I’ve never won anything in my whole life.
I never won a music recital, hell I never even entered one.
I never won a sports championship.
I never won a talent show.
I never won a battle of the bands.
I was never first in anything, school, sports, life.
That’s not to say that I necessarily lost all of those things either. I just floated around mediocrity. I learned from an early age that competition was not something that drove me like it does with some people. And that I was more comfortable as the observer of greatness rather than the owner of it.
When I got to college I often worked with other people on their projects before I even began to think about my own. My many sleepless nights are more attributable to helping a friend find his or her way than putting grueling hours in on my own work. And if my work suffered for it, I didn’t mind much. I worked in this way so much that often after the professor would leave I would make my rounds to people I knew would want to get my perspective.
The competitive kids in class devoted all their time to their projects, and I devoted all my time to their projects too. I always did well, finished with 4.0’s in my studios but I never won honors (as the best project in the class). I’m not sure I would have anyways but having the drive to have the best project couldn’t have hurt.
I don’t regret it at all. It gave me my first inkling that I might want to teach. Professors noticed my helping role and sometimes asked me to sit on the critique panel for their other classes, which I enjoyed immensely.
When I got to Grad School, I studied history and theory because I believed it was a course to teaching, an idea I got from my position in undergrad. I would often find myself walking through the studios eager to help a fledgling student, which never happened. Not even once. I think they viewed me as a dinosaur and couldn’t understand what I might bring to the table.
Maybe the competition had raised that much in my few years away from school. Maybe my help was never that useful in the first place.