A student can only compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee until they finish the eighth grade. Thus, every year, many eighth graders participate in their final spelling bee, after which they are rendered completely ineligible. For those for whom spelling has been a big part of their lives, this can be a big event with many mixed emotions.
At first, you hardly even realize that you will never be in a spelling bee again--you're too caught up in your elimination (or for a few, victory) and (in most cases) watching the rest of the bee from which you have been eliminated. The real feeling of ineligibility tends to begin the following day. You have a free moment, and your first instinct is to study. You've pulled up a Quizlet or opened up a list and have maybe even started reviewing some words before you realize that there's no longer any purpose in doing so. Although it may sound borderline ridiculous to those who have never dedicated a majority of their time to spelling, this realization creates a void which takes a long time to fill. Yes, there's relief that you don't have to constantly work studying into your schedule, but there's also sadness that you will never have a (competitive) reason to study spelling. More than anything, however, you cannot stop thinking about the fact that you will never again wake up and have it be the day that you've been waiting for all year, never have such extreme feelings of simultaneous excitement and nerves, never sit onstage waiting for your turn and spelling the words quietly with the person sitting next to you, and never stand at the microphone with hundreds or thousands of people focused on you and your word, never feel that exhilarating rush of relief when the bell doesn't ring.
Many former spellers have said that they practically had to reinvent themselves after the spelling bee. To the people around you, and to some extent yourself, you have become "the spelling bee kid," and once you lose that, you have to find something else to build yourself around--or, in many cases, just be content with not having one thing that defines you. I personally have yet to find something that I love as much as being a speller, but I stay involved in spelling through coaching and talking to the many people I met through the bee. This is probably a similar experience to anyone who becomes deeply involved in something and then is no longer able to do it--professional athletes retiring, etc. After a while, although it fades a little bit, it becomes a part of your life that never really leaves you entirely, which is part of why spelling has such a big impact on so many people even aside from its intellectual benefits.