Michelle MADE me enter a contest. She picked out the pieces she thought were my best. She wouldn’t let me leave her house until I pressed the submit button myself. I think no one ever wins contests and it’s usually just a way to get your mailing address or email. But if we win, we have a chance to get published — in a real book. No, we won’t get any proceeds from the sales of the book, but it’s a publishing credit. In this world of rat race publishing, why the heck not?
Michelle regularly read the submissions and emailed me, “I think we have a shot at this!” I laughed. She’s so crazy.
So, when she called me to say we both won, my ears began to ring. I felt like I was in slow motion. I told her there had obviously been some mistake. I’ve never won a contest. I don’t win.
She claimed it was true and sent me the link. “The names of the winners were just released. We didn’t win any of the cash prizes, but we’re in the book!” I couldn’t believe it. So much so, that even when my hubby came home, I hesitated to tell him. I waited for Michelle’s next email saying she misread, or there had been a mistake. It never came.
The pieces I entered were raw, personal and tragic. They were humiliating, humbling and shameful. But they were mine. They were something I’ve struggled with my entire life but few people ever knew about. Not even my mother. I didn’t post my pieces on my Facebook page like Michelle did. I didn’t really want family to know. When mom read them, she was so upset she talked about it for days. When she saw my winning piece, First Purge, she said, “Honey, I had no idea it was so extreme.” This opened up an entire conversation. Telling someone what you did and explaining in detail what it was like is two different things. The main reason I didn’t write about it before was out of fear it might encourage someone else. Reading how someone else pulled off the perfect purge is what gave my 17-year-old mind the idea in the first place.
But like Michelle said, it’s healing to get it all off your chest, to get it out there, to expose yourself. It’s one of the reasons we’re writing our memoirs. “Don’t you feel better?” she asked. I’m going to be published in a book, but no, for some reason, I do not feel better. I feel blood rushing to my face even as I write this.
But life is short. And I’m not hiding anymore. I have flaws. I’ve done stupid things. And I’m human. Period. If I can help someone through my own mistakes, this contest will be worth it. And if it hadn’t been for Michelle, it never would have happened.
Thanks Michelle–for pushing me to write honestly and do things I don’t always want to do. Like the gardener and the plant, you’re making me grow!