As I sit here, making the final preparations for my big day on Saturday, cleaning my sash and crown, I am overcome with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Saturday is my last ever day as the 2017 Louth Rose, I will hand over my sash and crown to the newly selected 2018 Louth Rose and step down from my duties.
It’s a surreal feeling, I never thought that I would be sitting here, looking back on the whirlwind year I have had when I filled out that application form last year.
I never thought three years ago, when I was still hiding a lot of myself away from the world, secretly struggling with my hair loss and crippling anxiety, that I would represent my county of Louth in the Rose of Tralee festival and appear on stage with Dáithí Ó Sé to share my story.
I never thought, in my wildest dreams that people would use the word ‘role model’ or ‘inspiration’ and my name in the same sentence. That people would contact me saying I have helped and or changed their lives!
All because I filled in that form and decided that after years of staying quiet about my mental health and hair, it was time to take of the mask I wore for so long and just be me, an open, honest version.
I never thought that this experience, this journey would bring me to Frankfurt, Chicago, Florida and back to New York, a place I never thought I would go back to.
Seventeen years after my first trip to New York, after the tragedy of 9/11, I went back with my Rose sisters, Escorts, boyfriend and my family (they came to see me in the parade, a dream holiday for us all).
The first place I went, the 9/11 Memorial Museum. A harrowing experience, but something I needed to do, to pay respects and to reaffirm my bond with that city on that horrific day. I will have a separate piece on that experience soon.
I never thought I would be in Vesnova orphanage in Belarus with Chernobyl Children International and the Roses of the Rose of Tralee volunteering on Valentine’s Day. This was one of my proudest accomplishments as the Louth Rose.
If you have yet to watch my video of our trip, I urge you to do so, so you can see my Vesnova family and the wonderful work Adi Roche and the CCI have done, which is all funded by Irish people and donations.
I never thought I would be asked back to my secondary school, The Marist to speak to the 6th years and TY’s. To think that I am a past pupil that they wanted to welcome back to tell their story still baffles me!
I never thought people would ask me for an autograph or look at me the way my amazing Rosebud Kate Linehan did. Meeting that funny, smart and lovable little girl, with fantastic dance moves and a crown nicer than my own, was most certainly a highlight for me! To all of the Rose Buds, you are every Roses favourite part of the Rose of Tralee festival in Tralee.
I never thought I was a Rose….
Before I filled out that form, I was in a dark lonely place, my anxiety begun to spiral and my boyfriend was desperately trying to get me out of it. On a brighter day I applied and I think it saved me a little, saved me from that dark and lonely place at least.
I was graciously given this role, this title, and instead of letting my anxiety tell me I couldn’t do it, I hit the ground running, I opened my arms, I slapped my anxiety away and I embraced being a Rose.
The Rose of Tralee gets a lot of negativity from those who say its outdated, its cringe, its the lovely girls competition. What ever you views may be on the two nights you see on TV or the festival in Tralee, it is so much more! Without it, my life would be in a very different place right now. I truly truly believe that!
Taking about mental health, working with charities and celebrating being Irish will never be outdated, in my opinion.
Those ‘lovely girls’ are now, not just my friends, they’re my extended family and my support system. They drive me to be a better me. To be more ambitious and do those ‘maybe someday’ things now. They have given me strength that I was beginning to lose.
Strength I used to give back. I hosted a charity pop up shop in aid of Pieta House and Little Princess Trust. A total of €1,560 was made, which I rounded off to €800 each. Trolleys full of stuff were also donated to Cara Cancer Support Centre , a car full of donated children’s clothes was dropped off to Womens Aid Dundalk AND another couple of bags went to Enable Ireland.
Strength I will use to continue to give back, set goals and reach them, and continue to be this better version of myself that rose to the forefront over the course of my reign.
The 2018 Roses have no idea just how special this experience is going to be, the bond they are going to create with their fellow roses and escorts, the things they are going to do, places they will see and visit and the incredible community spirit and pride that will be all encompassing throughout.
I want to wish the class of 2018 Roses of the Rose of Tralee International Festival all the very best on their journey this year. Live in the moment and use your year as an ambassador and representative to its fullest, it goes by so fast!
I never normally say I am proud of myself, but I am proud of the year I have had as your 2017 Louth Rose. I hope to have done my County very proud, because I have been honoured to represent the Wee County and my hometown of Dundalk. I am honoured to have helped those who are going through the same struggles as myself and I will continue to do so even after the sash and crown are gone.
One a Rose always a Rose!🌹
I am proud to be able to say that!