Gotta Have Moxie

When I was in middle school, I entered an art contest, where I designed a stamp for the United States Postal Service with the theme “Earth Day.” I painted a picture of a girl polishing a globe and wrote underneath, “Keep Your Planet Clean.” I sent it in the mail, patted myself on the back, and pretty much packed my bags for the prize trip to DC.

A few months later the winners were announced, and I was not one of them. I honestly could not believe it, because up to that point, I had won every contest I entered. I’m not kidding, either. My stories were in literary journals, college students acted out my poetry at an assembly, my art graced the covers of local magazines and hung in grand theaters and hospitals in Atlanta, where I lived at the time. (ahem. not so humble brag.)

I saw the winning stamps. Meh. Mine was way better. It was my first true sense of rejection. A warm flash of heat spread across my face. I was sad, embarrassed, and defeated. I even cried a little. I never wanted to experience this feeling again. I mean, the hormones and emotions of a 12-year-old girl are crazy enough, why add something I couldn’t control to the mix? (It’s beyond me that girls that age even try out for something like cheerleading. Yikes!)

Since then, I’ve had plenty of rejection, from high school crushes, scholarship opportunities, job offers, etc. It still hurts the ego a little, my heart still flutters with sadness, but my brain logically understands the Why and that It Happens, so I can move on and try again. I’ve had plenty of achievements, too, though, and one great achievement trumps every past rejection. It’s what keeps a person going, I guess.

A few months ago I entered a flash fiction contest, and the winners should be announced any day now. Around the same time, I submitted a picture book manuscript to a dream publishing company, and their timeframe for response is nearing.

Upon submitting, I told myself that this is for the experience, this is practice, this is to get my creative juices flowing again, and to get in the habit of writing and submitting for an audience. I told myself it would be cool to win, but don’t get my hopes up. That I probably should just brace myself for not hearing back, and to thicken that skin and keep going. Keep writing. Keep practicing.

Then, yesterday my phone rang.

The number said Blocked.

Nobody ever calls me, except my family. Is this a publishing company!? My heart started beating. I answered.


   Is this Nicole?


   Hi Nicole, this is Laura, a volunteer from Planned Parenthood…

Annnndddd cue the Charlie Brown music.

It dawned on me, that no matter what my brain says, my heart still feels that I REALLY WANT TO WIN. I want to be accepted and to reach my goals that are somewhat out of my control. That I do things for myself, but also because I like the recognition, the competition, the sport of winning based on my skills.

2014 is going to be the year of rejection, I can feel it. As depressing as that sounds, though, I’m really excited. Because rejection means that I’m putting myself out there, out of my comfort zone, and learning to let my brain and heart work together. I’m going to be using some Moxie, something that has gotten my family and me through many many many rejections and achievements in the past. Here I go!

{This post is also on Medium. Please read and recommend if you feel so inclined!}


7 thoughts on “Gotta Have Moxie

  1. Erin says:

    Here within the last year I have had that ‘same’ unknown phone call many a times. I had one just yesterday. It turned out to be the vet and not an invitation to an interview like I hoped. Admittedly, I wanted to crawl back into bed and pout… I probably even did.

    I hate to be Debbie Downer over here but what happens if all the moxie gets spent? Can it get spent? Oh my god…is there an ever flowing fountain of moxie?! Where is it?One more disappointing call from an unknown number and I may suffer a permanent pout for 2014.

    (3am is apparently a depressing time for me. Please feel free to not post this mini pitty party.)

    • Nicole says:

      Aw, sorry Erin. You’ll get the right call soon, I bet. You’re so talented! I know what you mean though. Sometimes it seems like there’s no point in being positive. But things work out, eventually. It just sucks when it takes forever to get there.

      The overflow of Moxie is called drugs, BTW :) Just kidding. Although the world is looking a little more peaceful under my new anti-anxiety medicine…

      Ray Bradbury wrote in “Something Wicked This Way Comes” that 3 am is the worst time of the day. He said it’s evil and sad. I agree!

  2. sarahkerner says:

    It’s really scary to put yourself out there, but I guess if you don’t, you’ll always wonder what might have happened… I am waiting excitedly to hear more about your picture book too. The stitchings for illustrations look so cool!

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks Sarah!

      The book with the stitchings is actually another one that Stephanie and I are planning on self-publishing. It’s kind of a vanity group project. We really just wanted an excuse to throw a (book launch) party :)

  3. Charlotte Clausen says:

    when I was in about 8, I patisepated in a drawing contest. We had to draw a angel, I got on the 2. Place and the winner was a blind girl. Hmmmm…. that was a wierd feeling. ;)
    Liked your post and good luck.

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