You know what's refreshing? When a writer more famous than the rest of us actually takes the time to respond to something we've said on our various social media channels. That's the kind of stuff that makes us smile all day, brag to our friends that s0-and-so tagged us in a tweet or Facebook update or in response to our many fan-girly comments on instagram. No matter how many friends I see moving on to incredibly successful writing careers or how many times I have to pinch myself as my own career begins to be worthy of stuff to write home about, I'm always going to feel like I'm on top of the world when a name on a book in my shelves says hello. It's that important, this reaching out and connecting.
Today, author Elizabeth Gilbert shared a beautifully written memory-snippet on her Facebook fan page about and clicked Like, along with thousands of other fans. I liked it so much, in fact, that I left a comment asking if I could share it here with you. And I promptly forgot about it because she's Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Roberts played her in a movie based on her best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, for crying out loud.
Until I saw that she replied. And she said yes.
I found this photo the other day at my mom's house, and I burst out laughing.
This is me in 1980, ten years old, showing off everything I had made that year for our local 4-H fair. (That's an agricultural fair, for those of you who aren't so familiar with 4-H.)
I had a dream that year. I wanted to win BEST IN SHOW in the Home Goods department. I'd been coveting that giant purple ribbon for years, and wanted to make it mine.
My plan was to enter as many items as I could in every single category (cooking, canning, baking, gardening, sewing, industrial arts) in the hopes that at least one thing would be BEST.
I worked all summer at this. I drove my mother crazy. I cooked, I canned, I baked, I picked (and pickled) beans and beets and cucumbers, I made a teddy bear (!), I built a coat-hanger, I made a automobile first aid kit, I did needlepoint, I was out of control. (By the way — thanks, mom. Because of course I didn't really know how to do any of this, so she spent the summer helping me as I hijacked her kitchen, her sewing machine, her craft table, her garden…)
After all that, I didn't win BEST IN SHOW. Another kid did, for a dessert that he had made. I don't even want to talk about it. I'm sure he was a very nice kid and the desert was probably fine — but seriously, it killed me. I was a sobbing mess.
But then some sympathetic judge must have put it together and noticed that — out of the 300 exhibitions in the Home Show that year — about 175 of them had been made by the same girl. Somebody must have been like, "Oh my god, that poor pathetic child." Because later in the day, I was given a special award — a giant ribbon upon which some kind soul had written: "MOST IN SHOW".
Which soothed my sad heart and made me very proud, though today in makes me laugh my ass off because: MOST IN SHOW? That it the best turn of phrase ever. "You, little girl, are not the best at any of this stuff…or even the second best…or the third best...but, by god, you are the MOST."
But you know what? I've always been MOST IN SHOW. I wasn't the best writing student in any class I ever took, but I was the MOST — I was the one who tried hardest. I think I finally got published because I was MOST IN SHOW — because I spent years writing and writing and writing and writing and sending out those stories to publishers and getting rejected and rejected and rejected, and sending out more and more and more stories until I finally wore them down and they published one at last.
I'm not the best at anything, you guys. Not the smartest, not the most talented, not the prettiest, not the strongest, not the best traveler, not the best journalist, not the best public speaker, not the best with foreign languages, not the best novelist, not the wisest, not the best meditator, not the best yogi, not the anything-est. But by god, I show up with a truckload of effort and participation and preparation, and I give to life the absolute MOST I've got. In every category I can.
The uniquely talented guy with the fancier dessert still usually wins the big prize, but you know what? I still wear them down (the great judges of life, that is) and they still have make up special ribbons for me all the time.
Because I just won't go away.