“Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost”

Life is funny.

Sometimes, you make a joke about something and find that it turns out to be semi-prophetic.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from WorldNomads.com about a travel writing contest. The prize for 2,500 well crafted characters was a 10 day trip to the Balkans, a bunch of travel gear, and mentoring by travel writer Tim Neville.

I’ve never been one to apply for things. I don’t like forms, I don’t like DEADLINES, not winning, fishy terms and conditions, trying and failing… I never believed that real people could actually win anything, but this contest just seemed so achievable, so fair.

I made it my mission to get it done. The maximum 2,500 characters is less than 3/4 of a page, so it was too short to make any excuses. Three days before it was due, I had a scrap of paper with some standout memories. I made a pot of coffee (bad idea- coffee is too strong for me) and sat down for 7.5 hours and started collecting information from photos, journal entries, wikipedia, facebook, all with the intention of crafting a winner of a story. I finally squeezed something out, reread it 20 times, sent it to three pals whose opinion I trust, and went to sleep. I figured I would reread it the next morning, take suggestions from my friends and tune it up with fresh eyes.

On Monday I realized I still had an extra day and thought I could take that time to really polish it some more, so I spent all of yesterday thinking, rereading, and editing and it got to the point where I was ok with sending it off. I was having dinner with my guy after work and said, “oh man, I have to submit that thing tonight. How great would it be if I just forgot?” HAHAHAHA. When we finished eating I had to get to a work meeting at 8pm that I thought would end at 9, but it ran until just before 10. I got home around 10:10. I stood around talking to my sister and laughed about the Friends episode she was watching (the one where Chandler pees on Monica, omgz). Drank some water. Washed my face. Brushed my teeth. blablablablablablalbablablabla. I’m in my PJ’s and talking to my sister again. I notice that her face is swelling and she’s getting a mysterious allergic reaction. I follow her around as she tries to address it with some benadryl. I sit down on my bed, check my phone, it’s 11:02. “AHHH SHIT! I missed the deadline.” I missed the 11PM deadline.

I ran down to my computer to check if there was a 5 minute grace period. No. There is no grace. So there we go.

I was mad. I felt a burning, blood boiling feeling in my chest. I felt like flipping out and screaming, but am too internally inclined for that kind of thing. So I went to sleep, but not before making a melodramatic instagram post that felt very childish joining the stream of social justice posts that my intelligent and big hearted friends composed. It felt like a big step to let my real feelings out so I’m not going to be too harsh with myself about it.

I’m taking this whole experience as a reminder that :

  1. IF you want something, you have to do it, you have to see it ALL THE WAY through.
  2. Sharing your feelings is ok.
  3. Four months is a long hiatus from writing on a blog that was supposed to be home to daily musings– this is my opportunity to get back in the game.
  4. Don’t watch Friends, or anything, ever.

For the purpose of closure, here’s what I would have submitted:

            A wrong turn in the verdant cliffs of Tredrez led us to the steps of a 16th-Century Gothic church. After a few hours of the kind of frolicking around that would put a mountain goat to shame, the comely little creperie across the way was our preferred sanctuary. Laurent, the Indonesian-born son to a French father and Japanese-American mother was my WWOOF host and tour guide. I was getting all the cultural bang for my buck.

           We found ourselves rambling through this ancient terrain after an impromptu decision to trade the drought in Le Mans for the coastal breeze and brisk waters of Brittany. The picturesque hay bales and endless sunflower fields of the countryside were delightful, but Brittany was like living inside of a poster for a dream getaway.

          There was no google search for highly rated restaurants or charming B&B’s. There were no maps or itineraries. After a brief phone call from Laurent to his Colombian friends, we threw our backpacks into the mustard-gold Peugeot and set out to meet them. These friends scooped and delivered us to the beach to wash off the day’s sweat. I took the sand-blonde pony standing against the backdrop of sailboats as a good omen.

           The evening delivered a heaping plate of Breton culture. Melodious clarinets, saxophones, flutes, and trumpets told stories of the Celtic people as hundreds of hands and feet operated in unison and absorbed the timid in an ocean of surprisingly accessible and thoroughly mesmerizing movement. Competing crepe stands, people crowded around kegs, and arguing children filled the spaces between notes with a consistent roar. Locals, tourists, past, and present swirled and churned until someone lost their footing and delivered us back to linear time.

          The next morning, an oak slab table accommodated our curative breakfast of bread, cultured dairy products, and single source espresso. We offered effusive thanks and hugs before taking one last trip together to the Sunday flea market down the street. After sorting through the usual suspects of old vinyl records and clothing long repressed in attics, passing by those who deal in guinea pigs, and admiring dented brass figurines, I scored a pointed bamboo hat for one euro. It would serve me well in the rows of parched crops that needed tending, but not before dropping by Brest to visit some friends and their goats on the way back home.