When I was called to the stage last night my stomach fell into the vicinity of my knees. It wasn’t because I’m afraid of being on stage; I’m no stranger to the spotlight, and it’s not like I was wearing Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar gown. It was because I’d just won a scholarship, the Barry Broadfoot Award for Journalism – Creative Non-Fiction.

Stepping back a little, let’s establish that I’m not accustomed to receiving praise; it just hasn’t been part of any of the corporate cultures I’ve worked in over the last 20 years. And in the freelance writing and consulting business, validation comes in the form of a cheque and (hopefully) repeat business. Maybe that’s why I’m so neurotic about the grades I get at VIU as I pursue my BA in Creative Writing. I’m addicted to the validation. A girl’s gotta get it where she can. And last night, this girl got it.

Portal Magazine, VIU’s student-published Creative Writing journal, was holding its launch party. Since I wasn’t in the class and didn’t actually have anything in the magazine this year, I wasn’t planning on attending. Then I received a cryptic, personalized email invitation to the event. My curiosity was enough to propel me off the couch and down to the Globe, where it paid off in the form of a trip to the stage to receive a large white envelope. There were no acceptance speeches but, if there were, mine would have gone something like, “You like me, right now, you like me!”

It’s true that I’ve had rich and varied careers between the music industry, event management, broadcasting, and writing, and I’m extremely grateful for that. While I managed to make it all happen without “higher education”, I’ve always felt like something was missing, and that was a degree.

So here I am, on the cusp of my fourth year at VIU, and while my grades have been strong (okay, excellent), it feels good to win that scholarship. Really good. The money will go straight into tuition, of course. But that piece of paper is going straight into a frame. There’s a wall where I hang mementos of my accomplishments, like markers of that validation I never received. Today there’s one more.

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