BLOG: Liv's Lessons Learned
Written by Miss West Virginia Teen USA 2017 Olivia Hutchison
Hello all! I am the current Miss West Virginia Teen USA, Olivia Hutchison. Thinking of my personal life experiences, I've learned a lot. Whether they're lessons I wish I would've learn sooner or lessons that were instilled in me growing up, there is value in not only sharing stories, but sharing what you have learned from those stories. So, from my self-taught lessons to the instilled lessons, I want to share with you a few things about me.
Lesson 1: Be Dora if You Want to Be Dora
I am Hispanic and Italian, a 2nd generation American on my mother's side and 3rd generation American on my father's. Being Hispanic, and having the chance to live and attend school in Bolivia, South America at a early age, I was exposed to my heritage, which helped me cultivate pride for my ethnicity, especially in a state that is not known for its cultural diversity.
Starting from when I was young, I was always unique. When I was four and five, I didn't want to be Cinderella or Ariel the Little Mermaid, I wanted to be none other than THE Dora the Explorer. Looking back on those years I worked hard to mimic my idol, I realized that there is a bigger message behind Dora. I wasn't who I was going to grow up to be when I was four and five, but I knew who I wanted to be. The same applies now, although not with carrying a backpack and having bangs. I have so much growth left to come, but I act like who I want to be. I live life now to strive to be the best version of myself so that one day, my future self will thank me for working hard and simply being a good person.
Lesson 2: Soak in Those Friday Night Lights, For YOU
In high school, I lived for the Friday Night Lights of my small town football games. I was the loudest scream in the student section, with a hundred or more videos to prove it. After graduating and looking back on those memories, I wish that I would have “lived” in the moment, anticipating the thrill of the tackles and touchdowns. Instead of thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere I now crave, the only memories I have of the football Friday nights are through a phone screen and plastered on social media. You don't have to make your life look fabulous in order to have a fabulous life. I wish I would've learned sooner, that I should be making memories for myself without having to broadcast them on social media. Put your phones down and live in the moment!!
Lesson 3: Appreciate How Mom & Dad Run Their Businesses
I started working in my family businesses when I was eight years old. From pizza places, dog kennels, dollar stores, laundry mats, car washes, make your own salad shops, used car lots, plant nurseries, and paint your own pottery places. My parents, three siblings, and I have had many successes, and many failures in business. Growing up, primarily around the paint your own pottery studio, I had so many opportunities like learning customer service, time management, the value of a dollar, how to PERFECT the sale of the new Halloween bisque, and my favorite... painting pottery with the children at the Cabell Huntington Hoops Family Children's Hospital.
Watching my mom and dad go to the homeless shelter to offer jobs, help their employees find places to sleep, and making sure that not only the employee had food, but that their families did as well, my parents taught me not only how to achieve success, but more importantly how to use it as a means to help others.
Lesson 4: Be Happy, Always
Through painting with the children at the hospital, I made a connection with a little girl named Bella. Bella missed the pottery party with the other children due to surgery, so we came back to paint with her a couple days later. Upon walking in the door of her hospital room, I pointed to the small incision on my wrist from a ganglion cyst removal surgery, to point out what I thought would be a way to connect the eight-year-old to my 15-year-old self. Little did I know, the surgery Bella had to undergo was a leg amputation for her bone cancer. I was shocked and taken aback that I had compared my one-inch scar to her loss of a limb, but I didn't allow this initial misstep to thwart the entire visit. In fact, this almost awkward first encounter led to a plethora of visits through Bella's recovery stages of cancer.
After leaving each visit, my mom would ask me why I wasn't upset. Finally, one day in the elevator, I realized that I wasn't sad because I couldn't help that Bella was sick. But, I could help the smile she had each time I was in her room. Bella was fighting for her life and coping with the loss of a limb, but was so happy and optimistic all the time. It was her positivity that made me realize how minuscule the things that made me unhappy were. Bella made me change my outlook on life, and I wanted everyone to get the chance to have their life changed by kids like Bella. As a high school junior, I created an organization at my school called Team Fighters which gives students the opportunity to bring fun to children battling chronic illnesses. What started as an idea turned into a kids helping kids club, which at the end of each visit left not only the child in the hospital happy, but the students as well.
Lesson 5: It's Okay to Be an Impulse Buyer... Sometimes
One of my favorite things to do is hang out in pet stores. You heard that right, pet stores. Anyway, I switch it up sometimes and my friend Will and I go to the shelter to play with those animals there instead. The last time we went, I fell in love with a kitten so I bought her. I mean, she was from the shelter so that gives me a reason too... right? It was definitely an impulse buy because I had just gotten my paycheck & I could buy her on my own.
Well, as I was writing this blog post, I found out that that kitten I adopted a little over three weeks ago has to have her leg amputated. When I picked her out from the animal shelter, I knew she was missing one of her back paws, which was the main reason I fell so madly in love with her! She ROCKED that pegged back foot. The Vet told me, the day after I adopted her, that her foot should be fine. Now, Abbott (named after the MLB pitcher, Jim Abbott, who made it to the league even without a right hand) can't put any weight on her paw, and the Vet now says she will have to get her entire leg amputated. So for the parents, you can use this story for proof that pets are a large time and money commitment, but for me... it showed me that everything happens for a reason. Thankfully the Animal Shelter didn't know about her paw or she would've most likely been immediately euthanized. I'm still overly obsessed with my kitten, even with the time and very large upcoming amputation bill. I can't wait to share photos of her totally ROCKING her missing leg, and I am so thankful for my little impulse buy.
(This is the last one I promise!)
Lesson 6: Less. Is. More.
Starting at very an early age, my parents instilled in us that, "Less is More." Although they were positive my siblings and I had everything we needed and many of the things we wanted, they made sure that we realized how important it was to give to the less fortunate. Since my Papi works with the orphanage in Bolivia, we put this lesson in to action at least twice a year! With a raiding of our toys and clothes that we either no longer wanted, or simply thought the other kids needed more, we gathered to donate. In fact, throughout all the years we have sent these items, many of our family friends joined us, sending their own donations as well.
When we went to Bolivia, my Papi took us to the orphanage we had been sending our toys and clothes for so many years. Even at such a young age, to see children turn our 'things' into their treasures was so impactful. It made me not only appreciate how blessed my siblings and I were, but it showed me the importance of giving.
My extremely long blog post and I are finally finished sharing a few life lessons I've learned over my short 18 years. I truly hope that: 1) You made it this far, and 2) That you can take at least one of my lessons and claim it as your own.
Miss West Virginia Teen USA 2017