I have a little story to share with you about being an underdog. When I meet new friends and colleagues for the first time, they often ask me,
Where are you from?
At first, it’s a simple answer, but if you ask me a little more, the answer gets a little more complex. I was born in Columbus, Ohio. As much as I would have loved to have truly “grown up” there, we moved quite a bit once I turned nine. After years of talking about it and never following through, my mom had finally convinced my dad to buckle down and enroll in college. And just like that, our journey began.
Over the course of his undergrad and masters degree, we moved a total of five times to three different cities and states across the country.
From Ohio, we moved to Illinois then off to Las Vegas, and finally, California. This is the point of the conversation where I get a very puzzled look, followed by the question,
“Are you a military brat?”
I always have the same witty answer, “No, I’m just brat” (and they laugh every time). Once we moved to California, I was a senior in high school and desperate to start my own adventure off in college. So I picked a school in a state that I could call my own. Arizona. ASU would become my new “home” where I’d start making memories of my own and start writing my own story.
You see, ASU has four different campuses across the valley, all organized by various majors and personalities. At the time, I was a forensics major so I was placed on the West campus; one of the smaller of the four locations.
So what does all this have to do with me being an underdog?
Well, once I became a student and started my journey, I realized that in all of our relocating and being the new student at three high schools, I had never really left my mark. I was just the new kid who ended up moving away after a year or two. I never wanted to be the most popular or very well known, but I wanted to feel like I made an impact and left an impression on the people I was leaving behind.
So I made a goal for myself in college. I wanted to be the homecoming queen. Before you roll your eyes and think that I’m a typical girl with an ego, you should know that this goal absolutely terrified me. Here I was, an unimpressive freshman who had moved so much that I didn’t know how to answer the question “where are you from” in one sentence.
Keep in mind that ASU has roughly 72,000 students and I was just one, at the smallest campus. I didn’t have a shot in hell right? That’s what I thought too. So I wrote my little dream down on a sticky note and shoved it into my desk. Over the course of my undergrad, I moved the note from agenda, to desk, and into many different boxes as I moved into new dorms and went on with my life.
Senior year rolled around and soon it was weeks before homecoming. I saw flyers posted across campus and posts on social media encouraging students to “apply for homecoming court”.
This was my last chance.
So I rummaged through all of my junk drawers to find my now crumpled and ripped sticky note with my goal of becoming queen. After a week of self-doubt and trying to talk myself out of it, I filled out the application. I clicked submit, telling myself, “Well, at least I applied”.
I pushed the thought to the back of my mind until one day, I saw an email notification from the student engagement team.
I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t almost pee my pants when I saw this! I screamed so loud that my entire apartment complex was wondering what the hell was I so excited about. Little ol’ Paige from Ohio had made it through the first round. So it was time to start overanalyzing and over-preparing for my interview. Luckily for me, the first round was a piece of cake! The panel was made up of four members of the West campus, all of which I recognized so I knew that I’d be okay. All I had to do was answer a few questions about why I loved ASU! Easy enough.
Now I just had to wait. I tried to stay busy to keep my mind from racing! Of course, I was thinking about all of the things I could have said, but none of that mattered. I crossed my fingers and chewed my nails until I saw this.
NO WAY. I got picked as a part of the court! I thought that it had to be a joke. Ashton Kutcher was around the corner waiting to tell me that I had been Punk’d right? Nope. In that moment, I could barely contain my excitement. Finally, I could throw away that little sticky note. But in reality, it was only the beginning of the real challenge — being selected as one of the two contestants to be crowned as homecoming royalty. I was just happy to be on the court! They’d have to be silly to pick me as queen. There was no time for self-criticism. I had to start shopping for clothes for homecoming week and prep my nerves for the final interview.
It finally came time to suit up and give it my all. I left my heart in that room with the judges, knowing that I had accomplished my goal of being one of the lucky students to be on the homecoming court. But I was thinking too small.
Homecoming week consisted of week-long events and activities to honor the homecoming court. I had such an incredible time feeling lucky enough to represent my campus and all of ASU. The final event is one of the longest-standing Sun Devil traditions — Lantern Walk. This is where the senior class guides the junior class up the trail of “A” mountain to pass the torch as they approach graduation. Once they reach the top, they announce the winners of homecoming royalty.
This was the moment I had waited for — all four years of school, and my entire life to date. Can you take a WILD guess what happened?
It was literally a dream come true. I’m sure we’ve all wanted to feel like royalty at some point in our lives and like a scene from a movie, it was all happening. Like come on, did you see my face?! I couldn’t fake it if I had tried. The next day was equally as magical as I rode by horse and carriage down the streets of ASU, representing all that I am, and all that I could be. I was surrounded by my friends and family for one of the most incredible days of my life. Take a look for yourself.
This is my story of being an underdog. For some, it’s just a story of a girl who got lucky enough to ace a few interviews and wear a few sparkly dresses. For me, its a story about staying true to myself and believing that one day my time would come to leave my mark on something I believed in. All of the days in high school that I thought I’d never be remembered or didn’t stand a chance of being important, I could finally put behind me. This was more than a fancy crown and princess waves to the crowd to me — this was the moment I thought I’d never have. On such an incredible scale, I was recognized as the passionate woman that I am and damn it felt good.
So to the student who thinks that they’re invisible or just another name on the school roster, it’s your time to know the value of your worth. You are important and someone sees you for all that you are and all of the amazing things that you’ll do. Take it from me and never give up on your dream or goal — no matter how impossible it looks. This one is for the underdogs!