Last year at this time, my dad was in the hospital and we weren't sure how long he had left to live. I was struggling with the question of whether I should do the show, or go home to be with him in his final moments. In the end, I decided to finish what I'd started, because (anyone who knew my dad knows this) he hated when people fussed over him, and would have been FURIOUS if I'd given up on something I'd worked so hard on for his sake. He sacrificed a lot for me and my sisters, and I know that's the way he preferred it.
That whole day I was a mixed bag of emotions - on the one hand, I was happy and excited to compete. On the other hand, I was scared and nervous that I would miss seeing my dad one last time. I remember thinking that the day could not be finished soon enough so that I could get into the car and drive to see him. The stage, the posing, the placements... all of it became something I just needed to get out of the way - an obstacle in my race against time. But you know, it was a useful lesson and the experience helped me to put things into perspective. In the end, this was a show that I did for fun; this was not life or death, and there really are so many more important things in life than how hard you're flexing your legs on-stage, or whether your tan smudged a bit on the back. Maybe not coincidentally, that thought process was very helpful in relaxing my stage nerves.
I mentioned before that I had a really powerful experience this summer while watching the sun rise over a volcano during my trip to Hawaii. I had deliberated what my true purpose in this life is, and while the sun filled me with a sense of greatness and hope, the mountain reminded me that whatever issues I was facing at the time were small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. It emphasized that this competition is not the be-all end-all of my life or career - it's a tool, and one of the many stepping stones I will walk along my path to becoming a more complete person.
I watched the sun rise again this morning and reflected on everything that's happened this last year. I pondered my journey to this point and how far I've come since my last show. I thought about how far I have to go still to achieve everything I want.
And of course, I remembered my dad. It's no coincidence that my second show has come exactly one year after the first - a year after his death. I love you, and I miss you every day that the sun rises. This one has been for you.