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Repercussions of Assuming

Blog post from 2015:

This summer I had the opportunity to live in Boston and nanny my favorite child actor, Alex Dreier, as he was working on the Pre- Broadway run of the new musical Finding Neverland. With the approach of these boys heading into the opening of this show on Broadway in just a few short weeks I find that my heart is aching for a “Pre- Miss Iowa Nikki time.” This has got me thinking…..

nicole kelly, Diversity speaker, finding neverland

In front of American Repertory Theater for Finding Neverland, Summer 2014

Nicole Kelly, Alex Dreier, Miss Iowa, Miss America, Diversity Speaker

My favorite moment from Miss America’s final night: Hugging my boy Alex!

There are two things I remember about my very first day of high school:

First, I remember meeting my good friend and fellow dance team member Abby Kline in the band room before school so we could face the wild and unknown hallways together.

And second, my new long- winded history teacher (who happened to be the opposite of new to the school just new to the incoming freshmen) introducing himself to us by writing the word “ASSUME” on the chalk (Yes, chalk) board and proudly announcing, “Welcome to high school. Never assuming anything here. It will only make an “ASS” out of “U” and “ME.”” Maybe this memory sticks because a teacher said ASS regardless, I remember leaving his class with a new found sense of the concept of “expectation.”

That is it. That is all I have from my pool of memories from my first day of high school. I guess I should be thankful it was “plain” enough of a day that it ten years later has faded from memory.

But here is the question at hand (insert funny one handed joke here):

Are you setting yourself up for failure when you try to plan life steps? Are we all setting expectations that can never truly be meet?

I have a great many friends who live by the life philosophy of “IN THE MOMENT.” Now, I agree that being present or in the moment is how you enjoy the small moments of life. I also agree with those who think that good parts of life come from the collection of those small moments. However, with my ESTJ personality I have the hardest time NOT setting up goals to achieve as I weave in and out of different stages of my life. Also, you just can’t have direction without allowing yourself to plan ahead. Without realizing it this “goal planning” mentality has lead me to set up a series of expectations that correspond to each of the said goals. Are these expectations ever meet exactly how I envision them? OF COURSE NOT. Sometimes they are close, sometimes they fall short, and most of the time they turn out better than I could have ever imagined. YET, I continually allow myself to set up expectations. There is a pattern here. I (and probably you too) continue to make an “ASS out of U and ME” as we plot and plan and dream about what we think we deserve.

Ok, so blahblahblah Nikki. Get on with it.

Before I took on the year as Miss Iowa I was living and working in New York City. (I will now attempt but probably fail to explain what my life was while spending time in New York.) First of all, I was living on 145th street on the island of Manhattan. Do you know what that means? This very Norwegian, blonde girl was living in the middle of Harlem. (Ten cool points to you if your first thought was the Harlem Globe Trotters.) I was living in a 5 floor walk up with no dishwasher or washer/dryer. I had two amazingly intelligent dude roommates who were excited to have a lady around to practice talking to. I would daily ride the subway down to Time Square and emerge from underground to a world of flashing lights and giant advertisements. And there – just one block off of Time Square- I would walk through the stage door of a Broadway theater to be a part of a Broadway show. I was a child guardian on a Broadway show and it was my everyday job to be a working cog in a puzzle of a show I adored. I LOVED the kids I worked with (One of them was Alex from Finding Neverland) , I was in awe of the actors I had the opportunity to observe, I LOVED all of my co-workers, AND the show was up for multiple Tony Awards. I was a kid in a candy shop who was allowed to eat EVERYTHING with no consequence of a belly ache. I was living out my dream. I mean you guys – I spent my 23rd birthday being sung to (preshow) by Judith Light out on a Broadway stage. I had no wishes to fulfill as I blew out those candles. THESE people were the people I grew up idolizing and suddenly I was allowed to not only enjoy their company but they were handing me a pay check to do it. This time in my life was motivated but by naive energy and no responsibility to anyone’s dream but my own. (HERE IS THE PART WHERE I TIE IN EXPECTATIONS!!! —> )This was my paradise and I will honestly admit that expected to go home to Iowa for a year to fulfill my duties as Miss Iowa and be right back in NYC UNCHANGED as soon as I gave that crown away.

Nicole Kelly, MTC, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Assembled Parties, Diversity Speaker

In front of the Friedman Theater for The Assembled Parties. Spring 2013

Oh Nikki, the things you assume. You really make an ASS out of yourself when you do that.

It’s not as if I walked away from New York and lost the theater family I care so deeply about. It’s not as if I have not had offers to return and work. Both of these things remain and continue yet, I find that it is NIKKI who has changed. Miss Iowa tapped into a part of my life I never fully considered until I was in the middle of it all. I found a part of my being that I NEEDED to explore and share.

So what did I get instead of my expectation of going back unchanged to NYC? So much changed so quickly in such a short amount of time I am facing what I like to call the “spin out recovery.” Since graduating school in May of 2012 I have moved from Lincoln, NE to Santa Fe, NM to New York, NY to Chicago, IL back to New York, NY to Davenport, IA to Boston, MA and now in Chicago, IL. Were you counting? That’s eight moves in a two year period of time. Put on top of that that Miss Iowa was a world of high pressure and I feel like I’ve aged 20 years in just two.

It’s true these moves have taught me the unimportance of “stuff” and have given me the gift of zero fear of new places. BUT the repercussions have been Nikki finding herself spinning in a storm of “WTF JUST HAPPENED?” Solid ground and time to rest is what my mind and, more importantly, my body have been yelling for for quiet some time now. That has been so hard for me to come to terms with. Why would I need recovery time? What I find to be most important as I navigate Post- Miss Iowa life is an environment that feels safe and full of resources (meaning a car, good friends, cool roommates, money). And realizing the need for rest is not a weakness – in fact it will only strengthen and focus me for whatever my next adventure may bring! Choosing change brings consequence (Both good and bad) and although my expectation was to leave my year as Miss Iowa untouched – that simply is not how life works.

Seasons. Life happens in seasons and as we transition out of an extremely snowy winter and into the lightness of springtime I am only reminded that I am exactly where I need to be. What are ways of moving forward that allow me to work within the world of theater is which I miss so very much yet allow me to continue to advocate and speak. I have no expectations on how that is going to happen….yet. Stay tuned. (2016 update: I am headed to Northwestern in June for a year long masters program in BROADCAST! This way I can be in front but still keep the dramatic flare!)

Nicole Kelly, Diversity Speaker, Judith Light, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Assembled Parties, Tony Awards

My fellow MTC employees with the amazing Judith Light.

(It should be noted here that I won Miss Iowa on June 8th and Judith Light won her Tony for the show on June 9th. Weather I gave her my good luck or she gave me her’s is up for debate. Regardless, that woman was the best case study EVER for how to take “fame” with nothing but kindness, grace, and humility. What I am getting at is that I aspire to be one of two women when I grow up. I am not picky, I will gladly take on being either Oprah or Judith Light.….There is that expectation again! )

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