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Thank You for Your Participation

One of the more memorable interactions I’ve experienced occurred on a Field Day.

I don’t know how old I was at the time, if I had to guess I’d say probably somewhere around fifteen, maybe fourteen. Homeschool field days are well oiled machines. Everyone is broken up into age groups by color (I distinctly remember envying the 11th/12th graders and their blue tshirts) and an entire morning to mid-afternoon is dedicated to various events. My personal favorites included the Three-legged Race (I had a killer method that usually guaranteed at least a third place ribbon) and the Water Balloon Toss. Each grade group is herded from one activity to the next with one or two adult chaperones at the helm. On this particular Field Day, we were all given participation ribbons at the start of the day. I’m guessing the logic was that no one could possibly leave the day feeling unsuccessful or disappointed, considering we had all been considerately gifted a yellow participation ribbon to proudly wear upon our presumably un-athletic bodies.

I’m realizing there are several pertinent details to this story that I have long forgotten. What event were we about to compete in? I have no idea. It could’ve been the Running Long Jump, a miserable event that was created by sadists, or perhaps it was the 100 Yard Run, another misery filled activity that I often refused to complete on pure principle alone. One must have one’s standards, after all. Even though memory fails, I am determined to share this story to the best of my abilities, so. The event at hand was the least of my concern.

I remember lounging around a tree while we waited for the next activity when I was approached by my delightful adult chaperone, inquiring either a) about why I was just standing around or b) something to do with my general demeanor. Who can really say what she was after. I have a fuzzy recollection of some sort of conflict between myself and the chaperone, likely because I have an uncanny ability to say the wrong thing at the absolutely wrong time. The only words I can be sure were said were uttered as a parting comment:  “You can’t win them all, Katie.” I was incredulous. Win them all? I hadn’t even won a single event, much less all of them! Dumbfounded, I considered the sole ribbon on my person. Participant.

In the years since this incident, during a particularly difficult day or moment, sometimes I think “Well, you can’t win them all, Katie” to myself. The sentiment is not exactly unique to my own experiences, of course. But when I think it, I’m definitely conjuring the ridiculous image of myself, with no awards to speak of, essentially being told to ‘give someone else a chance’ at winning.

Life can sometimes be like this. There are so many instances where you can become overwhelmed by the minutia, let yourself drown in the day-to-day… and to the outside world, you will still appear a winner. Even if it is just a hint of your potential to win, that potential totally outshines the negativity. In moments of defeat, take time to celebrate the victories of being a participant in life: you have lungs that allow you to breathe, for instance.

So, it’s true. You can’t win them all… but you are inherently a winner.

I’ve included the music video for Mat Kearney’s “Breathe In Breathe Out” because I thought of it while writing this.

By Kathryn

KATIE is a twenty-something held together with iced coffee and her wits. She writes personal confessions and pop culture chronicles.

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