Reposted from Mark and Angel Hack Life
This guest post was written by Alex Fayle, author of Someday Syndrome.
When I was seven years old, I won a foot race in last place.
Due to foul play at other schools, the local school district enacts a mandatory policy during recess hours that segregates the schoolyard based on gender. Boys and girls are no longer allowed to partake in activities together. Given that my friends are almost all girls, I feel lost. I’m not rough and tough enough to feel comfortable with the boys, and yet my gender excludes me from hanging with my friends, the girls.
So I learn to be an outsider. I have a couple acquaintances in both camps, but I’m not actively a part of either, at least not anymore. And because I’m an outsider, I quickly become the object of teasing. Every tribe picks a walking, talking target of ridicule and I fall easily into this role.
Although the words hurt, I find strength from within to push forward, to stay who I am. Because my parents instilled love and patience in my mind from the time I was born. They taught me that the only valid competition is with oneself. So I don’t mind being me. I just wish everyone else would learn to accept me as I am.
To add to my exclusion, I’m fairly clumsy and athletically awkward. I can’t pull my limbs together in a coordinated manner to lift myself over the high-jump bar, to propel my body through the air for the triple-jump, or to pump my legs fast enough along the race track.
I’m never in last place, but because of my outsider status, the majority of the students spew words of ridicule at me anyways. The other outsiders – the poor, malnourished students who wear tattered clothes to school, or the ones with physical disabilities – they get verbally harassed too. And although they never say a word about it, I can see the pain and frustration in their eyes. It hurts them just as much, if not more, than it hurts me.
The First Time
As the teachers group the boys together for the weekly 100 yard dash, I decide it’s time for an outsider to win for once.
In the eyes of my classmates, I’m already the loser. Regardless of whether I come in first place or last, they will mock me. I realize I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I purposely run slow and let everyone pass me, even the poor boy whose ribs show through his skin, whose track and field clothes are the same as his day-to-day clothes… the one whose always in last place.
From my position just behind him, I see the teachers cheering him on. Then suddenly, and surprisingly, some of the students join in. I make an effort to seem like I’m pushing myself while actually falling back more and more. And before long, all the students are cheering him on. “You got it!” they chant. “You’re almost there!”
The boy crosses the finish line and looks back at me. He has a smile on his face stretching from one end of the schoolyard to the other. It’s the first time he’s not in last place.
I pant across the finish line and receive the usual jeers, but I smile too. Because today I learned how to win in a way many of my classmates will never understand.
I may have finished in last place.