i guess it's about time i write something of my own work. i have been inspired to really push this blog and put the time and effort into it that i used to. writing on here has always been a healthy outlet for me, and i miss it. also, maybe it can help somebody along the way, who knows.
along with winning the title, i was also the recipient of the lifestyle and physical fitness in swimsuit award. for anyone that has known me most of my life also knows that i have always struggled with my self-image and so winning this award was a big deal for me. needless to say, after that night i was high on confidence. i had never felt so sure of myself and what i wanted to do.
i began immediately, jumping headfirst into city events and parades. everywhere i went i tried to plug in my platform so that members of my community would know how serious i was about bringing the topic of suicide to the surface in Lehi City. i dedicated endless hours to giving assemblies, speaking at events, attending trainings, and doing all i could to promote my platform. i was also attending school full-time and working two jobs and so there were some days that felt overwhelming, but the crown and sash hanging from my dresser continued to motivate me. i wanted so badly to be a good Miss Lehi. i wanted to make my family and friends proud, i wanted my community to remember my cause, and i wanted so badly to feel like i was fulfilling a meaningful purpose.
i worked and worked and worked. now, i am not here to toot my own horn- i had SO much help and support. to try and explain the amount of love and support that was shown to me would be pointless. there are no words that can do it justice. and for that i am so grateful.
but anyways, the point is, i became completely consumed by my purpose and calling as Miss Lehi. you could even say it soon became my identity. i loved it so much. i was willing to sacrifice most things in order to be successful. in fact, i did. school, two jobs, and this truly became greater than my capacity could contain. my grades began to slip a little, and i even lost a relationship with someone i truly cared for because my time was so consumed by all of the other things in my life. this was extremely hard, and any pageant girl will tell you that losing relationships is not fun. but, again, i was moved by my purpose and i continued on.
soon, before i even knew it, the time came to give up my crown and title to someone new. i began to feel my identity shake as i realized i could no longer hold onto something that had become such a huge part of my life. i loved the organization, i loved what it stood for, and i loved the changes i was able to witness because i was a titleholder. i don't think people understand how sweet and service oriented pageant girls really are- but that really is what it's all about. also, i had grown to love my sweet attendant jacki so much. we had become so close through our shared desire to help other people. i was going to miss being her queen and spending time with her in a way that only the two of us will ever understand.
but alas, the night came. i wore beautiful dress after beautiful dress, read my script, and told plenty of bad jokes on stage as i helped to emcee the pageant. the 9 contestants competing were all so beautiful in their own way, and i had grown to love each of them individually. i knew that it would be hard, but i would be happy to pass my crown on to any of them. then, to my happiest surprise, my attendant jacki was awarded the title of Miss Lehi 2016. what a sweet moment it was to hear her name called, feel my heart leap, and run up to embrace her in what felt like the sweetest hug of my life. she had done it! i could not have been more proud. still to this day, i know that she will do an amazing job as a representative of both Lehi City and the Miss America Organization.
after that night was over, i went home and cried. cried tears of happiness for jacki, and bittersweet tears as i realized my time to serve was over. i think this is a feeling only fellow pageant girls can understand and it's very unique in how it presents itself. the one thing i had to hold onto was the thought that i still had Miss Utah coming up and another shot at promoting my platform at an even greater level. the anticipation and pressure i felt is completely indescribable.
in the week i had between Miss Lehi and Miss Utah, i had more anxiety (the healthy kind) than i can ever remember experiencing before. I WANTED TO WIN SO BAD. people around me told me i could do it, that i had a really good shot. i was filled with an insane amount of confidence, which was very strange and new to me. i had worked hard, trained hard, and practiced interview over and over again. i felt ready. i knew i could show those judges just who i was and what i wanted to do as Miss Utah. i was sure they would see how hard i had worked and how badly i wanted this. how badly in fact, i needed it.
but you see, the thing is, once you get to Miss Utah you soon find that you are surrounded by girls who are just. like. you. everyone has worked hard, everyone is in tip top shape, and nearly all of them are there for the right reasons. i smiled, made friends, laughed a lot and stayed up probably much later than i should have, but hey, you only get one week to enjoy it! i did fairly well in my pre-lims and was feeling confident that my name would be called the final night as part of the top 12. my family knew it, my director knew it, some of the girls said they knew it, and even complete strangers told me they knew it. so needless to say, when Saturday night came, i was feeling pretty good.
i can still remember what it felt like- standing there on the Capitol theater stage completely filled with confidence. being on that stage felt electric, the way my blood pulsed through my veins in a new type of adrenaline rush. as i stood there on my sore high-heeled feet, i watched as 12 girls had their name called, none of which were me. i stood there listening, waiting, then worrying, then finally slipping into sadness as i watched 12 incredible girls stand in front of me living MY dream. as i walked off the stage, realizing i no longer had a second shot at pageantry that year, my identity began to shake. who was i, if i wasn't this? if i wasn't good enough for those judges, who was i good enough for? if that year of hard work, sacrifice, and effort hadn't meant anything then..... who was i really? needless to say, i was completely devastated. i struggled to hold myself together backstage as people i loved hugged me and told me "there are greater things in store for you now." 'greater. greater. GREATER HOW?' i remember thinking. this was everything i had worked for. this was everything i knew! how could something be greater than who i was?
earlier in the week i had received a very sweet honor. i was given the Sadie Huish Memorial Scholarship award. an award given by a family who lost their daughter to cancer- she was a little miss queen at the time of her death. her family now goes through each girl's platform statements and decides who they feel really loved and dedicated time to their platform- and this sweet family picked me. what an honor, to have complete strangers recognize what i was trying to do. then, as i stood on stage during final night, waiting to hear which of the 12 was going to be crowned Miss Utah, i was given yet another surprise. the Miss America Organization had chosen me to be the winner of the Miss America Outstanding Community Service award. another surprise and shock to the system- complete strangers could see how important my platform was to me. yet, there was this part of me that was almost upset. i thought "if service is really what they say matters, then why am i still a loser?" in that moment i felt more frustrated than ever as i stood and smiled for the camera. i couldn't understand how outstanding service recognition wasn't good enough for the top 12. if i had really earned these awards, shouldn't i have been a candidate for the winner? call me selfish and pitiful guys, but those were my real thoughts.
i'll tell ya, i went home that final night and felt completely devastated. i felt embarrassed for not doing as well as people said i would. i felt like i had disappointed others, and was sure i had disappointed myself. i felt lost- i didn't know who i was or what i was going to do next. i felt confused and angry and humbled and honored all at the same time. it was certainly a long night in which i didn't sleep much. my fellow pageant girls, i am sure you can relate.
but here we are now, weeks after Miss Utah. i have had plenty of time these last few days to really think about what happened that week and i have come to the realization that 1) i am extremely happy for the girl that won. she is a sweetheart who will work hard AND she has suicide prevention as her platform. something Utah NEEDS desperately. and i am excited see where she goes from here. and 2) i could not be more proud of myself for what i did. as i look on the events of that week and look at the two awards i did get, i feel extremely honored and blessed to know that there are people who understand why suicide prevention is so important. man, i can now see why those hours spent and sacrifices made were so important. i hope that it touched someone's heart and changed their perspective on suicide. i realized that that WAS important. and i needed to be more humble in accepting the sweet honors that i was given. i am surrounded by people that love me. i have so much to be grateful for.
and finally, here is what being a pageant girl has taught me about myself. i have finally learned the importance of finding an identity bigger than worldly things. you see, i had spent so much time the last few years having a title in front of my name- mission call caitlin, sister thomas, miss lehi prep caitlin, and then miss lehi- that when it was finally all stripped away i didn't really know who CAITLIN was on her own. but you know, it isn't the crown and the sash that makes the difference, it's about the girl wearing it and how far she is willing to go for her platform. it's about the community you serve and the people you change. and maybe miss lehi had done some pretty awesome things, but caitlin had done those things too. caitlin has talents and things to offer this world whether she holds some sort of formal title or not. in fact, all people do. it doesn't matter what people label us, it doesn't even matter what we label ourselves, because the truth is we are all individuals with a divine origin. we each have aspects of ourselves that only we possess and that are uniquely ours. they can be hard to see sometimes- in fact i am still working on that part- but that doesn't mean they aren't there. being a pageant girl, and then not being a pageant girl, showed me the importance of building your identity foundation on something so much stronger than a title. do that people, and you will find happiness and fulfillment no matter what you are doing.
so, i declare now that i am retiring my pageant gowns and laying the crown to rest. i feel completely happy with what i did, what i accomplished and who i became. but, now it is time to move forward and find out more about caitlin. the next thing on my list is finding out how i like my eggs cooked. i mean, i have basically eaten scrambled my whole life, but i think there is a whole new world of eggs out there that i haven't yet experienced. and let me tell ya, i am really excited to taste them.
caitlin elizabeth thomas.
born: april 27th, 1993
currently engaged in a search for self.