Growing up, I spent most of my summers at my grandmother’s house. Both my parents worked, and apparently they didn’t trust me to stay at home by myself. I imagine it had something to do with the time I caught part of the backyard, and my shoe, on fire. I wouldn’t have had it any other way though. I loved going to my grandma’s house and spending time with her, and it’s something I always look back on fondly.
Most, if not all, of my mornings were spent recreating the Atlanta Braves game from the night before with my wiffle ball and bat. I would cut out the box score (when newspapers still printed those) and spend most of the morning playing the entire game, inning by inning. I wouldn’t come in until it was time for lunch with Grandma and our daily viewing of Alice, which is a show that all 9-year-old boys enjoyed watching in syndication. Maybe it was just me, but I really identified with a single mom who was going through life with blinders on (it’s tough to do) while trying to raise a son. But this isn’t about Alice; this is about the conversation my grandma and I would have almost every day when I came in.
“So Mark (my middle name), did the Braves lose today?”
“No. They won in the 9th inning. Murphy hit a home run.”
“Oh.” She gave me that all-knowing grandmother look. “Do you ever lose out there?”
“No. But I am playing by myself though, so . . .”
“You should lose sometimes. It’ll be good for you.”
“Because you need to see that winning isn’t the only thing.”
“I know, Grandma. There’s losing and I don’t want to do that.”
“Second place isn’t so bad if you know you did your best.”
I remember laughing and thinking that second place is just as bad as last place, and I remember being completely unaware of why my loving grandma wanted me to lose. Was it because I kept digging up her backyard in order to build a pool? Then one day, several months later, she had crocheted me a card. Grandma crocheted a lot. She made flowers, cards, and pillow covers, and she would give them to people that she thought needed them. She even tried to teach me crochet but I never progressed past a crochet rope.
As I type, I’m looking at a card she gave me that day. The card, with its crocheted border, is just two index cards that she put together. It says, in really big handwriting: ‘To my grandson: My favorite 2nd place finisher.” On the inside, she wrote that she would always love me. I kind of got what she was going for but didn’t really pay too much attention to it then. Still didn’t understand what this 2nd place thing was about. I did save the card, though, and I’m glad I did.
Because one day, several years later, a couple weeks after my grandma had died (on my 19th birthday), I was sitting in my dorm room alone. I had just missed out on something that I had really wanted and had worked really hard for. After she died, I had brought a lot of things Grandma had given me to my room, and as I sat there, feeling down, I saw that card. And when I read it again, it was like I was seeing it for the first time. I finally understood what she had been trying to get me to understand all those years ago.
That it’s not about what place you finish in the end. In reality, you have very little control over the outcome of things, and sometimes, no matter what you do, you’re going to come up short. And sometimes, no matter what you do, you’ll come out on top. All that you can really control is how much effort and time you put into whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s a game, a performance, or life. If you know that you gave everything you could, then it really doesn’t matter where you finish.
Even if it is second place.
Here it is. Steven's blog, where his thoughts about things are revealed. Good luck.