What Matters Most

"If the train doesn't stop at your station, then it's not your train." -Marianne Williamson

Heartbreak. It usually happens when we lose a loved one, experience a breakup, or lose a job. And, as I've learned over the last few weeks, it also happens when you lose a dream.

When you come close to accomplishing a lifelong goal of yours, only to find out that the timing wasn't right, or maybe that the dream wasn't even for you altogether, it's a pain I can't describe. It hurts. Bottom line. And this is how I felt on June 16 and the immediate days following.

Before I dive in, I want to say quickly that it's taken me a bit to realize it's okay that I'm not over this by now. I will be when I'm ready.

I've often said that being 1st Runner Up to a state title (or to any title, really) is without-a-doubt the hardest job in the entire room at that given point in time. Winning is easy. Losing is when your character means everything. And that character of yours will be tested in ways you never imagined in that moment. When you lose, everyone is watching you to see how you will respond. I remember telling myself in the weeks leading up to Miss Iowa 2018 that if I were to be 1st Runner Up, I better not embarrass myself. I better not show people that I'm bitter or petty or ruthless. I better show them the real me. So, I better act as graceful and as poised in THAT moment as I would've had the crown been mine.

I've talked a little bit about what it feels like to lose. I have been first runner up to three separate state titles -- Junior Miss Iowa 2008, Miss Iowa's Outstanding Teen 2012, and Miss Iowa 2018. Let's just say I'm fluent in the extremely painful yet equally rewarding job the first runner up holds. I should clarify: this has nothing to do with the lovely women who I've been first runner up to. They do not play a role in this equation. There is no jealousy or resentment. Every person I've been a runner up to has done the job the justice it deserves. This is not an attack on other women. This is an attempt to lay out emotions so I can move on.

A quote I've followed and loved for a few years is one my oldest sister Leah shared with me. Charles Bukowski once said, "what matters most is how well you walk through the fire." This is much easier said than done, but it's something I've tried to live my life by. How will you respond when faced with a challenge or adversity? Will you mope for weeks, months, even years? Or will you take what you've learned, and utilize that information to move forward in a healthy way with the hopes of becoming the best version of yourself that you possibly can be? There's always a choice. You can make your life look like a heaping pile of garbage, or you can make it look like shiny gold. That choice is up to you -- and that choice is a helluva lot easier to make when the going is easy.

I remember in the days following my rape that there was literally no question of survival for me. It wasn't, "is my life worth this work?" It was, "how do I move on? How can I take this garbage and turn it into gold?" (Those weren't my exact words; I'm paraphrasing here). But you get the point. Choosing to walk through challenges with grit and grace is always the hardest way, but it's always (always) the most rewarding way. Make no mistake, choosing to face hardship or disappointment doesn't mean you plaster a smile on your face. Sometimes, it means being painfully honest about the emotions you're experiencing, and trying to sift through them as gracefully as you can. It's not about faking it -- it's about surviving it.

Survival has always been the name of the game. "Survive the hardships. The obstacle is your way out. The only way out is through." These phrases are on repeat often in my head. A couple of days after Miss Iowa, my boyfriend and I decided to play a game where we asked random questions back and forth (Iowa in the summer will do this to people). He asked me, "what's your proudest moment?" And I said, almost without having to really think about it, "how I conducted myself when I didn't win on Saturday." It didn't occur to me until that moment that I'm allowed to be proud of my conduct in a scenario that wasn't the outcome I had envisioned. But I was proud. I am proud.

All that matters, without a shadow of a doubt, is how well you walk. Walk with grit. Walk with grace. Share how you're feeling without tearing another person down. Pick up your feet, and then move onto the next assignment life gives you. This is what matters. Not a crown. Not a title.

As for what is next, I am keeping a lot of plans to myself for now. But just know, a big splash will be made with or without a crown. For now, I’m taking everything one day at a time. As my dude Hagrid once said, “what’s comin’ will come, & we’ll meet it when it does.”

Lots of love from your Head Trauma Queen.


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