Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; my coworker told me today that the coffee smelled better than it usually does. I told her I didn’t do anything different with the brew. When I tasted it, though, it tasted a little better also. Maybe it’s the water. Maybe it’s the unseasonable cold that brings something to a hot drink. Maybe we’re all going crazy together. All in all, though, this office blend still tastes like an end-of-quarter spreadsheet.
I watched a show start-to-finish in two days called ‘Run with the Wind.’ It’s an animated show from Japan (anime for you otaku out there) about a college track team. About once a year, I feel driven to watch a drama about athletes. I’ve been doing this off and on since college. I don’t know what draws me in. I’ve never been much of a runner, sports hasn’t played a big roll in my life. Once a year, though, a sports drama is what I need.
The first twenty-two years of my life were defined by competition. Academic competition, that is. I did well in school. I’d like to say I was only competing with myself, but that wasn’t true. I wanted to win. I wanted to be the best in whatever I did. By rigid school standards, I often was.
In stark contrast, next to none of my life upon graduating university in 2012 has been competitive. Sure, there’s a rat race to getting a good job, but those competitions are blind – I’ll never know the names of other applicants for my position. The only person left to compete with is myself.
Why is it so intoxicating to measure yourself against something?
Recently, I’ve stopped playing competitive games. Scratch that – I play games competitively, but only against internet strangers, never friends. I don’t want to feel the heat of competition with people I love. Or maybe I don’t want to know how I measure up to them.
It all kind of frightens me. Back in those first 22 years, I was who I was because of the victories I could name. You could talk to me for hours, but you’d know me better by looking at the trophies on my shelf. It was an exaggerated sort of competitiveness. I’ve still got that urge. I weigh myself – if not against other people specifically, then against the world. You only know what you look like when you’re looking at a reflection.
I don’t think any of this is unnatural. I may be a bit more competitive than others, but everyone needs an anchor. I think it’s beautiful and frightening at the same time. Beautiful because it tethers you to something. Frightening because you only know the weight of the anchor as it’s measured up to you – that is, there’s no true fixed point by which to define yourself (or anything else for that matter).
Anyway, sometimes I need to get into a sports drama. I like the competition. I like the sweat. I like the work. It makes sense to me – putting yourself on a scale against someone else, sharing that intimate moment, learning what you’re capable of.
Novel Count: 36,238
Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
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I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn’t be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well.Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About when I Talk About Running