Competition fuels self-destruction


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Ryder Noah From

When I attended my first basketball game on Saturday, Kentucky vs Ole Miss, I was shocked at the lack of sportsmanship: the crowd booed when the opposing team had their shot at free throws and my friend told me that I shouldn’t clap when Ole Miss made a shot even when I was impressed by it. Being kind didn’t matter, winning was most important.

College is all about competition. From the moment we apply, we’re told about the candidates we will have to face off with to get a spot, potentially even classmates we had become good friends with. We look at acceptance rates, test score averages and pick a safety school in case our top pick doesn’t accept us.

This competition morphs into other forms when you make it into college. Vying for a top position in a club or Greek life, working hard to be accepted into a lab and trying to build up your brand from the start for future job or grad school positions are just the start.

It’s always on my mind like an annoying parrot repeating the same things over and over. How can I make myself look best on paper? Who am I competing against? How can I be better than them? Theoretically, if I’m doing all of this to make the best life possible for future me, then present me should feel joyful and motivated, but all I feel is worried.

Constantly thinking about the future and your surroundings can be a huge burden because you don’t focus on what’s right in front of you, like the recoil of negative emotions slapping you harder than a letter of denial.

When I think about all the people I’m competing against, it makes filling out a job form feel like making that free throw shot with everyone in the stadium booing you. I’m no longer thinking about getting the basketball in the net; I can only see and hear the discouraging crowd. I can only think about what I can do to please them, not what I can do to make myself happy.

Some say that if you do what you love, eventually you’ll find a way to make money off of it. But, what if in that process you lose why you loved it in the first place? When thinking about how to make what I love productive, so that it makes me look good in the future, to make me stand out from my competition, it feels like a chore, like something I need to do instead of want to do.

It’s hard knowing that some big opportunities I want in life, grad school or a lab position for example, are heavily based off of luck. I can control what I’m doing, but not how many people apply and how good they look, and not how many people are booing me in the background.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard you practice, how many shots you sink when it doesn’t even count; if you can’t tune out your competition and keep your eye on the ball, you’ll never make it in. If you do things you once loved to appease other people and not yourself to hopefully land your dream spot, it won’t be a dream anymore.

You may not have lost to the competition, but you lost yourself.

High hopes and realities of a college freshman is a bi-weekly column by Ryder Noah From.