I am a highly superstitious person for no reason at all. No tangible wish I’ve made on an eyelash has come fantastically true and changed the course of my life. Running to the nearest wall to knock on wood or not doing so has not altered my entire life- that I know of. Yet each year as I submit my March Madness bracket in a variety of pools I will read each potential match-up and winner to myself out loud and then kiss my fingers and press submit. Unlike my other superstitions, I can give you the exact root of this tradition.
In middle school, I was given the wonderfully transformative opportunity to submit a bracket in the faculty competition. I was up against basketball fanatic security guards, maintenance staff, and my own teachers. While the bracket was submitted under my mother’s name, it was my baby. I did hours of research just like expecting parents. Statistics rolled off my tongue after watching as many hours of ESPN as my homework schedule allowed. Yet when it came down to the deadline, I felt unprepared. I had sporadically watched March Madness over the years and the thought of a 16 seed beating a 1 seed was completely impossible in my mind (Spoiler: it happened). I chose to speak my predictions into existence and read the bracket out loud to myself. I then decided there was no time like the present, kissed my hand, and clicked submit. After around 3 weeks of stress and constant distraction by that day’s games, it came down to the championship. I wasn’t ready for the roller coaster to be over. Each day as many of us sat in class secretly watching scores while writing essays and doing work, I felt a sense of community. You could see slight flashes of disappointment across the room when the score updated in favor of the huge underdog and the tapping of sneakers against the tiled floor when games came down to the wire. There was always a bracket discussion going on in the hallway whether it be an argument or statistical analysis. But the end was looming and I was sitting just off the podium in 5th place- out of 80 brackets if I may add. Fast forward a stressful three hours where I was brought to the verge of tears multiple times and my predicted winner came out victorious, The UNC Tarheels. The point values of our competition were perplexing to me so I was completely baffled as to how this would affect the final standings. I fell asleep that night satisfied. And the next morning I raced to check my email as if it was Instagram. Though it may sound cliché, my heart was thumping in my chest so hard my entire body shook with each beat. I opened the PDF at the top of my inbox and found my name highlighted in yellow with 3rd place next to it. My heart swelled with pride. The sense of accomplishment and fulfillment I felt in that moment has been almost unmatched since. I collected my prize money later that day and carried the envelope home as if it was my most expensive possession- which it may have been. My read-aloud and kissing had worked. It hasn’t worked every time since but I’m surely not willing to give it up yet.
Hannah Goldwin is a Junior at Walter Payton College Prep and plays tennis as well as dabbles in ultimate frisbee and basketball. She leads clubs devoted to Alzheimer’s awareness, Jewish Community, and the discussion of a top notch educational show, the Bachelor. She watches football religiously and recently graduated from the Diller Teen Fellowship.