Am I the only one who's tired of losing? Maybe I shouldn't be looking at situations as "loss" or "win", but how do you not? Everyone searches for value and self-worth. A little winning goes a long way to supporting that. Is it so much to ask, to just win once in a while?
Every time I've challenged myself to compete, my efforts are lauded as amazing, but they're always "just not good enough to win".
I still remember the first time I competed, and it wasn't really a "competition".
Our second-grade class was putting on a play. I was excited because it was Sleeping Beauty and I hoped I had a fair shot at the lead. It was so important to get that role because the prince had already been chosen, Jeff Harper.
All the girls had a crush on him. He had almost amber eyes, wreathed in a mottled line of brownish-reddish-gold that reminded me of autumn. He had freckles, but not many, and a ready smile. Oh yeah. I just had to be Sleeping Beauty.
We'd been creating sets for weeks, so I had the time of my life. My teacher encouraged my work, which meant the world to me because I was putting in serious time on it at home, too.
When the audition for Sleeping Beauty came up, mom sent me to school in ugly brown pants. I had gotten up early, picked out my best maxi-length dress and had put ribbons in my hair. My mother didn't want me dirtying up the dress on the playground, so she pulled out an average pant outfit and told me to get over it.
All the other girls wore long dresses, and their mothers did their hair. My mother would have too, if she hadn't had a three-hour show and a 4-hour drive home the night before. She’d forgotten about the auditions and was so busy trying to shove me out the door so she could sleep, that I didn’t even get to tell her. I was disappointed when I got to the school and the other moms had come to watch, but I decided to make the best of it.
Technically, the audition for Sleeping Beauty was pretty easy. First, we danced to some fairy-like music, which was fun because I got to use my ballet lessons, and then we had to speak a couple short lines to the teacher, who was filling in as the witch. She wasn’t scary to me, so it was hard to act afraid, but I read more evenly and "in character" than the others, so I thought I had a shot at it.
Then Gloria Gonzales auditioned. Her English wasn’t very good, but she was so pretty, no one cared. Her eyes were like dark chocolate, and her shiny brown hair was very long and wavy. She had naturally caramel colored skin and all the boys liked her. She wore a long, light blue dress with a chiffon outer layer, and looked like a Sleeping Beauty to me. Naturally, they gave her the role.
The teacher told the rest of us not to feel down, that there were plenty of roles left. She needed a bunch of trolls and a raven… and a wicked witch. She asked me to audition for the part of the witch on the following morning but I didn’t want to. Unfortunately, when I told my mother about my day, she wouldn’t let me out of it. She teased my hair the next morning, put some lines on my face with an eyebrow pencil and then dressed me in a black dress. I was embarrassed, but the teacher made a big deal out of the effort, so I did my best.
The dance music had kind of a spinning, whirring sound like the “Flight of the Bumblebee” but less busy. Gloria’s job was to lie down on the teacher’s desk, and I was to dance around her pretending to put a spell on her. The way it was explained to me was, I had to act like I really hated her; had to turn circles, dance, jump in the air and sling my hands toward her as though throwing magic at her. I remember thinking, ‘Wow… Mrs. Smith is REALLY into this!’.
Mom sat at the back of the classroom, holding a cup of coffee she'd brought from the house. Her purse, the black one with the gold chain for a strap, was slung over her chair. I won’t ever forget it. She wore black slacks, and a gold V-neck sweater that was way too tight to wear to your kid’s school, but she looked like a million bucks with her legs crossed and her witch-style pumps on.
As the teacher was about to roll the record, I looked at my mom and she gave me this crazy look, almost to say, ‘show ‘em how it’s done baby’. She winked, the music started, and I lost my mind.
I can’t even tell you how I let that music carry me, floating from one note to the other as though I could really fly. Every time the music hit a crescendo, I would hop into a pirouette, spin and “cast hands” toward Gloria.
I got the part. My mother came and picked me up after school to celebrate. After washing the marks off my face, she took me for ice cream. Happy that I got the role of the witch, mom said Sleeping Beauty was too small a role, just basically lying around waiting for some prince. She was excited that as the witch, I actually got to do some acting and I know she meant what she said, because my dad’s entire family came to see the play.
I danced so hard that day that my hat repeatedly tried to come off my head. I had to keep catching it to make it look purposeful so, just before the music ended, I tossed it into the crowd. It landed on some little kid's head and totally sent the other children off the deep end screaming. My parents laughed their heads off. I actually got the most applause when I came out to bow at the end and my teacher referred to the improvisations often during the rest of the year, as "brilliant".
As an adult, I know that day was actually a win, but in my little 8-year-old heart, it didn’t feel like it at the time. Jeff Harper was holding hands with Gloria Gonzales when they bowed. I had no way of knowing he had a crush on me and would be at my birthday party in a couple weeks, to give me a necklace that I still have in my jewelry box to this day. So... I stood there taking the applause, feeling like a loser.
I think a lot of my life has been like that since then. I always give it my best, but never win.
I once sang in a karaoke contest at a bar where they hosted national talent searches. There were professionals in the room, and some stinkers too! With the amount of people there, the odds were high that I wouldn't win, but I was hopeful.
I sang “In the Arms of the Angels” by Sarah MacLachlan to a standing ovation… the only one of the night. Most of the people there were average karaoke singers, but probably two or three others could easily beat me. I was okay with that. While I don't have footage of that night, I do have some poorly recorded footage of me singing it at a coffee shop, linked below. It's not my best effort, but it could be worse.
When they started reading the names of the winners, I still held my breath in hope. Third place went to a guy I considered a “karaoke” singer, but a good one. He got a free dinner for two at a local restaurant. Then the second-place winner was one of the powerhouses I had been afraid of, so I was happy she won. She actually got $100 for her efforts. If she'd won it all, I would have gone home feeling great about myself for trying. I don’t mind losing to better performers. It's actually an honor just to compete on their level.
Then they announced the winner: a karaoke singer in short-shorts who wouldn’t know a good note if it walked up and smacked her in the face. She sang “Before He Cheats”, by Carrie Underwood… badly.
Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends who are good-looking and sometimes wear short-shorts, so it’s not really what she looked like so much… just that her looks not only beat my talent, but the talent of a few others that I viewed as incredible.
I immediately relented to the fact that my voice was never going to be “good enough” to get me anywhere in the music machine of the day. As I was about to leave, one of the judges touched me on the elbow. I turned, to see an attractive middle-aged man in a suit, slightly overweight and balding. He smiled at me, looking over a pair of dark-rimmed reading glasses.
“Miss.” he said. “Can I talk to you?”
“Sure!” I answered, turning around to face him.
“Listen, you did a phenomenal job. I don’t know why you’re even at a karaoke contest, but let me say that there was a time when scores like yours would have walked off with that thousand-dollar purse tonight.”
“Really?” I asked incredulously. No one had ever given me that kind of compliment before. I was still staring at him, dumbstruck by his comment when he felt the need to clarify.
“Listen.” He told me. “Places like this are always going to give their money to regulars who will come back in here and spend the money. The judges all agreed you were the best and the “10’s” on your cards are clear testimony to it, but ultimately the decision goes to the owners. Anyone can see you’re a professional so they’re not going to hand you that purse. My advice? Get a good agent who can put you where you belong… not in a karaoke bar.”
I was grateful for his candor but agents kept turning me down. The agent I did get never found me work and kept calling me for business advice. I didn’t tell the judge that though. I just thanked him and went home.
That night was a win, but I still lost. So, how to you gauge yourself? Even with good odds, I still lose and I’ve got thousands of stories just like these.
Do we ever get used to losing, or does the stigma just follow us so long that we come to expect it? Do we subconsciously do things to perpetuate the action of losing simply out of habit?
For instance, I had completely stopped “putting myself out there” to be wrapped in failure again, when I found Vocal.
All. The. Time!
BUT, I've made friends I love and have a supportive writing community. I've written things I didn’t think possible and have enjoyed every moment, even the losing because the winners are amazing.
Are the winners better than me, or my friends? No. They just won. Their work was good, too, and it had something the judges were looking for. I support them and applaud their wins because I recognize their work was deserving.
Still, I find it hilarious that I spent all these years trying to avoid the sting of losing by burying myself in my work and not competing anymore, and here I am... happily lining up to lose.
The long and short of it? I guess we all want to win. Some people win all the time. Some people get lucky now and again. And some of us?
Just don't win.
I guess what you actually win from losing makes it okay to be a loser.
About the Creator
I'm a mild-mannered project accountant by day, a free-spirited writer, artist, singer/songwriter the rest of the time. Let's subscribe to each other! I'm excited to be in a community of writers and I'm looking forward to making friends!
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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