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At a recent event I attended, brand new boxes of crayons placed on each table brought forth the strongest memory I’ve had in quite a while. When I was a senior in high school, I competed in the Ohio Junior Miss competition. As part of the competition, we each had to write an essay with the theme “Be Your Best Self.” Mine was based on the idea that we are all like a box of crayons. 

It’s a good thing I’m a pack rat with a slight case of OCD, because I was able to find a copy of that essay in my basement. Here it is. Go back with me 21 years to 1998. I might be older, but I don’t think I’m any wiser than I was then…

Be Your Best Self: An Essay for the 1998 Ohio Junior Miss Competition

In the colorful world in which we live, I am like a box of crayons. On the outside, I am bright and full of promise, while my best qualities are found inside. Open the lid of the box and you will see my true gifts. The red, orange, and yellow represent the fire and energy in my life. The blue, green, and purple are the peace and care I possess. The brown, black, and gray represent my strength and power. With all of these colors, I brilliantly shade the canvases in all areas of my life. 

During my childhood, being my best self meant staying in the lines and matching all of the colors. Now that I have reached young adulthood, being my best self has taken on a whole new meaning. In school, striving for academic excellence keeps me alert. By taking innovative approaches towards science projects, term papers, and mathematical equations, I’ve become a better scholar. Taking leadership roles in the classroom allows not only for me to get a new perspective, but also for my classmates to increase their basic knowledge. When I participate fully in extracurricular activities, I develop wisdom not attainable in the classroom. Through stage productions, music contests, and marching band, I have learned about the power of performance. While on the quiz bowl team, yearbook staff and track squad I have learned to blend my colors with my teammates to create dynamic hues.

Being my best self is also a way for me to reach out to my community. Through 4-H, church groups, and National Honor Society, I learned to give unsparingly of my time and talents. Helping those in need is a way for my colors to be enriched. Whether I am planting  flowers in my village, leading my church in song, or visiting with nursing home residents, I am growing. I have discovered my best self. Through setting both realistic and challenging goals, the discovery occurred. As I set forth to reach my goals, I realized that they are the outline of my life and that my job is to fill in the spaces with color and vitality. This color has been added through extracurricular, community, church, and school activities.  

Have you found your best self? Do your colors cover the entire spectrum? Being your best self demands you to open the lid and find the colors and qualities that you possess. Do you have a red crayon to represent the love you give to others? Do you have a green crayon that symbolizes the nurture in your heart? Is your black crayon unbroken to show how strong you are? By assembling this box of crayons, the coloration of the world will change in your eyes. Once you have filled your box with a rainbow of colors and have discovered your true gift, your best self will emerge. The once drab and dreary places will come and live with vivid hues as you become involved in your community and classroom. 

Exploring new places, experiencing new things, and meeting eccentric people occur as you strive to outline the portrait of your life. Once you have this outline drawn, the color must be added. Because you are the owner and controller of your box of crayons, you decide how magnificent your portrait  will be. What is greatness to you? Are you and eager student, community server, an active participant in all areas of your life? In order to stand out from the crowd and shine in the spotlight, you must possess all of these characteristics. As you develop strong leadership, scholarship, and character, your colors will continue to emerge and you will ultimately be your best self.

As you and I continue to be our best selves, we inherit more admirable features and our crayon collections grow. Of what benefit are our crayons if we keep them to ourselves? They are of no advantage as long as they remain in the box. Teamwork is the key to being our best selves. If you toil endlessly on your own portrait, it will be great, but the labor is not necessary if we work together. When we share our colors, a deeper meaning of life is found. I can individually earn straight A’s and perform superior musical solos, but a team victory and group production are much more fulfilling. Combining our colorful ideas and different creative perspectives produce is not a single or portrait, but a magical collage. This collage brightens our communities in schools.

When you and I work together to produce a living masterpiece, a vivid explosion occurs. Being your best self is meaningless unless together we are a best selves. During a basketball game, 10 players splash color on the court. They face defeat and victory together. We need to be a team. In a constantly changing world, we have to join hands with the sick and lonely. We need to face poverty and crime together. We know that the feeble and poor must see a yellow sun in order to face each day optimistically. Angry and troubled people in our world need to see a blue sky in order to feel tranquility. We possess these colors. We fill the empty spaces and produce pleasing pictures with our crayons.

We now need to set forth in shade the world’s canvas. After we have discovered our best selves and combine our crayon collections, the lifeless atmosphere surrounding us will erupt in magnitude of color. It takes each of our individual colors to produce this glorious picture. We shall spread our pastels to amplify the world’s beauty. Our neon colors will glow to represent excitement and vigor. Above all, the classic red, blue, and yellow will spread throughout the earth because they are the base of our best selves. 

Take the time to examine your box of crayons. The more you look and the deeper you search, the better you will become. Let us take our colors and create a wonderful masterpiece. With our varying shades, we will continue to be our best selves.

Are you curious how the essay contest went? You’ll have to tune into this week’s video to find out the result. 

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Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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