The past six months have been not one ounce shy or less of a dream. I’ve been in a whirlwind of what feels like an alternate reality. If you mix together a lot of laughs, tears, smiles, stress, gratitude, thankfulness, excitement, and humility, then that would sort of explain the many emotions I’ve had. I remember time flying by as Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen in 2011, and so of course, I had in mind to make every moment count. However, I figured having gone through this once before that I would have learned how to slow time down by now, but I was highly mistake. Each day, June 24th, 2017 approaches a little bit sooner and it gives me butterflies.

I waited until this past week to watch the Miss North Carolina pageant for the first time on purpose. I admit, I watched my interview while preparing for Miss America to gain more awareness of myself, and I had watched clips of my phases of competition from final night, but I had never watched the full pageant! Watching the lights brighten, the curtains raise, and Mr. Ken Kenny begin his introduction, my heart skipped a beat. I actually felt the nerves all over again!

I used to describe my crowning night as NCOT as a “life-changing moment,” and while that was absolutely true, my sixteen-year-old self has matured into a 21-year-old who would define June 25th, 2016 as a “God moment.” Feeling His divine plan for my life unfold was a rush that I will never forget. Since 2014, I have worked diligently as Miss Cabarrus County, Miss Queen City, and Miss Mecklenburg County to achieve the ultimate goal to become Miss North Carolina, but this year was different. I decided not to compete for anyone else but myself. I decided to bring all that I had (every flaw, strength, and weakness) to Raleigh and just go with it. I spoke from my heart in interview, danced with my heart onstage, and kept God in my heart throughout the entire week because I had a deep understanding that He would reveal my purpose and path on His timing. Not mine. I completed the week knowing that there was not one single thing I could have done differently because I was 100% authentically Kenzie Jade and I was proud of myself for it.

I have taken that mindset with me everywhere I have gone since. When competing for Miss America, I had the clearest head and the most gracious heart because I knew what an honor it was to be there and I had done all that I possibly could. I carried the same attitude from Miss North Carolina in Raleigh to Atlantic City and tried to be nothing but myself. I have had numerous school appearances, parades, Master Classes with McKenzie, festivals, community events, military events, etc., and there has not been one that I haven’t been thankful for attending. Work Weekend 2017 is right around the corner and I already have a list of topics I want to discuss with the next group of potential Miss NC’s, so have your pens! This job isn’t all glitz and glamour. It is hard work, and I’m the first to admit that I am not perfect at it. But, for some distinct reason, God decided to bless me with the opportunity to have 1 year to wear this crown and I intend to make the most of the time I have left.

Every single day that I have endured over the past six months has given me a new perspective in life. The blessings, obstacles, miracles, friends, triumphs, challenges, fulfillments, dreams, goals, hardships, etc., have all been sent from God and I could not be more thankful for His guidance and grace through it all. Each moment has created a memory that I will hold dearly throughout each phase of life.

With the new year coming full speed ahead, all I have to say is…

Bring it on 2017!