This is my sparkle.
For this result, I am pop open the champagne proud. I worked hard this outdoor season and faced some crazy complications from what is beginning to look like a Lyme disease flare up. (At one point after Arizona Cup, I forgot how to shoot my bow—but I will write on that in its own posting one day.) I stuck with shooting even after days spent taking to my bed in tears from the confusing and loss I experienced. I kept traveling to tournaments and competing even though I often feared embarrassment at my weird decline in ability. Then with a lot of practice (And help from some awesome people—looking at you Avram, Rhonda, Joe, Tamara, & Jamie), things turned around. At Outdoor Nationals, I posted my best scores in a qualification round.
At that tournament, I had the pleasure of shooting with someone new to archery, with fewer than six months under her belt. She shared how the quality of shooting around her intimidated her; she didn’t feel like she measured up. But that measure was the problem—not the quality of her shooting. I said to her, hey, don’t judge your sparkle by someone else’s rainbow; set your own goal for the day.
I recently listened to a the Don’t Tell Me the Score podcast, and one of the guests spoke about a EU Football Team that came in second in either the premiere or championship league to great elation. For that team, the second place meant everything. The budget of team above them was many millions more—with the resources they invested, their result was stellar, out of the ball park success—even if to everyone else it was just a second place finish. This anecdote (and I wish I could remember which episode of the podcast it was on, but I was binge listening to them) to me demonstrates the principle of not judging your sparkle by someone else’s rainbow. Because many times, we simply aren’t playing the same game. If the team above you has millions more dollars to spend, or to put it in archery terms, if the person shooting next to you has a decade more experience and the sponsorship support that comes with it, you perhaps aren’t playing the same game yet. And if you aren’t playing the same game, you shouldn’t evaluate your performance by their benchmarks.
This isn’t to say we can’t dream about winning or achieving big things—there is a time and place for setting the bigger picture that will drive us to practice, train, and work hard. But there is also room for being realistic and measuring the short term progress by a yardstick that won’t leave you feeling like you can never accomplish your bigger picture goal. In the heat of specific tournament, it doesn’t serve you to think you are going to out-shoot your typical performance score in practice. Yes, you can have a jump in score—plenty of people do—but being honest with yourself can keep you from dashing your own hopes against the rocks of disappointment and make that jump all the more possible. People berating themselves for falling short rarely summon the power to excel—their energy is spent being negative and paying attention to other people.
Just as we are each playing our own game, we are going to evaluate the results of that game in different ways. I only shared my NRS position. There are women above me and below me, and they will each have their own personal reaction to the ranking. Some will be elated at how far they came or at finally getting a chance on a World Cup team. Others may be reconsidering their role in archery and what they can achieve or even want to achieve—the price they pay for these little numbers. Some may be grappling with a loss of status. Others may be looking to new things in life and what it might mean to leave archery, and its ranking systems, behind. My number 10 is my sparkle moment—someone else’s number 10 could their worst day. For a newbie, that 10 could still be an unattainable glimmer. We will all see it our own way.
We all come to our sport for different reasons, looking for different outcomes. Yes, we all want to win, but that winning can mean different things to each of us.. And I think that is okay—even though I know some people could dismiss this as hippie dippie bullshit. To buy into that worldview though is to fall into the “Silver is the First Place Loser” category—one that only celebrates the pinnacle of achievement and not the steps along the way or the individual differences at work on any field of play. But to me, these differences play a huge part in what makes coming together as a community to share a passion worth it—we all bring our own vantage point to share. And when that happens, it’s winning all around. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
So keep up your sparkle and admire those rainbows without comparison. Let them guide you were you want to go instead of being stop signs that hold you back.