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Far From First

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It’s far from something I can proudly show off to my friends, and I can’t brag about it to my family at dinner, but I need that award on display in my room. My beautiful, pink, cheaply-made eighth place ribbon serves as a daily reminder of my failure, and triumph. I learned that life moves on whether I win or lose, and so would I, even if only to improve myself.

Four years ago, my mom threw me into the rigorous training sessions of the local swim club. I quickly realized I loved competitive swimming; however, my coach decided that I should swim the 100 butterfly for the upcoming swim meet that November. I remember thinking to myself, “What did I do to deserve this? I thought Coach Sean liked me.” I was too timid to inquire about maybe swimming a different event, one I knew I would excel at. Instead, I struggled with negative thoughts and nervous butterflies all the way up until I jumped in to swim the 4 arduous laps.
As expected, I finished last.

I dejectedly pulled myself out of the pool, and slowly made my way to the warm-down pool expecting to be called a loser from someone any minute; however, the insult never came. My friends didn’t treat me any different when I met up with them, and my parents didn’t scold me for losing. It was then that I realized it wasn’t the end of the world, let alone my swimming career. Why should I let this loss hold me down when I could be practicing and improving for next time?

After 3 years, I was bound to swim the 100 butterfly again. Turning my bitter memories of the ’09 incident into fuel for motivation, I took my mark, dove in, and came out, victorious. My coach was only mildly impressed by my result, and spent more of his enthusiasm in congratulating my teammate who had won 1st place. I, however, was elated. Being a high school swimmer meant that I was too old to receive ribbons as proof of my achievements, but that didn’t change the fact that I had finished 3rd.
So despite its belittling implication of my skills as a swimmer, I proudly allow it to hang on my corkboard in my bedroom. Every day, the mocking congratulatory pink ribbon reminds me to accept my failures, and see them as room for improvement, and to learn from my mistakes, not regret them.




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