Thursday, October 4, 2007

Winning, Losing, Playing The Game

I am, in general, mild mannered, even meek. I say this with the hesitation that comes from an awareness that self-awareness is limited, self-deception unceasing, and judgment difficult. But let's assume I'm correct in my self-assessment.

It doesn't really matter: I mention it only to preface the disclosure that I also have a nasty competitive streak. Which, I assume, I share with about 100 percent of the human population.

An example. In the first year of law school you are expected to learn a system of citation called the Bluebook (Sitemeter tells me that 100 percent of our readers already know this -- let's pretend you don't). And my legal writing and research teacher decided to reinforce our knowledge of the Bluebook by playing a game called "Bluebook Jeopardy." Winners to be rewarded with small plastic toys. Losers to be rewarded with small plastic toys.

Without going into too much detail, let's just say that my team was up by two with a couple minutes left and I started strongly urging my teammates to help me run out the clock.

We did win.

This is what I felt afterward:

Triumph. Despite the fact that I knew this was a meaningless exercise, something deep inside some part of me told me this victory said something good about me and my team.

Embarrassment. I had been in law school for maybe a month at that point; I didn't really know those people. And now they all knew that I was the kind of person who would plot to win at Bluebook Jeopardy. I also just kind of thought it was funny -- me there, waving my arms around and yelling at my teammates.

And then another pleasure, distinct from winning. The pleasure of not being mild-mannered, the pleasure of locating, again, a part of my personality that feels foreign to the day-to-day world of compromise and being nice, the pleasure of the contrast. It's not Clark Kent and Superman or anything, but it's nice sometimes to feel foreign to yourself.

1 comment:

Noko Marie said...

This is a pretty funny story, CC -- the arm-waving, cheering, all very funny.

I get this feeling sometimes when I lose my temper and yell at someone -- which I almost never ever do. A couple of years ago a student just pushed my buttons so relentlessly over the course of a term I was going out of my mind. We'd go through some huge process to reschedule something he'd missed, then he'd skip it, stuff like that, always acting like he was being the most reasonable person ever.

Finally in the last week of classes he came to see me and I hollered at him right in the hallway about how inconsiderate he'd been and what a pain dealing with him was.

He said something like, "You know, my other teacher said the same thing." And after that he took another class with me and was totally fine. So something about that was the right thing to do.

Right after the moment of yelling I had that same feeling of wanting to go around saying Hey, check it out, I'm this other person too! I yell at people!