In the irony that is my life, I, the weekly/monthly columnist and blogger, have issues with being noticed. I spent the first pathologically shy years of my life trying to disappear when in public. Somewhere in my 20s I learned to get beyond it — not over it mind you. I just learned to sort of ignore the awkwardness and, more importantly, to avoid situations outside of my comfort zone to varying degrees of success.

So here I am, now, throwing myself out in front of the crowd by trying to show the world (well, not that the whole world is going to find me and become a loyal reader, the world has a lot of weighty matters to deal with everyday, I get that, and I’m sure you get what I mean by world and that brings us back to: show the world …) the me that I generally reserve for friends and family: the smart alec at the back of the room.

I’m generally fine online. I’ve gotten pretty good, after two years, dealing with people I know or don’t know commenting to me on my column. I have an occasionally awkward personal moment when I get an email from a stranger who isn’t one of those sex/lottery/scam spammers, but I can get over the brain dysplasia in private. So on the whole, I’m coping with the notariety, meager as it is.

This week, however, I’ve had to do something I can’t seem to learn to tolerate, can’t avoid and do hate terribly: enter my column in the Montana Newspaper Association annual contest.

Why doesn’t someone just kill me now? It would be a mercy.

I vowed last year, as I was watching my entry head out the door, that I wasn’t going to do it. I told our lead reporter and he agreed with me. Then the boss told me a few weeks ago that I had to. HAD. To. enter or he would pick out some columns and enter for me. Friggin’ lead reporter agreed with him. Traitor.

So all week I’ve been freaking out in my skin trying to pick three example columns as an entry.

The process starts with me getting together all my tear sheets, putting them in order by date, and then sorting through them on the first pass into two piles — the columns that make me want to vomit, and those that only made me gag a little.

I take at least one, preferably two, days to recover from the harsh evidence that I suck.

Then I go through the gag pile of columns to divide them into those that embarrass me to know that I put them out to the world and those that don’t make me want to crawl into a hole.

One day of recovery required.

I sort through the “relatively goodish” pile to pick the truly relatively OK ones and I beg John to read them. We come to a consensus on, usually 5-8 of them.

I require a healing sleep after this.

The next day I take those not-so-sucky-kind-of-OK ones to work and beg colleagues to place a vote. Then before I can over think it, I chose a top three bundle, bag ’em and tag ’em and walk away.

This week sux. It’s torturous. I am horrified that I have to put myself out there into the public as a contestant for “Best Column Writing” because no one in the MNA is smart enough to create a category for “Most OK-ish Claptrap in a weekly column.” Stupid gits.

Now I have to wait months and months for the torture to end. Four, to be exact, (4), yes, IV as the Romans would say, months before I can be assured that the judges are done gawking at my beeswax and freakin’ analyzing the degree to which I suck. Stupid MNA.

Is there a support group for this affliction at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

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