Monday, February 22, 2010

The Butterfly Effect

Mahatma Ghandhi once said, "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

Sometimes I think about the steps that led me to where I am today. I think about how different my life may have been had I done even just one little thing differently. Perhaps you've heard about the Butterfly Effect. According to Wikipedia, "The butterfly effect is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory; namely that small differences in the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system." In layman's terms, it means that even the smallest occurrences could have a big impact on the future: The butterfly effect -- the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can affect the weather in Central Park.

Why is this important to me today?

I am very focused on being as prepared as I possibly can be at the Miss USA Pageant that is to come about in May. In addition to that however, I am very dedicated to the other obligations and responsibilities that make up my daily life. I care about my full time job as an art director and graphic designer at Robinson & Maites, I still hold a passion for my private work as an artist including my piano and harp performances, modeling, acting, photography, hand-made book binding and crafting, and more. I still itch to be involved in volunteering and getting children more involved in the arts, and I still have a very competitive drive in sports and fitness related things. I wish to network more, I wish to increase my overall knowledge about politics and the world, I wish to further develop my speaking in Italian, I wish so many things! There is just so much to this world, and I want so very badly to taste every part of it. But all of this thinking makes me wonder: "How the heck did I get here?"

How did I get on this road to Vegas for the Miss USA Pageant? How did I get so lucky to earn the job I have, working for the most wonderful boss in the world who is completely 100% understanding of this once in a lifetime opportunity? How did I get such a wonderful, loving and supporting family who wants nothing but the world for me and will be there for me no matter what? How have I tried and accomplished so many things thus far in my life that have completely shaped me, and how does my drive to try even more stay fueled? It's mind-boggling for me to think about the steps I've taken to get here and how it all falls right into place. It's kind of crazy! I was always an athlete, a musician, an artist, and a bit of a goody-two-shoes, over-achiever type of girl. Until about 2008, I had never even watched a beauty pageant let alone compete in one or know anything about them what-so-ever. But watch how the butterfly effect worked to get me here ...

1. Somehow, I got into the Accounting Program at one of the top 5 accounting schools in the nation -- the University of Illniois at Urbana-Champaign. When I got there and decided within a week that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with accounting, I switched into an art program where I knew I'd make less money, but would be more happy. It was this program that taught me what it really means to be hard working, disciplined and organized -- a trait I NEED for the job of Miss USA, should I be so lucky to get it. It was lucky too, that I was attending a big university that would accommodate both areas of study for an easy switch.

2. During this time, I met a boy I would go on to date for two years -- Mark. Mark taught me to care about my self-image; to not follow suit of the other girls that posted drunk pictures on facebook or did other things that might hinder their image. He taught me to always carry myself as well as I would if I were meeting the president of the United States or any other important figure. He made it clear that if I never said anything bad, then I wouldn't have to whisper. Without this, I may not have as clean a background, who knows?! And maybe I wouldn't be Miss Illinois USA.

3. Mark loved fish and owned a very large fish tank. One day he was browsing through fish forums online when he met Steve. Steve lived in Champaign as well, and the two decided to meet, talk fish talk, and become friends. As I continued in my art program, I decided I needed a job. Mark remembered Steve worked on campus and asked him to get me an interview. Steve succeeded. I interviewed for a position in a computer lab, making sure no one brought food or drinks by the computers and refilling the paper in the printers should they run out of it. I worked there for half a day when my new boss discovered I was an artist. He remembered that ATLAS, the web development part of that office, was looking for a new designer for their websites and decided to pass his new employee (me) over to them for a better position. After an interview, I got the job.

4. As the new web designer for ATLAS, I met Adam who worked there as well. Adam was in the art school at the U of I just like me, and we both found it odd that in such a tiny program, we never met. But alas, we fell in love. Mark and I broke up. And I began a whole new chapter of learning. However, Mark was crucial because not only did he ultimately lead me to Adam, but he also taught me so much about my self-image, which would later help me to best portray my true self as Miss Illinois USA.

5. While we were dating, Adam's sister randomly decided to send his picture to a modeling agency in Chicago. Adam got a contract. Adam's modeling career took off and I began to think, "Hmmm ... I wonder if I could do that too." So I tried, since one thing I will forever and for always believe is, "You won't know until you try." I got a contract as well, and life began to blossom as it never had before. All the while, however, I continued to study hard and tried to learn web coding as much as possible so I could someday advance in my job at ATLAS and be more than just the design-girl.

6. Then I studied abroad and spent all my money. When I returned from Europe I was desperate to earn back some dollars and start up my savings again. Not sure what I wanted to do, I went to Craigslist. I saw an add for a scholarship program for Miss America. Interested only because I had recently gotten involved in modeling (thanks to Adam's influence), I decided to explore it further. I ended up sending my information off to the Miss Illinois USA Pageant, and within a weeks time I was contacted for an interview.

7. The next thing I know, I'm the 2nd runner up at Miss Illinois USA. With my competitive nature kicking in more than ever, I was determined to go back and win the next year. And with a crazy-ton of hard work, I did.

8. So if I hadn't changed majors, if I hadn't met Mark, if I hadn't wanted a job, if I hadn't met Adam, if I hadn't been adventurous, if I hadn't spent all my money abroad, if I hadn't thought of Craigslist, if I hadn't had the modeling experience and confidence, and if I hadn't run across the add for Miss America, I never would have been here. Its just so strange how everything fell into place and it makes me truly believe that everything happens for a reason.

But what does this have to do with what Gandhi said? "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Because I'm working SOOOOO hard, but what I'm doing can be considered insignificant. In 100 years, will it matter that I made websites? Will it matter than I got in a swimsuit in front of millions of people? Will it matter than I haven't had chocolate in weeks? No. It really won't. But it's important that I do it anyway, because this is my life. This is what will influence lives for the future. Everything I do, everywhere I am, will undoubtedly have some little effect on something else, even if its as simple as causing someone to spend ten minutes of their life reading this blog post instead of something else. Those sorts of things certainly happened for me. I mean come on ... if Mark didn't like fish, I wouldn't be Miss Illinois USA! That's pretty crazy to think about.

There are about 10 hundred million other crazy coincidences that have made me who I am today and I can get emotional thinking about it all. It's as if I was meant to be here ... as if I was made for this life. Does anyone else ever feel that way? Isn't it just so strange?! I love it!! I wouldn't want anything other than what I have right now, and for that reason alone, I'm going to give the Miss USA Pageant my absolute best shot. Insignificant or not, it's important to ME, and the development of who I am, and that's pretty significant.

Happy Monday, everyone. :)


Erin said...

ashley, i am obsessed with this post
absolutely beautiful and extraordinarily well-put...really makes you think things over!
you are going to be fabulous at miss usa, i can't wait to have the girls over to cheer for you from our living room couch (trust me, the invites are already sent, haha)!

lots of love,

Matt said...

Out of all of your amazing posts, I must say that this is one of the best. While reading, I not only learned so much about you, but I also learned a lot about myself. What made me the person that I am today? That is such a great question to ask, and one I haven't thought of in a while; it really made me stop and think :)

To prevent my rambling, I will leave you with this little tidbit I found on da internets:

"The difference between try and triumph is a little umph." ~Author Unknown


Beatrice said...

Wouahh, je suis impressionnée,je viens de vous rencontrer et déjà j'ai beaucoup de questions qui se bouscule dans ma tête.Ce soir j'ai passer 4heures a faire le DJ en votre compagnie pour sélectionner des mannequins pour le défilé de mode "Imagine". la prochaine fois que l'on se voit j'espère pouvoir prendre 1 photo pour la ramener en France avec moi. Je vous souhaite bonne chance pour Miss USA.
Béatrice M

brett said...

This is fascinating.
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