Just Life: Grounded

Someone the other day asked me the “secret” to staying true to myself, even when the world around me is moving so quickly. Even when you are just weeks away from the ‘big show’.   I don’t know if I have a secret, but I do have some methods.

Say thank you:  This is the most important and quite frankly the easiest. Never stop saying thank you and never stop being grateful. Thank the woman who is giving you your morning coffee, something that keeps you running through the day. Thank your parents, let them know that you appreciate them and all they do for you. Thank the people who put up with your madness, my roomie Sav fits this bill. Right now I find myself thanking sponsors and my directors on almost a daily basis for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. Never forget to say THANK YOU!

Remember the struggles: This year I have chosen to talk to middle school students, because frankly it was the most difficult and uncertain time of my life. For almost everyone it was the period in life when you lose the idealism of your elementary school days and start to realize that it is a lot harder to become Hannah Montana than one would think. All our crazy dreams start to get beat down, the awkwardness and growing pains means everyone becomes competitive, girls and boys forget how to speak to one another and support each other and all of the reality of life starts to set in. It is the time when most kids stop with the big dreams and they start to look like fairytales; unachievable and ridiculous.  Add to that literal growing-up, the braces, the bullying and in my particular case  dealing with actual life….My entire middle school experience included living with and watching my grandmother slowly lose her battle with cancer. REALITY SUCKS. Don’t forget the struggle, don’t forget how it felt when your life was less than perfect, don’t forget what made you, YOU! Embrace it because it will keep you focused on your dreams.

Set achievable goals and then make it happen: This one is near and dear to my heart. This year I did not set out to “Become Miss USA or even to walk in New York Fashion Week” two monumental goals that frankly I have no actual control over. Judges will decide if I am the right woman for the job on May 14th and a designer had to pick me from thousands of model hopefuls. But I did set achievable goals to prepare myself for these things to happen. My physical preparation is all on me. Everyday getting up, hitting the gym, eating clean, all the trainers in the world can’t make your body ready for a competition or to walk a runway… if you don’t do the work. A series of small fitness goals and a plan that is achievable and realistic. Building a modeling portfolio and network of industry professionals all done with a series of small, systematic goals. I did set a goal of being the best Miss Wisconsin USA once I was crowned. For me that meant making a lot of appearances, promoting my state, promoting my #skysthelimit philosophy to every school that would let me in the door, promoting the Miss Universe Organization and just working really hard all day, every single day for the 365 days I am fortunate enough to wear the crown and sash.  This method works for almost all big dreams. Break it down and make it happen.

Just recently I watched film of JJ Watt (NFL rock star and Wisconsinite) returning to thank his 4th grade teacher for believing in his Badger/NFL dreams.  Even in 4th grade JJ knew his end goal but to get there every day he worked on the small things, every day focused and committed. Plus, he never lost sight of the people who helped make it happen, and even at the height of his career is gracious and thankful!

Don’t let anyone else define you: The hardest of all my suggestions…really hard when you are 13-18 years old, still hard when you are an adult. I am currently putting myself in the position to be ‘judged’ by the world. The harshest kind of judgment, the kind that will come in a bikini, in front of a LOT of people. The kind that will come with such quotes from viewers at home and even online like, “Oh Wisconsin is hideous!” “Not my pick” “Hate that girl” seriously those things will be said about not just me but every contestant by someone somewhere in the world. But here is my reality….NO ONE ELSE DEFINES ME! No ones judgment of me on a single day or in a single moment will be the foundation for how I live my life or the goals I am able to accomplish. This whole experience is a drop in the bucket of my life.

My middle school visits almost always circle to this place where a sweet girl or boy connects with me afterward and talks about someone mistreating them. And we almost always have a discussion about not allowing someone to define you. No one is allowed to tell you your dreams are too big, your passions, your ability to achieve, no one knows what is in your heart and no one has the right to take what is away from you.

This is how through the craziness and through what I will likely remember as some pretty big defining moments in my life, I have never lost sight of Skylar Witte. The girl, the middle school girl uncertain, scared and sad…the woman walking the runway in New York, same person….always stay grounded in who you are.

Dream Big, Skylar

New York Fashion Week February 2017

 

 

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Just Life: Becoming You

There is not much about me you can’t find out by searching my name on Google or reading any of my blog posts. I am an open book. Some people find this perplexing, why would I share so very much of my life, my thoughts and my unsolicited advice. The answer for me is a rather simple one, something that I share will help someone, somewhere, someday.

My journey into modeling, my life goal of becoming Miss Wisconsin USA, heck even my frustration with the dating world have all been unique to me, however in each arena in my life I have gained some useful insights that frankly, I wish I had known when I started down that path. So I share. I do so without hesitation and sometimes without care for perfect grammar or AP style (apologies to every English teacher in my life). My writing for those who know me personally is probably more like a conversation you would have if you sat down and visited with me in person. Informal, candid and with a tone that always, always skews on the positive but not annoyingly sweet. That’s just me.

It wasn’t always me, it took me a long time to get here. When I meet young girls who are just finding themselves and struggling with finding the right friend group, the right team, the right ‘thing’ that they love, the right boy, the right path, even the right style that suits them, I can’t help but think…been there, done that. Add on top of that struggle the pressure of the world that you are somehow doing it all wrong. That pressure can come from your peers, your parents, your teachers, everyone you come across in life will have an opinion on who you should become. They all for the most part will come from a place of love. They will all want what in their minds is best for you. But becoming you is the most personal journey you will ever go on, and no one can determine the desired outcome. Becoming you is the only journey in life you must take solo.

The harshest reality out there is that the only person who can hold you back from achieving your wildest dreams is you! People will try, they will stand  in your way, they will give you a million reasons why you can’t do something, they will question you and they will judge your every move. But in the end those people will only control your destiny if you allow them.

People thought I was crazy for traveling every weekend on a shoestring budget to work with photographers for free, building a modeling portfolio for a career I didn’t have. They wondered why I would skip ‘the social event of the year’ to hit up a casting call a hundred miles away that would only last 5 minutes and likely end without a job! Everyone thought I was crazy, until that portfolio and a single 5 minute call ended in getting me a modeling job that any big agency signed model would die to have.

Even my biggest supporters (mom, calling you out) told me 19 was too young to attempt a run at Miss Wisconsin USA, “wait it out a few years, your time will come.” But I knew I was ready and I knew I was certain of who I was and where I was going. I knew they were right if it wasn’t my time it would be eventually,  but I knew something they didn’t… in the year between the 2015 pageant and 2016 pageant I had become Skylar Witte.  I was so certain of what was in my heart, and I knew that if I could just get that out to a set of judges I had already won. Apparently I did, they knew who I was in under 5 minutes. I showed them my heart!

Becoming you is a confidence that is hard to explain. It is the ability to believe in yourself when no one else does, it is wearing a full-length sequin bodysuit with huge faux leather cape sleeves when everyone else is wearing a cocktail gown. It is knowing who you are so beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one can change that vision; their words, their suggestions and their criticism will fly right off you like those cape sleeves in the wind. I am told that 19 is a young age to get to this place.  I don’t really apologize for that and I hope I never leave it. Becoming you doesn’t mean that you are finished, oh not by a long shot. You will change your life direction, change your goals, change your boyfriend, change your style, all of those things will happen as you continue to evolve as a person and that’s the way it is suppose to be. But once you find your peace, once you embrace that solo journey and learn to love who you are, the rest is all just growth.

My wish for all those I love and have yet to love is that they too can become who they are meant to be. It might not happen in a minute or a year, but it will happen if you allow it.

Dream Big,

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Miss Wisconsin USA Life: Now What

A month in and the biggest question on everyone’s mind is, Now what? Will you stay in school… will you stay on your path to become a lawyer… can you still come hang out… will you still model…are you going to the game on Saturday? The answer to all of the above is Yes…but!

Becoming Miss Wisconsin USA doesn’t mean I am no longer Skylar Witte, but  it means that God has given me the greatest opportunity and for one year only I get to be Skylar Witte, Miss Wisconsin USA. For those following my crazy, wild journey this year that involved 18 credit semesters, two jobs and launching a modeling and acting career it seems like one more huge endeavor seems impossible. If my life has taught me anything it is the only limitations in the world are those which are self-imposed. So here it goes.

I am staying in school, but I have reduced my credit load, my professors and UW-Madison administration have been helpful and accommodating, and for that I will be forever thankful. My goal of blasting through my double major undergrad degree in 3 years is being modified, but just slightly. Let’s be honest it was a hefty goal to begin with, the over-achiever in me is still adjusting to the idea but the realist in me knows I have one chance to be the best Miss Wisconsin USA I can be and like most things in my life I am dedicated to doing it well.

My modeling and acting career are not over, as a matter of fact I make my network television debut in two weeks. But my ability to shoot and do runway shows will have to come secondary to the ‘big job’ at least for a bit. I owe some people, there are a few photographers and designers out there who gave me everything when I had nothing. I did not nor will I ever forget about you. There is a list and I will get to all, I promise.

Will I become a lawyer, a model, an actress? Will I work in PR or in the fashion industry? Become a social media guru? The greatest joy in my life right at the moment is the door is wide open. But, I don’t have an answer. When life presents you with an unbelievable gift you graciously accept it, even if it means you open your heart to change and growth, at a level and speed nothing can prepare you for. Right now, I’m focusing on the new job and it will lead me into the direction of my dreams. The scope and power of those dreams continues to broaden.

Can I still hang out, go to games, live my life? You better believe it. Frankly, I am busy and my social life will take the hardest hit. My inbox is overflowing and I might miss a text or seven. But,  one of the resounding messages my parents have repeated my entire life is that your true friends, the people who love you and understand you will always be there. When you call them at 1 a.m. with a flat tire they will come rescue you. It won’t matter if you are on the top of the world or the lowest point of your life, the people who matter will be there. So many wonderful people have been on this journey with me up until this point, I love each and everyone of you. The next chapters are certainly going to be exciting and written as I go, but I AM READY!

“Only as high as I reach can I grow,

Only as far as I seek can I go,

Only as deep as I look can I see,

Only as much as I dream can I be!”

                                   ~Karen Raun

Dream Big,

Skylar

My roomie who I only actually get to live with part-time but keeps me sane full-time. A job she didn’t exactly apply for, but she is perfect at it and I love her for it.

Miss Wisconsin USA Life: Awareness

This weekend I was honored to be part of the 10th annual Down Syndrome Awareness Walk in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin-Chippewa Valley advocates for a worthwhile cause and is a wonderful organization. I have supported multiple causes throughout my life.  Among the organizations related to celebrating all abilities, I have been an award presenter for Special Olympics, a judges coordinator and emcee for the Miss Amazing pageant and am so looking forward to participating in Best Buddies events around the state as an ambassador as part of the Miss Wisconsin USA organization.

But even more so, I have been involved in awareness events and walks since I could walk. My mother was a news anchor and was often asked to participate, so non-profit events were a true family affair. I am blessed to have been taught the importance of community involvement and giving back. We did it all, Alzheimer’s awareness, heart disease awareness, Epilepsy awareness, mental health awareness, and breast cancer awareness. The latter came to be when my Nana was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when I was 12 years old. She wanted to attend events and we all got involved.  Something she used to say has stuck with me all of these years. We would all get dressed up in our pink shirts with our ribbons and pins and head to an ‘awareness’ event and she was bald and sick and going through chemo and would say….”AWARENESS, oh I am aware, I’m aware of what breast cancer is and what it does and what it means.” and she was, we all were. For my family it meant we would eventually lose our matriarch.

So when I go to an awareness event that is always top of mind. The families who attend, who live every day with ‘awareness’, choose to come to help the rest of the world understand, even if it is just for one day, for a few hours in a park, to share what it means. It is a time for them to come together, be together, to laugh and sometimes cry. My heart is full this Monday morning knowing that showing up with a crown and banner didn’t actually make anyone more ‘aware’ of the ups and downs these families face every moment of every day, but it did put a smile on a lot of faces. They are aware, and I am more aware and more educated than I was yesterday.

This will be my favorite part of being Miss Wisconsin USA. Please invite me to your ‘awareness’ event, I would be honored to be a part of something bigger.

Dream Big, Skylar

Miss Wisconsin USA Life: My Time

I once wrote how it wasn’t my time and how I was completely at ease and peace with that, and today looking back,  I realize the why…because right now is MY time.

Everything in life happens for a reason and I now understand the reasons for the blessings and lessons in life. My past year preparing for Miss Wisconsin USA was a year of tremendous growth where I learned so much about myself and exactly what having this job meant to me. I knew exactly why I wanted it and what I would do if given the honor. On Sunday night a group of judges decided it was my time to represent Wisconsin. It excites me that I now get to do this job every day. It is my time and I plan on living every single minute of it to the absolute fullest.

A couple of big things have hit home, I am now the representative of the 40 other women standing on that stage with me Sunday and I do NOT take that lightly. Among them was a PhD candidate, a collegiate level volleyball player, countless entrepreneurs, women who work tirelessly to promote organizations they are passionate about and freely share their stories of both obstacles and unparalleled achievements. When that crown went on my head it did not elevate me above that amazing field of contestants and friends, it only made me the official representative of them all. As I continue this journey, a piece of each of them is with me and will strengthen and motivate me daily.

The other reality, and this one makes me tear-up every time I say the words, I am now an ambassador for the State of Wisconsin. What greater honor could there possibly be? As a girl who grew up in the Chippewa Valley, moved to Central Wisconsin, spent countless summers working in the Northwoods and now have the privilege of attending UW-Madison, Wisconsin is the core of who I am. I will be writing more about my adventures around the state in my new role and there will be much gushing, it’s all just too much to write in one blog.

My goals are simple: represent Wisconsin and the Miss Universe Organization in the best possible way each and every day and continue to promote a strong and powerful message throughout my reign as your Miss Wisconsin USA.

I was told I could do as many appearances as I could handle and I say…BRING IT ON! I have done 7 media interviews and already have appearances booked into November. This is what I want to do, this is what I’m ready to do. If you would like me to appear at your event or if you are connected with a school (middle schools in particular) please fill-out an appearance request form.

I can’t wait to live this dream, meet all of you and relish my time as Miss Wisconsin USA 2017.

Dream Big,

Skylar Witte

I end every blog  with the same words and have for the past year you have all been following me and if this isn’t proof of my DREAM BIG mantra I don’t know what is.

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Just Life: Starting Over

When I was a sophomore in high school my family had a conversation about moving to a different city. I think it was the most terrifying and exciting thing to happen to me in my lifetime. If you go on social media you are likely to find any number of teenagers posting about wanting more than anything this very opportunity:  I wish I could move, I wish I could start over, I wish I could get out of this town, I wish, I wish… I think everybody thinks about it at one point or another. But let me tell you there is a cold, hard truth about starting over. It is hard, the hardest thing I have had to do.  But had I not experienced it I would be a completely different person today. Sometimes getting pushed out of your comfort zone as far as you can go changes everything about you.

First, I was completely on board with the move. In Wisconsin we have open enrollment so I had the opportunity to choose the school I would attend in our new community. I based my decision on two elements only, who had the best academic courses and who had the best dance team. The latter part of my decision making process would determine the course of my last two years of high school. It would give me both some of the biggest opportunities and the biggest lessons of my life.

The best dance team in the area we moved, wasn’t just a good dance team, they were the best and had years of competition trophies to back up the claim. Problem was, I was a mediocre dancer. I was the captain on my previous dance team, but I was also the dance captain of the show choir,  played roles in the drama department, in local community theatre, sang in multiple choirs and was involved in several volunteer organizations and I pretty much knew every other student at my high school, plus their parents (and their dogs). That school afforded me the opportunity to do lots of different things and be really good at some of them and mediocre at others, it gave me the chance to be involved in a million things and the small community supported my ‘all over the place’ attitude.  I didn’t have to be the best I just had to do my best. My new school would teach me that to compete with the best, when you are not the best, means you have to work hard and harder than you ever imagined you could.

I missed tryouts for that team but the coach(es), there were three, agreed to let me tryout a few weeks before summer practices began. I made the team, still to this day I am not sure how. One of the coaches of the team recently wrote it was because she knew I had the “heart of a champion”, and that had to be it, because I had the feet and skill level of a newborn calf. Making the team was the easy part, that summer I struggled to keep up. After a few months I was made an alternate on the competition team. From a captain to an alternate. It was a brutal awakening. Now, school hadn’t even started yet, I could have been done right there, heck I could have very quickly enrolled at another school and pretended the whole thing never happened. But I didn’t, I stayed. I had grown to love my fellow dancers and I knew alternate or not, at least I would be starting in the fall with a group of new friends.

Somehow that first year on that team taught me almost everything I would need to know about life. Don’t quit when you hit your low point, ask for help when you need it, work harder than you think you can, don’t expect things to be handed to you or to be easy, set goals and priorities, find a good mentor or two, believe in the process and don’t settle for being an alternate (in dance or in life).

That summer I asked for a lot of help. I was fortunate to find it in my coaches and a few older dancers who were willing to stay after on their own time to help me learn. By the first fall football games I had accomplished my first goal, just fit in, don’t be the girl who falls or is off by two beats or looks crazy compared to the whole team, just fit in. I did. No one could pick out the new girl from the crowd. I wasn’t in the back, but certainly wasn’t in the front. By the time we started to prep for competitions I had been moved to the competition team and was no longer an alternate. The dedication and skill it took to be on a team like this is hard to explain. The team not only practiced daily but sometimes twice a day, once a week we had an a.m. practice before school and we did strength training, LOTS of strength training. It was all summer, most of the school year and tryouts happen about a month after the last competition and the process began again. There was not time to be in a hundred other activities. This team became my priority.

By the time the team went to state that year,  not only was I up to the caliber of the team but I was able to lend some perspective.  This was my third year dancing and my first time at the ‘big show’ and I appreciated that fact and shared it with everyone who would listen. I think my pure joy was a reminder to the others on the team that the accomplishment was truly something special, even though the team expected to go to state and has done so every  year under the current coaching staff. It was a triumph hundreds of dancer in the state would never experience.

By senior year the newness of the school and the dance team had worn off but the lessons continued. That year we would go on to not only be among the best in the state but earn the championship title for our pom routine, for you non-dance team folks a D1 Pom title is the ultimate, and it is some fierce, brilliant and amazing competition. A title not lost on a girl who moved half way across the state and worked her tail off just to make the team. Among the many defining moments of my life, this was one. I think it was the first time I saw really, really, really, hard work, big goals and dreams realized. For me it was never a dream I even thought was a possibility in my life, so it also made my scope open up widely. After that day becoming a model didn’t seem so far fetched, becoming Miss USA didn’t seem completely unthinkable. I never had fathomed that I would someday be a state champion dancer so certainly all the other things I had never thought about suddenly became possibilities.

Starting over gave me a lot of gifts,  the greatest of which was the confidence to believe that if you want it badly enough, accept that you aren’t perfect and sometimes need a lot of work, are willing to do that work and earn your place you can pretty much accomplish the unimaginable.

(If you are interested in that championship routine you can actually watch it here, years later and I still get chills!)

 

Dream Big, Skylar

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Just Life: Being a size 0

I like to share different stories/experiences on my blog and this one is difficult for me to share, because it’s difficult for me to admit. The other day I was at the mall with my mom shopping for an event. I was trying on all of these adorable outfits yet nothing fit right and made me feel great (like any good outfit should). That entire week I had been struggling with my body in general, I just felt like each time I looked in the mirror I was unhappy with what I saw. That shopping trip to the mall ended with me in tears and my mom attempting to comfort me by saying “honey, you are a size 0 why are you self-conscious there’s no reason to be upset, you literally can’t be any skinnier, or you will have to buy kids clothes!” She was right but it didn’t make me feel any different in that moment.

I want to take a minute to discuss body image with you all because I think it’s important and I hope that everyone I know can read this and take what I learned that day and often have to remind myself. No one can be confident 100% of the time. Fat shaming and skinny shaming don’t help. People judge you no matter what you look like and it is OK to look in the mirror and not love every ounce of yourself (every once in a while). Love the skin you’re in is a great and wonderful tagline in the world but the reality is no one, regardless of size, is without flaws. You are always your harshest critic.  People can be horribly mean and tactless and it’s ok to not love all of you all of the time.

After all was said and done I look back and think how silly I was acting, but you know what…it happens. Everybody has off days where they just don’t feel they are looking their greatest or their body is in the shape that they want it to be. A part of life is moments where you are self-conscious, and that’s OKAY! And it doesn’t matter if you are a size 0 or a size 24. Moving past those moments is where strength and confidence converge. Being able to brush off a horrible criticism….She needs to eat a burger, she looks sick….She needs to workout, look at how fat she is…these words sting, and man do we all hear them, and sometimes they seem impossible to move past.

When I decided I wanted to model on a regular basis it was the acceptance that my healthy lifestyle now had to become my permanent lifestyle times about ten. It is more pressure than I could have imagined when the decision was made. Not only do I have to stay thin and fit but I have to make sure I don’t get too thin or too muscular. It is a wild balance and it takes a lot of time. That being said, I am not even close to perfect and nobody is, who the hell is to say what perfect is anyhow!!  And sometimes with all the pressures I face, I break down and after that mall catastrophe I want to say a few things to anyone out there who has felt the way I did that day:

You are beautiful because you are you. I have talked about this previously,  but at the end of the day I am the best Skylar Witte that I can be. It’s okay to have imperfections, but embrace them and remind yourself why you are beautiful…I guarantee there are an infinite amount of reasons. Work for the things you want (in my case lady abs) but love what makes you–you, and I guarantee it will never be lady abs. I think I am kind and compassionate. I would like to say people who meet me enjoy my company, I am extremely outgoing and my smile is often both made-fun-of and complimented because it is unique and frankly I love it, I think it is my favorite feature. I know I work hard and have a lot of work ethic because I wouldn’t be doing what I am today if that wasn’t the case. Lady abs are completely unrelated to any of those things which I am confident make me beautiful. Your beauty is not found on you it is found inside of you, plain and simple.

Respect your body and accept the things you have, be able to separate who you are from how you look, even on the bad days!

 

Dream Big, Skylar

Pageant Life: Confidently Beautiful

With all the excitement of the crowning of a new Miss USA last night, I wanted to take a minute to share my two cents about what it means to be a “pageant girl”.

Over the past two weeks 52 of the most extraordinary women in the country took to Vegas. The contestants volunteered, spent time bonding, and rehearsed (a lot I can imagine). But what those girls also dealt with over the past two weeks was being in the public eye constantly. When they walked across the stage, their bodies were seen by millions of people and judged by far more than the judges assigned to the difficult task of choosing just one Miss USA.

I think the biggest, most difficult issue facing young women is being comfortable in your own skin regardless of what others have to say about you. We live in a world where even strangers can have feedback on our lives, through social media. It amazes me what complete strangers find appropriate to stay about these contestants publicly for all to read.  That is extreme pressure and even though as a pageant girl you sign up for that aspect when you compete it doesn’t make it acceptable. I always wonder what an internet troll would say if they came to face-to-face with a contestant they called fat, ugly or dumb. Especially after hearing the strong words of our new Miss USA, a dedicated member of our military, who happens to be beautiful and well-spoken, would you have the guts to look her in the eyes and tell her she was anything less than amazing.

The Miss USA contestants prove being confident in who you are, owning yourself 100% of the time, and knowing full well that people will criticize you means you have already won in life, not in a pageant, in LIFE.

I wanted to use this opportunity to say thank you to all 52 contestants who competed. Thank you for being a role model to people across the world. Thank you for sharing with us your passions and dreams and for putting it all out there. I can speak from experience when I say walking on stage in front of an audience of people is no easy task, and you all did it with grace. Thank you for representing your state and the Miss Universe Organization. You are the epitome of real “pageant girls”, confident, strong, intelligent, compassionate, giving young women. Thank you for always staying true to yourself. You see the character of these phenomenal women as they all surround their new Miss USA with tears of pride in their eyes. These are women empowering women, and understanding that although it is a competition, the best they can be is themselves and in the end support the one among them who was chosen to represent them all, heck to represent us all.

So thank you to each of the contestants who competed last night. Thank you for being someone that thousands of people look up to and for representing yourself and your state to the best of your ability. Congratulations to the new Miss USA, and congratulations to each of the contestants. There are many girls out there who would love to have been where you were standing last night, be humbled by that reality.

In addition, those following my journey. Miss USA is still the dream for me, someday I hope to have my chance to be among that elite group and I’m so thankful I have young women before me to look up to and motivate me to reach that dream!

Dream Big,

Skylar

Just Life: My Biggest Motivator

Although there are so many things that motivate me daily there is one thing, or person, who is always on my mind helping me to keep going.

He is my rock. I can think of a few, okay many, instances where I have been on the verge of a mental breakdown and I can go to him with tears in my eyes and have someone who I know will just listen. He won’t judge, or interrupt, he will just listen and genuinely care to hear what it is that is cluttering my mind. He lets me get things off my chest and then offers a simple hug and reassurance that it will all get better. I can’t thank him enough for helping to bring me back to reality in the most difficult of times.

He doesn’t seek acceptance or permission. He is completely self-motivated and doesn’t need anyone telling him that what he is doing is right, or wrong, he lives his life for himself. It is so admirable to find a person who doesn’t need others to make themselves feel good: likes, followers, Facebook friends, that is not what defines this young man. What defines him is his ability to stay true to himself.

He is my number one fan (even though he’d never admit it). Always sending me texts, “That new picture is sweet”, “your Instagram is at 1234 followers, woah!”, “Where you off to this week?”. He is proud of me and that is the greatest feeling. I love to know that I am someone he looks up to.

He pushes himself just as much as he pushes me. Setting goals in school, setting goals in sports, setting goals for the role model he wants to be to young people. He is motivated and sets his goals high. He isn’t afraid to reach for an out of state engineering university because he is the type of person who will set his mind to something and do whatever he needs to do to achieve it.

He loves me regardless. If all of this recent success ended and I went back to just being my regular (non-model) self, he would still be by my side. When all else has failed, our friendship has always been there. As they say, he is my “day one”.

My little brother has been my greatest influence through all of my life, always giving me a reason to push. Whether he knows it or not, he does now, he is the one person I want to make proud. I want to be someone he looks up to and someone who can be there for every step of his amazing journey.

Noah, I am so proud of the young man you are becoming everyday. Thank you for always being my biggest supporter. I am so lucky to be your big sister.

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Just Life: Mean Girls and Middle School

If I could go back and share secrets with my middle school and high school self it would be this simple piece of advice: Don’t worry it all shakes out in the end. 

When I think about the amount of time I spent worrying about what others thought about me, were saying about me and their overall opinions of me, it makes me both sad and angry. Not at those people but primarily at Skylar Witte. What a waste of valuable and precious time! My mother must have told me a million times over a tear-filled pillow that those mean girls who made fun of my squinty eyes or gummy smile didn’t matter and that they were likely jealous or self-conscious about their own lives and their own smiles.  I guess becoming an adult is accepting that my mother was right.

The same holds true for the boys who rejected me, made fun of me on the playground and were overall jerks. I have made amends with those boys and come to realize their motives were often the opposite of what I thought. Boys tend to get a girls attention in the most ridiculous ways possible. Again this discussion was had in my household a million times and I never accepted it until now.

I am now dating the boy who made my life complicated (and sometimes tear-filled) back before either of us knew any better, when we reminisce now we can’t help but laugh. Those early years make for the best stories and even though it was painful at the time it was part of the growing-up process and honestly at least for us, it is the reason we are who we are and we are perfect for each other. It’s like all of that struggle in our relationship made us the two strong individuals we are and we really were just creating our ideal without even realizing it at the time. We had to grow up to realize we made each other crazy because we are so similar.

But the same isn’t necessarily true for those mean girls. I have found that sometimes those mean girls just grow up to be mean women. They still talk behind your back, they are still self-conscious of their own shortcomings and rather than work on improving themselves they find some sort of joy in identifying others flaws. I don’t understand these women. Really I don’t. Instead of crying in my pillow I chose a different path and just don’t associate with these types of people. It is hard. Like everyone, I have gotten caught in the trap and talked poorly about others, but it never made me feel any differently about myself, actually it made me feel awful.  Looking back cutting ties with mean girls is something I will never regret.  I just can’t do it. There is no joy in causing others pain, pure and simple.

I have to believe as we all get older we find those who are most like us and they make-up our circle. I think women who are filled with negativity find others like them and ultimately in the end they will all turn on each other.  Women who are filled with kindness and joy build a stronger more lasting circle.

I will admit it, right now my circle is small but it is filled with the best people I know and I am finding my way with the right kind of friendship and a great support network. My favorite girls are those who find the beauty in others and loudly express it, and they don’t wait until she turns around to say something snarky, they mean it.My roommate and I tell each other how beautiful and amazing the other is several times a day, I am not joking we tell each other we are cute so often sometimes we laugh at ourselves. (I mean have you seen her she is stunning)

A small part of me still wants to call out every single mean girl who ever did me wrong and tell them my gummy smile and expressive ‘smiling’ eyes are the key to all the great things that have been happening to me, but it won’t matter they will still find a reason to hate, they will still find a reason to be jealous and they likely won’t change their catty ways.

A simple message I have come to take to heart these days was a virtue of my late Nana, that she passed on to my mom and I hope to pass on to my children someday; ALWAYS TAKE THE HIGH ROAD. No good comes of talking poorly about those who talk poorly of you. So instead I will just have to live with the reality that I’m living a pretty dynamite life with some really awesome, kind and caring people and eventually those mean girls and their evil circle will come back and bite them in the butt. It always does.

So if I could go back I would tell that awkward 13-year-old girl, don’t worry it shakes out in the end. Eventually you get the friends, the boy and the life you dreamed of, so don’t cry over people who will someday become irrelevant, they will have to fight their own battles and most of them won’t be pleasant. Take pity on their ways because people who work so hard day in and day out to bring others down have a truly miserable existence. When your mamma says, “Be the bigger person!” believe her because she knows.

Dream Big, Skylar

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