Contests and Validation

Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, my phone rang with a new text, one that would have me jumping up and down for the next few minutes.

A little back story. I work for my college’s literary magazine. We have two co-editors, an engaged couple with a sweet sense of humor, and I am part of the support staff on the literary side as opposed to the art side. Every year, the magazine launches a contest to bring in submissions and generate good public opinion. The categories range from studio art and photography all the way to short stories and essays. A panel of separate judges look at the different submissions and put together a list of first, second, third, and honorable mention winners for us to proofread.

I submitted story, one I worked on and agonized over for days. I drew up at least six drafts and sent it to several trusted readers for feedback before sending it in. I figured it would be better to submit one excellent story instead of the maximum three and having those be mediocre.

This, along with the personal nature of the story, made me nervous about finding out the winners of that category. Never having won a contest like this, I felt sure that rejection was inevitable.

Then, when I grabbed my phone that night, I nearly jumped out of my skin. One of my bosses texted me just to tell me that my story had placed first in its category. I jumped and squealed with my best friend, called my mom, and told as many people as were awake that night. It took me another hour to get to sleep.

There is something unbeatable about the feeling you receive when you’ve won something that means a lot to you. It tells you that all your hard work and practice has paid off in someone else validating your talent. Now, why we as humans need the validation of other people is a subject for another post, but it is a fact, and I felt it acutely as I lay in bed with the thought running through my head,¬†I won. I won first place. They picked my story out of all the rest and called it the best. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you.¬†

I can’t wait to see my story and my name in print and in the hands of my fellow classmates and even professors. I only hope they like it as much as the judges did.

Rain Storms and Finding Comfort

In case you didn’t know, the weather in the south is fickle and¬†temperamental, prone to sudden tantrums and bouts of rage. Yesterday and today have seen the strength of those episodes.

As I made my way through Alabama and Mississippi to my private college located just ten minutes outside of Jackson, I found my hands gripping the steering wheel tighter and tighter. Rain lashed and pounded the windshield, and I nearly hydroplaned three times. Swaths of rain and gray obscured taillights and turn signals, and I started praying that God would just get me safely to campus.

My hands ached hours after releasing the wheel, and I discovered an irritating crick in my neck from hunching over so much. But I made it in one piece, only to discover that the closest parking spot to my dorm was across the street in a huge lot.

Have you ever tried carrying in a heap of clothes and other essentials all by yourself? I don’t recommend it. My shoulders are still speckled with burst blood vessels from where my backpack straps dug into them.

Today saw a massive swell of rain and wind, leaving my feet red and icy after walking to and from the college bookstore (also across the street) with my textbooks. The street has morphed into a chilly River Styx, with street signs acting as ferrymen for disheveled students who could not care less about the cars grumbling at their stop signs.

However, despite all of that, I find myself in a fairly good mood. Whether it was the success of my first pair of classes, the happiness I felt at obtaining two Norton Anthologies, or the anticipation of a Chinese buffet waiting for me, I have retained a calmness I did not think would stay with me.

I’m sure I could philosophize and muse on what this all means (the storms of life against my success and attitude), but I really don’t want to. For now, I just want to enjoy the softness of my blanket and the Green Day songs spewing from my laptop speakers.

But who knows? Maybe I’ll have a great epiphany and expound on all of this tomorrow.

Until then.