Recently in AP Lang, we had a creative writing assignment inspired by a piece by Zitkala-Sa titled “Why I am a Pagan”. I chose to write about why I am so hard on myself and here is that piece. Enjoy.
Heavy breathing. Sweat dripping. Mind racing. There was no way I’m going to pull off this match. Two hours pass under the glaring sun and I’m still out on the battlefield. My back burns as the heat stabs into it. My feet burn as I dash madly from sideline to sideline in a frantic attempt to keep myself from raising that white flag. My heart burns as I watch the championship match against my nemesis go up in flames. No matter how many serves I sent penetrating the enemy’s walls or how many shots I fired evening the playing field it wasn’t enough. It never seems to be enough.
My last play haunts my mind as I walk up to the net. “You just had to miss it in the net didn’t you Ana? I can’t believe you just let that happen. It’s not like that doesn’t happen at least six or seven times in a match. You’ve been working on that! Get a grip!” My opponent and I may have ceased fire on the court but that ceasefire hasn’t reached the strident voice nagging me in my head. I hold back my frustration and overwhelming feeling of crying as we shake hands and head off the court to our families.
I knew my family would be proud of me. They always are. They’ll see that I worked hard out on the court. Or did I? Was I good enough out there?
As I fasten my seatbelt in the car, a single tear rolls down my cheek. And then a second. And then a third. And then a flash flood rumbles down the hill. It seems like no matter how hard I push myself out there, I’m trapped swimming just below the surface of the ocean. I’m left to wander and explore the vastness of the watery depths. I’m breathless. It seems like no matter hard I work on the court, I’m doomed to endure the harsh conditions of a summitless mountain. Progress may be made but sometimes it feels like I’m headed nowhere. I see the same old trees on that horrendous mountain and every time I have to cross that river or climb over that boulder, I might vomit out of disgust. “We’re here again?! I thought we were over this already?”
I look out the window from the backseat of the car and watch as the cars, trees, and houses go by. As my dad navigates through Colorado Springs, my mom turns to me.
“Ana, you know not to be so hard on yourself. This is silly behavior. You are stronger than this. You made it to the championship, for goodness sake! Be proud of yourself for that! And who cares about some Jessica-messica Do not let that get to you, okay?”
My mom may be right. I shouldn’t let someone with poor sportsmanship like that get to me. I shouldn’t be my own worst enemy. I shouldn’t hate myself so much for losing a match in the championship of a tournament, but I have to.
Hating on myself and kicking myself in the butt for making mistakes motivates me to be better. Losing sucks, I’ll admit it, but it allows me to learn from my mistakes. I may never reach the summit of that awful mountain and I may never get to breathe the fresh, salty air by sticking my head above the water, but I’ll be able to learn from my experiences. Being critical of myself allows me to give flight to the strong, beautiful butterflies that were once weak and struggling caterpillars in my life. To some, being hard on yourself is detrimental. It’s pointless. It’s silly behavior. I don’t see it that way. I see it as an opportunity to educate myself and improve who I am. There is no limit to improvement and I am endlessly willing to become better in all I do. If this is self-improvement and growth, then forevermore, at least, I am a self-critic.