I peered at my reflection in the mirror at Margaret’s parlor and turned sideways to admire my hair style. My normally long and wavy hair had been straightened with an ironing rod till it was straight, smooth and shone like gossamer silk. With my hair parted sideways and put in place by glittering blue pins, I was amazed at how much a good hairstyle could transform a person’s appearance. I thanked the lady and walked out of the parlor, feeling like Cinderella ready to go to the ball.
I was dizzy with excitement and also a tad bit nervous. Today was the farewell party for all the tenth graders at school. Our juniors had organized the party as well as the annual competition to choose Miss Walsingham. It was my deepest desire to wear the tiara and sash saying- Miss Walsingham 2008-2009.
I had to meet my friends at the school gate. I waited there anxiously, wondering how they would react to see me dressed like this. Soon all my friends arrived and every one of them gawped at my makeover. I flushed with pleasure, overwhelmed by their compliments and felt that my chances of being Miss Walsingham had increased manifold.
The hall had been tastefully decorated with metallic colored streamers, velvet drapes and shiny mirror and beads and the air was filled with the succulent smell of starters being served. At 7 pm, the lights in the hall dimmed and the program began. After a few dance performances the much awaited competition began, the first round was a simple catwalk where the contestants would be judged on their confidence, style and dress. I breezed through it and qualified for the next round- top 20.
Next was a question and answer (Q&A) session. I was asked if I would ever compromise my morals and ethics for my ambition and success. It was an easy question and I gave my answer with confidence saying that climbing the ladder of success was not worth it if I had to compromise my morals and ethics for it. The judges were impressed and I was chosen for the top 5.
I had always wanted to win this competition. I had lost count of the number of times I had daydreamed about wearing that pretty tiara. Suddenly I felt anxious and nervous being so close to my goal and was consumed by self-doubt. I pushed these thoughts aside when it was my turn. I was asked another question.
“Would you choose an acting career even if you have not completed your education?”
I was stumped and found myself in a quandary. I was well aware of the fact that my judge Sanjeeda Sheikh was a famous TV actor. If I answered no, then she would certainly not be impressed and how could I say yes and give a convincing answer if I myself didn’t agree with that notion. In the spur of the moment I chose to answer truthfully and said what I believed in. A child must give first priority to education.
As suspected the judges were not impressed by my truthful and practical answer. I lost out the crown, after reaching so close. I was despondent and filled with resentment for not winning the title of Miss Walsingham. I berated myself for not giving a politically correct answer, given my judge’s background from a TV industry. Most of all , I was disappointed for being nervous and not being able to think fast enough and come up with a witty answer.
I desperately wanted to be known as a rare combination of brains and beauty. This competition had felt like the perfect opportunity to prove it and was nonetheless a personal challenge for me. Rankled with defeat, I trudged out of the party hall to lick my wounds in isolation. Needless to say, the party was over for me.
Now, as I look back at my farewell party, I realize how frivolous and immature my reaction had been. Though in that moment, it had stung to lose a competition that had obviously mattered so much to me, defeat had taught me invaluable lessons. Firstly, to never feel anxious or nervous when it matters the most, when one is just a step away from victory. After all, your attitude decides your altitude in life and winners do not allow self- deprecating thoughts to creep into their mind.
Secondly, to not care what people think of you. A competition cannot change your perception in the mind of other people. It’s your belief and confidence that makes other people see you in a different light and lastly to learn to enjoy the moment. Only if I could turn back time and tell myself what I know now, I would tell myself to take it easy and enjoy my last party with my school mates, because life is in the here and now, in the moment.