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Winning My 1st Writing Contest

We always remember the first.

The 1st writing contest that I joined and thankfully won was an essay-writing contest during the Provincial Science Fair and Quiz in Bohol during my sophomore year in high school. I no longer remember the number of participants but schools within Tagbilaran City (including mine) and from the towns sent their representatives to join the contest.

My Biology teacher had called my attention one day and asked me if I would be interested to join the contest. I remember feeling both excited and afraid about joining. I told my mother about it the day before the contest. I also began to think by then that I would be facing much older students (junior and senior students from other schools) and perhaps it was not really a good idea to join. I have no memory whether my mother was particularly encouraging in my joining the contest. What I did remember is that she gave me tips in winning the contest.

My mother asked me if I knew the  theme of the Science Fair that year. She then told me that the essay topic for contests would usually be about the theme or related to the theme. The theme that year was something about the role of Science and Technology towards progress. And so to prepare myself, I looked for books and newspapers at home which had a similar topic and read them. This was the time before the internet (late ’80s) so there was no Google to help me.

Mother gave me what I consider as a key in my winning that contest. She said that I should begin with a strong opening statement or sentence. I practised writing several ones on paper and finally told her that I think all I managed to write were weak ones. And then she told me I can actually quote a source and use what that source or writer said to begin my opening paragraph. I was happy with this advice and so I proceeded to search for relevant quotes which I also liked and one I could easily memorize! I found a one-sentence quote from an American writer which I thought I could use for the contest.

The essay topic the next day was not directly about the theme but still related to it (just as my mother said). I was indeed thankful that my carefully memorized quote and source (writer) was something I could use for the contest.

To cut the story short, I won the silver medal. The first 3 placers were sent to join the Regional one which was held in Danao, Cebu. The contest had paved the way for me to travel for the first time sans family or relatives. I went on to win a bronze medal in the regional one.

I look back with gratitude to my Biology teacher who believed in me (interestingly, my husband is also a Biology teacher), my late mother who coached me  and of course, God, from whom all blessings flow. My teen years were challenging (teeming with family concerns and a good dose of adolescent angst). Winning the two contests and being able to travel away from Bohol were bright spots of hope during those years with overcast skies.

Less Can Mean More

I recently came across this 5-minute video featured in TED (ted.com) and found it quite interesting. The premise of its speaker Graham Hill as its title suggests: Less stuff, more happiness. You can check out his TED video here.

I grew up in a house which  has a larger space than the house I now have with my husband. But it has never really occurred to me wanting a bigger one than what we have now. My reason has always been that a bigger house means more time is needed to maintain it, keep it clean as it could mean more stuff ending up there.

Personally, I prefer a house where I know where all my stuff is, one  I can just clean by myself. And I want everything in that house to have a clear purpose for being there. This means I do give away and throw away stuff that I think is just occupying space at home (for whatever reason, writing that line reminded me of the Scientific definition of matter: anything that occupies space and has weight).

Early on in our marriage, I sometimes earned the ire of my husband when he looked for some stuff and it’s no longer there as I had already “edited” it from our home, from our life (and for this I have learned through the years to ask him first 🙂 ).

Does having less things indeed mean more happiness? I think so. It also means more freedom to pursue these: relating with the family, investing in the lives of others in need outside our home and going after things which have an eternal significance.

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