Today I went to have the director of student affairs in my department fill out a form for my Japan study abroad application. I explained why I was there and gave him the form. He then opened up my records on his computer, opened his eyes really wide, and said, "Wow." People usually have those kinds of reactions to really good or really bad things, so I thought there was problem. But no. He completely forgot about my form, asked me what I wanted to do with my degree, handed me a huge packet of info, and then went on for minutes about how I should seriously consider applying for major scholarships/fellowships (think Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, etc.). "With your GPA and your honors experiences, you're definitely competitive."
Of course I was suprised and flattered. In my cold and business-like political sci department, kind words aren't give out often (enough), especially by administrators. So I appreciated his encouragement. But what does that mean, competitive? Why is being competitive such an asset? In America especially, we understand early on in our lives that we are valued by how well we compete, and what results we can procure for ourselves through competition. Competition defines our lives. Now I understand that competition is necessary to keep people on their toes, make them push their limits, and to produce innovation, growth, and "progress" blah blah blah. My problem is, this emphasis on competing makes our lives too much about other people: what they're doing that I'm not, how to beat them, how to stomp them out, what I can do to keep my place above and ahead of them. But where's the enjoyment in that? Where's the life in that?
These are the thoughts that came to me as I walked my "competitive" self home in the rain after (finally) getting my form signed.