As some of you may know this year I ran for the Cork Rose and it was an almighty experience.

I usually never do these kind of things because they generally tend to make me uncomfortable. I love competition but not competing with women. I prefer women empowerment. My main issue is that I am nothing like what a typical rose should be. I am brass, opinionated, alternative and always like to be me. I like tattoos and going out for drinks, living easy and carefree. Looking back on my experience I never thought I would say it but it was one of the best things for myself that I could have done.

I’m 24 but still have the same anxieties as my 16 year old self at times. Sometimes I don’t feel like I belong or that I may just be downright too different. At the beginning I was scared. I hated being in it, I just knew I couldn’t be part of this. My anxiety flared up and panic attacks took over constantly. I felt low within myself and I wanted to jump ship. I wanted out. A thorn can never be the rose no matter how hard it tried. Over the years I grew comfortable within myself and suddenly I was that same 16 year old with the same fears all over again. But as you all know me at this stage I never do anything by halves. Go hard or go home. And I really wanted to go home and just forget that I ever even tried. At the start I went in with the mentality that I was going to do something for myself but shortly after I didn’t want to do it anymore.

At every event I was petrified. I find it hard to connect especially with girls. Tammy told me something midway through the running that really helped me carry on through “I’ve been thinking about this Rose competition and came to the conclusion that its generally about the illusion of perfection, which is why you might not feel as at ease as usual. You find great strength in showing your vulnerability which allows you to be “in spite of” and maybe even “because of” you experience. Don’t be afraid to show that, and remember each and every girl there is probably steely eyed and wide smiled but may have the same fears as you, and just be terrified to show it. What you are doing is very brave, way out of your comfort zone. Win or lose, the important thing is that you take something from the experience and learn something that will make you better and stronger in the future”. I never realised that I did take comfort in my vulnerability. I had always been strong and emotionless and for the first time in my life I was vulnerable but I didn’t mind anymore and if anything it made me even stronger.

And to hell with it she was right. I didn’t need to be perfect. I did not need to win. This was not my life and quite frankly I wasn’t cut out for it anyways. I like playing with trucks, being the girl that says “why not?” and trying to change the world. In my final weekend I went in with a different attitude. 2 roads diverged in a wood and I am telling you that to me it made all the difference in the world. I went in simply to enjoy it, and boy did I have a great time. I made some great friends that I know I will have for life, I shared my story and I went hard and didn’t come home! I learnt to be even more comfortable within myself and within my circumstance. Everyone at home and abroad was so proud of me! It’s as if I won the thing! I realised that they were all standing behind me win or lose and that kind of support makes the world of difference.

I was not sad at all to have lost. I came, I saw and I conquered my fear and that’s what I came to do. I won in the end too. The winner truly deserved it. She is one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and is just everything every girl should aspire to be.

There’s nothing wrong with being the thorn because after all it’s the thorn that protects the rose and this year we have the most beautiful Rose.

Congratulations to the Cork Rose, Aisling, from all at the Shona Project.

And well done Nic, we are all very proud of you. x

Supported By

Our Pro bono Partners