Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Throwing the Monopoly Board

I'm not an inherently competitive person. I've almost always been OK if someone else wins at most all games. (Oddly, I often date surprisingly competitive women who hate losing.) Maybe my complacency toward winning started when I was recruited for the diving team when I was 9.  Even though I was terrible, they wanted me to dive. Why? I'd always get a ribbon because so few boys dove. But I never came in first. I just sucked at it. Despite that, my mere participation gave my team an extra point or two.  I was much better at tennis, but when friction began in my family, I'd choose to lose points and games because I thought it would make people happy. In addition, my dad rarely wanted to play games. The emphasis was always on technique - never on winning. I just absorbed that and when I played with one friend in particular, he always brought a new can and wanted to play as hard as possible to win every time. He became an extremely successful salesman. Go figure.
Also, when my dad coached a baseball or soccer game I was, if we were ahead by a lot, he'd put in the weak players to give the other team a chance to score. It was the decent and kind thing to do. But other coaches would strive for a shut out. Not my dad. And I absorbed that as well. It wasn't a battle to win like conquerers. It was a good-natured game. It was designed around play and having fun. And the other thing was, we weren't usually on the best teams. In truth, we only won our league once in the 7 years I played baseball. Winning was never the main goal. Good sportsmanship was. 
My high school drama coach was all about winning the state championships for drama which always seemed a little odd, but I enjoyed the competition and we actually won 2 out of 4 years. And honestly, I never cared about getting good grades in school. I aced all my math tests without trying until I got to Calculus (which handed me my ass). But when I was writing a paper for and English class I didn't care if I was given a B+ for turning in a 25 page paper when a 10 pager had been requested. I felt I needed 25, so that's what I wrote. I could care less that Hilary Locker got straight As. I considered her a deeply bland person.
And how do you define winning as an adult? Is it who has the most money or most prestigious position? My dad never bought a new car though surely he could afford it. He wasn't competitive with other men in any outwardly ostentatious ways. And when my mom ran for state representative when I was 12, she didn't win, but she didn't get upset and they appointed her to a commission afterwards for her efforts. 
But as I delve even further back, I remember having a temper tantrum when my brother beat me in Monopoly. I'm not sure if it's because I was losing or because I felt he wasn't being fair. I'd expect it was the latter which is more in my character today, but what if I was just upset that I lost? I wonder if I could get back that competitive spirit? I think it would be an effective motor to drive me at a time when I feel like I've lost most all of my ambition.
How competitive are you?

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