Dead Last

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Riding 112 miles, mostly uphill, through pouring rain and sharp gusts of wind. The longest bike ride you’ve ever done. And you came in last. Not last team or last group of bikers. Nope, the very last person to cross the line.

This moment of glory describes a friend this past weekend at her very first race. You know what I say?

GET IT.

I say, dead last is infinitely better than deciding to sit at home. What a brave thing, to enter a race. What an extremely courageous feat, to actually finish, especially knowing there was a chance no one else was behind you.

I’ve been coming in dead last lately in my creative work. In fact there have been moments when, after pumping my arms furiously to gain momentum, I realize that I’m not even in the race at all. Like, it already happened last weekend, or I’m in the wrong city. Seriously friends, my writing aspirations have missed the mark in big ways, it turns out I didn’t even know which direction I was shooting. But if you’re a writer, too, or an artist or maybe a biker, you know that this coming in last thing is just kind of part of the deal. How else can we get better?

What can we do if we’re not born with a lot of smarts or talent? Well, for starters we can learn stuff, we can try stuff, and we can try again. I read somewhere not to say to your baby, “You are so smart!” but rather, “You tried so hard and you did it!” because determination gets you further in life than pure intelligence. Sure sure sure, some people are born geniuses and get perfect SAT scores and can play sonatas at the age of three. These are not my people and I don’t even know what a sonata is.

My people, and by this I mean you, know what it’s like to fail at things and then go and try the very same thing again. For example, every mother ever. My people call this perseverance.

My people climb mountains by themselves in the dead of winter. They walk into rooms in which they visibly stand out. They press on despite the discomfort of being out of their zone. My people call this grit.

My people are the dreamers of big, colorful dreams. They stay up late applying for dozens of scholarships, write and rewrite cover letters, scan the globe for the perfect job. They move across the country, start businesses, paint pictures in secret. My people call this hope.

What I’m getting at here is that it’s ok to come in last. Just don’t let that stop you. Was your goal to win that race? Me either. What is it then, that made you hop on that bike and join in? It wasn’t the hope of Olympic gold. It wasn’t the promise of record breaking glory. Nope. You probably just like to ride bikes and wanted to share that with other people who like to ride bikes.

So let’s just ride bikes. Or write stories. Or bake cakes. Or do whatever we do that got us in the race to begin with. Coming in dead last only means you’ve crossed over from dreaming to doing.

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