The main point of a competition is to see who is better in a certain arena. Equality is emphasizing and enforcing the importance of all of us as equals, and competition is the exact opposite. It darkens the line even more between best and worst and that’s not necessarily healthy. However, the broad scope of competition is great because in life not everything is equal: not everything is just handed to me, and sometimes I have to compete for what I want. So competition is appropriate when used with responsibility, and of the Quaker testimonies, equality stands out to me. I want to remember the importance of equality above competition.
It’s funny how much I can learn about myself and others when engaging in a competition. I learn how competitive other people get and whether they manage to stay calm and be kind to other people. Competition can act as a blindfold sometimes. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to win that I forget about what’s right in front of me, and I do things that I regret because I’m blinded by the image of the trophy before my eyes or the satisfaction of winning or the praise I will receive, and I can’t see the most important things, such as the people who care about me most. It blinds my sense of equality, and I get caught up in waterfall of winning. And often, people pretend to have blinders on. They pretend they can’t see what’s right before their eyes, just to avoid the hardship of facing it. Sometimes the hardest part about a competition is the stress people can put on being number one. People—teammates, coaches, parents, teachers, siblings—say to try your best and give it your all, but those are hollow words, empty of meaning, when they over-celebrate the winner and forget about all the people that did try their best, did give their all, but just didn’t win. The blindfolds become tighter around our heads, increasing our desire to bask in the glory everyone is giving the winner.
There are many ways of interpreting a win or a loss. To some people, a win may be winning the championships in their baseball league, to others it may be getting first place in a science fair. A win is a mental place in my mind where I feel great, like the world is holding me up. A win doesn’t necessarily mean a physical first-place trophy or medal; it’s just a part of me that is so happy. I can feel like a winner when I get second place in a debate meet because I know I tried my best and I feel great about myself. My thoughts and attitude control whether I feel I have actually won or lost.
I could win the soccer championships and still feel like I lost because somehow my dad is still mad with the way I played. I could get first place in a wrestling tournament, but actually feel worse than the kid who got fifth because, unlike his coach, mine is screaming at me about why I could have played better. There is more to a win or a loss than getting handed a trophy or having a medal slung over my neck; I need to actually feel that win to be happy, let it resonate all over my body, not just stare at a golden award with the words “First Place” engraved onto it, when in my heart, I feel that I got last.
Equality is more than just a testimony. It’s more than words on a page and teachers lecturing right against wrong. Inequality is a white cop shooting a black man when he isn’t even armed; it’s the difference between the paycheck a woman receives and the one a man receives; it’s the racial disparities occurring in healthcare when a black woman gets treated hours after she should have been, and because of that, her life is so wrongly taken. So much in the world is unequal. It’s wrong, and it doesn’t match the words people tell me every day. We can talk all about the importance of equality, but in the real world, there are hundreds of situations where there is injustice, where lives are taken when they could have been saved, because of skin color, gender, or other factors. It’s wrong, and we can talk ourselves out of it as much as we want, but when I look at the real world, I know that these are empty words when our society isn’t reflecting them.
We are always competing for something in this world, whether it is someone’s love, an academic award, or a sports trophy. There will never be a world with no competition, but that’s okay because competition can be great, and I have learned a lot of lessons from competition. We just need to remember to treat people equally, because right now, at 12 years old, I might have lost a soccer game. It certainly doesn’t feel great, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game. But when we grow up, there are bigger losses than a game. I read an article recently about a man who lost his wife because of racial disparities in healthcare. That’s so much worse than a soccer game; that’s his entire world shattering when it could have been spared, she could have been spared. She was in hands that could save her, but because of the color of her skin, she died. She didn’t need to die; it was just inequality, the horrible injustice of inequality. But competition and inequality can be totally different things, and while inequality is just wrong, competition is a more complicated concept.
Competition has helped me grow because I have changed from my previous mistakes. Competition is all about how I look at something. When my travel soccer team qualified for regionals, I was psyched. We lost the championship game by one goal, and my team was bummed, but I learned that the whole experience—all the pockets of beautiful moments that my team created together, all the times I got closer to my friends—was so much stronger. I created such a strong bond with the other girls just by making it to the finals. My favorite part wasn’t the game itself; it was actually the car ride there and spending time with my teammates in the hotel room. Getting closer with them was so much more valuable than winning the championships. It’s times like these that remind me of what really matters, and sometimes when I get caught up in the aftermath of losing something, when I am in the wake of not getting first place, I reminisce about those times and tell myself there are so many parts of competition that aren’t about winning. We need to learn to loosen our blindfolds, discover the many other positive aspects of competition, and remember that we all have the potential to truly see.
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