Fun Fact #1: I entered my First Pageant when I was 48 years old.
Fun fact #2: I will be 50 years old when I am on stage in my first national pageant.
In August 2020, the global pandemic was hitting us very hard. I work in IMIT inside healthcare. Every communication device that was issued inside the Vancouver Island Health Authority crossed the desks of my very small team of four people. We had been slammed before the pandemic. The pandemic just made our work more intense. It wasn’t just the volume. It was the knowledge that every cell phone we left for the next day meant a COVID testing site couldn’t go live or a senior in isolation couldn’t call a loved one. My career had never required me to connect my tech job to my heart. I cried a lot.
I was torn in many directions. My union role overwhelmed me with calls. Reliable people had gone missing. They were too overwhelmed in their job to continue in a union role that demanded all their energy. At home, I wanted to see my daughter but restrictions ebbed and flowed. My step children added multiple dimensions of burden. I felt like I was getting lost in phone calls, demands, emails, meetings, exhaustion, and fear.
I had a lot of it. I work in a COVID cohort site, meaning COVID positive patients would be sent to our site. In the early days of the pandemic, we didn’t know what that meant. Was hand washing enough? Would we carry it home on the bottom of our shoe? Could we accidentally infect our families because we touched the elevator buttons on the way home. In the early days, we undressed in the garage and walked naked into the house where we dropped our clothes directly into the washing machine. We didn’t know. We wouldn’t know for months more. So healthcare workers lived with the fear and the stressful added burdens of our extended families and we just got on with it. With hair salons closed, it didn’t take long before we didn’t even look like ourselves when we passed a mirror.
And then the whole thing came crashing down and depression rolled into my brain like a black fog. At some point, I lost my ability to cope and I just cried all the time. It didn’t feel fair. The people around me, the ones not in healthcare or on the front line, they got CERB, an unemployment income specific to the pandemic, and took as much time off as the government would allow. Mass layoffs caused stress and panic, but for anyone who had a stable home base, CERB became a relaxing vacation. At one point, I was the only person in my entire family, which includes a husband, a daughter, two step children, and their partners, who was employed. That was the benefit of being in healthcare: we had guaranteed jobs. The downside was that a chasm split between those of us who were overworked, exhausted, and depressed in healthcare (this is now being diagnosed as a mass PTSD) were surrounded by people who were bored and having a nice summer vacation. While we spent the day fearful we would bring the pandemic home, our loved ones were inviting friends over or going out to small gatherings.
So what does this have to do with pageants?
In the middle of this foggy depression that was swallowing me, I got a phone call from a pageant director. She invited me to enter a national pageant happening in Toronto the following year. “But what about COVID?” I asked. “You can defer if you need to,” she said. From there, the conversation on my end went, “No, no. I couldn’t possibly. OK. Where do I sign?”
Then just like that, I was entered into Canada Galaxy Pageants. I became a finalist with the title of Mrs. Galaxy Victoria 2020/21. And suddenly… the dark black fog began to lift. Pageantry, with its glam and glitz, requires us to be our personal best. I began to feel lighter. COVID would not last forever. The proof was that I was in a pageant and a pageant meant the world is doing ok. I needed to start working out… and eating better… and maybe it would be a good idea to figure out where my smile went. A little lipstick wouldn’t kill me either. Or mascara. Did I even own a hair dryer any more? The pageant became my purpose. It was my anchor to the before and after world of the pandemic.
It wasn’t long before friends jumped on my bandwagon. Dress ideas. Hair ideas. Who was coming with me? A bunch of friends all got tiaras and wore them on #TiaraTuesday. I was blessed with a whole fleet of cheerleaders. My pageant became their escape as well.
Since I was accepted as a delegate and have become a finalist, I have felt, very simply, better. I have a goal bigger than myself. I stand for a group of women who have been looking for ways to feel magical and beautiful in the midst of this roller coaster. I have never been so grateful to a pageant for giving me something fun to focus on.
By the time I arrive in Toronto in August 2021, I will be 50 years old. I will have survived a pandemic. I will be in better physical health than I was in my last pageant. I will be in a better mental state than I could have predicted a year before. What a year it has been. What a gift to have found something that has brought magic into my life when I needed it.
Goodbye, 2020. What a ride.