How to Deal With the Loss of a Dream

9:29:00 PM

I competed in my first pageant when I was 14 years old. I just knew I would walk away the winner. I laugh looking back because of how far in over my head I was. I entered the pageant because my parents were bugging me to "get more hobbies" so that I could go to the college that I wanted. A flyer for Miss North Carolina Teen USA came in the mail and I competed for the first time in November of 2009.

I didn't walk away as the winner, or even as a top 15 finalist, but that weekend had sparked a dream in me that I had never known existed. I competed twice more before I walked away as the winner of Miss North Carolina Teen USA 2013. I cannot even express the pure joy I felt in that moment. To this day, it is still the proudest day of my life. To me, winning was a validation of everything good I had done in my life to that point. I got to spend an entire year living out my dream come true.

After Miss Teen USA I took the next three years to enjoy being a student. I threw myself into college and have loved it. My plan was always to come back my senior year of college as a 21 year old to compete for Miss North Carolina USA. I prepared for the pageant like I'd never prepared for anything before. I took complete control of my physicality and pushed myself through workouts and (mostly) clean eating. I picked out every detail of my wardrobe and hand beaded my gown with hundreds of stones. I spent hours speaking with people I respect discussing current events. I was, to the best of my ability, ready.
I felt so completely at peace that weekend. I just knew that my dream was going to come true. And when I stood on the stage waiting for my name to be called for top 5 I couldn't have been more surprised when it just... wasn't. 
I had to walk away from the stage that night without the crown, but I knew the way that I wanted to be remembered. I was by no means disappointed with the results. I adore Kenzie and I've known and looked up to Katie for years (we're Miss NC Teen USA sisters). They both competed beautifully and I just know that they will do our state well on the national level. At the end of the pageant, I'm proud to say that I was the first to hug them and congratulate them. 
@Ryan sorry... I know you watermarked this for a reason :)
The following day I took the time to be sad. I ate my strawberry cheesecake milkshake from Cook Out and giant plate of nachos. But the last thing that I needed was to let go of all of the work I put in. I got myself up Monday morning and was back in the gym.
I recognized that it wouldn't do me any good to sit around feeling bad for myself. If I wasn't happy where I was at I needed to do something to change it. I started throwing myself into things that make me happy. I've begun looking for a new job. I've been making a conscious effort to be a better friend. I've been seeing my family more.
It's too early to say whether any more pageants are in my future. I think my parents would be thrilled for me to put my focus on my career (hey, they're paying for my education) and I think it's time to do just that. I'm graduating this spring and I'm excited about the opportunity to move wherever my job may take me!
With that said, I am so grateful for these last 8 years worth of memories. Pageants have molded me into a person that I am incredibly proud to be and I can't imagine my life any other way. I'm not sure what I'll be up to next, but I do know that I'll be doing my best to put my best foot forward.

- Kelsey

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