I have to be first. On the bus, I have to be the first person at the door when my stop comes, the first person out, the first person to the corner crosswalk, the first person across the street. I have to cross the street at the Union Station bus circle before the bus comes so I don't have to wait. I have to be the first person downstairs to the platform and I don't mind if I just miss my train because that means I can be the first person onto my car (the first one) when the next train arrives. It also means the seats are cleared of other riders and I can have first pick of where I'd like to sit - first set of seats, center seat.
I don't have to wonder where this need comes from. When my father was young and a new officer in the Air Force, he participated in the pilot training program. On the day of graduation, he realized he was second in his class and signed up for the navigator training program. In both programs, you get to be on a plane and participate in important government missions, especially being an officer which he was. Also in both programs, whomever graduates first in the class gets first choice of their plane. Second place gets second choice. My father graduated first in his class of navigators.
"Only when you're first do you have all the choices," my father always told me. All my life I have been a chronic second-placer. I intellectually know that second place is really good, especially with how close to first I typically come. But it's still not enough. Our society does not remember second. It does not respect almost as good. First place, big numbers, lots of commas in a bank account, Mensa members, high averages, and diplomas on the walls. The more the merrier. That's what's impressive.
But I am not my society anymore. I, of course, still have a social security number. But I cannot go on getting feelings of adequacy from crossing the street first. I cannot focus on the victories of more. I cannot even focus on second.
I desire to focus on the lack of effort required in the majesty of the world. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Victory can be too. Today I am victorious, not because I won a Nobel Price or even this week's edition of Writing, Writer, Writest, especially since I have not done either of those things. Today I am victorious because I write. Today I am victorious because I give of myself even through fear. Today I am victorious because I am.
Caroline Muniak is.