Losers whine about their best. Winners get to go home and f**k the prom queen.
– Sean Connery’s character in The Rock
Greetings, y’all! ‘Tis I, the Scarecrow, coming at you in print once again. OK, I didn’t want to start the column with that, but I didn’t want the editor to think I submitted the wrong thing again. That’s how he tells it’s my column you know, by that greeting. Anyway, something has been brewing inside me all day, and it finally came to a head and I had to write about it.
It started in my Math class. The professor (name withheld to protect the innocent [see last column for rest of quote]) had just handed back our midterm re-writes. He said that he wanted us to rewrite them again, and we should keep doing it until they are perfect. The prof was sure to point out that 3 people had already gotten it perfect, and he’d like to see the whole class achieve it. I felt like saying “Why? Isn’t 38/40 good enough?” But I didn’t, and I grumbled and went back to my room. Then, I remembered that we couldn’t have supper in the cafeteria because the scholarship recipients were having their “We’re better than you” banquet. I’ve always called it that. Even when I got to go to it, I called it that. This is my first year that I didn’t win any sort of scholarship, so I didn’t get to go to the “We’re better than you” banquet. And then it hit me. One of those inspirations that just drives you to write something. Like I had to spread God’s word to the world. And what is that word? COMPETITION BLOWS!!!
Think about it. What good has competition brought to the world? It drives figure skaters to knock out each other’s kneecaps. It pushes athletes to take performance-enhancing drugs. It makes students cheat on term papers. And why? To get a gold medal. To drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup. To get an 8. Competition is nothing but a breeding ground for what’s wrong with society. Actually, a lot of great moments in my life have been brought about by competition.
The most memorable comes from my final day of grade 9, and the end of junior high. We were in home-room, awaiting the end-of-year awards ceremonies. The year before, a new award had been created to honor the highest grades in the class. I had won it the year before, and was looking forward to a 2-year sweep. That’s when my chief rival, Nozreak Beareguard (believe me, she’s not innocent), came up to me and said “I heard that one of us has won the award for highest marks, and the winner beat out the other by only 0.5%.” I didn’t care. I was sure I’d won. So, you can imagine my shock when, at the awards ceremony, it was Nozreak Beareguard who walked off with that trophy. Not only that, but she walked off with every award. Best athlete. Most improved (for raising her average from 80% to 85%? I still question that one). Best all-around student. But, because she won the award for highest marks, and beat me by only 0.5%, I will forever remember her as “that bitch, Nozreak Beareguard.” As I look back on it, she actually was quite a nice person, and attractive too, but I have forever condemned her to hell, because of 0.5%. I obsessed with this for the next few weeks. If I had only done a little better on that final…. If I had put a few more quotes in that essay…. But I got over it. Fortunately, “that bitch,” Nozreak Beareguard, went to a different high school, and at my high school I had no competition. The next highest average was 63%. Of course, my natural talents got me beat up a lot, but that’s another column.
That, I would have to say, is the worst aspect of my life. Hating someone forever, because of 0.5%. But, I did eventually come to my first revelation of the pointlessness of competing with others. Shortly after my first year here, I got to go back to my junior high. As I was walking the halls and looking in the trophy cases, I found that big trophy that I had lost to “that bitch, Nozreak Beareguard” all those years ago. And do you know what I found? A layer of dust on that trophy, half an inch thick. My world crumbled. “This is why I worked so hard,” I thought. “To become nothing more than a forgotten name on a dusty plaque?” Suddenly, I didn’t know why I was trying so hard anymore. What legacy was a leaving behind? One written in the dust. But, shortly after, I did discover what my legacy was. My junior high had gotten a new principal since I left, and this was my first opportunity to meet her. I was shocked when she started talking to me as if she knew me. It turns out that, all though I had left there 5 years ago, the teachers still talked about me. Not about the 90%’s I had gotten on tests, but jokes I told. How I’d try to cheer up those going through the tough times of junior high. How I’d just try to be a decent person. That was the first time I realized there is no point in competing. It wasn’t my accomplishments that were remembered. It was me.
So, why should I try so hard to be the best? Now, I know what some “education experts” are going to say. “The competition in the classroom drives people to thrive.” Bull. More often, it breaks more hearts than encourage excellence. Show me one of those winners at the scholarship reception, and I will show a person who has cried at least once over being beat by something as silly as 0.5%. There are people out there who want to win the most scholarships and get the most plaques and trophies that they are letting their lives pass them by. I won the Governor General’s award when I graduated from high school? You want to know where I keep it? In a box, in the back of my closet. I’ll probably accidently throw it out next time I clean. There is so much more we should be doing with our lives than trying to one-up each other.
I doubt you are going to remember this column, but in the off-chance that you do, I want to leave with you these words: quit competing. Focus on being you. That is what will be remembered. A potential employer isn’t going to care that you got a 9 in Political Studies 302, or that you got $2000 scholarship from a college. That employer is going to be looking at you as a person. I think I am going to quit competing myself. I’m going to turn in that math test with only 38/40, along with mathematical proof that perfection is impossible. I’m going to quit trying to be the best. To those “winners” of scholarships, I hope the blood, sweat and tears was worth it. But can you do it again next year?
Well, this is probably more mis-directed angst than the average reader can stand. So, I think I’ll end it here. Right now, I think I’ll revise my fantasy where “that bitch,” Nozreak Beareguard, snaps in her first year of university, scales a bell tower with a high-powered rifle, and ends up in a women’s prison as the bitch of Big Bertha. Now, she snaps in her second year. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m running late for my show.
Don’t forget, if you didn’t like this column, then you’ll probably hate my show, Chaos in a Box with the Scarecrow, Wednesdays at 10 on 89.1 FM. And there’s the website: http://listen.to/chaosinabox.