I have gone to the Utah State Fair every year for as long as I can remember. My mom was a member of the fair board for years and years and I remember following her around as she would escort the rodeo royalty around, hear her talk about having to cater to all the celebrities that came to perform and the back stage passes to see artists like the Backstreet boys, Mark Wills and Brittany Spears. All of that was great but aside from my pink cowboy hat, I distinctly remember walking around hand in hand with my mom while we looked at all the submissions and their ribbons. From masterfully painted art work, to canned peaches, there was a category for everything. As I walked through admiring people's work and the accompanying ribbons, my mind would often wander, what could I submit?
There wasn't ever a question whether or not I would be getting a ribbon, that never crossed my mind, my confidence was unshakeable. But at that age, I had been told the world was mine, and no one had proven or even told me otherwise. Fast forward to last year while meandering through my day dreams, I had figured out what I was going to submit. My photography. I did all the research, knew the deadlines, rules and judging criteria but this time, my day dreams didn't include ribbons it was full of self - doubt and fear. I had lost my childhood confidence. So I convinced myself that I would instead just go and scope out the competition.. see if I had a fighting chance.
Well time passes and a month before I was supposed to be submitting my work into my first competition I was faced with two solid weeks of being told "no". I had been passed up by clients searching for a photographer, I was denied a promotion at work... TWICE and our cars both broke down and the repairs were more than they have ever been before. long story short, life was making me adult like never before and I was defeated. So the thought of my work being critiqued and possibly rejected on top of all of that was paralyzing.
I had been so down on myself, cried so much and was so angry that I became numb. I thought what the heck, at least if I didn't win this I am so used to rejection that it shouldn't matter much anyways. I did however have enough respect for myself to insist that I only enter the highest skill level in the competition, chose a few personal favorites and sent an annoying mass text out to family and my closest friends (those who couldn't disown me for adding them to one of those obnoxious mass texts) asking them what their opinion was.
After one night of going back and forth I made my 4 picks, ordered the prints and went to bed.
That weekend was the deadline. My mom helped me by spending the whole afternoon trying to mount the prints onto hand cut foam boards and spray adhesive to save on overall cost of my whole childish idea and still meet criteria for my submissions. Morgan drove me over to submit my 4 prints and as we got closer and closer my stomach was getting more knotted. If I had not already spent money on prints and mounting, Those pictures would have never been submitted. The thought of striking out yet again was so disheartening but Morgan marched up those stairs with me and helped hand me my prints as I fumbled with words and tried so hard to keep my composure.
As we walked back downstairs and out the door, I Texted my mom. "its done"
Now I wait. it would be almost a full week until I could make it back over to the fair to take in the damage done... Normally, the thought of going to the fair was thrilling, but this year I was so incredibly nervous! Morgan and I met up with my parents and walked straight back up those stairs ( they were just as steep and daunting as before). Somehow, like there was some magnetic pull, I walked right over to my first of four prints and couldn't believe my eyes.
There was a ribbon... did the judges not get the memo? I was supposed to be shut down, or at least that was how I felt. I stood there staring at my print with that white 3rd place ribbon hanging there when my attention was brought 5 ft to the right to another one of my submissions with ANOTHER RIBBON! This was even better than the first, it was a 2nd place ribbon. wow.... 2/4 of my pieces placed in the state fair. I couldn't believe it. After staring in disbelief and sighing with relief, I did the math and figured that after the cost of the entrance fees I had won 10$ from those two ribbons (which was appropriately traded in for a funnel cake)
The relief I felt was incredible. I was so worried, I almost let the fear of striking out keep me from playing the game. I was so focused on all those who shut me down, the disappointments and just faking smiles through the day that I almost lost my childhood self, the one that knew I could conquer the world. That NOTHING could tell me no. I was too focused on what I couldn't or didn't do, that I lost sight of what I have done and where I am now. Those ribbons hanging up by my name were more than just an award. They are a reminder of what I can do when I don't let paralyzing self doubt control my life.
After soaking in the fact that I had just marked something off my bucket list and accomplished something I was SO SURE that I couldn't do, I was able to continue on and enjoy the fair. We walked through all the other exhibits and awed at some of the things people have made. We stopped by the famous butter sculpture and took pictures of the Farris Wheel (Morgan HATES riding it). We stopped so Dad could get his navajo taco and Morgan and I could get a funnel cake, laughed as the goats scared the holy crap out of me by sneezing and awed at the giant cows. This year, ill probably remember for the rest of my life but putting all of that aside..
It all boils down to this...
The fair is dirty, it smells bad and I love it.