Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
As much as I love to be warm, there’s something about the leaves changing colors in the fall that does my soul some good. It’s been my favorite thing about the Carolinas since I moved “north” in 2012. In Georgia, we never really had four seasons, and I’ve decided it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
Today I have a very simple message, but it’s one that I believe needs to be said. It’s one that I’ve needed to hear at points of change in my own life.
Be gentle when judging yourself. Accept changes you make in your life. Recognize that how you got to this point was an important part of your journey, but it is by no means the last chapter in your book.
We all have a construct of our personal identity. We know who we think we are, and it’s based on so very many things. Who our parents are. Where we grew up. The sports teams we cheer for. The clothes we wear. We look for people with similar identities, who don’t threaten this carefully constructed image we have in our minds. And sometimes we forget a very important truth: we don’t have to be that person.
The beauty of being human is in the ability to change. It’s easier said than done, but we don’t have to repeat our mistakes or even the mistakes of our parents. We can change our minds about who we are when we recognize a flaw, and with effort and patience, we can change our being.
Encourage positive change. We all go through seasons of highs and lows, peace and strain, certainty and confusion. Each season is preparing you for the next, teaching you how to adapt. If we were all born the same way we were going to die, life would be pretty bland. How lucky are we that there is always something to learn?
P.S. I can’t wait to start a new season in my life and have an exciting announcement about post-grad plans coming to you soon!
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to bring you an expected end.
That verse has been playing in my head ever since I was crowned Miss Clemson University in January of 2016. From the moment I hit campus freshmen year, I was in love with this institution, but I never anticipated the opportunity to represent it in such a special way. This was a part of my life planned by someone much wiser than me, and as they put the crown on my head, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why me, God? What is your plan for me in this role?”
I never participate in anything without putting my best foot forward. That’s how I was raised. At the same time, I in no way anticipated beating some of the biggest names in the pageant world in order to win this title. I was happy to be considered, so blessed my sorority sisters trusted me to represent them. I had no idea what was coming, though.
With my reign ending this Saturday, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past year and what it has meant to me.
Being Miss Clemson University is special in that she has no ties to a larger pageant organization. While this means no director or assistance with scheduling events, it also provides a special autonomy. For the past year, it was on me to determine what I should be doing. I chose to primarily integrate the title into my existing life, not necessarily seeking special circumstances, but just using it as an excuse to volunteer more.
As usual, I did most of my volunteer work for the GHS Children’s Hospital, using the crown and being executive director of Clemson Miracle to get through the door. I got to see a lot of smiling faces, kids who thought I was way cooler than I actually am.
Through the pageant itself, we fundraised for the Clemson Child Development Center. I had the honor of delivering the check. If you’ve never been, it’s often a little chaotic. The kids have a lot of energy, and the adults have been there all day and will most likely take some work home. However, when their director, Carol, found a moment to step out of the room and saw the check, her face said more than words could about her gratitude for Mortar Board and all they do for CCDC.
Then, there was the moment they let me ride in the First Friday Parade. If you didn’t go to Clemson, this is the parade before our first home football game every fall, and to us, it’s kind of a big deal. To have my own car in the parade was a huge honor, and I loved every minute of blowing kisses to little girls and screaming cadence count with our alumni band.
Of all the years to be crowned Miss Clemson, I got 2016 – the year we finished off our football season with a National Championship title by defeating Alabama. The year Clemson Miracle raised over $71,000 for the children’s hospital. The year I graduated from Clemson and was accepted into their MBA program. The year my little brother started his freshmen year as a tiger. It has been a year I will never forget.
Five years ago, I decided to attend Clemson University. As a Georgia native, people repeatedly asked me why, and I had little to say other than “it just felt right.” I had no idea I had made the best decision of my life. During my time at Clemson, I met my best friends and the love of my life. I was challenged and changed by numerous mentors and opportunities. I realized that above all it wasn’t the school I chose but the people I found. The Clemson family – all the unique individuals who find common ground in a love of orange and purple – is the best to be surrounded by, and I am forever thankful I found each and every one of you.
To my parents, who agreed to send me to the only school I didn’t have a full scholarship to, thank you. I cannot express either my love for you and your support, or my love for this place, because the words just don’t exist. Just know, I could not have accomplished all I have without the unconditional love and support of you both.
To my little brother, Henry, I truly appreciate all of the pageants and dance recitals you have sat through. I’m so excited to watch your love of Clemson grow and to see how you both change over the next 4 (or maybe 5 if you’re lucky!) years.
To all the people who made it possible for me to succeed in the world of pageants: thank you. Mama K, you are truly my second mom, and I’m just so thankful for every hour I got to spend with you in the studio. Christine (Smith), wow, you’re the most talented human, and your salon is going to be the talk of the town! Thanks for making me the absolute best version of myself and drinking mimosas with me during makeup time. Cathy Scott, it has been way too long since we crossed paths, but you were the first to recognize I had the potential for the stage. Thank you for every gown you altered to perfection. And of course, Gregory Ellenburg, thank you for the gown of my dreams.
Christine (Scott) – thank you a thousand times over again for the hundreds of shots it took to perfectly expose a white evening gown at midday on a football field. You are such a talented photographer; I’m blessed to call you my friend.
To the women of Kappa Delta, thank you for letting me represent you on stage last year. I’m thankful for the continual support of so many of you, especially my roommates. Savannah, thank you for dressing me when clothes became overwhelming / taking me to wine night when life became overwhelming. Littlest One, thank you for being the best sister I could have asked for. My other Courtneys – all my love, I wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t found you both 4.5 years ago. And English, you were last to the roommate party, which is good because the amount of fun we have together is deadly.
To my amazing boyfriend, Lawrence I know you never thought you’d sit through a pageant (or 5), but you have been so great about supporting everything I pursue. I’m thankful every day that Clemson brought me to you. You’re also the best puppy dad, and I’m so proud of the little nugget we’re raising.
Maybe it’s the sunsets, or the ice cream, or the tailgates that make Clemson so special; everyone has their own opinion. To me, it’s the people that make up our Clemson family that make it such a special place to call home. I am blessed every day to be a tiger, and I want to thank every member of my Clemson family for allowing me to represent you over the past year. To the girl we crown on Saturday, what you do is up to you, so make it the best year of your life to date! I am truly so excited for whoever gets to experience this incredible #ClemsonMoment next.
Just when you thought I was really going to graduate, I found another way to stay in Clemson! I like to think the administration regretted that I had reached the end of my time as a student tiger, but whatever the reason, a spot magically opened up in Clemson’s MBA program. One week before accepting my diploma, I accepted a spot to begin my masters studies at Clemson starting in January 2017.
The day before I received the call about the opening, I made an important decision: I chose faith instead of fear. I decided to fully let go of the worry over my uncertain future, to trust instead that God truly does have a plan. I recognized worrying was doing nothing to help me.
This is an uphill battle for me – I’m from a family of ruminaters. I have to actively choose faith over fear every single day, usually many times a day. I have to remind myself constantly not to fear the future’s many unknowns or even the present’s uncertainties. Anxiety is the root causes of the tension in so many peoples’ lives. Fear has never solved a problem, and it certainly isn’t good for your health.
So here I am, trying to laugh without fear of the future as they say, and I get a call about an opening in Clemson’s MBA program. It’s an opening that would allow me to start January 9th, less than a month after my graduation. If I can get my application and references by the end of the week, they are willing to consider me for this spot. Luckily for me, I had incredible mentors throughout my undergraduate experience. One had her reference letter ready before I even asked, and another hustled to get hers done in time. I turned it in and crossed my fingers, thinking this had to be meant to be if they were willing to make so many exceptions on my behalf.
I guess it was. I got into the program and accepted my spot a week before I crossed the stage to receive my undergraduate diploma.
I’m standing on the doorstep of a grand new adventure, and I’m thrilled that this opportunity fell on me. I no longer feel like I picked the “wrong” major in undergraduate school. Though psychology was ultimately not what I wanted to do, my major opened doors for me through the people I met, the challenges I overcame, and the things I learned about myself along the way. I think a business degree is a much better fit for the gifts and talents I’ve been given, but I don’t regret the path I’ve taken to get to where I am.
In summary, I have successfully put off becoming an adult for 2 more years, and I get the added bonus of 2 more tiger football seasons! Although, this season might be unbeatable. Clemson has a rematch with Bama on January 9, and it seems only fitting that my boys will be playing for the Natty on my first day of graduate school. Go tigers!
Today, I walked out of my last class as an undergraduate student. For a minute, I was elated, but all too quickly, I became panicked. Then, as if out of nowhere, a soothing calm sank into my soul. In 14 days, I will receive my diploma and graduate from Clemson University with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Communications. Two weeks from today, I will turn the tassel and have to embrace “adulting” and its finery. I have always been the girl with a plan. For once in my life, I’m not.
I haven’t found a job, and I haven’t applied to a graduate program. This is incredibly unlike the wide-eyed freshmen me that walked onto Clemson’s campus in 2012. I came to Clemson prepared to graduate in 4 years with any major as long as my prerequisites for occupational therapy were in order. Afterwards, I was going to receive my Doctorate in OT at Belmont University in Nashville, TN (class of 2019). I was going to specialize in pediatrics and work at a children’s hospital, eventually running the therapy department. It was a solid plan until I realized I hated OT. It felt monotonous and dull, and I’d just been interning for a month. I watched my plan spark and sputter and eventually burn out. It wasn’t worth living the life I’d imaged if I was going to be living a life I hated.
So there I was, two and a half years into my master plan, with no idea what my next steps should be. Thankfully, I have an amazing God, the best boyfriend, and a school with an impeccable career services center. I became the first psychology major from Clemson to pursue a cooperative education program and landed an internship with BorgWarner, an automotive manufacturing plan in Seneca, SC. I got to spend 9 months working in their Human Resources department, and they let me get my hands into everything. I worked through the hiring process, coordinated wellness initiative, collaborated with our safety team, managed our KPI tracker, and so much more. It turns out, I have a talent for people.
Armed with this knowledge, I came back to school this Fall to complete my degree. It turns out I should have been a business major. However, in their own way, psychology and communications have prepared me to pursue a career in this direction. I’ve studied people for four (and a half #blessed) years. I’m ready.
But for what? That’s a question I can’t answer yet. I’m still waiting on God to show me the rest of His plan for my future. See the thing that’s changed about me during my undergraduate experience is not losing my sense of direction and purpose, but rather finding it from a much better source. I guess in a way this is my testimony. What I would like to share with you is something pretty simple that it seems to have taken me 22 years to learn: I am not in control, and thank God for that.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
So to those of you asking what’s next in my life, I no longer dread your question. I have lots of thoughts and ideas about the future, but right now, I’m waiting for everything to unfold. Your prayers and kind thoughts are appreciated as I embark on this exciting new phase! And if you haven’t today, take a deep breath and rest easy knowing the best is yet to come.
As graduation fast approaches, it has left me in deep contemplation about some of the things I consider to be truths in college that just might not work in the real world.
Are Febreezed clothes still clean clothes?
One of the Clemson orientation ambassadors told that to every incoming Clemson freshmen, and I have found it to be a universal law amongst my collegiate peers.
Is “Netflix and chill” still an acceptable use of my evening?
College students know that the only alternative to a night of frantic studying or irresponsible partying is a night of Netflix binging.
Do you still pre-game parties?
Everything is college is cause for a pre-game, but my mother did not even understand the term. To “pre-game” is to have a pre-party to get pre-drunk for the real party. In fact, you can pre-game the pre-game if you want to get really crazy. Somehow, I cannot imagine pre-gaming an office party, and yet, to tolerate co-workers, I might bring this tradition with me.
Speaking of alcohol, when exactly is it appropriate to have a drink?
No matter the day of the week or even the time of the day, there is always someone drinking in a college town. In fact, it isn’t even frowned upon to have a beer alone in the bar at 1pm in a college town. Where do the lines of decency lie in the real world?
Can I still wear XL t-shirts over my athletic bottoms?
Obviously, I will have to stop this trend during the day when I’m at work, but I am hoping it is still acceptable attire to the grocery store.
Will other adults judge me if I blow my budget and am subsisting off of rice and easy mac?
Sometimes, you just really need the latest function t-shirt. Or a bottle of wine. Or tickets to the concert. Is it okay to pick one of these things over buying groceries for the rest of the month anymore?
Can I continue to sleep on my friend’s couch or will I have to start buying hotel rooms when I visit?
In college, it is perfectly acceptable to go to visit a friend at another university and bring along your 8 best friends to sleep on all of the available space in the apartment. In the real world, adults seem to buy hotels when they visit other adults. This seems like an expense I want to avoid.
When am I too old for my parents’ insurance?
Really, I don’t even know how to begin figuring insurance out.
Also, when am I too old to be on my parents’ cell phone plan?
Although I have been insisting I need unlimited texting, calling, and data plans, I will have to learn to make do with the bare minimum when this bill falls into my lap.
Can I continue to sorority “craft” my wall art?
All of my friends have walls decked in homemade canvases, but these do not seem to be found on adult walls. Their replacements look expensive.
As concerning as I find all of these questions, I have just accepted a cooperative education opportunity, which means I’ve successfully given myself another semester (and football season) here in God’s country! Here’s to continually trying to find ways to avoid graduation. May we stay forever young!