I have always been told I am competitive. For a while I denied it. I only wanted to be the best I possibly could. I couldn’t understand how other people had anything to do with my goals.

Then I spent the entirety of my adolescence — save for a brief nine months immediately preceding menarche — feeling utterly and completely alone.

Yesterday I realized that that loneliness was my competitiveness lacking an appropriate outlet. Or at least a great part of it was.

You see, very few people in the world know what it’s like to dedicate themselves wholly and single mindedly to a task. Many people think they know.

For example Thunder thinks he knows what it means to be truly great as a cyclist. He thinks it means abusing himself, denying himself, making every practice session gut wrenchingly difficult so that he can feel like he is doing everything he can to be great. Many Japanese men share a similar attitude. But true greatness requires attention to every detail. You cannot neglect your emotional health because you want to be an athlete any more than you can neglect your physical health because you want to be a genius.

To a certain extent, the single-minded head bashing approach to training will work. It will take the young and inexperienced well into the ranks of mediocre or slightly advanced. However, to break through to the highest echelons of human performance one must become intimate with the entirety of their existence: mind, body, heart, and environment. Every one of these must work in harmony if you want to know the true limits of your ability and not just fizzle out somewhere in the middle of the path.

After spending time with a true champion, I now understand that my inability to connect with the people around me, even the “active” and the “sporty” people is perhaps a direct result of the fact that I want to be truly great while most people are content to just be pretty good. It’s not to say that I am better than others. I still have a long way to go and there are countless unknowns on the path in front of me that could derail my plans, but I know where I want to go and that is to the edge. My loneliness it seems is because I keep surrounding myself with people who are better than me by chance — because they were lucky enough to be born male, or because they were trained from a younger age — but not people who are traveling the same path to greatness that I am traveling.

It is thanks to my dearest rival that I understand the difference between a champion and an amateur. It was she who taught me that the competition isn’t even about winning, but about discovering how you can take that next step on the path to discovering your own potential.

No wonder I have been so lonely all these years. I have confused chance and circumstance with drive and intention for almost my whole life. I am truly excited now to see what the world looks like when I can share it with people who are traveling the same path with me.

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