Life Lessons: Gaining by Losing

Friends in High School

Yearbook signing session with besties in high school, Oxon Hill High School, c/o 2000

My husband got me into this new Netflix documentary series called Losers, which goes behind the scenes of athletes who have lost and what they learned along the way. What you learn during the show is that losing can be more rewarding than winning. While watching the second episode about the English soccer club Torquay that was on the verge of extinction, I remembered trying out for the girls varsity soccer team when I was a sophomore in high school and not getting picked. It was quite an embarrassing try out that ended in my throwing up on the sidewalk next to the field because for some reason I thought eating fast food french fries and a vanilla ice cream cone 30 minutes beforehand was not a bad idea. I was out of shape and my stomach didn’t appreciate that I was running non-stop for an hour in high humidity under the hot August sun in Maryland.

If eating junk food and staying 112 lbs throughout all of high school and college had been a competitive sport, I would have won a gold medal. I actually allowed myself to be a bench warmer that year, going to the varsity soccer games (there was no girls JV soccer team) and watching them play. I wanted the outside world (my crew of friends) to see me as part of the team because I was too ashamed to admit that I actually wasn’t ACTIVE on the team even though everyone KNEW I wasn’t, but they didn’t want to make me feel bad (at least to my face, I am sure they shook their heads behind my back and I appreciated the bliss of ignorance). Once the coach put me in the game as a half-back and I actually completed a pass to a team member! That was the biggest joy of my “athletic” career….and then it was back to warming that bench! During the next two years, I stuck to what I knew best–I joined the Yearbook committee and became editor-in-chief my senior year.

Although I don’t like to admit it much, I hate losing. I am very competitive, fed by my perfectionism, but lately I have tried to control this because I know it is impossible to be perfect and unhealthy to put that type of pressure on myself. Now that I reflect on that time in high school, I am surprised that I put myself through the experience of being part of a sports team that never really accepted me nor helped me improve my skills. Somewhere under that thick skin of mine was a burning desire to bond with others and contribute to something greater than myself. Finding your right tribe can take trial and error. I want to pass along that wisdom to my kids whenever they feel like they are the odd one out in life–there’s no need to be down if we don’t fit in to a group that doesn’t see the value we bring to their lives. Also, shout out to my DBC crew, a group of friends who were always there for me too, no matter what!


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