by MISS WINONA KAYLA BOETTCHER
If you could write a letter to a younger version of yourself, what would you say? Would you tell them to be brave? Would you tell them to stay away from certain people? Or would you tell them to take an opportunity that you missed?
If I could write this letter, I would give it to the 14-year-old who was just about to enter high school for the first time. I know some people get excited about going back to school, but I was never that person. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this to talk about how much I disliked school growing up, I’m writing this for anyone who may be struggling or for those who are still trying to find themselves.
When I was in school, I felt alone in school. I felt awkward and strange and as a result I isolated myself and started a nasty cycle that was self-sustaining. As high school progressed, I began to slowly figure out who I was and who I wanted to be in the future. I began to come out of my shell and, most importantly, I began to feel comfortable in my own skin. I will be the first to say that it wasn’t easy, and I struggled a lot, but if there is anything I know now, it’s that I don’t regret any of those bad days, any of those hard times, or any person who made me question myself. I am the person I am today because of those times and to be honest I like the person I am today quite a bit.
But I know what that struggle feels like when you’re in the middle of it and I’d like to give some easy tips for anyone who may be struggling like I did. One thing that helped me change my mind about school was new school supplies that I was in love with. They made me excited for class and if you’re working with things that make you feel good, from my experience, you do better! This is still the case even in college. I have a cute notebook and my colored pens that I can’t wait to use. My next tip is, after every day while you’re getting ready for bed, think back and find one good thing from your day. It can be something that made you laugh, something that made you smile, or even something as simple as enjoying the feel of the sun on your face. Sometimes it will be easy to think of good things, and other times it will be hard, but finding that good in even the worst day will help you train your mind to look for the positive.
My last tip is to find something that makes you feel free. When you feel bogged down in daily life or you don’t feel like you have control it’s essential to have an outlet that you can turn to on your own terms. For those who aren’t aware my competition talent is vocal performance … singing. This isn’t something I started because it looked good on stage. Singing is my retreat, it’s my happy place. Singing for others, for myself, or even alone in my room. When I sing, I feel like I’m lifting the weight of the bad day off myself and opening a doorway to a new way to see a situation. This is one of the reasons that talent is still my favorite part of the Miss America program. It allows those watching to see into the contestants and learn who they are by sharing their passions.
Competition is no different than school, both can be scary, but with a change in the way we approach them, we can conquer anything.