It’s the big day!
Time to vote for your favorite entry in the Stratejoy Essay Contest. The lucky finalist with the most votes at the end of the three days will receive the $500 prize money. Woo hoo!
Below, you’ll find links to all of the essays, just in case you want to catch up on any that you missed. Once you’re ready to cast your vote, click below! Voting will be open until 5 pm PST/ 8 pm EST Friday, March 2nd and we’ll announce the winner on Monday, March 5th.
Essay Finalist #1: Jesse Blayne
From the outside, my life looked charmed. I’d been married ten years to the owner of a successful business. We had a nice home, decent cars and extra money for planting perennials in the Spring and skiing in the winter. Weeks piled up like so many empty Pepcid boxes. I’d take a Pepcid on my way to bed, one in the morning and another before dinner. If I had been a hoarder, we’d have side-stepped past mountainous piles of empty Pepcid boxes. (read more of Jesse’s Essay!)
It is unfair to say I am fashionable. I am not quite fashionably illiterate, but even that is up for interpretation considering I was a late-adopter of skinny jeans and I still can’t get myself to buy a pair of wide-legged pants or a floppy hat. I did have my moment of knowing and following the fashion of the time: In kindergarten, my ever well-intentioned parents supplied me with a Little Mermaid backpack; the ultimate in five-year old couture. (read more of Hilary’s Essay!)
I stopped at red lights. I took a multivitamin each night after flossing. I retweeted important pleas and drank 8 cups of water each day. I got up when my alarm went off and began teaching when the bell went. I smiled when strangers smiled and laughed when others laughed . I did not make waves, I did not cause ripples. I followed all the rules. Except the one called “Do not consider suicide as your rescue boat.” No, that rule I wanted to break. I wanted to break it badly. (read more of Brandy’s Essay!)
In middle school, a teacher once told the class to alwys question authority. It had never occurred to me not to. At the ripe(er) age of 27, I no longer fit the string-bean description. My hair has turned the color of dark honey and I have developed a decidedly better fashion sense. Luckily, I’ve kept the same inquisitive nature – only now when I ask, “Who says?” it’s to myself. (read more of Sara’s Essay!)
“How do you feel about the care you received?” she asked. After a week of having tubes stuffed down my nose and into my esophagus, pumping chalky paste into my gut, I’d been released from hospital with a diagnosis of a chronic illness. I reckoned that it might be a good idea to keep my weekly session with my therapist. After all, I wanted to talk about the boy stuff that had happened before I landed up in the ER. (read more of Eleni’s Essay!)
Let’s start with the terms I’d use to describe the way I lived life before my quarterlife liberation shake down: Drained (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). Anxious (tight chest, racing heart stuff). Risk averse(safe seemed simpler). Numb (unfortunately, no romantic stud can fix that one). Itchy (hives). Sleepy (insomnia). Then I committed to a total life overhaul – due in large part to some serious health issues cramping my style. (read more of Kate’s Essay!)
I’m walking in the opposite direction, not sure where I’m headed. It makes me nervous – scratch that. It makes me so uneasy a lot of the time I feel like I might throw up, but I also think I’m on the cusp of something great. I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to keep pushing myself until I’m so engulfed in the possibilities this path brings that they become my new normal.) (read more of Becky’s Essay!)
I’m counting the change again, wondering how much I can spread $10 in one week, when I get my next paycheck from a client.I don’t worry, though. I’ve gone through this enough times, and in much worse circumstances that I no longer need to cry in fetal position, feeling sorry for myself that “I’m not good enough” (I am). Things will be okay. They always are. (read more of Janet’s Essay!)
Let’s rewind to the time before I decided to live my life on my own terms. To the time when I let other people get me down. When I begrudged my own happiness and good cheer. When I let other things, other people’s standards, become my priorities. That’s right: I used to wish I could be less happy, that I smiled less. I thought that things would be easier if I was less happy. (read more of Tiffany’s Essay!)
I sat on the edge of my bed and surveyed my handiwork. Somehow, I’d managed to pack an entire month’s worth of necessities into my sturdy camping pack. The first time I’d used this pack was for my first trip overseas with my ex boyfriend, and every trip for the next eight years after. Now, several months after that relationship had ended, I was venturing out without him. (read more of Jennifer’s Essay!)
Steve and I had only been dating for two months when we decided to take this day trip to the D.I.A. Even in the infancy of our relationship I knew something about him was different but it wasn’t until that moment when I figured out what it was: he knew me. I was crazy about him. The time I spent with him was full of bliss. I broke up with Steve in April. After much crying and talking he and I decided to not talk for the next month to clear our heads. (read more of Deana’s Essay!)
Trying to do and be everything can lead to being excellent at nothing, which I fell victim to quickly. A snap reality check came when a close friend told me that she thought we were losing touch because she felt like I had to fit her into my schedule. Was I really too busy for the people who I cared about, and who cared about me? (read more of Christine’s Essay!)
When I was a kid, I would ride my bike around the neighborhood for hours. I’d pedal in a great circle: down my street, through an alley, over the cracked sidewalk, past the pine trees, down a second alley, past my house, and then repeat the cycle over again. And again. And again. Sometimes I’d ride with other kids, but often I’d just go out alone. And I loved it. When I was alone on my bike, I would use the time to center myself. (read more of Nadine’s Essay!)
I was living with my mom at the time and a difference in views had us in the worst disagreement of our 26 year relationship. My stomach was in knots and I was petrified I had an ulcer from the stress. As I lay in bed crying myself to sleep, I decided to move out knowing it wasn’t the “smartest” decision. I had mounds of student loan debt, making it nearly impossible for me to pay my own rent, but I knew I had to do this, for my health, for my sanity, and for myself. (read more of Ashley’s Essay!)
I’ll start by saying you’re not going to like my answer. At least not at first glance. Because my experience with living life on my own terms has meant three things: Leaning into fear, Wanting more, and Being uncomfortable. I’m not a particularly brave person.But I’ve learned that leaning into fear is like breaking in a new pair of shiny shoes. At first it’s incredibly painful. But the more steps we take in them, the better they feel. (read more of Monica’s Essay!)
In 2008, I was on fire. My husband and I had just moved to Seattle, made new friends, bought our first house, adopted a dog – and I decided to escape Corporate America and start my own consulting business. I foolishly thought working for myself would give me oodles of time to write and act – two of my biggest passions. Life was crazy and hectic because I was trying to live all of my dreams – at the same time. (read more of Maria’s Essay!)
I admit I am not the best decision maker. I spend way too much time debating what shampoo to buy. I agonize over what novel to read next. I sometimes ask the wait staff for “just a few minutes more, I swear!” But when something feels inherently right? I tend to leap first and look later. I trust that the net will appear; no matter if my leap is dropping a major in my junior year or agreeing to marry a man I’d met only eight months earlier. (read more of Shannon’s Essay!)
I’ve spent the majority of my life caring about what other people think. Like most of my friends, I began every year with a brand new wardrobe. My mom would take my sister and I shopping. When I wasn’t dressing for others, I was working towards my future, doing all of the things a college-bound sixth grader was supposed to do. After all, getting into a good school was the only way I would get a good career, marry a good man and live a good life. (read more of Shannon’s Essay!)
We were in lush northern Vermont. All 26 members of my family crammed into various bedrooms, nooks and crannies. One evening we squished into couches and floor space clutching music sheets. Our grandfather had asked my mom to find some of his favorite songs he had loved as a younger man on “The Inter. Net”. With voices joined together, my grandfather standing in front of us with the woman he had been with since he was 17; I realized this is truly what life is about. (read more of Deirdre’s Essay!)