There’s something competitive hidden within me. It surfaces when I least expect it, jumping in to claim moral superiority, say, when humility should suffice. It clouds the way I read others’ decisions, as murky in origins at least half the time as mine. My competitiveness even tempers the way the world looks in quarantine, when all I really have to compete with is my wife and son, our pets, and myself.
That bird bouncing on the branch before my window? If I were a bird, I’d bounce better. The kids racing up the street in a pack, their mom following? I’d have raced faster, when I was a kid. I’d be more responsive, either encouraging or worried, if I were their mom. I don’t recall ever having been much of a racer when young.
I get off Zoom meetings feeling grumpy about others’ ways of speaking. I glare when my wife talks up all the meetings she’s been part of. I think of quietly learning gaming so I can beat my son on his terms.
What’s gotten into me? Have I been inside too long, finding excuses for avoiding the home-improvement projects I hear others are using as a salve for the times?
I have never been a sports fan, excepting my enjoyment of a slow-moving ball game a few times each summer. Could it be that I’ve been too competitive for competition?
My parents were competitive. My siblings were competitive. Are my daily lists competitive?
I give the dog a chew bone. She tosses it into the air, picks it up where it drops, then prances about with it. She’s filled in that moment of the chew bone and her joy in having it.
I pause my competitive musings. Nature or nurture? Is competition distinctly American or more universal? Would faith, even belief, change things?
The bird outside my window has again flown, although I hear others. No kids race, at least in my sight.
I race myself writing this piece, then others for myself. In the final round, I’d rather have my own chew-bone moments than anyone else’s.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.