New Beginnings

Hello!! I’m Ashly, and this is my first post on my blog! I have always wanted to start a blog to share my love for writing with others, but I finally just got to it after years of making it my new year’s resolution. So here’s to yet another new beginning in my life throughout the past year.

It definitely has been a crazy year! Junior year in high school is no easy job, and with cheerleading, working, and pageantry, I’ve had a lot to balance lately. Even though it might be scary or hectic at some points, I know it’s all worth it because I’ve found where I want to be in life. I may not know exactly what I want to do when I grow up (which is actually pretty soon), but I do know what I want to do while I figure it all out.

This may sound super cheesy, but I really found my niche this year. In all honesty, I would have never pegged myself as a “pageant girl.” If you’ve known me growing up, you would know that I used to be a huge tomboy, not afraid to get in the dirt or go hunting or run around with all the boys. In gymnastics, I didn’t ever care if there was chalk under my nails or if I was sweaty when I laid in bed. I was totally that awkward girl growing up who you weren’t really sure what was going on in her mind, or why she decided to dress that way in public.

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Example A (from my middle school yearbook) I guess everyone has “those” days, but mine seemed to last a really long time.
No, I don’t still dress like that, especially in public, and yes, I am slightly embarrassed that photos of me looking like that exist. I’m not really sure when my brain switched gears, but it definitely did, because now I am a girl who gets freaked out by worms on the sidewalk and always has manicured hands. One slow step at a time, I shed my outer shell of being that shy girl and started participating in activities that made me happy. After quitting gymnastics and permanently scrubbing chalk dust off my hands, I decided to try out for cheerleading before my freshman year, and I made it. I was still a little more quiet than the other girls on my team, but I was able to make my very first friends in high school. I loved cheering at games and sporting my uniform around school on gamedays, because I felt like I was an important part of the team. I competed for my school team as well, and that was the year that we won Nationals.

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Nationals champions in 2014
With a new-found confidence that came with freshman year, I started participating in even more new activities, like pole vault, yearbook, and the special needs club. I made more friends by spending every day after school on the track, writing and taking pictures for my yearbook spreads, and hanging out with the disabled students at my school. I felt like I was making an impact on my life for the better, but I still didn’t feel completely complete. I longed for something else to make me feel like those pieces were falling together, but I just couldn’t find it.


 

Until the one night during my sophomore year that my mom took my friend Brooke and I to the Miss Omaha pageant. I had always been around pageants, with my grandparents being a host family for Miss Nebraska every summer, but I never had seen the teen part of the pageant. I watched the competitors that night so intently, and left the pageant later with the idea of me being up on that stage stuck in my head. I constantly talked about the pageants to my friends and family, trying to see what others thought of the competition. After annoying my parents with the talk for several months, they agreed to help me get ready to compete. I was ecstatic, and I immediately started researching everything there was to know about pageants. I looked up dresses, hair, makeup, shoes, tips, tutorials, and so much more. I am one of those people that once I get an idea stuck in my head, I just keep talking and thinking about it until it happens, so you can imagine how obsessed I was with pageantry at that point.

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Brooke and I at Miss Omaha in 2014
 

I got coaching and found a piano teacher for my talent. I practiced so often that my family had to yell at me to stop playing the piano so they could have a couple minutes of silence. I had a countdown app on my phone to the first pageant and I checked it constantly. I bought my evening gown, my jewelry, my heels, and my interview dress, and I had them all neatly lined up in my closet just waiting for the day I would get to wear them. I competed in the Miss Omaha pageant nearly a year later, on the night of my school’s homecoming dance.

It was totally my first rodeo, and I was a nervous wreck before interview that morning. I had done a few mock interviews to get ready, but actually sitting in the chair outside of the judges’ room was so much different than what I expected. I was the first teen to compete that day, so I was even more nervous trying to set the example for the rest of the competitors. When they called my name to interview, I can swear that my heart stopped for a second. I smiled my biggest smile despite the nerves and walked in to the room to greet the judges. I thought my interview went pretty well for my first one, and I wasn’t really nervous for the rest of the day.

The true beginning of my pageant life wasn’t in that room, however. It was when I walked up to the microphone placed front and center of the stage that night in front of hundreds of people. The bright lights and loud music and the cheering of my family gave me chills the second that I started walking towards the crowd. I announced myself, and for the first time in my life, I felt like all of my fears and nerves had vanished. It was a quick moment, but for the rest of the pageant, I wanted to feel that same feeling again. Talent, fitness, on-stage question, and evening gown flew by, and each time I came out from behind the curtain I got the same chills I had earlier. I didn’t win that pageant, but I have never felt more proud of myself for second place in my life. I went home that night with not even the slightest bit of sadness that I hadn’t won. Instead, I was praising myself for the attempt. I finally felt like almost all of my pieces had fallen together. I had met some amazing girls, interviewed in front of strangers, and found the way to feel most confident in my own skin, something I wouldn’t have done earlier in my life.

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First runner up at Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen 2015
I went home that night feeling like a new person. I immediately emailed the directors of the next local pageant and starting planning out all my steps again. I met with my coaches again, and I kept practicing my talent piece. I couldn’t stop thinking about the thrill of being on that stage with my new friends, and no matter what I did to stop the thought, it always came back. Several weeks later, I traveled down to Kearney, where I competed in the next pageant. I could hardly sleep the night before because I was so excited to have the same exhilaration.

The pageant day went as well as it could – I met more awesome girls and had another great experience. All the areas of competition went well also, and before I knew it, it was time for awards. Standing up on stage with the other girls is a great feeling in of itself, but knowing that each girl is one of your good friends is such an amazing experience. I felt the chills more intensely that night than I had in Omaha, and I thought I felt more confident than before. My entire family was there, and I could hear their cheers erupt when I was called as the winner of the community service award. Several long minutes later, they announced the winner of the title of Miss Tri-Cities’ Outstanding Teen. I felt a hand on my shoulder, but I knew no one was there except for my Lord. When I felt that, I knew that it was the real thing – God had showed me that he was proud of me and was happy with what I had done. I ended up winning the crown that night in front of my whole family, but what made me the most humbled was that I had literally felt my life come together. I cannot express the exact feeling I had in words because it was just too powerful, but I will say that I know it will take a lot for me to feel the same thing again.

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Miss Tri-Cities’ Outstanding Teen 2016
I now am stronger than ever in so many aspects of my life; my faith, friendships, confidence, and service. I am trying so hard to keep up the positive feelings, and although it might be hard sometimes, I have never felt more excited for the future. I am so thankful for all of my new beginnings within the last several years and I know that I’m blessed with some fantastic people to help me along the way.

“God can restore what is broken and change it into something amazing. All you need is faith.” 

-Joel 2:25

Thank you SO much for reading!

With love,

Ashly