Two weekends ago I experienced an evening that I knew, even while it was unfolding, was unrepeatable. I sensed it as significant, not to the world but to me personally.
And within that night came a specific moment that felt sparkly, so I’m calling it a sparkling moment.
At the 2012 North Dakota Professional Communicators spring conference and evening banquet, after enjoying a nice meal with my daughters and mother and other participants, I was honored with a pile of awards: two 3rd-place, three 2nd-place and nine 1st-place awards, all for articles and columns I’d written as a freelancer in 2011.
At the end of the evening, I was surprised by a final award when it was announced I was our state’s first-place sweepstakes winner; meaning, my winnings had garnered the highest amount of points. Though I was hoping for a win or two, the thought of coming away with the big award hadn’t even crossed my mind beforehand. (Full results here.)
When freelance was all I did, submitting articles for contests became part of the deal. When you’re out on your own, it can be hard to track success. So awards given by fellow professionals becomes significant. With no company to pay my entrance fees, I’d figure that into my budget annually, along with professional organization membership, and work to write award-worthy articles.
I don’t expect you to be as happy for me as I was for myself. In fact, I’m really not here to boast. What I’d like to share, more than anything, are these takeaways:
– The best part of the night, by far, was having loved ones with me as the awards were announced. One of my colleagues mentioned that she’d noticed my youngest daughter’s eyes pop open when she realized I was about to be named the sweepstakes winner. And having my other daughter and mom there as well — well, it just made everything so much sweeter. My mother was one of my first teachers and has been a constant encouragement to me. And my daughters? Well, they know how hard I work. I’m happy they were able to see a payoff, and I hope that I somehow inspired them to do their best and work hard, too.
– This contest in particular was symbolic for me. It took a couple sessions at the library to sort through my entries and fill out the required forms. When I’d finally pulled it all together, I handed in my pile and exhaled. Shortly thereafter, I started my new job at the newspaper. I knew that I might never have a year like the one that had produced all those articles. It felt like I was closing a chapter of my life, literally handing in the fruits of my truly tireless freelance efforts before moving onto a new venture. Hearing I’d won something besides was like tying a bow on the year of very hard work I’d just come through.
– Aside from sharing this night with loved ones and feeling grateful for the recognition and chance to work on those particular pieces, I was treated to something even better upon arriving back at the hotel room. Reading the judges’ comments in solitude was, without a doubt, the best moment of the whole evening. It was then that I let the honors really sink into my heart and to a place where no one — not even the naysayers that pop into my life on occasion — can touch.
Though judge’s comments are meant mainly for the writer herself, I thought I’d share those from my top wins (which will go on to the national competition). I’m hoping it will shed light on the contest process and give better insight as to why I was so thoroughly filled with joy and gratitude that night:
Q4U: Your turn. Tell me about an honor of yours, and what it meant to you!