Being Miss Wisconsin is as much a learning experience as it is the opportunity to be a role model. The role enables one young women to glean a lifetime’s worth of understanding, experience and knowledge in a fleeting 365 day time period. While my days are jam packed with Miss Wisconsin duties and responsibilities, interestingly enough, I’ve become more of an avid reader during my year as Wisconsin’s frequent flyer (or driver, rather). I tend to believe that this obsession with learning and growing stems from the profound sense of tenacity and purpose I have discovered in my time as our state’s titleholder. Prior to this year, I was never one to spend much time in self-reflection (I actually thought the concept was rather ridiculous and something only yogis did). However, I’ve found the practice to be quite therapeutic as this year has been a whirlwind of amazing, life-changing moments. In the midst of it all, I’ve taken time to read several blogs about the importance of outlining lessons learned through unique experiences. In true McKenna fashion, I’ve collected a list of 10 things I learned in 10 months as Miss Wisconsin.
- Long drives are a fantastic opportunity to listen and learn! I became a podcast junkie the day I was handed the keys to the Miss Wis Mobile. Instead of listening to music, I turn on a podcast and by the time I arrive at my event or appearance that day, I’ve learned something new. Some of my favorite podcasts include Ted Talks Daily, Something You Should Know, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations and a few political podcasts for daily news, break downs and opinions. (If you aren’t a podcast listener right now, it’s super easy to get on board the train! Just download the podcast app on your iPhone…I’m not sure what the Android equivalent is #TeamiPhone….and subscribe to shows you’re interested in.)
- Having great girlfriends is essential. I’ve always been the type of person who takes herself WAY too seriously. Having supportive friends by my side who remind me to make time for myself this year has proven to be incredibly helpful! Whether it’s a text, a phone call, grabbing coffee or a good old fashioned sleepover, being able to rely on a network of strong, like-minded women has in turn made me a stronger woman.
- There exist coffee shops other than Starbucks in Wisconsin…but Starbucks is the only one with a drive thru. Enough said.
- Many people have different expectations of who and what Miss Wisconsin is and should be. These different opinions make themselves known to me in person, online, in secret and in many other forms. What has this taught me? First, it’s given me even thicker skin. As someone who was raised in the extremely competitive world of ballet, I considered myself to be a pretty tough person prior to becoming Miss Wisconsin. I had dealt with intense criticism, scrutiny and judgement on stage and in the studio, which made me a more resilient person. However, I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the criticism that comes along with becoming a public figure. Thought, if anything, it’s given me more resolve than ever to love who I am, what I stand for and the person I want to become.
- “If you can’t tone it, spray tan it”….”You’re never fully dressed without a spray tan”…”Help me, I’m pale”….you get the idea.
- Be open and willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Some of my best memories from this year are from moments I tried something I was afraid of doing! We learn and grow so much from experiences that scare us, so never shy away from an opportunity to do something different. You’ll end up learning more about yourself and the beautiful, diverse, colorful world we live in.
- There is no such thing as an off-duty Miss Wisconsin. Whether people have seen you on the news, in the Miss Wisconsin car or your mom simply brags about you, you’re always wearing the crown and sash (in a metaphorical way) and I love this part of the job. Humbling are the moments when a little girl sees me get out of my car and asks if she can be Miss Wisconsin one day, or the maintenance man at the gym I go to sees me on TV and stops to ask me about being Miss Wisconsin, or an old grade school teacher calls me up because she saw an article about me in the paper. It doesn’t take a crown and a sash to make people smile…but it sure helps.
- Keep your shoe closet in your car. You never know when a heel will break or the temperature will suddenly drop 20 degrees (quintessential Wisconsin weather).
- Take pictures of everything! Instagram is an amazing way to collect memories and keep a journal of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, blogging and journaling are great too, but I tend to be too impatient to sit down and write in a notebook, so social media is the next best thing. I am notoriously bad at remembering to snap photos while I’m on the job or at events. I always get so wrapped up in what I’m doing that by the time I leave, I’ve forgotten to capture the moment! I’ve tried to get better at this one, but it’s still a work in progress.
- Don’t lose sight of who (and what) got you where you are in the first place. It’s so easy to get lost in the whirlwind of activity and scheduling as Miss Wis, but I found that when I took time to remember that it was God who made all of this possible for me, I was able to appreciate everything even more!
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel” –Maya Angelou
Here’s to hoping this list inspires your own self-reflection! Give it a try…you won’t be disappointed.