Everyone likes to shine a little brighter than the person
next to her. I know I used to.
When I was young, I learned that handing out hugs and
kisses and hard work could take you a long way, particularly with your parents.
I carried that thought with me throughout the years and
realized that being the best at every possible activity got special
recognition, whether it was in the shape of a trophy or in words of praise. The
attention awarded to winners did not compare to the kind offered to the last
Last place rarely receives a prize, and consolation
prizes often have the opposite effect. This realization was reflected in all of
my accomplishments and pressured me into trying to be the best.
That force drove me through ballet, piano, swimming and
I remember my first swimming competition. I was eleven
years old and I prepared in every possible way: designing ways that would make
my dive smoother, calculating how many times I would come out of the water to
take short breaths of air and spending every possible minute out of school in
the water. It was in the bag.
But I lost. When I pulled myself out of the water, I
thought I had won. But right next to me, the other competitor, Sofia, was
already wrapped in her towel and surrounded by people congratulating her.
I stopped swimming shortly after that and decided to move
on to something else. When I refer to that story, I often shamefully recall
myself as the winner or carefully omit the fact that there was an actual
My little loss did not teach me a lesson about not being
a sore loser. Instead, it sparked my need to be the best at everything even
further. I worked extra hard in school to get the best grades. I resorted to
sleepless nights, doing all the work in a group project and even singing a
silly song in the talent show for extra credit. I managed to come out third in
my class. Another failure in my book, and by the time I started college I was
worn out. In college, I was competing against equally-qualified participants in
an even wider pool of competitors.
After my second year, my GPA plummeted, my hair was not
always neatly in place and I could barely work on extra-curricular
activities.It was time to make a decision. I would no longer be the best.
It does not mean I settle for second place, but that I
try my best and that counts. After letting loose, life becomes a lot more
relaxed and achievements become extra special.
I realize that the prize often makes us forget about the
journey, but it is the road in our little battles that take us further than the
results. Coming in last allows us to sit back, take our time and enjoy the
ride, and you canít put a price on that.
Last place is unique. After all, there is only one spot
awarded to last place which makes it pretty special and easy to win.
Florence Cazenave is a senior marketing major from San
Pedro, Honduras, and serves as a news editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments