The aggravating thing about it, though, is that the story wasn't the best it could have been. I'll never know how the story would have done if I had polished it more, tightened it up a bit. That's the price I pay for waiting until the night of the deadline to do the bulk of the writing, though. My fault.
On the other hand, I'm happy that the thing's over. I can move on a bit more now. I have other stories I can work on, and the contest had left me hamstrung. Since it was my first real contest, I was too concerned with waiting on the results to move on. That's a good lesson for me, I think. I've got to keep plugging away and not worry about contests, or whether some magazine will accept my stuff for publication. I think I felt this way because it was my first real contest. Losing will be beneficial, though, because it will help me approach the rest of my writing with a greater eye toward detail.
The blow is also softened by the fact that I know I wrote a good story, so there's none of that "My writing is just crap and that's why I lost" attitude. I've had good feedback on the story from all quarters, both from people who have a vested interest in me and those who don't know me from Adam.
I guess my next 'contest' needs to be developing a portfolio of good work that I can send to MFA programs. I've got less than a year to develop 20-30 pages of butt-kickin' lit. It's kind of scary. 20-30 pages doesn't seem like it should be that daunting, but it is because I haven't done it before. I don't have 20-30 pages worth of completed material. I can't let that bother me, though.
I must, as the French say, "Keep on truckin'."