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"Ha-ha-ha you failed, little shy girl! You could not even spell general," was the comment I thought would persecute me for the rest of my life after ridiculing myself at that lame, pointless competition.
The nerves of studying the spelling bee words provoked the twenty-four hour days to feel insanely longer. Although my teacher, Ms. Wines, frequently gave us time during class to study and spell the words, my stage fright blocked me from feeling 100 percent confident to compete against my whole school.
After hours, days, and weeks of studying, the day finally arrived! Finally? No! Of course I did not long for that nerve-wracking day. In fact, I constantly hoped for that day—with the help of some divine intervention—to be suspended forever. However, my thoughts did not count.
Therefore, there I went, Monday evening (the worst day of the week), to be slaughtered by embarrassment in front of all the students, parents, and teachers. My will to run away and never return matched the great hills of Hulda Crooks. Nonetheless, my reality remained as sad as it could get. I was still walking into that school, fixed on embarrassing myself. How in the world could I compete against my classmates, the third graders, or the fourth graders, or much less, the middle schoolers? I had only one way to know— actually competing.
As I stepped into the dismal school gym (where the spelling bee was taking place), among the multiple musters of people, and the myriad of conversations, one object flattered my eyes—the three foot shiny, golden rayed, Egyptian-blue trophy that stood in the middle of two other trophies, immediately cajoled me to compete for it.
Undoubtedly, that alluring trophy was fated to go home with me, right? I could not reject such calling. At that moment an ear-to-ear smile covered my face and inevitably the words blurted out, “Mom! I want the tallest trophy in the middle.”
After a few seconds of analyzing my excited eyes, my mom bent her head and with confidence replied, “You will get it.”
My mother, my role model, believed I, a little shy girl that feared the competition, could achieve that night’s championship? Surely, she did not realize that her words put a 50-pound weight on my shoulders. I felt responsible to not let her down. My bright, excited, puppy eyes probably obliged her to give me the blessed assurance that I would take the blue trophy home.
The much detested moment to compete arrived. When all the third graders were called up onto the dark-blue, carpeted, small stage, I dragged myself up the stairs, ready to misspell my word and go back to sit down with my parents. The moment I sat down on the chair and looked at the audience, my stage phobia invaded me. I could feel my legs shivering, palms sweating, stomach growling, breath and heart increasing its rate, mouth drying up, ears on fire, cheeks blushing, and brain blocking my barely-there positive thoughts.
Initially, my heart rate was at a regular speed. However, as I saw my turn approach, I felt my heart enter the phase of tachycardia. After seven of my classmates had participated, I heard the cacophony of “Next up, Emily Martinez,” come out of the blonde, un-amiable middle-aged, teacher. The real moment had now truly arrived, and my heartbeat knew it because it had definitely reached an unmeasurable rate. Trudging to the microphone, I enclosed myself in the here I go to get wrecked thought.
Standing in front of the microphone, I fearfully looked at my audience. There I was, the center of attention. As I waited for my “lucky” word, the words of my wise mother came to my memory once again, “You will get it.”
“Emily, spell out the word chocolate,” blandly stated the teacher. I took two steps forward and stuttering to the microphone I said,“Chocolate, c-h-o-c-o...l-a-t-e, chocolate.”
“Correct. You may take a seat.”
What! I spelled it out right? Wow, I thought I was horrible. I am actually excited for this! I thought as I strolled back to my seat with my winning smile.
After all the kids of the school had spelled out their word, the time to make the four finalists compete arrived. The fragile, anxious, little girl had entered the real world of competition. What could the other three middle schoolers do to me? Let the war begin.
My round came up, and instead of stuttering to the microphone, I ambled with a peaceful smile, ready for my next “lucky” word.
“Spell out the word ‘gentle.’”
“Gentle, g-e-n-t-l-e, gentle.”
“Correct, you may take a seat.”
Yes! I had not messed up, once again! My heart skipped beats of fond excitement, instead of nerves. The “I can do it!” feeling existed in my interior. By this round, two of the competitors had repeatedly misspelled their words, therefore, they were not part of the competition anymore. I was left to compete with one other girl. Who would take the trophy home?
“Emily, spell out the word ‘aisle.’”
Oh shoot! Which one is it? Is it aisle with an ‘a’ or isle with an ‘i’? To gain thinking time, I asked the teacher to give me an example of the word in a sentence. The teacher said, “The bride walked down the aisle.”
A few seconds passed and I still did not recognize the difference between the two words. I gasped, and with a tingly smile spelled out the word.
“Aisle, i-s-l-e, aisle.”
“Sorry, that is incorrect,” stated the disheartened teacher.
Disappointment and anger instantly filled me because I thought I had let my family down. Would I never achieve anything in life? As my tears almost swayed their way down my blushing, tingly cheeks, I squeezed my eyes and contained myself. The chance of winning still remained present if and only if my opponent also messed up.
“Wai (my opponent), spell the word ‘genre,’” said the teacher.
Please, please mess up I thought, as I saw myself on the brink of losing it all.
“Genre, g...” she paused 3 seconds.
Yes, yes, you’re going the right direction! I maliciously thought.
“G-e-n-e-r” she said..
I quietly gasped and attentively waited for the teacher’s response.
“Sorry, that is incorrect.”
Yes! She messed up. I get another chance! I thought as a hidden smile appeared on my face. Once again, my turn to demonstrate my newly discovered talent came up.
“Emily, spell ‘playground.’”
I visioned the word and paced myself to spell it out.
“Playground, p-l-a-y-g-r-o-u-n-d, playground.”
Now my opponent had one last chance to keep the competition going or let me win. That moment of uncertainty restricted me from feeling the eager excitement I had felt for the last few rounds. I sat on half of the chair with my legs bouncing and hands twiddling. My heartbeat felt like it was in slow motion as I encountered the abyss of suspense. Would she mess up again, or not?
“Wai, spell the word courtyard.”
In a rush she stumbled out, “Courtyard, c-o-r-t-y-a-r-d, courtyard”
“I’m sorry, that is incorrect”
My eyes widened in every direction. My ear to ear smile covered my face once again. It was unbelievable! At this moment, I automatically became the CHAMPION OF THE NIGHT! That meant my beautiful, shiny, Egyptian- blue, three foot trophy would finally go home with me!
“Well,” said the teacher, “Seems like we have a winner tonight. The new champion of 2009 is Emily Martinez!” Pacing myself became extremely difficult because I wanted to skip down the stairs and at last carry my first earned trophy in my arms.
Amidst the applauds from all the parents, teachers, and students, my eyes focused on my family. I could see they felt excited and proud of me. The moment I interlocked eyes with my them, my arms lifted the big trophy as high as possible and I whisper-shouted, “We did it!” Consequently, I brought my arms back down, and contemplating my beautiful trophy, I thought, wow! I can definitely achieve anything I put my mind to.