The first time I stood on the Miss North Dakota stage was 5 years ago.
It was 2015, I was a teenager and had recently finished my freshman year at Concordia College, and Donald Trump was not yet on anyone’s radar of someday becoming President of the United States.
My first time competing at Miss North Dakota I arrived by train from Montana where I had been in staff training at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp to become a camp counselor. I remember hopping off the train wearing my chacos and gym shorts and driving to the Williston State dorm where all the candidates were staying. I recall unpacking my multiple suitcases filled to the brim with six inch heels, makeup products, and sparkly dresses and hurrying off to meet the other candidates that first evening of Miss North Dakota Week.
Boy, what a full six days that followed.
Somehow, I made it to finals night without breaking an ankle — and was announced as a top ten finalist, and eventually top five. By the time I was called into the top five, my hands were shaking and my armpits were dripping with sweat. I remember barely hearing a word of my final onstage question. What I do recall, is blanking, pausing for what seemed like an eternity, and then recovering with the words: “Wow, that was a brain fart. World peace!” (The video still exists on my personal Instagram account).
Obviously, I did not win that night — which is why I’m still here and competing one more time (woo!). I share this as a reminder that sometimes you’re not going to get it the first time. Or the second, or even the third. Or maybe even the fourth. But along the way you’re going to learn a LOT. And you’re going to meet a lot of people and make a lot of memories that are going to be stories that you will tell for the rest of your life. So keep at it! Timing doesn’t always play out the way we originally want it to and sometimes (OK, oftentimes) things don’t go the way we would like, but ultimately things have a way of playing out the way they’re supposed to. Whether you’re a believer or not, I believe that God’s hand is in everything and that his timing is perfect. Trust that fact.
That’s my Ted Talk for today, folks — that you should keep going at it. And I’ll be right there with ya — going at it, too.
I didn’t fall for Collin the first time I met him. No... for some of us — many of us — love happens when we’re not looking for it. We stumble upon it when we’re least expecting it... or, as was the case for us.
Although I had always kept my eye on Collin (we met in the sixth grade), I never intended to actually date him (even though at the tender age of twelve I had developed a minor crush.) And despite the fact that we barely uttered a word to one another in middle school, I had this feeling that we one day would become good friends. Nothing more, nothing less: good friends.
Funny stuff, ehh?
Fast forward twelve years (yes, literally a lifetime later — we’ve known each other half of our lives!) and over six years since we made it Facebook official (that was a big day) I continue to fall more in love with this man with every passing cycle around the sun.
Boy... have we both changed through the years — an obscene amount of growth and experiences. And yet, parallel with that growth in life experiences and character... my love for him has grown, too.
It’s the little things that make me feel the most loved by this man. He gives me the last bite of his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He scratches my back when I don’t ask. He helps jump start my car when it fails to start in the dead of a North Dakota winter (it’s rough, ya’ll.) This guy tells me that I’m beautiful when I’m wearing sweatpants without an ounce of makeup on my face. He calls me smart and texts me every single night before bed, “I love you!” for no particular reason other than the fact of saying it just because he means it.
You may call it sappy, but I call it intentional. One thing that I’ve learned these past few years is that love must be intentional, or else, it’s forgotten. As quickly as people fall in love, I’ve also seen the same happen the other way — we hate to see it, but people fall out of love all too easily.
I don’t believe there’s any timeline, deadline, or primetime for falling in love and keeping that love. It happens when you least expect it, and once you have it... well, you must intentionally invest in it. But I promise, if you believe in this love, it will wholeheartedly be worth it. It might sound cliché, but be the type of person who you want to be with — be kind, listen, communicate, understand each other’s communication styles, be creative, have fun and play! Celebrate one another every day while always being each other’s #1 fan, be wholeheartedly present when you’re with one another, have empathy, forgive, and be patient. If you think this person might just be worth it, continue chasing him/her well beyond that finish line. Love is a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking — I promise.
That’s my very early valentine’s day wisdom for ya’ll.
Oh, and Collin? I love ya.
For myself, fall is a time of internal reflection. The wild and jam-packed days of serendipitous summer are over and — I believe that for many of us — we find ourselves longing to be still... to remember and reflect on past times while looking ahead to our futures.
While reflecting and thinking, I find myself creating lots of lists — lists that have a tendency to all too quickly bury themselves deep into my phone. So, instead of allowing these ideas to die... I'm sharing them with you.
The following is a list of things I’ve been reminding myself as of late:
Enjoy this waning season of fall and all of the thinking that this specific time of year often brings.
This is my dad.
For the past four years he has led a medical team to Pignon, Haiti to provide eye care for thousands (yes, thousands) of individuals who are unable to receive the kind of quality care that is readily available and accessible in the states. Mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, children… they all come.
By word of mouth, the arrival date of the "American eye doctors" swiftly spreads throughout the region and anyone in need of eye care flocks to the small hospital in Pignon, many of them traveling long miles, in order to receive treatment that will restore their vision.
This has been happening for years, even before my dad began spearheading the trip (which he “inherited” from a team in Iowa.)
It takes an enormous amount of time, energy, and money to make this mission happen year after year. Months of preparation and a passionate community of individuals willing to give their time and talents - and who believe in the mission of providing quality eye care - are what make this annual trip not only possible, but impactful and successful.
This year, (this week!) a team of 29 is currently in Pignon working tirelessly from 8 am until 8 pm every day, making sure these people’s needs are met. Screening, scheduling, distributing hundreds of eye glasses, surgeries, serving in any capacity… it all happens.
The entire team inspires me, but especially my dad. Since going with him the first time 5 years ago, I witnessed as he wore his heart on his sleeve for those people.
Dad — you are a blazing bolt of light, an energizer bunny who never stops until the job is done. I realize that many people are likely telling you thank you this week, but today I especially wanted to thank you for:
Thanks for inspiring, Dad. You’re my hero.
I love you. ♥️
This time of the year is tough.
I say that not to complain, but because I know there are many of us living in the frigid dark north who are currently sharing that thought. Last week the temperature was a record breaking NEGATIVE FIFTY DEGREES in Fargo (HOW is that even possible??? ) and yet somehow, we continue to live here. And many of us - such as myself - start to question it daily when we have weeks on end of seemingly endless darkness and cruel temperatures.
I don’t know about many of you, but my soul feels as if it's half dead in this weather. The past few weeks I feel as if I have been surviving rather than thriving. I feel as if I’m stuck in a dark hole and am not emerging anytime soon.
I don’t like it; this mindset is not my "normal."
Yet, as I was thinking about it some more, I realized that although this time of year seems especially tough both mentally and physically (and… also emotionally and spiritually), most of us experience ups and downs throughout the entirety of the year. I think back to nearly nine months ago when I was returning to Fargo from spending my final semester of college in Washington D.C.; I wrote the following words while on my flight back home:
Ya know, over the course of the past few weeks, I believe my fire has been rekindled. 😊
For a seeming long while (ok, intermittently throughout the course of the last few months) I felt this overwhelming sense of fear - an entrapment of feeling “lost”. I never talked about it, but it was nearly always there bubbling beneath the surface. I have missed what I’ve known and loved for most of my life. But as I’ve been sitting here reflecting on the plane just now, I’ve realized that previous fear is gone - instead replaced with a reestablished and increasingly reaffirmed confidence in myself, who I am, and what I feel called to do in life. My curiosity in the world around me, drive, passion... they are all back 😁⭐️👣😅🤗🤙🏻👋🏼🦋🐬 And although I still don’t know where I’m going, I feel a peace ... a calm (which is hopefully not leading to a storm 😂.) This is a good life - it really is.
At this moment in time I felt such a peace ... yet, I won’t lie: I found myself caught in an unexpected storm upon arriving home.
Those weeks leading up to and following graduation were tough. I again felt plagued by a sense of fear; I felt lost and unsure of what my purpose and identity was as I realized that I was no longer a student and without a clear path ahead of me.
Yet, here’s the thing: life is full of both stormy and sunny days. For myself there have been multiples of each within the past year, both in regard to the weather and within my own mind. Throughout the course of the past 9 months there have been a plethora of ups and downs, switching seasons, good days and bad days... and I find myself needing to be reminded that this seeming never ending cycle is all a part of the journey. Our self confidence, identity, sense of purpose... it shifts, regardless of how strong or weak we may feel in a given moment. I’m coming to terms with this fact.
I share this because I realize that the “dead” of winter (aka NOW) can be an especially tough time for many people; however, I want to remind you that it is IS only a season and it will pass (both in regard to the time of year and mentally.)
Life guarantees ups and downs... yet, we will get through them. We’re strong. 💪🏼 And tough. 😉And even on a day such as today when we are literally caught in a blizzard... remember that sunny days are coming. ☀️
It’s been seven months since I graduated from college.
Upon returning from Washington D.C. to Concordia in April, I found myself saying a brief hello & goodbye to my fellow peers whom I had invested my previous four years of undergrad with, and preparing myself for the new adventure that I knew lie ahead. I graduated from college in May and found myself leaving the world of academia and venturing out into the world… to a fourth summer of working at my beloved Montana bible camp.
Following an enriching last summer of embracing my inner child energies, I again ventured out into the world - for a few weeks of traveling - until I decided to return home.
Home, to Fargo, North Dakota - the place of my childhood. The town where I spent my elementary, teenage, and subsequently college years.
And now, the town where I currently am practicing how to become an “actual” adult.
(*Yes, I specifically say “practicing” because many days I still feel as if I’m not a “real” adult. Although I’m twenty-three and have a “real” job - as in, an 8-5/5 days a week job with benefits - and I live away from home, I continue to feel like I’m a kid half of the time. Any college grads relate???)
With all of this being said, life is good. After being away from Fargo for nearly eight months, it was comforting to return home. Because let me tell ya, senior year of college is weird. It’s a year full of transitions and change. And although change can be exciting and great, it also can be difficult to adjust to dramatic switches in routine. Because instead of having your path clearly laid out in the form of an academic year, for the first time, you realize that following graduation your life won’t be so plainly mapped out. Following college graduation you will no longer have a clear schedule and strict guidelines showing you the way, but instead, it can be whatever you want - a simultaneously terrifying and freeing reality. You will say goodbye to your college community (which has become your safe haven throughout the past four years) and you will welcome into your arms - whether you’re ready or not - the future. Your future, whatever you want that to be. It could be more school, any sort of job, marriage, parenting… all worthwhile endeavors and adventures. And it is all up to you.
For someone such as myself, I’ve never quite known exactly what I want my future to look like. I have broad range goals, but the specifics remain aloof. Being someone who thrives off of people and a diverse set of experiences, I know what I like and what I don’t. However, applying my broad criteria to a specific job has proven to be a bit more difficult than I originally foresaw. Throughout my academic journey, I was someone who thrived off of the energy of school and its people. I loved the community and opportunity to connect with people my own age over the smallest of topics. I found class discussions stimulating and I loved all of the opportunities that were seemingly right at my fingertips, and whether I decided to seize them or not they were there, wonderful resources in the form of events, individuals, and places. I loved college and (nearly) my entire academic journey. And for these reasons, I dream of someday continuing my education, regardless of what that might look like.
However, for now - I feel content in this new chapter of life called “post-grad.”
Granted, I have my days when I struggle to be in the present and I find myself dwelling on the fact that I have yet to figure out exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. But, on the bright side, I have a fantastic job, live with two wonderful gals, and have become involved with activities and groups that fill my time in the best way possible. I get to see my family whenever I want along with my very best friend who remains in the area too. Some of my college friends have even stuck around the Fargo-Moorhead area so it’s fun to see them when I can. Life is better than good; life is excellent.
* Sidenote - It’s funny, I’ve realized something since entering the workforce: we’re all just big kids trying to find our own paths. And although many of us are seemingly at different stages, we all crave similar things: purpose, community, and a sense of peace. Many of us go through life observing people who are older than we and think that they have it all together. And then (at least for me) I get to that seemingly same age or stage and realize, heck, I don’t feel nearly as mature as they appeared, nor do I have it all figured out. Perspective is interesting in that way.
In a nutshell, let me repeat, post grad is a strange time. It’s a transition, and as is the case with most life transitions, they can be tough. Throughout this past year of change, I have undeniably grieved the “loss” of school and community. However, these significant changes, they are all part of the journey. While there is a sense of lost community when leaving college, you keep in touch with those whom you truly care about. And on the plus side, instead of studying all of the time, you finally have enough time to pursue non-school related interests along with having more time for yourself. However, if you’re anything like me, this acceptance of a new chapter comes with time. It takes time to process any major life transition, which undeniably includes the transition from undergrad to “real” adulting.
In closing, I must share a few words from a good friend of mine. As I was leaving Washington D.C. in April and dwelling on the reality of postgrad, this friend - who is a bit older than I - summarized his post grad experience in a fantastic text message. He shared these wise words:
I remember feeling relieved at first around graduation because I really wanted to start working and I wanted to get through exams, papers, presentations, etc. Shortly after graduation, though, I remember how much I missed going to school -- classes, clubs, study sessions, and I’d say it really boiled down to my missing the conduit to fun learning opportunities and interesting interpersonal interactions. You can’t let graduation be the closing act, however, and it’s important to keep looking for those opportunities wherever you can. Graduation, for me, represented the watershed moment where the onus was now on the graduates (me) to create and find those fulfilling activities and experiences instead of having everything served on a platter the way things are in student life/student affairs. So, of course, there are elements of undergrad that I really miss, but I have really enjoyed my life in the labor force!
Life is full of transitions and change. Don’t fear these changes, but instead realize that it might take time to fully process and adjust to new chapters. Continue to find those activities and people that sustain and energize you. Don’t settle, but don’t dwell too far in the past or the future either. Be in the now. And be thankful. A thankful mindset and attitude is the best place to dwell.
That’s all for now. Happy transitioning to whichever new season of life you might find yourself in!
is currently living life one day at a time in Moorhead, MN where she works on the Marketing Team at Concordia College.