Is Winning The Only Thing?

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The other day I was notified that one of my wall hangings had been juried into an upcoming exhibition. Since I had tried in the past to have my pieces juried into shows put on by this gallery, I was delighted. After several failures, I exulted, success!

Success means a great deal to all of us and failure to reach a goal can be devastating. Such is the emphasis placed on winning that being Number One becomes all important. “Nobody bothers to ask who was in second place,” we are told, or even “Only the lead sled dog sees anything worth looking at.” Whether we are aiming for a prize or a promotion or being the winner on Dancing With the Stars, we want the prize, the brass ring, the gold at rainbow’s end!

I surely felt that way years ago when my essay got a mere ‘honorable mention’ in a high writing school competition. That was just wrong. Even back then, writing was terribly important, the thing that  most defined me. I had put a lot of my heart into the essay, had polished it till it shone. Also, I didn’t much care for the person who had waltzed off with the first prize, and his essay was… well, it wasn’t very good. I was crushed.

My entire family commiserated in various ways. My mother took me shopping. Dad dragged me off on a long walk. Uncle Joe baked my favorite pie. Aunt Juliette decided I needed to do another needlework project. Aunt Francine let me take home some of her prize roses. And as usual, Uncle Harry quoted his favorite Kipling line about ‘meeting Triumph and Disaster just the same.’

But while I appreciated their kindness and love, my ego remained bruised. Thinking that my English teacher would at least say something helpful, I confided my sorrows to him. He heard me out and then asked, “Did you do your best?” I assured him that I had. “Well, then,” he said.  Well then, what? “Not everybody can win all the time,” he said, mildly. “You’ll be doing a great deal more writing. I know,” he added, “because you have an almost frightening imagination. If you always do your best, the writing will grow with you. Just try not to compete with anybody but yourself.”

Back then that sounded like pretty weak stuff, and slow learner that I am, it has taken years of trial and error to understand the wisdom of it. The real prize, he was trying to say, is in the doing.

It’s true. If I put heart and soul into something I create or imagine, something in my work is enriched. And though I love to succeed and would like to slide into that #1 slot every time, I have come to understand that personal growth is the only yardstick with which to measures true success.

Success is fleeting

But the love that shines in work

Lives on forever.

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About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

11 responses »

  1. Maureen,

    Lovely haiku image and watercolor. Thank you! Lots of people share their love through kind deeds. I frequently receive that type gift of love from family and friends. It’s so uplifting.

  2. Pleasure is indeed reaped by just doing. Though having strangers praise one’s work is especially sweet, whether when writing a compelling story or sinking a 30 foot putt or making up a winning recipe. The watercolor is quite nice, as is the haiku. Watercolor is a difficult medium to work in.

    • Thanks, Sarah. True, success and praise are sweet… much sweeter, actually, than struggling and getting things just right and then failing to make the grade! As my old English teacher said, I struggle, sometimes, to remember to just compete with myself…..

  3. Dear Maureen,
    I loved your story and how your father tried to help you find peace with being in second place. So many times we want the approval of others. I remind myself, “If God is happy with me, I don’t have to worry about anyonelse.”

    My mother used to ask me if I was happy with my grades and if I had done my best. She told me if I had done the best I could do, then I didn’t have to worry about the grades.

    Accepting ourselves as we are is indeed tricky at times.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful view of the world and your lovely artwork that says it all.

    Celebrate you.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    P. S. You win First Place with me.

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