It had always been the drive that had guided her. She would wake up each morning with her mind focused intently on achieving 1 goal, at becoming the best, and proving to the world and to herself that she could do anything that she wanted and accomplish any and everything she set out to accomplish. She knew very well that there was a mountain in front of her and that the climb would be long, hard, and tedious. She knew this and relished in it. How many could claim that with sheer will, focus, and determination they had surpassed all obstacles? Who could be held to such standards? Who else would be as revered and admired?
This was the power that she held. And it was the power that she loved. She hated being told that she could not be something or have something. It only had to be implied that something couldn’t be achieved and she would make it her temporary life’s mission to obtain it. If there was a boy she thought was cute, who held the affection of many, she would make sure that it was her affection that was held in his utmost esteem and that boy would stand next to her as her prize. The same was thought of friendships and sports. She searched for the people she seemed unlikely to get along with and made them her best friends who were to love her unconditionally and the sport that she seemed to be worlds behind in, and was laughed at for playing, became the one in which she spent most of her time.
Many would call her silly. I would call her stubborn. And it was because of her extremely stubborn nature that she led such a difficult life.
“Anything easily had,” she would say to herself, “is not good enough.”
She lived by this motto, perfected it, but when it came down to results, although she was always the most dedicated and hardest working of her peers, she was always multiple steps behind everyone. This frustrated her. How could this be? Wasn’t it hard work and dedication that went into achieving every goal?
“Work harder,” her stubbornness ordered. So she did.
She put more work into winning over the boy she liked. She convinced herself of her feelings, attempted to reel him in with sweetness and vulnerabilities. She charmed him with laughter, lured him in with shyness, and for a moment it seemed he was hers, but the moment faded… and the girl was hurt. Apparently she couldn’t be the girl that got THAT boy. She couldn’t have the boy that everyone talked about, the boy everyone wanted, at least, not without becoming someone she couldn’t respect. He couldn’t be hers and this hurt her pride. How could she be revered and admired when her boy was in the arms of another girl? How could she prove that she got whatever she wanted when she couldn’t even win over the boy that she didn’t want? She didn’t think she wanted him, but, somehow, it still hurt. She thought it was her pride that hurt. It was her pride, wasn’t it? Either way it couldn’t be done. She shook it off and moved on.
Converting her enemies was a little easier. The friends that she had made at the end of her high school career seemed to love her endlessly or at least properly appreciate the love that she gave. It seemed that working harder had been successful in this instance and for a while she was satisfied. When she went off to college, however, their lives started to drift apart. She and her friends, the two that she had left every secret with back in high school, hardly spoke to each other. Her messages were rarely answered, their promises were rarely kept, and she was only ever contacted when they needed a “friend” to console them, although, they never answered when she was the one in need of consolation. It puzzled her. It hurt her pride. It hurt her heart. But she let it go. How could she consider friends a success, anyway? It was a child’s wish. Her work should be rewarded in something more tangible. So she set off to win the one thing she had been working on forever that could actually yield tangible results.
The last thing she could work on was soccer. She knew she was a world behind, she had always known, but at least here her work would be rewarded. Her hard work would be noticed. Here she could be respected and admired. So she worked. She would make her college team. They would notice her work. Every day she practiced. She sprinted, passed, kicked, did foot work drills. She improved upon the work she had done before she had gone to college, remembering the extra practices she had gone to and the ridicule she had endured from former teammates. They never thought she could do it. She was always the class joke. Her coach said she should reach for lower heights, try something else, but she wouldn’t. She never gave up. She had something to prove. When the try-out came around she was accepted by the group with open arms, but that was before she played. When she played she was ashamed of herself. If she hadn’t known she was better she would have made fun of herself. It was terrible, but she never gave up and practiced outside of team practices. She could blame it on the nerves, but it had been two weeks and she never got better. She could see how bad she was doing. She could see she was losing their respect and their respect was all she had ever wanted.
Eventually, there came a day where they had to let her go. They explained in a nice way. They said they had waited because they really liked her. She was extremely athletic, hard-working, fast, she was an excellent shot-stopper, she got along with everyone, and she had a great attitude. But they also said there were certain skills that she needed, and simply didn’t possess. They told her every word she had feared to hear.
“Would you like to say something?” they asked her.
“It’s just I know that I could… I mean… I would like to try…” she said.
The three coaches looked down at their feet. She could tell that it really was hard for them to say. She had made an impression on them, just not the impression she had intended.
They offered to help her join another team, suggesting track and field hockey (they needed a goal keeper). They even asked if she wanted to stick around and help out; pass out fliers, sell tickets…
“Think about what you would like to do and come back on monday. You’re a good kid. We would really like to help you in whatever you decide.”
The girl smiled and replied, “Thank you for everything.”
She cried for an hour in the bathroom and replayed the events of the weeks prior. Her efforts had, again, come up short. She felt like a failure. Maybe it wasn’t true. Maybe hard work and determination didn’t breed success. Maybe it was just the luck of the draw and she just had an extremely unlucky hand. Then she replayed the meeting in her mind.
She remembered the looks on their faces. She saw the pity on their lips and the fear that she was going to cry written in their words, but most of all she saw that they cared. Somehow it was that that stopped her tears. Despite all of the failure that she had witnessed herself display, they kept her around. Why? Because they cared. They cared about her dreams and wanted them to come true because she had made an impression. They had given her a favor out of love and would continue to aid her out of admiration of her spirit.
It was this incident that allowed her to realize that she was looking for the wrong thing all along. It was love that bred admiration. It was love that she should have allowed herself to have. The lack of love was why her heart hurt before and it was the presence of love that soothed it now. Love was what was promised and then taken away in everything she had ever attempted… and now? It was love that would bring her to her next success story.
All this time she had worked to prove a point to herself and others, but now that all prior goals were out of reach there was no longer a point to prove. She could relax. It was nice. She hadn’t relaxed in a while. In fact, relaxing was the reason she couldn’t play soccer as well as she wanted in the first place. The trainer had even pointed it out.
“What I would like to see you do is relax more. You’re climbing a huge mountain and you’re way behind. You have a lot to give, but you can’t tell because your focused so hard on doing everything right. You’re the only one putting pressure on yourself. Right now you just don’t know what you don’t know and, honestly, that’s a really good place to be.”
But now, that advice was no longer necessary. She was going to try her hand at track now. It was something she was good at already, that required very little extra skill, and she could probably get a scholarship for. She ran when she was unhappy anyway, to relieve stress and clear her mind. Here she wasn’t starting from the bottom. She hadn’t false started this time. Her track shoes were in the closet. It felt like it was meant to be. They were just sitting there waiting to be used and those who loved her were waiting to help out.
For the first time she understood that hard work can only lead to happiness if love is involved. Love allows you to relax which in turn allows you to do all things.
We can live out our lives with the drive to be powerful, revered, and respected, but the most that we can ever hope to be is simply, loved which seems to be the basis of all real success stories.