Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What happens when it's not in your control?

Last night was... well, you'll find out. My youngest sister is a senior in high school, and on the drill team. For people outside of Utah, I don't think that means quite the same thing as it does here. I don't really know for sure. All I DO know is that in Utah the drill competitions, especially region and state, are as competitive and tense as how I imagine football is in Texas.

Last night was my sister's regional competition. There were dads there who had shaved their heads and painted them orange for their daughter's team colors (not from our team, thankfully -- I mean seriously, this is dance, NOT football). People were in line waiting for the doors to open hours and hours before they would. In the snow. (I was not one of them. My mom and sister were there an hour early and we were still squished on the upper left side of the center bleachers. Craziness.)

All seven teams had to perform three dances (for anyone in the "know," they did military, dance, and kick). Out of the seven teams, four were being sent to State, but only one could be Regional Champions.

The first set of dances was military. My sister's team by far and away did the best routine out there. Zero mistakes, flawless timing and lines, they nailed their headstands (in Utah, to be competitive in military dance, you have to have your whole team do simultaneous headstands, preferably with splits and all sorts of crazy stuff going on the air with your legs, all in the exact same timing.). We had parents around us from other teams saying our dance was the best one. Every other team had mistakes, girls fell out of headstands, and one team only had four girls do headstands at all. To keep this shorter, let's just say the next two sets of dances were a little bit more evenly competed, it was harder to say who should win (though there were some definite teams who made big mistakes and obviously shouldn't). There was also one team whose coach was fighting with the line judge for twenty minutes because they received a penalty for delay of competition. Emotions were running high.

After handing out personal awards (my sister got an All Regional Drill award), and doing the drill down, it was finally time to hand out the team awards. First in military. All of the teams sat together in circles on the floor of the gym, holding hands, heads bowed. All of us in the bleachers were filled with anxiety for our respective girls/teams. Fourth place for Military goes to... a team who had quite a few mistakes, we were all pretty surprised. But, okay. Good for them. Third place goes to... the team who dressed like a Russian Army (complete with boots, instead of dance shoes, which by the way, totally scuffed up their floor) and only four girls did headstands?! Ooookaay, this is making us a bit nervous. Second place goes to a very good team who deserved it, but did have one big mistake. So, that leaves us, the team with the penalties and a mistake, a team that had one big mistake, and a team that messed up quite a bit. Everyone holds their breath as the announcer pauses. First place in Military goes to... the team with the penalties and one or two mistakes. WHAT THE?!?!?! You can see our team physically deflate. My sister's shoulders crumble down, and her head drops to her hands. But then they stand up and clap for the winners. We are in absolute shock. The parents from other teams around us look at us, their eyes wide with disbelief. Not only did we not win when we were the only team without a single mistake and the hardest combination of headstands, and lines, etc... we didn't even place.

As the next two sets of results are read out, girls on the team start to cry, their shoulders shaking with hurt, disbelief, anger, defeat. Our team, who clearly deserved to at least finish second or third overall, didn't place in anything. Teams with huge mistakes, with penalties, with easier routines and strange flashy costumes, place ahead of them in everything. In fact, the team with the penalty takes first place overall--they become Regional Champions. Our team claps for the winners, even as tears streak their faces.

Walking down to my sobbing sister last night was awful. She should not have been crying. She should have been celebrating, they should have won--or at least placed. Before we left that night, we had parents from two different teams tell us as much. One was even from one of the teams who made it to state. We are happy for the teams who made it, they all worked hard and did their best, I'm sure. However, it is just unbelievably that we didn't even place. No matter how flawlessly our girls danced, no matter how perfect and amazing they were, it wasn't up to them. In the end, a set of judges got to make the call and no matter how unbelievable it was, that was the decision they made. We will probably never know what happened last night to cause the results to end up how they did.

So how do you deal with that? What happens when you do everything physically possible to be the best you can be, to dance perfectly--to submit an amazing book--and the people with the power to give you first place--or that book deal, or to offer to represent you--don't? There are many things we can control, to become the best we can, or to make our books the best they can be. But ultimately, it's not in our control. An agent has to decide to give us a chance. An editor has to decide to buy our book. And no matter how good that book might be, sometimes it just doesn't work. Sometimes for no understandable reason, they say no.

For my sister, she can't go back and try again. But she can know that she and her team did their absolute best. They were the true winners in the hearts of many, and in the end, they can know they were perfect whether the judges gave them credit for it or not.

But for us writers, we can keep trying again and again. Sometimes all we can do is to keep going. Keep writing, keep believing, keep trying. Someday, with some book, with the right timing and the right person, it WILL happen. I have to believe that, and so do you. It's the only way to make it when the control is out of your hands. I've been there when I was querying for an agent, and I'm there again now on submission.

But to my beautiful little sister, I want to say this: I love you, Laur. I know this hurts right now, and you're upset and angry, but I also know you will emerge from this stronger and even more wonderful than you already are. You did your best, your team did their best, you left it all out there on the floor, and you girls were amazing.

18 comments:

Theresa @ Fade Into Fantasy said...

My heart goes out to your sister! We have 5 boys who all play sports and I know how maddening it can be when the officials don't seem to make the right judgement. Hopefully, your sister knows in her heart that she did her very best and can move on from this without losing faith in all competitions.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm so sorry to hear that about your sister. I'm glad she has you and her family to support her and hope that she'll get another opportunity for her talents to be recognized. Mostly, I just hope she doesn't hurt for too long.

salarsenッ said...

You are a writer after my own heart. Such pose. As far as your sister, yup that stinks. Worse than stinks. It doesn't make sense.

What I did, back then, and what I tell my kids now is to step back and take a look at the perimeter, the outer lining. What lesson can I learn? Taking something from these experiences gives them value and adds to who we are as people.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

How very sad. It reminds me of the summer olympics, you know the ones, where the Chinese won, but clearly shouldn't have. We all blamed the fact of homecourt advantage and bribed judges. In the case of your sister, poor girl, there is nothing to do but, as you say, know that you did your best. What I believe and what I tell myself, is that it wasn't meant to be and perhaps I wasn't meant to 'get published' or do something else because something better or just more important was around the bend that maybe wouldn't have happened if the first occured. I'm sure your sister will go on to do great things. She has, at least, proven she is willing to do the work for something she loves. But how great that they still clapped for the other teams through their tears.

Give them my best!

Elle Strauss said...

Life is not always fair that for sure, but you are an awesome sister and your sister is way ahead of most just because of that!

Rachel Searles said...

Ugh, that's terrible! I guess you can say the girls learned an early lesson about life and fairness, but still...that just sucks. I'm sorry for your sister and her teammates.

Great analogy to the publishing process. You can work your tail off to create the best thing possible, but still so much depends on timing, luck, circumstances. Good luck on your submissions!

From: Nema's Scribe said...

drill sucks. I think they need to change things- a sport cannot be a sport unless it can be judged in a subjective way. Everyone hits the turn- get points. Everyone hits the headstand- get points. the team with the most cumulative points at the end gets the trophy. And there should be the option for judicial review with instant replay. it's not a real sport unless it is non-biased.

Robin said...

Life isn't fair. It stinks, but there it is. We can either stay angry or move on. They're old enough to handle it, even though it can be really hard. Time will heal the hurt and my bet is that very good things will come from this. And I speak from personal experience.

Nicole Zoltack said...

You can only do your best and hope that everything else will fall in line. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. But never lose hope or give up. That's letting them win.

R.S.J. said...

What a hard situation. But like you said, they know they did their best and have so much to be proud of. BTW, I'd never heard or seen anything like drill when I moved to Utah. It can get intense!

Jennie Bailey said...

Oh Sara, that sucks. I'm not good with injustice at all in any form. I totally get the drill team competitions. I was in drill and cheerleading. We had a big name so we won almost every time, and a lot of times we didn't entirely deserve it. Name alone. Those victories were hollow. None of us felt good about them. The team bus was always quiet on the way home when we knew we hadn't come close to our best even with the trophy. My junior and senior year there was a new team that emerged - a smaller school but man were they GOOD! We would shake in our shoes just watching them. It was obvious how many hours of practice they put in. Again and again, they were denied. Not even placing when they were above the rest of us. It wasn't fair and I felt for them. I was told several times my senior year "if you think they're so much better, why don't you just move there and join them?" (ah, high school) It's so frustrating the way things work. But we have to keep on keeping on. Keep moving forward. Know that we gave it our all no matter what everyone else thinks because at the end of the day, we only come home with us. We want to put our best out there - whether it's drill team or book writing!

DL Hammons said...

I'm really sorry for your sister! Life can suck sometimes and gives us pause, wondering why we even bother. Your tie-in with the publication process was very appropriate. It's hard to swallow when the only thing standing between you and a book contract could be that someone had a headache the day they read your manuscript. :)

Colene Murphy said...

Awe what a bunch of horse pucky!!! I have felt that pain (color guard days) and all we ever could figure out that time was there was some internal politics going on with the judging and it wouldn't have mattered if that team that won and mooned the crowd, they would have placed. Not fair, but OBVIOUSLY (in your sisters case) not anything they could have done. Doesn't make it right, doesn't make it much easier but at least they can be proud in themselves for doing so darn well! (great writing tie in too btw!)

Carolyn V. said...

I'm so sorry. Your poor sister. And you're right, sometimes life isn't fair. Give your sister a hug for me. I hope she will feel better soon. <3

Regina said...

I hate what they went through because that is just plain...well with those judges all I can say is you just can't fix stupid. I'm glad she has a sister and supportive family to be there for her.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Sometimes there are no explanation--not ones that will makes sense to us anyway. Some defeats make no sense at all. But you're right. You have two options. You can quit, or you can roll over the beating and just keep going. Takes serious strength, but if you believed in yourself enough to try in the first place, there's gotta be something inside that will help you move forward. So sorry for your sister. Things like this are never easy. It's a tough lesson learned really early. But I hope she finds a way to just roll with the punches and find some peace in the knowledge of how amazing they were even without the validation of a trophy. In the end, a trophy like this is just the opinion of a few people--not a symbol of how they did.

ali said...

Aw, I'm so, so sorry! I hate it when that happens. And it happens to my son on his karate demo team ALL THE TIME. This last competition his team was by far the best, even parents from other teams agreed (sitting near me), but they still didn't win. I got really upset. Which is funny because normally I don't, I just let it slide, and it's my hubby who's growling and almost can't stand to watch our team lose AGAIN. But then we talked it out. And kind of came to the same conclusion as you.

You just never know what other people are going to do with what you give them. All you can do is give your very gosh darn best. Period.

Sucks. But that's how it is.

And I bet I know where you guys were! At West Jordan High!? We had to drive through the traffic there to get to karate last night and I wondered what the heck was going on! Saw the sign said drill team comp, but I didn't realize it was such a BIG one. Makes sense tho, with all the cars.

And ((hugs)) to your sis. Congrats to her for doing such an awesome job! That's a competition that would be fun to watch, I bet!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

yes you just have to keep going!