And They Lived Happily Ever After

By Jacky Arness
Distinguished Young Woman of North Dakota for 2011
That’s how fairy tales are supposed to end, right? At least, that’s what I thought. I grew up watching the Disney princesses, like most other little girls, and hearing fairy tales that concluded in this manner. At the end of the story we are left with this statement and are somehow satisfied with it. These six little words could quite possibly be the most disappointing conclusion ever, and yet they have cemented themselves irreversibly into the cultural vocab. I use them myself, in fact, my Pinterest wedding board (come on, I’m sure you have one too) is entitled this very phrase. Why are we so satisfied with some greater power out there in the cosmic Disney/fairy tale universe pulling the strings so that every story ends in the same way.  Everyone is always happy. And it’s always for ALWAYS.

I was never the kid who settled for the ending. I always wanted to know what happened next, and don’t even get me started on “cliff-hangers”. All I ever wanted to know was what happens after ‘ever after’? Is Cinderella happy when Prince Charming has his guy friends over for a Super Bowl party at the palace (and trust me, those boys probably don’t have a midnight curfew) and trashes the ballroom? What about when Jasmine notices Aladdin tracked a ton of mud across all the carpets? How about when Philip misses his date with Aurora because he took a nap? And I’m sure that Ariel won’t be feeling too delighted when Eric neglects that it’s his turn to pick the kids up from swimming lessons… Get the picture?

Our lives, like fairy tales, continue to go on whether or not people are there to see it. Each new experience that we have and adventure that we take will bring new relationships (not just the romantic kind) into our lives. And, unfortunately, some of those relationships will end. Friends will drift apart as their interests change, or simply the separation of distance and time will change a friendship. Often times we say goodbye to people, and sometimes we come to understand we may never see those people again. Distinguished Young Women was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The entire experience has had an incredible impact on the young woman I have become, and the woman I hope someday to be. Though it saddens me to say, I know that I may never see some of the girls I came to know over those two weeks again. And I know that I will never see all 50 of us together. This is a heavy thought to cope with, and unfortunately, a reality that doesn’t just apply to Distinguished Young Women Nationals, but to many of the endings in our lives.

Performing as a “Has Been” at Community Night for Distinguished Young Women National Finals this year!


This is not meant to be depressing, but rather I would like to share how I have come to understand the meaning of living “happily ever after.” Life stops for no one. Time does not slow down. Every second in our future soon becomes our past. As the saying goes “every day is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present”. I will not tell you that every moment of every day will be happy. In fact, I can promise you the opposite. There will disappointments and letdowns. There will be obstacles and many, many, many bumps in the road. Sometimes you’ll feel angry, sometimes heartbroken, and other times you won’t be able to feel anything at all. My two beautiful sisters Katye Brock and Kinsey Crow have already referenced a verse from the same chapter, now I will use Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Just like the unchanging seasons, transitioning from fall, to winter, to spring, and to summer, only to begin the cycle again, the pattern of life is no different. We will rise to new heights and accomplishments, to new levels of happiness, love, and fulfillment, only to plummet to lows of disappointment, hurt, and sadness. But just as I promised that those valleys would appear from time to time, I will make you another promise. I will promise you that after those valleys you will rise again. Things will always get better, and nothing is permanent except the very fact that nothing is permanent!  “Happily ever after” is not a promise that everything will always be awesome all the time, but rather an encouragement to view happiness as a cumulative, rather than incidental, outlook on your life.

So thank you. Thank you to my family and friends for setting me on the right course. Thank you to my Distinguished Young Women sisters for truly becoming family and inspiring me with your integrity, intelligence, talent, and love. And thank you Distinguished Young Women for being a beacon for young women brimming with potential in a broken world that is constantly trying to tell us that we are inadequate. Go out there and take on the world my friends.

God Bless, and I hope you ALL live happily ever after. I know that I plan to!
Jacky

Jacky Arness is a student at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota majoring in Political Science/International Relations with a minor in Theatre Arts. Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Jacky was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of North Dakota for 2011. Learn more about Jacky here!

1 COMMENT

  • Danielle DuBose

    18th Jul 2012 at 00:13

    This is so great and a great lesson for everyone! Love you Jacky!

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