Been meaning to let folks know for a while that I didn’t get the job in NYC, so I’m defaulting back to the plan of spending a long time in Nuevo this December and maybe tackling the NYC non-profiteering gigs in earnest in January. Of course, there’s a major question whether I want to put down the kind of roots that taking such a job in January would require. The same trade-offs that existed with this job, I guess, or that exist with most anything. At the very least, I got incredibly encouraging feedback from the place where I interviewed, apparently missing the opportunity only because they had an internal applicant. Like everything lately, I have to believe it’s for the ultimate best.
Something that requires no such mincing or parsing is the recent performance of the Rutgers debate team. As always, you can check the blog, but I will tell you that we won our second tournament of the year, making the third final round of the year, and are now ranked 3rd in both TOTY and COTY, behind only Yale and Harvard in both rankings. Suffice it to say that this well exceeds not only my expectations for the team’s performance this year, but my wildest hopes. Had you told me that Dave & Kyle would win back-to-back tournaments, or win 11 straight rounds, or go to three straight final rounds, I would have been speechless. Having watched them execute these things, I’m not much less so. Not because it’s surprising they’re so good – they’ve worked their tails off and become phenomenal debaters – but because it’s remarkable for any debater to experience that kind of consistent success. I’ve had to remind them to savor this and not get caught up in the trajectory or always waiting for the next tourney. Some truly special things are happening right now and I’m elated to be a part of it.
The thing about winning and losing, be it debate rounds or job opportunities or most anything else that can be assigned a W or L (or a Y or N), is that they depend on other people. Recognizing their merit is part and parcel with ceding control over one’s life, in small measure at least, to outside individuals. Now much of this is a reflection of the innate realities of the control that others wield and the time-honored idea of the cacophony of wills, the explanation for how chaotic the world feels despite being a collection of truly ordered rational agents. None of us really have that much control over our lives. If a college doesn’t let us in, we can’t go there anyway, and every possible outcome of life stemming from that possible road is foreclosed. Same goes for an employment application process, or a qualifying victory, or having someone in one’s life. Indeed, very little can depend on oneself alone. One’s attitude, perhaps, to an extent. One’s choices about what one tries to pursue, whether or not the outcomes come to fruition. One’s use of time when spent alone, or with those who’ve already chosen to be accepting.
And yet perhaps it’s blurring the lines between winning and losing that is the secret to feeling satisfied with one’s path, no matter how hemmed in said trail may be by the acts of others. Surely no one can be quite as happy about losing as winning, but the realization that losing can be a form of winning something else, the refunding of potential opportunity cost to be applied to other endeavors, the blanking of a check so it may be reallocated, this can be quite the consolation. And it’s with this perspective that I try to see losses now, at least at this moment. And as long as I can get myself to a place where I’m pleased with my expenditures of time and energy and hope, then it doesn’t matter what other roads put up a Do Not Enter sign.
For now, I’m in that place, a place where I can galvanize my efforts toward something larger than myself. It’s the Rutgers debate team. Last year, I probably could have used this philosophy about losing a lot more. Right now, I don’t seem to need it much for them. But as long as it’s bookmarked in the back of my mind, it’s going to be hard to get too broken down about the future.
Especially when I’ll have weeks to prepare luminarias without folding a single bag outside of New Mexico.