Every May I fondly remember my National Spelling Bee days. I remember the countless hours I spent studying words. I remember my dad constantly reminding me to eat. I was so intently focused on my studies that it was easy to overlook such a basic need. There were times that my father advised me not to study so much because I was going to get burned out. My father was worried that I studied too much. What a thought! Shouldn't parents be worried that their children are not studying enough?
I experienced so much from competing in the National Spelling Bee two years in a row as a teenager: the first time I flew to D.C. was my first time to ride in an airplane, the first time I competed in the National Spelling Bee was the first time I felt a sense of belonging among my peers, and the first time I competed in the National Spelling Bee was the first time I traveled to the east coast. I remember being eye to eye with a shark at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and riding a paddle boat on the harbor. I also loved riding a ship for the first time in Annapolis, Maryland. In elementary school I had learned that Annapolis was the capital of Maryland - how surreal it was to actually go there.
I saw Arlington National Cemetery, Lincoln Monument, Jefferson Monument, Washington Monument, the Capitol building. I had my picture taken with Bob Dole and saw Bill Clinton give a speech at Arlington National Cemetery.
I was even fascinated that a speller from Ohio KNEW I was from Texas because of my usage of the word "y'all".
I am not ashamed that I come from a low-income background. Because of my dedication and intelligence, I was able to literally GO places. I was able to go to our nation's capital and capitol. I stayed in the Grand Hyatt, not in the Motel 8s my family and I did on our way to and from Mexico in the summers. I realized I was not forever destined to be poor.
Why did I spend so much time studying words? Spelling made me happy, and spelling allowed me many adventures. Following my passion was my ticket out of poverty.
As I have grown older, I have learned to appreciate those things that make me happy in life: writing, reading, listening to music, spending time with my family, traveling, teaching, running, and drinking tea.
As a woman in my twenties, I have still not stopped dreaming. I dream of being a best-selling published author. Over the years, my teachers encouraged me to cultivate my writing skills. Many of my teachers told me that I would be a famous writer and that I needed to send them copies of my books someday. I remember professors in college and graduate school singing my praises as well.
I might have misspelled "heleoplankton", but that is not what stands out most in my mind about competing in the National Spelling Bee.