My (very domestic) travels have taken me a few places recently- namely Atlanta and Seattle, but my greatest adventure came from the place I least expected it.
For those of you not familiar with Bloomington-Normal, it’s basically the middle of nowhere, Illinois, and is the most normal and uninteresting place I have been to (forgive the word play, it was low hanging fruit.)
But this particular adventure wasn’t about the location, it was about the experience.
Earlier this month, I entered my first pageant and competed for the title of Miss Illinois in Bloomington-Normal.
I have a close friend who participates in pageants regular and always talks about them as a personally enriching experience, an avenue to meet equally impressive women, and a fun way to build self confidence (which I suppose may just be ego because at this point in my life my confidence is at Beyoncé levels.)
I never considered myself a pageant girl, but with my gal pal’s encouragement, competing in a pageant started to sound like something I absolutely must do.
So, I signed up.
I did my research (did you know that butt glue is a thing? Because I didn’t), bought an appropriate swimsuit (apparently I don’t own anything with sufficient booty coverage), poached a cherry red gown off of a stranger on the internet (because I wasn’t about to pay the full $750 for it jeez), and drove down to Central Illinois with a suitcase full of dresses and makeup not knowing what to expect next.
See, my life dreams never involved walking a stage in five inch heels wearing nothing but a bikini in front of people who’s only job is to judge you.
In fact, that sounded a lot more like a personal nightmare, and I woke up that morning thinking, “what the eff did I get myself into.”
Why was I voluntarily choosing to spend four days locked in the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, when I could have stayed in my comfortable summer weekend routine: sipping aggressive amounts of rosé while getting sunburnt and ogling beautiful men at the Soho House pool.
I reminded myself that the answer is pretty simple.
I don’t want to wake up one day and think, “Wouldn’t it have been cool if I had done that?
So I did it.
And I didn’t place, oh not even close my friends.
But as cheesy as it sounds, I did win that weekend.
I genuinely think I grew as a person. I restored all of my faith in beautiful women as people who build each other up and fix each other’s crowns (shout out to all of the ladies I met that weekend for teasing my hair, zipping my dresses, picking spinach out of my teeth before going on stage, and for all the tips and tricks!) I was reminded that I have an amazing network of friends (and Instagram acquaintances, ya’ll came through too) always supporting me and cheering me on, and that once in a while it’s healthy to go do something alone just cause you’ve never done it before.
Oh, and I learned that if you can strut your stuff in a teeny canary yellow bikini in 5 inch heels down a catwalk- there isn’t anything you can’t do.