by Natasha Martinez
It was Monday night at 5:30 p.m., and the notes of classical piano filled the ballet studio with feelings of determination and struggle. As a dancer who was never naturally flexible nor technically gifted, my 13-year-old self tried hard to keep up with the gumbies and child prodigies of my small dance studio in Diamond Bar, California. Even though I wasn’t the best dancer of the bunch, I had the most heart, and I cheated my way through pirouetting and perfecting the splits so that I could seemingly do what I loved most.
I’ve learned a lot in my years as a dancer, but perhaps the most important lesson that I learned happened in a class every Monday night at 5:30 p.m. Sometimes I would dance across the floor without a mistake, but more often than not I would fall. However, every time that I fell and sat in a corner too embarrassed to continue with class, my ballet teacher would stop the music and make me get up and try again. She said, “I’d rather have you push yourself to the limit and fall, than to not try at all”. So from that moment on, every time I fell I pushed myself to get back up and try again.
Now that my dancing days are over, I have turned to a different stage to showcase my talents. I started competing in the Miss California USA pageant system, and what began as a hobby quickly grew into a passion. I dream to one day compete at Miss USA., and I work hard everyday to try to make this dream a reality. Although I have had a lot of success in the pageant world, the ultimate goal of being Miss California USA hasn’t been in my cards yet. I’ve competed three times before and just this past January I placed 1st runner up to a girl who won the coveted title of Miss California on her first try. This is usually unheard of, as the state of California is one of the hardest to win. I had spent months of dieting and training to get ready for the competition, not to mention thousands of dollars on hair, make up, and wardrobe for pageant weekend.
After I was named first runner up I received pity congratulations from my peers, giving me assuring comments that I would take the crown next year. As a “veteran” who continues to compete despite never winning, hearing those comments immediately after the crowning moment wasn’t exactly what I felt like hearing. I felt like hearing that the judges had made a mistake. I had worked so hard and spent so much time preparing for that night that I refused to believe the winner wasn’t me. The morning after was even worse. It was the day that I had imagined getting ready for my first interview on the local news as the new Miss California USA 2014 and instead I woke up in my hotel room with what felt like nothing.
Almost immediately following the pageant, I got questions from my friends and family if I was going to compete again next year for the fourth time. I answered yes with confidence but in my heart I was scared, and to this day I am still scared. How will it look if I compete for the fourth time and still don’t win? I started doubting my worth, my abilities, and my character as a whole. It was then I realized that I was doing exactly what my ballet teacher had warned me about in my Monday ballet class. By being afraid to try again, by putting doubts into my mind, I was already setting myself up for failure. We all struggle to reach the goals that we set for ourselves, the journey is never easy, and in a way that’s good because then our dream means that much more once you get it. Everyone’s path is different and although it may be frustrating at times, the best thing we can do is be thankful for our path. Anyone’s dreams are within reach but it’s our choice if we want to be proactive enough to achieve them.