University School - Hunting Valley
Instructor: Peter Millett
Personal Essay & Memoir
There is not as much difference between disappointment and accomplishment as one might think. One cannot exist without the other, and both are connected by similar properties. One may experience any one of these emotions during times of high stakes, such as setting out to reach a goal or during competition. In my case, I realized this during the University School annual spelling bee. This was an event of great importance for a nine-year old, as I had studied all winter break long. Every night I would go to bed reviewing the list of possible words that could be asked during the bee, preparing for the day to come. As weeks of this routine went by, I became increasingly more anxious for the day in January to arrive. I had fears of being looked at by a crowd packed by families and students and having to perform in front of them. I especially had fears of failure, considering how much work I had put into this. Time seemed to fly by until that day.
I woke up on an early January morning feeling how I always felt on every school morning - cold and tired. Until I brushed my teeth and ate breakfast, I didn't even remember what day it was. However, panic began to set in during the car ride to school. I obsessively reviewed my words, to the point I became carsick. When I got to school, I couldn't focus on anything but spelling. Time accelerated until I was sitting, facing a crowd full of my peers and teachers. I recall the lights being hot, surprising as I had rarely ever been on the auditorium stage. Fidgeting on stage, I looked at my parents who motioned for me to stop. In preparation, we were each handed a sign to hang around our neck to indicate the turn order of spelling. When the bee began, I watched as others went up and answered questions with ease. As I anxiously waited for my turn, I continued to bounce my leg up and down, fidgeting with the laminated sign around my neck. Each person, one by one answered their first word correctly, up until it was my turn.
As I walked up, I felt more nervous than I could ever remember at my young age. I spoke and I couldn't hear myself spell the first few letters, then I leaned into the microphone where I could hear my own echo. As I finished, I looked over at the judges, my teachers, as they looked at me confused. They looked at each other, as if someone had something to say. One of them reached for the bell, signaling my failure to spell correctly. I looked back at them, confused as well certain I had spoken correctly. I could not process what happened as I stood in place, stunned by their actions. As the first person to exit, I remained unmoved, unknowing of what to do. I turned around and saw the empty chairs in the crowd, with paper signs indicating that they were for the losers of the bee. Then, I walked off the stage, with what felt like the whole world watching me, and took my seat.
The following days after the bee, I felt that I had to learn to accept my failures and move on, or else I would continue to think about that moment and be sad about it. I continued for at least a year until the next bee came around. I cannot recall why I decided to do the bee again. I was fearful of yet another disappointment, but also, I saw a chance for redemption. Perhaps this opportunity for a second chance outweighed my fears, and before I knew it, I was back up on that stage. The results of my second bee didn't matter, but the fact that I decided to participate was enough for me. It taught me valuable lessons on persistence and accepting defeat.