THE POWER OF CHOICE

The stage-life called out 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.

However, it was not 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.

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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 little 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 a childhood bedroom, tears flowed. Apprehension played an astronomically significant 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 once shunned.

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Moving on is a frighteningly eerie thing. New beginnings are even scarier. The ten-year-old version of Tiva was trepidacious of the unknown - of attending a school the opposite of elite. When, in fact, this school was more magnificent 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 the first taste of pageant life came to fruition at this place - North Eastern College.

In the 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, attendance at the open casting call soon followed, then a brief period of waiting before 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 gown design and the other required pieces of wardrobe lay in the hands of a profoundly crafty sister of mine. The family garage magically changed into a makeshift runway, and daily rehearsals with Daddy strengthened "Q&A" skills. Funding for the purchase of materials for the gown and complementary appendages such as shoes and jewelry came from an eager grandfather, 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 previously done hairstyle and redoing it. 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 - time to get ready for the show!

A 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, tucked in those loving arms of mine 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 taking place. 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 necessary 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. 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 beautiful 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 beloved 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, the words, "The first runner-up by unanimous decision is Miss Tiva Lee Samaru from the class Form Four Arts One," echoed. Inundated with emotion and pleased with the results, the audience burst into applause. The competition was fierce, and prospects of coping the first prize were non-existent. Performing to the highest ability was all that mattered, so being awarded second place exceeded any unthought expectation.

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As that last thought concluded, the following question begs for recognition. Would this experience cease to exist if a different path was chosen, i.e., not attend North Eastern College and instead retake the general secondary school entrance exams in hopes of being placed at another school that seemed more appealing? Probably not. That is 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 the mind to 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. However, the outcome that matters the most is the one that is the most pivotal or rewarding, the sort that allows growth and betterment. That enables the positive path of one's existence and journey here on planet earth. That positively influences others and contributes to society. That, when reflected upon, brings no regret or feelings of resentment and instead brings to light a stronger belief in decision-making abilities.

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