Losers Can Be Awesome: a Lesson Brought to You by the Chicago Cubs
Just yesterday, I journaled something for myself, and then this morning, I woke up, went to our boards, and more than one of our users seemed to be in a headspace like I was before I wrote it. And that's not at all unusual around here, or for a lot of young people right now, period. The pressures young people feel now, and often have in generations of yore, to get everything right can be immense and really overwhelming. And it can be easy to get the idea that those pressures are right or healthy when, in fact, they're not in a lot of ways. We're all just people here: we are not perfect, and we are going to mess up sometimes, or not hit our high bars. It's an integral part of the human condition. And it really is okay, I swear.
So, I'm going to share in the hopes that my process in this might help you out.
Your humble host here, as you may have picked up on from time to time, is a bit of an overachiever, and has been since she was a young person. One of my big challenges in life has long been that I have a very hard time when I mess things up or I don't do well, even though, intellectually, I know that's bollocks, and that it's okay to mess up sometimes. It's something I tell young people I work with and for all the time, and I mean what I say, even if I, too, get that it can be really tough to feel that. Even if I, too, am not usually totally there in really accepting that.
Growing up, one of my favorite things to do with my Dad was to go to Cubs games. Not just because it meant hanging out with my Dad, and also in spite of the fact that when they played the Phillies, my father rooted for them instead, which resulted in things being thrown at us. Literally, not metaphorically. (Beer and soda are freaking cold, smelly and sticky, my friends.) I can’t decide if I liked going to the games with him in spite of or because of the time when I was thisclose to catching a ball, some dude behind us grabbed it from me, and my father went into an invective that seemed to last for DAYS about what kind of putz someone was for taking a fly ball from a little girl. Probably both.
Even though I left Chicago over a decade ago now, I remain, and always will, a diehard Cubs fan.
If you assume I care at all about baseball, or even understand how the game is supposed to be played, you may be wondering why anyone would continue any fealty to the worst team in baseball.
I have my reasons, but one of them is that the Cubs provided me — and provide me still — an amazing lesson in owning your suckitude. The Cubs never really acted like they sucked as much as they do, nor did we or any of their other fans. Sometimes it was fun just to see what new, creative way they’d blow a game: they have never seemed to run out of ways to do that, which strikes me as its own special genius, really.
Every now and then, the Cubs would actually win or at least actually play well. That was awesome, I guess. Bizarre, and something you never really believed wasn't a gag of some kind, but awesome, sure. However, I feel like the times when that happened we were all so busy looking for pigs flying overhead or the four horsemen of the apocalypse that we confused Cubs fans were always distracted enough to miss full impact of the amazing and unusual lack of total failure.
The Cubs, especially to me as a kid, made sucking actually seem cool. Like a rebellion, in some ways — Oh, winning. That is so last year. And the year before. For everyone else, anyway. It’s cheap to be a winner: we aim to LOSE, because we are THAT MUCH COOLER THAN YOU. — but mostly they sucked, but then the next game, every next game, they got right back out there and they kept playing (and usually sucking at it). And that’s been how it’s been for the whole of my life. Players keep actually joining the team and always seem to be excited about it. Fans still fill Wrigley, and the jeers and cheers are full of equal amounts of love. The Cubs seem to basically give suckitude a hug, a kiss, slap it on the backside then have a chummy beer together. I think that’s pretty super-amazing.
I’ve been thinking about the Cubs lately, because I feel like I forgot these lessons in the yay of failure they taught me so generously. When I was younger, I think they informed a lot of what I did. I think, because of the Cubs, no lie, I was a lot more fearless than I would have been otherwise, and a lot less afraid to try things I might lose, fail or just plain suck at. Because of the Cubs, I feel like there were things I tried I knew from the get-go I wouldn't be any good at, but wanted to try anyway, and felt like I could without worrying too much about it. Like the time I saw the girls in gym doing aerial cartwheels, for instance, and it seemed to me it looked like you just ran and then hurled yourself into the air. Of course, that's not how you did it, something I figured out even before I was laying on my back with the wind knocked out of me. Or the time I went ahead and endlessly prepped and then tried for an audition and a scholarship at a school I did not feel I was likely able to get into: that went a lot better than the cartwheel, as I did get in. And I would have been gutted if I hadn't, but I also would have been okay. I probably wouldn't have gone ahead and risked having my heart broken as often as I did, which sometimes resulted in the best stuff ever and sometimes resulted in lots of tears, the hanging of my head with shame, and the wearing out of yet one more Joy Division LP.
Lately, I feel like I have been failing a lot. Heck, last week, I had a much-needed break from work planned, and I even managed to louse that up. One assumes there are no grades given for recess because no one could possibly fail recess. Clearly, those school systems have not met me. I totally failed recess last week.
I keep feeling like I’m watching some people around me excel at things I have tried and tried to do well, but either failed at or... well, failed by my ridiculously high standards. Mind, some of these things are things where I just wouldn’t be down with, or have time or energy for, doing the same things to reach that same level of achievement. Others are things where someone else is simply more invested in winning or succeeding at them than I am. But with other things, those conditions don’t apply. Some of these things are things I have very much wanted to do very well with, or well with consistently, and have tried the same things but got different, less awesome results.
My partner, because my partner is awesome and loves me, says I’m being too hard on myself. That may well be, of course: I’ve a bit of a lifelong reputation for that sort of thing. A couple friends of mine I've whined at about all of this rolled their eyes, and with love, not malice or dismissal.
At the same time, my standards are my standards, and sometimes they aren’t actually higher than other people’s standards. By whatever yardstick we’re using, I feel like I keep failing a lot and have failed a lot in the last year or two with a lot of things.
What I want, though, is to be able to allow for that. I want to have it be truly okay -- and to truly feel okay -- for me to fail sometimes, even a lot. After all, I try a lot of things, constantly, unceasingly, so it’s not like I can be amazing at all of them or amazing at them all the time, nor should I have to be. It needs to be okay — with anyone, but most of all, with me — for me to suck. Ideally, I’d like to get to a place where it’s not only okay, but I can have a Cubbish sort of Zen about it and actually embrace sucking.
I mean, it’s not like messing up, or not hitting the highest bar or just being meh at anything doesn’t have its benefits or offers us nothing. It offers us plenty: humility, patience for ourselves and others, compassion, humanity, humor, and the ability to have a life that is about something more than achievement or whatever we count as success. It keeps us playing the game, as it were, just to play the game; to be in and enjoy the process, not just the product. I’m sure it offers more than that, those things are just off the top of my head, and I’m not where I’d like to be with it yet, remember. I feel confident that when I get to that enlightened place where feeling like a failure is nothing close to the end of the world, a place of butt-slapping comfort, good cheer and one more reason to just keep going back out on that field, picking up that bat, and trying again, I’ll have a lot more benefits to report.
But in the meantime, I kind of suck. Maybe you do, too. But darnit, I am going to get okay with that being the case sometimes, even if I’ve got to fly to those now-unaffordable bleacher seats and make myself sick on cotton candy and completely misplaced optimism towards a team doing well that never has to make it happen and seems to care a lot less about it than the rest of us do.