The power of choice

The stage-life called out to me at an early age. Performing with school choirs, steel pan ensembles, "Chaos Crew" - a secondary school dance group of mine, and walking the runway as a teenage fashion model, all ensured continued presence in the spotlight.

But, it wasn't all about or for the spotlight. It was a matter of creativity, emotional release, creative balance, peace of mind, and passion. Singing came naturally, so too did dance and the ability to play instruments. Parental encouragement had a lot to do with exposure in the first place, but a genuine love for the arts enheartened continuous involvement and pursuance for more. As time passed and experience grew, a desire for new opportunities bloomed, making the beauty pageant world quite intriguing and the beginning of a new type of stage-life, one with tiaras, fancy gowns, and all the glamorous and even non-glamorous allowances this type of life provided. Nonetheless, before the glamour comes the commencement and mine began with the Miss North Eastern College School Pageant.

North Eastern College is the secondary school I attended for five years of my pre-teen and teenage life. After sitting the general secondary school entrance exams in Trinidad and Tobago, the announcement of school placement results soon followed. On that day, at school, some friends exclaimed in jubilance, some in melancholia, while questions and apathy loomed in this tiny ten-year-old mind of mine. Where is this school? Are the results accurate? Subjugating emotions held on tightly. At home, sitting on the six-step staircase, to the left of my childhood bedroom, tears flowed. Apprehension played an astronomically immense role and disappointment at not being placed at a more elite school weighed heavily. Relishing the summer that followed this day was arduous. The thought of beginning a new school - one that did not emit gratifying emotions - invoked deeper feelings of dread and discontentment.

Optimism struggled to prevail until it did!

North Eastern College became a second home. Friends were abundant. Opportunities were insurmountable, and fun was in surplus. A swimmer on the school's swim team, a member of the choir and music ensemble groups and a founding member of the "school's unofficial dance group", encouraged an innate love for this school which was once shunned.

Hysterical how perspectives change when one embraces enlightenment.

Moving on is a frighteningly eerie thing. New beginnings are even scarier. My ten-year-old self was trepidacious of the unknown - of attending a school the opposite of elite. When in fact, this school was greater than imagination would let on. Some of the most influential people I know were my peers. Some of the best experiences relied upon this place. Some of the best opportunities came into view at this place, and my first taste of pageant life came to fruition at this place - North Eastern College.


In my fourth year as a student at North Eastern College, and for the first time in the school's history, the Form Six students with the support of the school administration decided to host a school pageant. Urged by classmates, I attended the open casting call, then waited a few days for the official delegate announcement. The results were favorable. Preparations began almost immediately. Hairstyle choices, gown design, casual wear options, and accessories became of absolute importance. The overall design of my gown and the other required pieces of wardrobe lay in the hands of a profoundly crafty sister of mine, Tamika Samaru. The family garage was idealistically converted into a makeshift runway, and "Q&A" skills were strengthened by daily rehearsals with my father, Keith Samaru. Funding for the purchase of materials for the gown and complementary appendages such as shoes and jewelry came from my late grandfather, Emerson Samaru, and altogether it became a family affair, as each one played a significant role in the entire process.

Moving past mundane but necessary facts and rushing ahead a bit, the day of the pageant arrived as gracefully and obliviously as the mailman. Nerves were at bay, but a last-minute hairstyle change complicated the morning.  Leekesha Quamina, classmate and friend, spearheaded the decision of a quick hair color change which meant undoing the hairstyle my sister Tamika slaved over only the night before and redoing it another way. It also meant rushing to Leekesha's house - which was pretty proximate to the school - before heading there to attend morning classes, then prepare for the show, making the morning a hectic one. Focus during morning classes was hard to come by and for a substantial reason - there was a humble but constant exhilaration within, making each minute feel like an hour and each hour like a day. Eventually, time passed and as the high-pitched ring of the school bell echoed through the college it meant one thing and one thing only - time to get ready for the show!

Recollection of all the specificities is hard to come by, but at this moment it centers upon the loud cheers from schoolmates as those two eager feet of mine stepped on stage. Images of Peaches, the family Yorkshire Terrier, in my arms and shaking like a leaf during the casual wear segment nostalgically appear into view. The poor thing was terrified. Another memory that stands out is a desperate sprint in silver high heels down the vast and empty hallway closest to the auditorium where the pageant was being held. Time was lost to "over preparation" during the evening gown wardrobe change and so, running to make it to the stage on time was a congruous and indispensable action.

Slightly flustered and winded, those silver high heels glided a slender body covered in a shimmery, body-hugging tube dress with a thigh slit, accessorized with a choker necklace and arm cuffs in the same material on stage. The cheers were virtually deafening. My close friends were all overcome with excitement and support so much so, they rose out of their seats cheering, applauding, whistling and wearing the most comely and genuine smiles on their faces. Classmates and siblings reacted in the same manner, as well as the rest of the school population and even some of my favorite teachers.

These beautiful displays of appreciation and support allowed for a boost in confidence which eased that nervous mind of mine just in time for the interview segment. Although recollection has no memory of the question asked, it does denote a sense of tranquility during that segment.

A short while after, the delegates were all invited back on stage to await the results. Any beauty queen would say that this is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of a pageant because the probability of winning or losing implants itself into an overthinking mind making a heart feel quite unreliable. It is at this moment when deep breathing is significant. As that jittery body of mine finally surrendered to calmness, I heard "The first runner-up by unanimous decision is Miss Tiva Lee Samaru from the class Form Four Arts One". Inundated with emotion and clearly pleased with the results, the audience burst into applause and I was happy. The competition was fierce and prospects of coping the first prize were non-existent. To be honest, performing to the best of my ability was all that mattered, so being awarded second place exceeded any unthought expectation.

As I finished that last thought, the following question begged for recognition. Would this experience cease to exist if I choose a different path i.e not attend North Eastern College and instead retake the general secondary school entrance exams in hopes to be placed at another school I really wanted to attend? Probably not. That's the beauty of choice. Sometimes, and almost always, after the fact, the realization that the choice made enabled beautiful experiences, and sometimes pivotal ones that may not have transpired otherwise is such an enlightening thing. It, in essence, sanctions your mind to really defer from taking the power of choice for granted. As with many other aspects of life, a choice is something that comes by every second. The choice to sleep one minute longer or get out of bed and get ready for work can have so many outcomes. But the outcome that matters the most is the one that is the most pivotal or rewarding. That sort of outcome that allows you to grow and be better. That enables the positive path of your existence and journey here on planet earth. That influences others in a positive way too and contributes to society. That when reflected upon, brings no regret or feelings of resentment and instead brings to light a stronger belief in your decision-making abilities.

When considering the "power of choice" in the world today, is it then appropriate to ask, if we all are a bit more conscious of the choices we make or want to make, bearing in mind the outcomes and its impact on others and ultimately ourselves, can we then shape the world into the tranquil, emboldening, equitable, and sustainable place we all wish for it to be?