Chasing My Dreams

August 27, 2011
It was hot inside the gym during the award ceremony last April. We had spent the entire day competing in various events at the State level in an important science competition. We had reached this level because we were among the top three schools of our region, having beaten many other teams in the preliminary round. In this competition, a fifteen member team represents the competing schools with each member taking tests in different subjects. My team and I were tense and excited---tense because of how hopeful we were to reach our seemingly unattainable goal of going to the national competition and excited because of how close we were to our long awaited goal. For fifteen years, my school had always gotten 2nd place at the state level, every time losing to our rival school, and never making it to the national level. We were extremely nervous, mostly because of how many medals we had gotten this year and how close we were in points to our rival team. When the announcer declared that our rival had gotten 2nd place, our team exploded with excitement; we were definitely cheering the loudest in the large gym! It was even better when the announcer said that we had gotten 1st place. At last we were State Champions! The range of emotions each one of us experienced is something that none of us can describe in words. We were thrilled to be given the opportunity to go to the national competition and compete against the best schools in the nation. Of course, we weren’t sure of how well we would end up doing, but that didn’t stop us from vigorously studying every second possible to prepare for the nationals, which was only a month away!

I was so busy and stressed during that period that I didn’t even realize that the competition was only days away until we were on the plane to the competition. I still continued to study for hours in the plane and in the hotel room. Most of my free time was spent studying, continuing to go over the packets of work. I even skipped shopping with the other girls on the team. Our team did a lot of other sightseeing though, and we met many other teams along the way. It was fun to talk to kids from other states and listen to their views on the competition. Because we were surrounded by experienced and prepared teams, I was nervous about competing, especially since it was my first time.

The national competition takes place every May and is hosted by a University. The venue for the competition changes every year so that all the states get a chance to host the tournament. My nerves and excitement peaked when we entered the theater where the opening ceremonies would take place. The large screens had the competition logo, and everyone was talking about the upcoming competition the next day. It was definitely interesting to listen to all the scientists and speakers talk and demonstrate interesting science experiments, but all I could think about was what the upcoming day would bring. It seemed to be happening too fast. After the opening ceremonies, there was a meet-and-greet party for the competitors, which was definitely fun to attend. But by the time I got to the hotel, attended our team meeting, and finished my pre-competition work, it was already midnight, and lack of sleep was definitely not a good way to start the first competition my school had gone to for fifteen years! But fortunately for me, I was able to sleep in a little more than some of my teammates, because my first event was scheduled later than some of the others.

The competition passed in a blur, and when I finished, I wasn’t very sure of how I had fared in my events. I knew that I definitely didn’t do as well as some of the expert teams who had been coming to the national competition for the past however many years. So I was depressed for quite a few hours. Considering all the hard work I had put in, my disappointment with my performance was understandable. Imagine studying three completely different subjects for six months, only to not do as well as I had hoped at the last level of the competition! But I tried to be excited for the awards ceremony in the evening. Who knows, there was a chance that at least my school would do well!

The awards ceremony required formal wear, and I was running late. After a rushed fifteen minutes of multitasking, I was ready to go with my team. The ceremony didn’t start right away, so we spent a few hours attending team activities set up by the competition coordinators, and then we headed to the large theater to hear our results.

The theater was buzzing with anticipation. Everyone was excited for the impending results. Our coaches congratulated us, and the coaches of other teams from our state congratulated us. I was nervous and hopeful at the same time--nervous because of how enormous this whole ceremony was and how important it was and hopeful to see how I ended up faring. Eventually, after a lot of anticipation, the ceremony began. It was quite fun to cheer, especially since our school did exceptionally well considering it was our first time at the competition. It seemed as though we got a medal for every other event, which meant that we didn’t stop cheering. Although I knew that I didn’t do very well, I couldn’t help myself from being hopeful of getting a medal and being in the top six, and I was still crushed when I didn’t make it. I was happy for my teammates, since we had medaled in eight events, meaning over half of our team had gotten a medal. I was also extremely happy for our team, since we had made it in the top ten in our first time at the national competition. But I was still disappointed in myself for not being able to triumph over the challenge. We went to the “after party” arranged by the competition organizers to celebrate our success, and I had fun. However, despite my keeping a brave face, I still couldn’t help being upset after the party.

The next day my family and I left earlier than our team so that we could get home sooner. I was still upset, since I felt that this defeat wasn’t something to take lightly. Throughout the journey home, I thought about what more I could have done to do better. On reflection, I did discover the areas where I had lacked preparation and I could have strengthened for the competition. But I also realized that I did my best, and I knew that I had prepared as much as I could. I also have learned many things from this experience. One, I should have remembered to cover all the corners better. I found that a few things had slipped my mind while preparing, but this experience will just make me better at what I do. I definitely won’t forget to do all the other extra preparations the next time. However, I also know that before the competition, I did all I could do, and I’m not disappointed with my ultimate performance. In all my events, I still ranked in the top twenty out of the sixty very strong and well prepared teams at the competition, and that’s pretty good for the first time. And the second thing I realized is that even though it’s okay to be upset when things don’t work out, you should still look past it, and look towards the bright, hopeful future. In the words of Hugh Lawson White, a 19th century U.S. senator from Tennessee, “When you make a mistake, don’t look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.” The world is a competitive place, and life is only getting more difficult. But I’m only fourteen, and I’ve just started high school! There’s still a lot more time to improve, achieve, and chase my dreams.

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Big fan said...
Aug. 31, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Inspiring story by an inspiring author! Thank you for sharing your experience with us!
limeturquoise825 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 31, 2011 at 11:21 pm
Thanks for your support!
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