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Confessions of the Also Ran

Vacation has been over for several days.  My bestie and her brother went back home last week, and it’s taken me a bit to get back into the swing of a regular schedule.  Late mornings really don’t agree with me.  My soul wishes for the time late nights afford and the wonder early mornings offer.  But alas! I cannot have both =(.  I just wish this summer heat would let up a bit so I could enjoy a refreshing morning breeze!  My mother has always told me to never wish my life away, but I wouldn’t mind if autumn would hurry up and arrive!!

A new semester is fast approaching and with that comes planning what subjects I’m going to study for the next few months, which books to buy, how long it’s going to take to study for various exams, etc.  I love the beginning of a new school year.  Buying new notebooks, pens and such.   Thinking about all the things out there waiting to be discovered!  It’s rather exhilarating, don’t you think?  Like a fresh, crisp October day, brimming with inspiration and possibilities! Oh, these are the thoughts of a romantic, nostalgic, nerdy homeschooler =P.  I’m just pining away for cooler weather and liberation from my current clash with my arch nemesis Sir Writer’s Block!

When my brain is stymied like this, I pick up some type of how-to writing book in search of a good burst of inspiration and maybe a kick in the pants.  While at the library the other day, I picked up How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights by Ariel Gore.  It’s light, interesting, and will hopefully help me knock out Sir Writer’s Block.  You know that song that you listen to and no matter how many times you hear it, you continue to trip over certain lyrics cause you can’t quite make it out, and you’re too lazy to look it up online?  So you just kind of make up what it sounds like it could be?  Okay, so I’m reading Gore’s book and come across these sentences,

“At the beginning of the evening, I’d been a finalist for the book award. Now I was just an also-ran.”

Also-ran…Like a flash, someone in my brain dashed over to the mental file where I stash music and whipped out the Fred Astaire version of Gershwin’s “Shall We Dance” that I’ve listened to for years.  There’s one line in that song that I could never figure out:

Life is short, we’re growing older

Don’t you be an also-ran!

I literally jumped up from the couch I was lounging on and exclaimed, “OOOHHH!! That makes sense!!”  Well, I still didn’t  know exactly what it meant yet, but at least I knew that I’d heard the song correctly!  So I Googled “also-ran” and found out that it refers to a contestant who didn’t win the competition.

That got me thinking.  This is what we fear, right?  To be the also-ran?  The one who didn’t get their name in the lights, who didn’t made the grade, who didn’t land the deal, who didn’t get the big break.  The one who didn’t win the race.  Failure is like a bad dream….But regret is a nightmare.

Wouldn’t it be harder to be the guy who was too scared to even pursue his biggest dream?  To never know whether or not he had a chance to succeed?  What if Christopher Columbus was too afraid of being an also-ran and never sailed the ocean blue?   What if Bell, Edison, Pasteur or the Wright Brothers had heeded the naysayers and given up on their larger-than-life ideas?  I suppose every genius was an also-ran at some point in their life.  But they kept going.  And what about the olympians who are competing now?  Each of them has known trial and error in training for this amazing event!  At some point they’ve tasted the defeat of an also-ran.  Many will leave the 2012 Olympics in London with the same acrid taste.  Instead of the gold, they’ll be known as the also-ran.  But at least they had the guts to try.  Which is sometimes more than I can say for myself.

I have this box.  My long, winter, wedge boots came in it, so it’s rather long and nice and sturdy.  I keep my old drafts in it.  Drafts of the books I started to write but never finished.  This huge part of my adolescence is in a shoe box, under my bed, collecting dust.  I cringe at the complete dribble I’ve written, the cheesy characters, the stupid plot lines.  “And you want to be a writer?” I chide myself, “Who are you kidding?”  And so the box sits there, untouched.

Those old notebooks aren’t the only things collecting dust.  There is much I’ve left behind me over the years.  So many little things I wanted to pursue but dropped because I didn’t get it right the first time.  Missed opportunities, unspoken words, open doors I didn’t walk through.  Oh, regret is awful!!  The fear of being a failure is debilitating.  I’m not naturally a risk-taker.  I like my bubble of safety, it’s a comfy enclosure that shelters me from falling flat on my face.  If I don’t try, I don’t get hurt, right?  But who wants that kind of life?  It won’t ever take you anywhere!  I don’t want to be the girl who never tried.  Maybe I won’t get it the first time around.  Or the second.  Or the third.  Or the seventy-eighth!  I may have to edit and re-edit until I’m blue in the face before I produce anything remotely worth reading, but I’ll never know unless I try.  Okay, so I have to be an also-ran several more times.  Am I going to let that kill me?

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Maya Angelou

Success isn’t about waiting for handouts.  It’s about making do with what you’ve got and not settling for anything less than your absolute best.  It’s about working hard, putting in long hours, making connections, listening to people, reading articles, being observant, taking chances, peeking around corners, browsing bookshelves, asking questions, making sacrifices, starting conversations, trying new things,  broadening your scope!  Life is so like a breath in the wind, much too short to live in the mundane!  We owe it to our Heavenly Father to pursue whatever dreams and challenges He’s placed in our lives with everything we’ve got!  Sure, we may not get it the first time, but such is life and like the apostle Paul, we keep running the race until the course is finished.

My name is Elyssa and I’m an also-ran.

But I intend to change that!

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7 KJV

Originally posted on 8.2.2012