6.22.2020

On Failure... Again

For the better part of my life, I've been a closeted competitor. I've tried to keep the monster in the basement and walk around saying shit like "good game" and "it's fun to compete" when my heart is on fire and I'm flipping tables in my mind. A casual amount of care has never been my strong suit. But as I've subjected myself to competitions over the last few years, I've learned some strange things about myself.

It's not that I want to win. It's that I don't want you to beat me. I don't care about winning. It's an ephemeral joy that slips away like a one-night stand at 4AM. The sun's glory turns to shadow the moment you step off the podium. Was it a fluke? Did you deserve it? How much of it was luck? These questions ought to haunt every victor. Those who are defined by their former success are destined to live in their own shadow. Trophies are gauche statues to the competitor you used to be. I'm not motivated by the desire to earn glory, notoriety, or prizes. I'm driven relentlessly, frustratingly, and compulsively by a fundamental hatred for losing.

Failure is inevitable. Failure is the rule. Of course it is. Reasonable people have no basis to expect victory. Competitions are frequent and against formidable opponents. In a field of 100 there will be 99 failures. Failure isn't just likely; it is a statistical inevitability. Yet no matter how much I rattle off these facts, I remain unconvinced. Rather making me think about them adds another rung on my ladder of hating losing. I am not a reasonable man.

When I lose, I relinquish a permanent trophy of pride to you. It can never be recovered. It's yours for all time. Yet, curiously, when I win, I trash the trophy. I feel only relief that I didn't have to give you mine. The idea of your smirk is enough to shake my foundations. I despise it. Wins are temporary. Losses are forever. I don't remember the dozen times I've beaten you. Only the one game I didn't -- with stunning clarity, photo-realistic detail, and unimaginable accuracy. I don't want you to have it. I can forget my wins. I can't forget my losses. I played Walking Dead in a pinball tournament five years ago that was broadcast on the Internet. My score was less than you'd earn from shooting only skill shots. I dedicated the next year to devastating the game. 

Presently, this is a phenomenological probe into what is rather than what ought to be. I'm indifferent as to whether or not this is a healthy approach to competition. Whiplash is one of my favorite movies, though I don't view it as a cautionary tale about obsession and manipulation. I see it as a greatness how-to guide. And this feels intrinsically like a failing of character on my part. It's a twisted romance where tenacity wins the day. You can throw a cymbal at my head; I'm not quitting. 

It's failure that propels me. It soaks in to my skin like tattoo ink, refusing to wash out. And the stomach-churning, chest-hollowing resentment I feel toward myself is a desperate plea with my future self to never feel this way again. It begs me to focus, learn, adapt, and overcome. Nothing in this world motivates me harder than a monstrous, embarrassing, and preventable failure. 

You can't win 'em all. Better luck next time. Win some. Lose some. You did your best. Everything happens for a reason. At least we had fun. 

Fuck. That. Shit. 

I placed third in a tournament today. Won a trophy and money.

Never again.

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