I didn’t know what to make of you when I first met you as a disco ninja. I’d never spent an evening dressed in a mirror-covered costume before, frolicking about a party. It was my first evening in Las Vegas as such a character. I should have guessed that was your way of foreshadowing my wacky and unbelievable year, but I didn’t have the foresight then to understand. Besides, it was hot in there.
January would follow with unexpected opportunities… including my first speaking role in a film called Love in the Big City 3. Granted, the movie is in Russian, but it also starred Sharon Stone. I’d never really considered myself an actress and didn’t know what to make of my casting, but it was a new adventure. And I had my own trailer. So that was cool.
I would also get a small part in the Israeli version of my favorite show and build a patio deck as a demonstration model for a Las Vegas convention. I guess I learned that I was capable of more than I thought. I also learned that not all adventures looked the same, even though I still longed for one involving a backpack.
February brought doubts and insecurities during my downtime. Inner demons questioned my brand, my purpose, and when that dream book deal was heading my way (wasn’t my story good enough?) Battles over whether or not I should call myself a traveler or writer left emotional casualties. So I took off to California for some much needed surf-time with an old friend. Together we worked on an article that would be featured in Women’s Surf and Style Magazine months later.
I also learned how to ride a horse standing up and backwards, and that seemed to set me straight for a bit (go figure).
But the waves could only console my soul for so long and by March, I’d lost my mind. By chance, I saw an invitation to enter international tourism contest on Facebook and made a video. Little did I know out of 600,000 people, I’d become a semi-finalist.
You would exhaust me in the best of ways in April, as I took part in the two-week long Tourism Australia social media contest, hoping to vie my way into the finals. I traveled over 1,000 miles gaining help and support from Strip headliners, Academy-award winners, and a few furry friends.
May dashed my Australian dreams and I didn’t think there was much hope left for the year. But the following week brought vindication almost a year in the making. I competed in the Miss Nevada United States pageant in an effort to overcome my self-confidence issues about the burns I’d sustained on the Fourth of July the previous year. (I was hit with a malfunctioning firework and suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my chest and stomach).
I walked on stage in a bikini, undertaking quite possibly the most terrifying adventure EVER. I was happy enough with my journey through the system and conquering my first (and last) beauty pageant. But then I won.
June was a blur, full of photoshoots and interviews. I spent most of it prepping for the national pageant with my best friend and Miss Nevada USA 2010, Julianna Erdesz. I didn’t blog much. But I thought a lot about how my readers unquestionably supported my choice to enter the Tourism Australia contest, and even got their friends to join the efforts. While I worried about what they would think of my latest journey, I kept moving forward. I wasn’t sure I was meant to be a beauty queen, but I was going to nationals regardless.
In July, I competed in a national bikini preliminary a year to the day after I was initially injured. While I wasn’t a top contender for the Miss United States title, I did get to spend an incredible week with family and friends. And I even learned I was named Las Vegas Weekly’s Best Blogger for 2013 the very night of the bikini preliminary. It didn’t seem like I had much to want for, except inner peace that doing all of this random stuff was okay.
But August presented me with bold opportunities I never expected, including a chance to work with Earth Wind and Fire.
Then a call and proposition from USA Today Travel sent my world into a tizzy. Suddenly I was in a trial period, proving my worth as a ‘real writer.’ I didn’t know if it would work out, but given so much had happened by chance already this year, I had to trust.
In September I attended my first red carpet for USA Today, interviewing celebrities I’d watched for years on stage and screen. They paired me with their Nashville music correspondent, Brian Mansfield, who had been with the national paper almost as long as I’d been alive. While he intimidated the crap out of me, his kind demeanor and encouragement got me through the strenuous weekend. I learned that kindness and sincerity were more important than anything in our line of work, and I liked that.
And it wasn’t until about two weeks later that it hit me: I interviewed RYAN SEACREST. And I held my own. And according to my editor, I was good at it.
October would bring my 25th birthday, which I appropriately celebrated at another music festival, representing both USA Today and the Miss Nevada title. Bands sang me birthday wishes, and I got to indulge in food prepared by some of the best chefs in the city. I also walked in my first LA Fashion Week for Bettie Page Clothing.
My life was almost unrecognizable by November, filled with headlines and deadlines. Not leaving me much time to enjoy my quarter-century landmark, I received another phone call. This time by the Life section of USA Today. They needed someone to finish covering an assignment on Ringo Starr and his now infamous “Kids in the Car” photograph. The reporter who had uncovered the mystery, found the kids, and coordinated with The Today Show for their meeting with Ringo was going on Thanksgiving vacation. I hadn’t been with USA Today for more than three months and I was quite possibly given the biggest interview of my lifetime.
After the initial freakout, subsequent meltdown, and all-nighter, I submitted the piece. My first byline in the physical paper ran Monday and I got to meet a BEATLE. The cool part was that I got to share this moment with my Dad (and now official USA Today cameraman).
I wasn’t sure December could bring much more excitement and honestly, I was scared of its arrival. Because with December came a New Year, and with a New Year came new uncertainties and changes and everything that I’d already worked on. But then the commercial I shot with one of the most prolific screenwriters and executive producers of our generation, Jonathan Hensleigh, started running. And I was reminded that echoes of what I’d done months ago would continue to reverberate for many months (or possibly years) to come.
I attended holiday parties, rubbed elbows with some very beautiful and bright people, and got to spend much-needed quality time with my family.
I interviewed celebrities, bands, and met some of my favorite country superstars, all in just a matter of weeks. And that was pretty cool.
But I guess the most important thing is I still feel like me. A lot has changed for me this year, but how I approach life hasn’t.
I still want adventure and to meet great people. I want to be inspired and to inspire others. This year made me confront a lot of my insecurities about what ‘label’ I fell under and confronted my fears of what others thought about me. As much as I’d like to pretend I didn’t care, I felt expectations and pressures, just like everyone else. Sometimes I did okay, sometimes I cried.
But the best thing you taught me, 2013, is that the minute I start defining myself is the minute I start limiting myself.
So what if I’m a sash-wearing, red-carpet interviewing, Australia park ranger wannabe who also models for Bettie Page Clothing? Yeah, there hasn’t been a person like me before and maybe I’m a lot to take in. But it’s my life, so why not be all of it? Time for a new chapter with new roles and adventures.
Thanks for the memories, moments, laughter, and lessons, 2013. I will miss you, although I know it’s for the best.
PS- Tell 2014 that I’m about to kick its ass.