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  • Scripps National Spelling, the ceremony of insurmountable prestige, a battle of epic proportions, staged in the opulent luxuriance of the capital. Upwards of two hundred young warriors from all corners of the globe converge on Washington, D.C. each year to spell to the death in competition for the coveted trophy.

    Stiff, you ask? Nerdy, you scoff? Not your type of people? Too many starched, creased button downs and high waisted pants? You have an aversion to zits and braces?

    I am here to tell you, that there is (arguably) no greater thrill than standing at the microphone in front of cameramen and judges and so many people and, praise all the gods, getting a word that you actually know.

    It's an incredible feeling to sit next to Julianna from Puerto Rico and talk, though you've only just met, of anything and everything under the sun to ward off nerves while awaiting your intellectual doom. And then to realize that, all that time, you weren't actually supposed to be conversing (but in prewritten phrases: "Good luck and congratulations") at all, and you erupt in silent hysteria because, well, why the hell not?

    To sit between Devora from Chicago and Kashi from North Carolina at the sentimental banquet and rave over Kashi's elephant back in India, and how he has a hacker friend, and oh, thanks, I like your hair too, and Thomas Dumbach's purple pocket square, and old movies.

    To form an impromptu band of roving spellers and traipse around the shmancy hotel until the wee hours of the morning, receiving countless disgusted glares and sharp, barking reprimands from the security, until, exhausted and exuberant, you collapse in your room, knowing you have an early round of heavy competition in the morning, and simultaneously not caring.

    The sheer serendipity of, while whizzing through oblivion, your own path colliding with that of another from whoknowswhere and sparks and smoke flying from the force of the impact, and while the two of you are dusting yourselves off, you look into each other's souls and say, hey, this is an amazing person I've found here.
    And then you proceed to establish, via the United States Postal Service (my favorite government funded organization), a correspondence of twenty (plus) page letters and love.

    Oh, and the spelling.

    (That's me in the photo during the preliminaries, spelling "Luddite." Two years ago today.)
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