After the glitz and glamor of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling bee, an entire week of spelling, meeting old friends and new friends, staying up until when I normally woke up on the last day, after-after-after parties, my spelling career was complete. Years of studying and having fun exploring new words, languages, roots, you name it, I’ve probably entered it in the “Find Definition” function on the Merriam Webster CD-ROM, seemed like they were things to be left in the past. I’d always known, in my head that spelling competitions were not available on a large scale to people older than eighth grade, but never had that bit of knowledge seemed so daunting to me. I thought that that chapter was done and that I was supposedly ready to move on to the next.
There’s an emotional, almost visceral aspect of spelling that not many people seem to be talking about. We aren’t robots mechanically spitting out a series of letters, and then if there is a mistake in the ‘programming’ we don’t just go home and try to chomp down some more words hoping that next time we’ll get the words right. The rush, your heart pounding as you utter out a sequence of letters in front of an audience, hoping, praying that it was the right one. Or for a brief moment, you feel like you are soaring above the clouds after you spell a word correctly that you’ve never even heard before. However, not everything is so positive all the time. After all, bees would not work if everyone always spelled correctly. There also is a plummeting feeling when one hears “I’m sorry but you have spelled the word incorrectly” or the sound of the bell. To this day, I still cringe a bit when I hear a bell ring in the same tone.