The Road to Now

"So what are you going to do after you're done being Miss Arizona?" I can't begin to tell you how many times I was asked that question, starting (too darn) close to right after I walked off the Miss America stage and returned home. Of all questions that arose during the year, as well all of my years of competing, this was the first time I was truly stumped. After all, I always had answers to questions. Whether simple or complex, responding with quality content and confidence was my specialty. But this was the first instance when I didn't have an answer. It was the first time that I didn't have a plan, and I could pretty much do anything that I wanted. That concept freaked me out more than anything.

When I was six years old, I took my first lesson in baton twirling. I was hooked. In just a few years time, I had progressed to competing at the Regional and National level. That basically translated into training almost every day during the school year, and multiple times a day during the summer, from the time I was nine years old until I graduated from high school. Needless to say, I was definitely an active kid, who was dancing and running around even without a baton in her hand. It was during the first year of preparing the National competition when I was introduced to the Miss Arizona and Miss America Pageant. As a twirling team fundraiser to go to the competition in South Bend, Indiana, we ran the snack bar and sold programs at the pageant. That's when I decided that I wanted to be up on the stage. Of course, as a little girl, all I saw was gorgeous gowns on even more beautiful women, getting to shine and the audience cheering them on. Before that point, my days were filled with a little bit of glitz from baton twirling, but a whole lot of rough-housing and movies like The Sandlot, Space Jam and Mighty Ducks with my older brother. I was determined, even at nine years old, to do whatever it took to be up there on the stage.

When the Miss America's Outstanding Teen program was introduced, I knew it was a stepping-stone to get to Miss America. I decided to participate in the Miss Arizona's Outstanding Teen Pageant, and on my second year, I won. My year as Miss Arizona's little sister put a fire inside of me to not only get to compete on the Miss Arizona stage, but to one day actually be Miss Arizona. After six, YES SIX, years of persistence and personal growth, the words Miss Arizona 2016 Katelyn Niemiec were finally read aloud.

To be completely honest, I had never really thought about what life would be like after participating in the Miss America Organization. It was my big dream, that became reality through accomplishing many goals, but I never thought about how it would fit into the big picture. Until this past spring, the big picture remained quite fuzzy and became a point of stress in my life because I was trying to fit within the mold of what I was "expected" to do next. Although, there was nothing that I was supposed to do. Every summer as young girl, I knew I was going to go to Nationals. When I started competing for Miss Arizona, I knew I was going to compete until I won or aged out. So this was the first time that I didn't have a plan in life or know what was next, but I still felt pressure to have all of the answers, even though the only person expecting all of the answers was me.

During my last few years of competing, and especially during my time as Miss Arizona, I learned how crucial health and wellness played into my goals. Most people assume that fitness and nutrition was focused on only because of the Lifestyle and Fitness (AKA Swimsuit) Competition. That was only a small part. It became necessary in order to keep on top of my busy schedule and for my overall mental health. My focus and interests constantly revolved around my own health and fitness journey, as well as the confidence and personal development that came from it.

I found that fitness, nutrition and overall wellness empowered me to become the best possible version of myself. The combination of it all, including a huge shift in my mindset, led me to be happier and more confident in all aspects of life. Reflecting on the past few years and the successes that I have encountered, I discovered that fitness, nutrition and mindset provided a solid foundation I needed to accomplish everything I set my mind to.

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Fast forward through nights of brainstorming and research (a lot of it!), the plan that I was searching for started to unfold. One of the first actions I took was becoming a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. That was only the beginning of this crazy risk I decided to take.

While definitely an unforeseen path, especially while interviewing professional athletes in college, it is the one that encompasses all that I could ever dream of within a certain pathway. Knowing that pathway could twist and turn in many different directions, and filled with many opportunities, I dove right in.

Even though it seems crazy to others, upsets my original plans and have more odds stacked against me than favors, I'm ignoring all negativity and refusing to settle for anything less than ordinary. "Maybe it won't work out. But maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure ever."

Welcome to my next adventure.

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