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An Open Letter to the 2011 Spellers

I've gotten lucky: my morning has been fairly un-busy, so I've got the Bee streaming in the background as I type this. 

Dear Spellers,

You kids are so weird. You reference your favorite books instead of your favorite American Idol contestants, you belong to chess and Scrabble leagues, you win all the competitions with the word "math" in their title. You write novels and poetry and music. Three of you referenced pi in your biographies. The sports you play aren't necessarily "get out of weird free" cards--you're still bizarre.

Never, never, never stop being weird. It's a big part of why you're wonderful. Take this from a former weird kid--it keeps being awesome. There will probably be pockets non-awesome in the next few years--every high school has its kids (and sometimes teachers) who will be threatened by how awesome you are, and they might try to stand in your way--they may tell you to tone it down, to stop showing off, to at least try to be normal for a while. Do not listen to them for one single minute. You'll get through it, you'll go to college and meet more weird, awesome people, you'll graduate and get a job at a place that is chock-full of brilliant, awesome nerds and weirdos. In the meantime, keep surrounding yourself with friends who are like you--to this day, my oldest friends (and my husband) are people I met when I was eleven years old and attending an academic summer camp for gifted students. We kept in touch online through middle school and high school, and convened in Atlanta for college (Georgia Tech for them, Agnes Scott College for me). Now we all work at software companies, surrounded by other former math-team captains and youth-symphony presidents, and we hang out and have fun and love each other to pieces. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

(And yes, a few of you are actually pretty cool by non-nerd standards--you're friends with pretty much everybody, because everybody wants to be your friend. Cool! I can't offer advice on how to be a popular teenager, but I will say this: if you keep challenging yourself and working towards smart-people goals, then in twenty years, you can be The Person In Charge of pretty much whatever you want.)

I've said it before on this blog, but I can't say it enough: I love that you spellers have embraced your love of language and words in particular and of learning in general, and I admire the hard work you've put into preparing for the Bee. Regardless of how this year's Bee goes, know this: you haven't peaked. For every one of you spelling today, and for every one of you who prepared for this Bee and spelled earlier this week, or in regional spelling bees, and even for tonight's winner? The best days are still coming.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2011 04:18 pm (UTC)
My best friend ever is a girl I met online. She was one of these spellers. (I think she got out the round before she was televised -- I, alas, didn't make it past the county level.) We were both total nerds, and got picked on a lot in middle school. And a little bit in high school.

Now we are in our mid-twenties, we're both in the grad school programs of our dreams, we are surrounded by awesome people, and she's visiting me next week to do some mutual wedding planning, as we're both getting married to awesome guys who completely and totally embrace our academic geekiness. The best days are still coming. <3
Jun. 2nd, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
True dat...
I'm the mother of an awesome and nerdy girl, who spelled at the 2009 bee. I love this letter and just read it aloud to her. She's 13 this year, and didn't spell because she skipped grade 8 (lost eligibility) and is now finishing grade 9. Just got her English final exam mark today....96%.
She and I loved your letter. I had trouble finishing it, as I almost cried. You totally nailed it. That's one of the beautiful things about nerdiness; high school is NOT glory days. Life just keeps moving on up for these brilliant kids.
Thanks for the input, thanks for the encouragement.
And your team rocks. I'm cheering for Veronica and Laura (yes, I'm Canadian), and for Grace as well. You chose well.
Jun. 3rd, 2011 04:04 am (UTC)

<3 Kal
Jun. 3rd, 2011 04:09 am (UTC)
The spelling bee was honestly one of the few times in my life when I've been with a group of people where I actually felt like I fit in. Honestly, I kept in touch with spellers via AIM for years after the bee.

...That is, till I got to college (Mercer University) and met a wonderful group of geeky folks with whom I also got along to that same extent. One of those geeks from college? Is now my girlfriend. But I still keep in touch with the spellers too, of course.

(Oddly enough, I really don't feel like I fit in as much in grad school as I did in undergrad. Maybe because it's UGA and I'm much more of an introverted type who doesn't care for the party scene? ::shrugs::)
Jun. 4th, 2011 08:09 am (UTC)
I think spelling bees make people nicer. whether people are popular at home or not, it always felt to me like the bee people took the 270-odd nicest people in the world and put them in a room with me. Maybe it's because we all have this in common, I don't know but honestly I can't say enough how the people are the best part of nationals or any bee. the birthday i spent there last year will be infinitely better than all others in my life including the one i'm celebrating today. I'm proud to be a speller because of this. I love this blog, and the letter. Keep writing.
Sonia, 89 2010
Feb. 17th, 2013 02:17 pm (UTC)
Find friends with benefits and Be Naughty! Go Here dld.bz/chwZF
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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