“It’s a drop in the bucket”
This is a phrase that is used in my house more often than not. Whenever I’m worked up about an exam, a boy, a bad haircut, or being in a bikini on national television, my dad always reminds me that each of these moments is just a “drop in the bucket”. A perfect sentiment that each day is simply one drop, you are never adding more than that to what will eventually become a full bucket of ups and downs, and well…a full life that will have been shaped by each and every day that you’ve lived. Leave it to Jeff Witte to turn major meltdowns into really good teaching lessons.
Well today marks one of my favorite drops in my collective bucket, my graduation from college. 1285 days ago, I arrived on the UW-Madison campus sick to my stomach with nerves, and totally clueless what my college years would bring. Little did I know! If you’ve followed my journey you know it’s been a really wild ride.
I began this journey as a poli-sci major, thinking I would go off to law school and that my high school modeling days were simply a really fun and glamorous phase. I ate pulled pork sandwiches from the dining hall like they were going out of style and became OBSESSED with the limited edition Gyro slice from Ian’s. I met and reconnected with some of the most amazing people this world has ever seen. And I learned that nobody really has it figured out, but college is your place to explore and take advantage of any opportunity you can possibly find. Looking back my biggest life philosophy came from my college experience, take the chance, take the leap of faith, jump in. The worst thing that will come out of it is that you learn to build your wings or your net on the way down and I have built plenty the last several years. Sometime I flew and sometimes I fell, but either way I was ready.
Over the next two and a half years I learned many of my greatest lessons, and most of them had nothing to do with Pre-Constitution Law…
I learned to know when to ask for help. This day would never have happened if it wasn’t for the incredible team behind me every step of the way. My family never stopped believing I could “do it all”, even on the days when I thought for sure my head would explode. Whether it was a pep talk, a home cooked meal, a text reminder, or simply a word of encouragement, I always had someone to lean on.
I learned that the most important thing in life is honesty. I remember sitting on the couch, the day after I won Miss Wisconsin USA, only one week into the first semester of my second year of school, and not even knowing where to start. Well I started first with a block of cheese, yum, and then proceeded to email each of my professors and the Dean of Students office saying “this just happened, and I have no idea how I’m going to make this school thing work”. That week I waffled a million times between taking a break from school or just juggling. I wanted experience all the opportunities being Miss Wisconsin USA would afford me but I wanted to get the most from my college experience. My greatest fear was in trying to accomplish both I would ultimately fail at both and end up disappointed. I remained honest throughout the school year about my stresses, successes, and crazy ass schedule and managed to not only stay in school full time while prepping for Miss USA, but do so while maintaining a respectable GPA and with an entire campus staff cheering me on after taking my final exams two weeks early to “do the thing”! The amount of support I received from the UW-Madison community while I was at Miss USA will forever be one of the highlights of my life. Madison is a big school and people accomplish great things every day there, but for one moment in time, I was the Badger of the moment and I am so proud and so honored to have had that opportunity. It was a ‘golden drop’ if you will or should I say ‘red drop’ in the bucket.
I learned that you can’t do it all. You might have to give up being a double major or making the dean’s list and readjust your goals. For me, graduating became the focus and the perfectionist in me needed to let go of the rest. Flexibility is the key to making any plan work for you. I was great at preaching to middle school students as Miss Wisconsin USA to set a large goal and then smaller goals to get there. Sometimes that means focusing your energy in different ways. Sometimes it means letting go of a lot of other things to make it happen. One thing I am not great at, is saying no. Throughout my college experience I learned that sometimes, simply for your mental sanity, you need to say no.
I learned where my priorities lie. Even if means sleeping on a couch or driving odd hours of the day, you have to make time for the people you love and the people who love you. I also learned that distance isn’t real, I mean it is real of course, but not by meaningful relationship standards. If you are in the same room or a thousand miles away you can still love big and still be present. You can still give support and you can still seek it, regardless of the space between you.
Most importantly, I learned that everyday is a chance to learn, to make mistakes, to take chances. Nothing in life is perfect, nothing in life works out exactly how you thought it would. But if you work hard and trust the process, anything is possible. Bringing back the old saying “The sky really is the limit” I wouldn’t trade these past three and a half years for anything. Thanks to college, “found myself”, or at least was able to work on who I want to be.
I am so happy to say that I am officially one B.A. woman…Bachelor of Arts in Communications that is. So excited to begin the next series of drops….