woman she was becoming. After a few years, I had grown to love the United States organization and with nudging from my daughter, I felt I was ready to be a part of something larger than myself, taking myself out of my comfort zone: I was prepared to compete at state for Ms. Woman Minnesota United States. The training was unlike anything I had imagined. Preparing to share your story and your platform in minutes is a skill. The hard work I invested in the preparation not only helped develop my communication skills but also gave me a tremendous boost of confidence, and I found myself using these skills in my professional life as well.
In the message I shared, I focused on suicide rates among veterans and how we can make a difference, and it was a truly empowering experience. In my professional life, I facilitate training, host meetings, and direct priorities; however, stepping on that stage my heart was racing as I felt the weight of the importance of my mission, knowing I was being scored or measured on what and how I was sharing that message. Surprisingly, when the first words came out of my mouth, the judges disappeared, and only the audience remained with me as if we were having a conversation and I was sharing with them what we needed to do to save veterans’ lives. It might have been the nerves that made me feel that way, but I felt the importance of my message, and it became a priority over the need to impress the judges. Ultimately, that was my first personal experience of "something bigger than myself" within pageantry. It was then that I began to see what others within pageantry had always been talking about. No doubt that it is about the personal journey and challenging oneself; however, more importantly, that stage, crown, and sash became a beacon to shine a light on my mission—my platform. The number of people you can touch from there is at a much larger scale, and this in itself is mind-blowing.
I was honored to be crowned Ms. Woman Minnesota United States. An amazing side note is that I was able to share the stage with my daughter who was crowned Ms. Minnesota United States.
I am sharing my journey with you because I want to say that I am in my 50s and am currently finding myself, embarking on a journey of self-discovery to figure out who I want to be and gain the personal growth to become a better version of myself. Speaking with so many amazing women along the way and talking about our experiences as we transition between different chapters in our lives drives me to continue sharing my story in hopes that it will also inspire others to pursue their dreams, try something unexpected, and embrace it.
Below are some of those amazing women that I met competing at nationals. These women come from so many different backgrounds, and professions—pilots, nurses, fitness, teachers, etc. They also vary in the missions they advocate for and the reasons they are in pageants. Most importantly, they are all about women's empowerment. I never imagined I would ever make the bonds and friendships that I made. Hearing their stories—which I hope to share in my later blog posts—continue to motivate me to reach for more.
As you can see we had some fun together!
Back to my journey, I pushed myself in many ways while getting ready for and competing at nationals. It might surprise you that I am an introvert by nature, and my nerves tried to take over on several occasions; however, I persevered and kept telling myself, "This is for you, the experience, the growth, the adventure." I truly feel that way. I was not competing against the other beautiful, talented, accomplished women; rather, I was competing with myself to achieve, grow, and become stronger and more confident in who I am and what I am about. The night before the finals, I laid my head down on my pillow and felt that I had done just that. No matter the outcome, I had given it my all. I made wonderful memories, developed valuable skills, and enhanced other skills, and I would not have done all that if I had given in to my fears when my daughter Mandy said, "You should go for it, mom."
The message I want to leave for all of you amazing women out there is that now is our time to shine. When you feel you want to take on something more, your life is transitioning for one reason or another, and you’re thinking about what comes next for you. If I can give you one piece of advice, it would be to "run towards your fears and do what you’re being called to do." Fear means that what you are considering doing is important to you, but you are unsure if you can do it. As your reigning Ms. Woman United States 2021, I am here to tell you that you can. Go for it, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Signing out for now.
The Ms. Woman United States Facebook