Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Best

Growing up, I always wanted to be “the best.” Whatever I did, whether it was sports or music or school, I had to be better than everyone else around me.

This is not to say I was completely unrealistic. I knew I’d probably never become a WNBA star, but I at least wanted to have the best foul shot on my team (even if we did lose every game of every season we ever played). I never aspired to become a concert pianist, but I still had to stay ahead of my sister, who was getting better year after year. And maybe I wasn’t going to be dubbed the next Albert Einstein, but as long as I got better grades than everyone else in my classes, those qualified me as “best” in my book.

The older I got and the more my world expanded, however, the more people I met who were better at the things I did. This revelation was made particularly salient when I went to college. There, I discovered that “hard working” will never truly mean “smart,” and no matter how much I studied, there were some subjects that I would never master. Also, I had to train for two summers just to walk onto the swim team. This forced me to face a situation where I would likely be the worst at something; I would have to work extra-hard just to meet the most basic requirements of the team.

Then I moved to New York City and discovered, once-and-for-all, that there is not and will never be anyone who is “the best” at anything, because you will always meet someone who can one-up you. You think running ten miles is an admirable accomplishment until you meet people who run half-marathons. Then you run 13.1 miles, and then people are talking about having run 26.2. You think once you run a marathon, you will have achieved some sort of unique life accomplishment . . . until you meet former Olympic triathletes and Ironman competitors and English Channel swimmers. That’s when you realize that there is always going to be someone (or more likely several someones) who have done more, gone farther, finished faster.

This realization leaves only the barometer of yourself. Race yourself. Beat the clock. Unfortunately, I am discovering that even living up to that bar may prove impossible. What athletics I do now pale in comparison to the time, energy, and effort I put into college swimming. So how do you feel good about yourself when you fall short of your own abilities? Are you supposed to be satisfied with a lower bar? Change your priorities? “Grow up?”


Rome said...

Be happy with what you could do. There are some people who are going to be better than you, but there are so many more people that could only dream of accomplishing the feats that you have.

Anonymous said...

Well stated Rome, well stated.

Anonymous said...

well stated Rome, well stated.