*Author’s Note: I’m not angry and don’t think the kids in this story intended to be mean. I was and am different, and that’s okay. It was then too, but I didn’t know that yet.
When I was a kid, I loved to run. It felt great to move my body to my internal rhythm. There was one catch; I was slow. I could not win a race to save my life. But it wasn’t about that for me – it was about running. Crossing my internal finish line was enough.
Until a couple of kids at school started their verbal assault before a race at recess. They called me names. Slowpoke wasn’t so bad. I was slow and that was okay. I didn’t even mind Putt-putt. Then they called me Loser. That one hurt. So I tried harder. And still I lost. Because suddenly it wasn’t about moving because it felt great, it was about comparison and competition. That’s when I lost my desire to win.
On track and field day, where everyone was watching, the fastest kid in school hollered, “You’re done Joy. Why don’t you just quit?” So I did. Halfway.
My feet felt heavy as I walked off the track. My heart felt heavier.
In the middle of the night, while my pillow caught my tears, I wondered how in the world I was going to run when we raced again in gym class. A thought crossed my mind and eased into my heart (like hot tea with a little sugar over a sore throat). Every race had to have a loser. I didn’t mind it being me as long as I never let myself quit before I was done. I gave myself permission to be the designated loser.
The next race, I finished last, but I stayed on the track. My love for running didn’t come back, but the kids quit jeering, and my teachers stopped trying to get me to run faster. Most of the time, they didn’t wait for me to cross the line – to them, it was over before it began.
They saw a loser, but I saw a winner – a girl who didn’t earn the regular prize, but who earned her own.
Writing is like running for me. Sometimes I write with the wind and other days against it. There are times the story is like a wet, muddy track – all slip and slide and muck. And there are marathon days when my writing legs find their rhythm and what is sometimes called “the flow” happens.
I’ve been told I have a “tortoise mentality.” How cool is that? The tortoise won – he crossed the finish line!
As a writer, my prize reads, “The End.” Every time I complete a project, there is a waving of the checkered flags in my soul.
Because, for me, it’s not about competition and comparison. It’s about crossing that line in my time.
Until Next Time,
Graphic purchased from Fotolia