The turn that changed me

Have you ever faced a scenario, where you kept failing at something despite trying multiple times? Maybe you were working on a painting and just couldn’t get the face of a person correct. Or maybe you tried your hand at baking, but your cake didn’t get as fluffy as required. You try a second time, a third, fourth and so on but you see little improvement. You sigh and wonder if you can still keep going on. It is, no doubt a good trait to be determined and complete a specific task till the goal has been achieved, but self-doubt can creep in quickly, and you might start to wonder if you are really up for the task or not.

A few days ago, I noticed this very same thing happening to my sister. She has learnt the basics about playing the guitar and she was trying to play a song which she would like to sing for her friend on her birthday. She kept messing up when she reached a certain difficult part of the song. On other attempts, she happened to forget or mispronounce the lyrics. She eventually kept the guitar aside and said out loud that she feels that she just isn’t good enough to play the song perfectly and maybe she should stop trying and do something else.

This reminded me of a very old incident that happened to me years ago. I was about seven years old at that time and I used to attend some after school roller-skating classes. They were usually twice a week and I used to enjoy them. However, I was relatively quiet during the classes. My interaction with everyone was overall very less and I had only one friend, who happened to be a neighbour and we were family friends with them.

The classes were mostly always just practice sessions, but one evening we had a head to head racing contest. Two skaters had to complete for a couple of laps against each other. I felt that I probably wasn’t the fastest or the swiftest roller skater among other kids similar to my age, but nonetheless, I was excited. So the races took place one by one. Every time, the roller skaters managed to get cheers (or boos) from the rest of the batch. Friends hooted out for their other friends, but a few, like me, just observed silently.

It was fun to watch the races happen. It built up a kind of energy inside me that pushed me win my race. Eventually my turn came. I was up against another kid of my age. I didn’t know his name but I had noticed him often. We took our positions and at the blow of the whistle, we shot off. Moving our legs as fast as we could and with all the force that we had, we started skating. The sound of hitting of the wheels against the concrete floor was satisfying. Neither of us was particularly quicker than the other, but I managed to stay in front of him and he was close on my tail.

That’s when I started noticing the surroundings. I started noticing cheers and hoots, but they weren’t for me. My opponent had an elder sister, who was cheering for him, and that girl had other friends, who joined her as well. I started getting distracted by noticing them. Even worse, I started wondering if my single friend would cheer for me too. But he didn’t, in fact, under the influence of the rest of the group, he started cheering for my opponent as well.

I let it break my spirit, although I shouldn’t let it have. I felt myself slow down as well, and my opponent (maybe boosted by the cheers), managed to overtake me and now I was the one who was trailing him. We had completed half of the total laps and now I wanted to be in the lead again. However I felt very discouraged and I felt that I couldn’t do it, even more so since I didn’t have any cheerers. I felt like not trying anymore, and to just let him win. I started to accept that he was better and I was just not good enough. I kept trailing him anyhow. He wasn’t too far ahead of me, but the cheers for him grew louder now.

The race continued and we entered the penultimate lap. I was still trailing him, with a much smaller desire to win. However then something happened. We reached the point of the lap where we needed to take a U-turn, and I was less than two metres from him. Somehow, he lost control and messed up his turn.

But I didn’t.

The opportunity was seized and I was once again in the lead. I stayed in front of him and didn’t let him overtake me. We entered the final round and I was winning. I didn’t care about the cheers anymore neither about my friend who I felt had betrayed me. I felt a newfound strength and I kept pushing as hard as I could. Eventually the finished line was crossed, and I had won.

What happened after that seems irrelevant. It just taught me that no matter what you are trying to do, you are good enough to do it. People’s negative opinions don’t matter. Whether you are supported or discouraged doesn’t matter. You are capable enough to finish what you desired to start. Maybe it just boils down to a simple universal truth that ‘You can do it, no matter how difficult it seems. If you have faith in yourself, you will win on the eleventh time after failing ten times’

Husain Challawala