Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

A Worthy Opponent

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
I like to think that I am the most competitive person in the world. What’s more, I am always 100% certain that I can overcome my competitors. I know this because I only see one opponent that is a worthy adversary: myself. I have learned that taking on the other 6.8 billion people out there always ensures there’s somebody who can do what you’re trying to do much better than you can. Needless to say, that’s a bummer. Unfortunately, I didn’t always have that understanding. It didn’t matter whether I was good or bad in math, science, English, or any of my other classes – I wasn’t satisfied until I was the best. That was a lot to live up to, and ironically all that jealousy over anyone who got three points higher than me on that test was usually what got me distracted enough to get a lower grade.

In seventh grade, I joined my school math club, and soon after that, I found myself attending my first ever math competition. Now remember, I didn’t show the best of me when it came to competition, so you must imagine my distress upon arriving in a room full of kids just like me. All around me were students reciting foreign formulas and talking about past first place wins. The topics mixed problems in algebra, logic, geometry, and other subjects in math. I felt as if everyone around me knew more than I did. It looked as if all those hours practicing on long division weren’t going to save me. I can still remember the disgusting feeling of the sweat starting to soak my shirt and my heart bumping around in the roll cage that was my chest. While everyone else was looking down at the page, furiously scribbling the solutions down, I was looking at them, wondering why they could do this and I couldn’t. I felt the swell of shame rising in my throat. I stared down at my page, ready to tear apart the pamphlet of questions. A teardrop, or possibly a droplet of sweat, I can’t remember which, fell onto the page. I cleared it off and tried to make out what the text said. It was a logic problem giving scattered pieces of information about a group of individuals, asking the solver to use logic to connect all the pieces. I thought back to the limited information I got from the first couple math club meetings, and I recognized the problem. I repeated all the steps I could remember- draw out a matrix, fill in the information you know – and from there I realized how simple it really was, making it more a matter of elimination than real reasoning. With the first problem answered, others also revealed connections back to what I had learned. Soon enough I was furiously scribbling down solutions. My mind wasn’t on the contestants around me but rather on the problems in front of me. Later on, I received a fourth place certificate, tied with about five other students – not bad out of a group of over eighty.

This is a key event when I think of experiences that have influenced my outlook and work ethic. It taught me that as long as I am beating my own personal records, I will always be improving myself. It taught me that comparing myself to others will inevitably lead to frustration. I now realize that in order to win, you have to overcome the only real opponent out there: yourself.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback