Today, in Clark County, I experienced something new. I thought I had been in every situation possible until I did a program in an auditorium where they were giving flu shots on the stage behind me. It was my first school of 8 today(one of 28 this past week) and by far one that I know has prepared me for any interruption in my Miss America interview. So the sound system doesn't work, naturally, and I begin my program without it...I don't need it anyway...my voice projects, they're quiet...ha..."Alright boys and girls, now, I want you to be really really quiet today because the microphone doesn't work and I have some really important things to talk to you about...it is silent...as soon as I begin my first sentence I hear the deadliest most terrifying scream I have ever heard, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO ...AHHHHHHH ...NONONONO NONONOOOO!!" Of course it's a little funny because it was so silent, they were so loud, etc. I felt bad for laughing a little, but I knew that they would soon recover and realize that it wasn't that bad...I too recovered and went on...surely that was the last one, poor thing, they must be bad with shots. Not the case. I look over and there is a line of children looking like they are about to walk a plank. I am trying to talk to them about dreams and their future and they have this look on their faces like, "I DON'T EVEN HAVE A FUTURE, I AM GETTING A FLU SHOT!" This continues, as do I, and I get to the end and despite their dismay they were rather eager to ask questions. One little girl named Jocelyn, who I had met before her flu shot and had made it out alive, is among the hand raisers. I call her up and she meets the occasion...she slaps a smile on that tear stained face and saunters up. "Jocelyn, since you were so brave getting your shot I am going to let you wear my crown..." In that moment she knew that what she had been through was completely worth it, and I placed it on her head..."Jocelyn how does that crown feel on your head?"..."Sure feels better than that flu shot!!" She was right. It does.
27 schools, far from 27 dresses, I am tired of packing new dresses every single day, so I decided that my coat now counts as a new ensemble. I dress it differently with different scarves, gloves, shoes, until a little boy(while running his sweet dirty little recess palms across my white (fake) fur coat) tilts his head to the side and says, "Miss Kentucky, you look just like my cat." No more fur. The schools, ranging from Bowling Green, to Grayson, to Berea, to Avalton, to Olive Hill, to Henderson, to places that I can't even remember the names of, all reminded me that although I am tired, and beginning to get caught up in preparations, I can be nothing but joyful...because at least ten times a day, I see right past it. In moments when I still call on children who are too young to answer questions like, "What is your dream?"...When they say, "Alls my dreams is about MONSTERS!" There is nothing I can feel but joy. I forget that I don't have all my dresses, I forget that I still weigh a few pounds over 100, I forget that last night I couldn't quite remember every single detail of the 3,000 page health care bill, and I quickly remember that because of what I am doing I am finally prepared. Miss America is not one single bit about me, it's about them...and in being so busy that I can't think about myself I have realized that this is the place where it changes...the place where it all comes together. It's funny how in the midst of my preparations for Miss America, and the self serving and vanity that could easily come along with it, I have in fact moved further and further from it...for I have no more reason to serve myself...and it is the best place to be.
I spoke of this place for the first time in my 'going away' speech at Miss Bowling Green this past weekend. Amidst the emotion from my (improvisational) Latin version of Ave Maria in a spotlight of 'snow', giving up my last local crown, and the complete exhaustion from being in probably 40 different cities over the past 8 or nine days with 16 hours of sleep max, something new came over me. It totally trumps feelings of doubt, confusion, or lack of sleep that tend to creep up at this point in time...and I can be nothing but joyful. BTW 'going away' speech is in quotations because you know that I am NOT going away...it should be called, the 'i am letting someone else wear the crown and have my title for a year' speech...or a 'vacation' speech.
I found myself almost slung out of a clown car in one of 3 parades(this one in Henderson, the others in Owenton, then Whitesburg Friday), for real...it was spinning so fast there was g force. I am being violently slung against one clown, then the other clown, the back to the other, and so on...I was deliriously tired, but quickly revived. The clowns are fake laughing and acting out almost flying out and being scared, I, like the children getting flu shots this morning, was screaming bloody murder and fearing for my life was 'real' scared.
I was named a Kentucky Colonel(again) this week, got another city key(Henderson), got to wear a santa beard(so that I would stop eating at a Christmas Party), did 2 tv spots that I still haven't seen, schools, parades, drove, drove, drove, and so on. This week brought me from one side of the state to the other, several times, as well as from one side of the spectrum of emotion to the other, from exhaustion and worry, to confidence and faith. 'It' is here, finally, the feeling that I thought I would not have time to obtain. And it is nothing but a blessing...as is every day. As I said(or whoever was speaking for me) in my 'going away' speech...I wake up every morning and wonder why in the world I am the one who gets to reach out my hand...why in the world I am the one who was chosen to do this work...I may never know the answer to this question, but I continue to be guided by it...not for an answer anymore, but for proof of it. This is it.
PS...I dedicate this 'blob' to my friend Gerald Odom, whom I know is going to be the first one to read it, George Timothy Reed(who has made me laugh so hard this week I think I burst a lung), and Ann Blair's boyfriend Giovanni, because you let us see that video of you acting out Hercules in Greek Sing.
PSS...Look at Kentucky Monthly! It's out, as are the faces of my mom and sister(featured photos with me), and the quite obvious fact that they are much much prettier than me. I told you.