I am, by nature, a competitive person.
This is not some thing I like about myself. I don’t like that I compare myself often and want the upper hand. I don’t like that sister-type rivalry feeling I’ve had with girlfriends growing up. I don’t like that I inevitably run faster and burn more calories if there is someone on the treadmill next to me, or that I motivate myself in my boot camp class by watching the other girl who’s my age. Sometimes I choose not to play boardgames or card games because I don’t like how I feel so intense about winning, even if I’ve never played the game before (or just really suck at it). But these are pretty normal ways to be competitive: at the gym, in the workplace, playing games, etc. I never played sports as a kid (except, ahem, cheerleading) to funnel this competitive spirit, so it rises up in unexpected ways sometimes.
For example, today I stumbled across this blog. It’s all about three twenty-something girls who took off on a fabulous, year-long, around-the-world trip. I read about their adventures, then found myself clicking links to other travel blogs and webzines and reading even more wanderers’ crazy stories. Suddenly, the list of 14 foreign countries I’ve visited seemed embarrassingly short. I found myself thinking cynically as I read some of their accounts, “What, you think you’re the only person who’s floated in the Dead Sea?” All of those hot prickly feelings began to travel up my spine and get me in win-at-all-costs mode.
Yuck. I don’t like this part of myself. Why can’t I just go on my merry way, traveling for the sake of traveling without letting any pride get in the way; pride that I’m somehow more cultured or sophisticated or tolerant or glamorous or adventurous or whatever because I’ve stepped off American soil a few times. Why can’t I be excited for people who have seen more of the world than I have? And don’t get me wrong…I usually am. I usually soak up their stories eagerly, and I get excited for friends who begin exploring the world for the first time. I actually encourage people to do it.
Maybe I read this blog on a bad day. But I don’t want to be self-centered, jealous, and prideful like that. This isn’t a cheerleading competition, calling for cattiness and comparison…I want to celebrate other people’s travels and their eye-opening, horizon-expanding experiences, just as I want others to celebrate mine.