When I was fifteen, I took part in the only writing contest I have ever taken part in. Each contestant was supposed to submit a short story (more or less four Word pages) about a given topic. The given topic was “challenge”. It could be any kind of challenge, any genre, any style. The contest was open to every highschool student of Italy. They would have selected fifteen out of hundreds of stories, and they would have published these fifteen stories in a little book.
Now, Italy is not really one of the biggest countries of the world, but still. Highschool lasts five years, I was at my second year. Older and more skilled students were going to take part, what chances did I have? I was afraid of the disappointment I would have felt had I not succeeded. My fear of failure took control, and I decided not to partecipate – without telling anybody the real reason, of course.
Some days after my decision, my Italian Language and Literature professor at school requested everybody to handle in to her a story for the contest. She would have later selected the best ones to actually partecipate. This made me feel even worse, ’cause now the whole class would have known of my failure. Maybe the professor wouldn’t even select my story. How humiliating would that have been?
The professor actually did select my story, and I had to submit it to the publishing house that organized the contest. After sending all the requested documents, several contrasting feelings wrestled within me.
Firstly, I realized how much I cared about this contest. I wanted to get an acknoledgement for my writing, which was the thing I was most proud of. I immediately started dreaming of winning the contest, and starting writing published novels soon after finishing university, all thanks to this potentially life-changing contest. I had always dreamt of becoming a writer one day, but I was just fifteen: that was the first time I felt that wasn’t just a kid’s dream, it was what I really wanted. I had never realized how much I wanted it.
On the other hand, I didn’t confess this to anybody, not even the guy who was my boyfriend at the time. I couldn’t think of anything else, but I never talked about it. When somebody asked me if I had received any letter, I just kept on repeating them how little I cared, how much it was not a big deal, how little effort I had put in that. I guess I was also trying to convince myself. I had actually wrote the entire story on the night before the assignment was due, but I’ll never forget the strong emotions I felt while writing. I never wanted to stop. I wanted to keep on writing forever.
I waited for that letter for months – I’m not sure of this, but I remember it felt like a lifetime to me. I was already trying to make my peace with the fact that my story had not been selected. The pain was pretty overwhelming, but something stuck with me, something positive: even though I had not won, I had felt happy when I was writing, and when I put the stamps on the envelopes and sent them. I had felt like a writer. I had felt that even if I failed, I was doing something I loved. I had found out what I loved. I felt like myself, somehow more than ever, while writing. I felt like the person I had always wanted to be. I felt fulfilled. I knew I couldn’t forget that. Winning the contest didn’t matter anymore. I had already won a far more important battle.
I wish to everybody to always be able to “go back Home”.
In the end, I got the letter. My story was selected among the best fifteen ones. I felt so happy and proud, but I knew somehow all that waiting had done me good. I was much more prepared to get that letter, ’cause now I knew what it meant to me.
This blog started in the exact same way.