A Competitive Spirit

I am an extremely competitive person. No matter what the activity at hand, I always want to be the best. Sometimes this is a very beneficial personal attribute and sometimes it is not. My husband refuses to play any kind of game with me because he says I get too.. too…too… competitive. I know that this started before I even got to school age. My sister, who is two grades ahead of me, would

A garbage can full of trophies and ribbons, dating from gradeschool to the present

come home with math flashcards or spelling lists or capitols to memorize and I always wanted to participate. After disrupting my sister’s education enough times, my parents eventually told me to go away.

One of the natural and most socially accepted channels for competitiveness is sports. I started playing softball in a city league in fifth grade. By the time I was a senior in high school, I played on city league softball, baseball, volleyball, and basketball teams. At that time, the only interscholastic sport offered at my school was track and field. That was a perfect outlet for me. I was a long jumper, a hurdler, and a shot putter, as well as a member of several relay teams. Our track team was a regular contender for the state title, and in fact I hold a state record in the hurdles that can never be broken. The reason is that after I set a state record, the measuring unit switched from yards to meters, so my North Dakota 70-yard hurdle record will stand forever. I live on in infamy!

When I got to college I was overjoyed to discover not only intramural teams in all the sports I loved, but also intercollegiate teams. I joined every team I could, and that became my social outlet for my college life. It was practice every afternoon all year long, plus long van rides for competitions at other colleges and tournaments. I loved it all, and can’t imagine what college would have been like had there been no athletics for women. ALL the college friends I still have I met on some court or other. I also got into refereeing for a while and made a little extra money doing that.

I continued playing softball for many years after college, even playing on a team in Turkey. I play racquetball whenever I can find an opponent. I also have been a regular participant in the Iowa Games and the Senior Olympics. When the national competition for the Senior Olympics was in Minneapolis, I qualified in seven track and field events and placed in two. It is humbling to see my track times increase year-over-year, and my field distances decrease, but that decline is a part of life.

I have always pushed myself and challenged myself. I like to do things simply to see if I can do them. A silly example of this is when I decided my senior year of high school that I was tired of the daily “What shall I wear today?” dilemma. I wore the same outfit of a T-shirt, a chambray shirt, and a pair of denim culottes for six weeks (washing them occasionally). There was no good reason behind my actions, other than to see if I could do it.

I am not a fearful person, but at times I experience fear. When I peer over a cliff or look down from a silo, my stomach lurches. But I think the best way to conquer fear is to make myself do the scary thing. I climb tall structures, jump from bridges, walk in the night, pick up snakes, liberate spiders, paddle big rapids, perform in front of crowds, give speeches, all of which at some time or other made my heart flutter. I camp by myself, take solo kayak trips, and hike alone because I want to do the activity. If I can’t find someone to do it with, I do it anyway. I simply don’t let fear of the unknown enter in.

Most of my competition is with myself these days. I do word puzzles every morning that I must complete, and I don’t quit until I finish. In my daily regimen, I have regular fitness goals that I must meet, such as time on the treadmill, number of sit-ups, and number of repetitions with free weights. No one tells me when I must do this or how much I must do. I am simply driven to try to maintain my mind, muscle tone, overall fitness, endurance, and strength. I know that if I let myself give myself excuses, the whole idea of “routine” goes down the drain. Some would say that I am hard on myself, or compulsive, but I would rather say I am strict. I keep at something until it becomes a habit. I set goals, then I set new goals. I love to try new things. I challenge myself. I absolutely do not want to become a flabby old person, so I rage, rage, and do what I set out to do, whether or not anyone else likes it or approves.

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