I am a loser and I am proud.
At school, I was a loser in every sense of the word. I wasn’t cool, I wasn’t confident, I wasn’t (and this is the saving grace of even the most chronically uncool) even very clever.
I have a slight disability in my hips which causes my feet to pivot inwards, meaning that as a young child, I tripped over my own feet. Which was cute for about 2 seconds. And then it was a constant struggle to push my feet out, walking along the pavement my Mum would say, ‘Foot’ and I would have to push my foot out, again and again. And it hurt. Because it didn’t want to go out. Ballet was a nightmare. My feet just wanted to point inwards. It meant I was (and still am) crap at running. Sports Day was the worst day of the year because I was so fucking slow. I was ALWAYS last. Always.
Secondary school was no different. I hated my school. My Mum would despair because I never revised, would have to be more or less tied to a chair and I’d still find an excuse not to do my homework.
But I loved reading. Books had be my only friends growing up and had taken me away from this stupid world of maths lessons, hockey and inward pointing feet. I loved English but my English teachers didn’t like me. I was naughty. And I would not be the kind of person they wanted or think the kind of things they wanted us to think. I was told, ‘you’ll never be a (‘insert school name here’) girl’ and I remember saying, ‘I don’t want to be one! I want to be my own type of girl.’ If a 13 year old said that to me now, I would hug them. I would tell them that they were wiser than me, because, wanting to be yourself is just one step on the longest, hardest battle of your life which is being happy in yourself.
But obviously the small minded, inward looking creatures that my teachers were didn’t get that life is for living. They said I was wrong. I watched them break the spirits of those around me who did not want or just simply could not conform. I now realise that self harm age 12 is NOT normal. At my school, it kind of was.
If you strip people of all the things that make them them, you leave them with a husk.
College was better. University was better still. I could barely believe I was at University, for those long and horrendous 5 years at school I was so convinced I was stupid, even though I was B student easily. Behavioural problems had landed me in low sets. The only person who believed in me vaguely was a music teacher I had in year 8. I think she just liked me, because I have NO musical talent whatsoever. But, Miss. Barringer, if you’re reading this, you have a good heart.
Then things got a bit better – and worse – and better. Depression was and is and always will be a fairly large part of my life. For me, depression felt like being shot. A lot. And you’re losing too much blood to carry on. You’re trying, but you’re slowly going down. Your legs won’t work anymore. They’re folding under you. It’s all crumbling. That’s what depression was like.
Depression felt like losing a lot. When you’re at war with yourself, you lose a lot of battles. And I will have to go into battle to a greater or lesser extent every day of my life. And I lost a lot of battles. More than I liked to admit. Low points weren’t some cliched shit, it was just walking home from uni and wanted to lie down on the floor. In the middle of winter. It was choking on my own words – it was losing the ability to read a book.
But school taught me to lose. Having inward pointing hips taught me to lose. Then in my last year of University right near the end, when life was good, when I thought (stupidly) that I shaken off all that losing and that I was a winner now, I lost 3 things I desperately wanted. One of them mattered. One of them was my someone I loved and will always regret not trying to understand. The other two really did not matter. But I had placed so much importance of these other two things that I thought I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t have them.
And when I lost to someone else, someone I didn’t really like, and someone, who I felt didn’t deserve it (they kind of did though), I behaved really badly. It was in a public forum and people were nice about it. But, it hurt. It really hurt. And I don’t really know why.
Looking back on all the times I have lost, and the ways in which they have gutted me. How they have taken the legs out from underneath me, I realise that winning is nice. Winning is fucking ace. But, it doesn’t teach you a thing.
I poke my wounds a lot. Not pick, poke. I test the places that hurt and see how much they hurt today. It’s my way of checking in with my mental health. The scars left behind are bumpy and jagged but they are a a story. They are a strength. They are a time when you were hurt, when you were beaten, and you did not let that be your story. You said, ‘It does not end like this.’
I poked my wounds today as I do each day in the morning to try and measure how scrambled my mind will be today and I realised that losing that stupid thing at University was no longer even the tiniest prick. In fact, it was the best thing I learnt in 3 years at University. I learnt to lose. I learnt to do it gracefully. And by gracefully, I do not mean don’t let loss hurt you. Let that loss gut you. Let it empty you the fuck out. But I learnt that sitting in that room and clapping someone else’s win and squeezing every fucking muscle in my body to not squeeze out a tear will not kill me. I learnt that I can shake that persons hand and look them in the eye and say well done and maybe I’ll even fucking mean it next time. I learnt that saying goodbye to people you love, is pain beyond all measure, but that pain will lessen.
Losing taught me grace. It taught me to feel. It taught me to grow. It taught me to be stronger. Winning made me part of the stupid games we play, it bigged me up, it stroked my ego but it didn’t teach me anything. Losing at school stopped me being submissive, it made me wise, it made me question authority. And it made me think for myself.
Losing taught me how to win. It taught me not to crow, it taught me dignity.
Most of all, losing taught me to get back up.
Because, in depression, I lost a lot of battles, I took some fairly fatal hits and I will always be the walking wounded (both physically and mentally) but I won the fucking war.
I won the war.
Losing made me strong, it taught me to put the shoes back on, to go back into the ring, to sing the chorus a bit fucking louder actually, and it taught me to believe.
It taught me to not judge those that check out early, because, you can only say you are LUCKY to not have been thrown to the wolves with nothing but the clothes on your back.
Losing taught me to know when to quit.
And it taught me that every time I lose, I grow.
If you’re reading this and you’re still in the middle of a gut wrenchingly awful loss, worse than anything I’ve spoken about, please hang in there. Please hang in there with me. Because, you don’t have to pay for the fireworks, no one can charge you to look at the sky. Because, your wounds will become scar tissue, they will always be there, but they will make you strong. They will give you humility. They will give you grace. Just put the shoes back on, put your favourite song on, and wear a coat, protect yourself a little. Tread carefully in your loss. But let it hurt. Let yourself feel it. Then wrap yourself up, care for yourself like my Mother cared for me and told me ‘Foot’, stick your foot out and carry on anyway.
Because this is what makes you human.
The images I used in this blogpost are from a video I love very much. Please watch it here.
I would also like you to read this beautiful article which inspired me to write about losing.