Sunday, October 30, 2005

Inconsolable Second Place

So yesterday, my son’s cross country team placed second in their district meet. They had been sure they’d beat their rival school and were certain they’d have a 2005 district champion patch on their letter jackets. Second wasn’t good enough. They were inconsolable.

Even though they had three runners in the top ten and even though they qualified for the regional competition next Saturday, they were inconsolable.

These boys ran a good race, but it wasn’t their best and they knew it. It didn’t matter to them how many schools were going home with nothing. They were inconsolable.

It was the end of the world because they weren’t first. Most of the guys didn’t even smile as they accepted their trophies. What a bunch of whiners. I wanted to smack each one of them.

Then I remembered how it felt when I dinked in the Nicholl and the Austin Film Festival. It didn’t matter how many Indy producers had drooled all over my screenplay, I had never opted, never sold, and never advanced in a competition. I wasn’t thinking about all the writers who have never even gotten this far. After each dink letter, I pouted, had a pity festival (a party wasn’t enough), and eventually shook it off and got back to writing. Then I found some people I respect to take a look at my screenplay and tell me what they think went wrong.

The cross country team was back at school running this morning before most people’s alarm clocks go off. They have a regional meet to prepare for and another opportunity to beat their rival school. If they don’t place first or second in the regional meet, they don’t go to the state competition. They have to work harder this week than ever before.

Is it really such a bad thing to hold yourself to a high standard and then beat yourself up when you fall short of your expectations? Maybe if the boys had won district, they’d have gotten complacent, not worked as hard this week and botched the regional meet. Maybe nothing would be different and they would work just as hard either way. Maybe if I had advanced in the Nicholl or the AFF, I wouldn’t be working so hard to identify and improve my own writing weaknesses.

If failure isn’t painful, can you ever really succeed? I hope I can write next week that the boys placed first or second in the regionals and are going to the state meet just like I hope some day soon, I can tell you that I have aced a respected competition or better yet, opted a screenplay. But if I don’t, you can bet that the boys will still be running and I will still be writing.

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