I would imagine it's no surprise that I love words, especially spelling them. Ever since I was young, I've had a love for all things word related. However, I never expected my fascination for language to take me so far at such a young age.
How It Started
When I was about 5 years old, I watched the movie "Akeelah and the Bee." Akeelah is a young girl from California who, despite all odds, makes it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. From that point on, I was determined to be just like her. Spelling had always come naturally to me, so I believed it was possible that I could achieve that dream. When I learned of the Republican Herald Regional Spelling Bee, I was in fifth grade. Eager to make it there, I signed up for my school spelling bee. Surprisingly, I won! So, along with two other 8th grade students, I became a part of the Schuylkill Haven Bee Team but that was not my year. The next time I participated in the spelling bee was seventh grade, my first winning year! To say the least, I was probably more surprised than I'd ever been before. I made the journey to Scripps, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Fast forward to this year, 2020, my final year of eligibility for the bee. I prepared for the bee in hopes of just having a fun time, and making more memories. Much to my surprise, I won again!
Going into my first spelling bee, I was completely unsure of what to expect. I was nervous. I entered North Schuylkill High School, knees shaking and palms sweaty, with the image of an intense competition and kids who spent years preparing for that very day. However... I was wrong. Everyone who showed up to compete was either a nervous wreck, much like me, or just taking in the moment. Of course, that didn't make me feel any better at the time. As I became more used to the ¨spelling bee atmosphere, I grew more comfortable with the competition. At the regional bee, everyone is there for one of two reasons; Some want to win, and some were there simply just to have fun. I was a mix of both. Every year I competed in the bee, I entered with hopes of winning, but I would settle for just the memories. During my seventh grade spelling bee at D.H.H. Lengel Middle School, I realized that there was no point of stressing at the thought that I would get eliminated. I decided to just have fun, and if I got out, it was okay. Once I gained that mindset, I started to do very well. Maybe it was just luck and a bit of skill, but I'd like to think it was my positive mindset that caused me to win two years in a row. Even though winning is nice, the most important part of any competition is to have fun and make memories.
Scripps: National Spelling Bee
My journey to Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington DC was nothing short of amazing. Being that it was always my dream to make it to Scripps, the whole experience was surreal. Everyone who qualified for the national bee was so skilled, competitive, and intelligent; It was almost impossible to believe that I was there, in that moment, with everyone else. The day I arrived at the convention center was spent exploring the area and preparing for the preliminary tests, which would be held the next day. On the day of the preliminary tests, I woke up very early to begin studying. Around 8 or 9 am, I went to the Maryland Ballroom where all rounds of the bee were held, and took my seat. After the tests concluded, I spent the rest of the day exploring with my mom and studying for the first stage round of the bee, otherwise known as round two . By the time round two came around, I was probably more nervous than I'd ever been for a competition. I was so worried that I would mess up an easy word and embarrass myself on national television. When it was my turn to spell, I received the word "jocundity." I took a deep breath, relied on my knowledge, and thankfully, spelled the word correctly. I was overwhelmed with relief and joy. However, during round three, I spelled the word "antechamber" incorrectly. At the time, I was disappointed and upset with myself. Looking back on that moment, though, I should have just been proud of myself for making it as far as I did. Nonetheless, I wouldn't have traded my experience at Scripps for the world. Although I couldn't compete at Scripps this year, my last year of eligibility for the bee, I'm still proud to say I was able to check it off of my bucket-list, and fulfill the dream I carried with me since the age of five.
Curb the Nerves
Although major competitions are always nerve-wracking, there are ways to calm yourself down. Before I step onto the stage, I remind myself that losing is not the end of the world. Life will go on! Sure, it will be disappointing, but it's the memories that count. It also helps to recognize that everyone else is likely just as nervous as you are. Everyone is human, after all. It may sound obvious, but taking deep breaths is crucial to keeping your calm. Oftentimes, as silly as it sounds, people forget to breathe calmly when under pressure. In order to feel confident and calm, you need to look confident and calm. Shaking and squirming on the stage won't relax your nerves at all! As I've mentioned many times before, the most effective way to curb your nerves is to have fun! The most memorable experiences are those that make you happy. As I always like to say, you only live once! Have fun, make memories, and try to get the best out of any experience.
Cover photo is a picture of Heidi Bauer in Washington DC for Scripps National Spelling Bee