“Life is a horse race,” my dad told me when I was eight years old. “You are a horse, and you have to imagine that all the other horses are faster than you. Never think that you are the horse in the lead.” I was confused at the time, but my dad would just add more elaborate layers to the analogy, like rival stadiums and competing horse bidders. The core of it never changed, though: I am a horse in a race, and I must never ever fall behind.

It became my own personal mantra. I should never fall behind, I must never fall behind. I followed this saying for years. For the first couple of years I struggled in many areas as I picked up too many workloads, expecting myself to be the best in all their categories. Only later did I realize that I do not necessarily have to deliberately make myself stressed out and overburdened just to prove my own strength. Eventually, I even made my own fatherly analogy, “There is no need that I should be a pack mule”.

I started taking just as difficult classes, but I took more time and worked at a more methodical pace. My main objective was to take every workload one at a time, holding each at the highest priority as I got to them. This worked well for a while, but as I grew older, and my classes became harder (accompanied by an increasing amount of assignments), my method had to change. Too much grief had already been caused in the process of figuring out that prioritizing everything was not the best idea, so I decided to find a different way to bend to my dad’s analogy.

A transitional stage took place in which I struggled for months to figure out why it took me four to five hours to do homework every night whereas it only took my classmates one, at the most. I had built my body up to be able to stay awake most nights until three to four in the morning, just so that I could make sure to finish my homework and still study for tests. Unfortunately, I received my loss of sleep by falling asleep in my classes the next day. I would go through my school day exhausted and sleepy, my head feeling as though there was a thick, fluffy fog that surrounded all my thought processes.

Lifestyles are hard to change, but I have managed to finally work something out. My character has changed to adapt to a more “moderation is virtue” way of living, and I have found it to be the healthiest existence that I have ever experienced through all my trial-and-error lifestyles. I now know that although my dad had a point, his main objective was to make sure that I take advantage of my opportunities and the potential I was given to succeed at school.

It is only now that I can look back on my dad’s figurative horse race and know that I completely over analyzed it. I do not regret, however, that his words have pushed me onto a path that will lead to my success. Now, I am walking towards a future that would never have been possible otherwise, and I am very thankful for it.

The Race

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son,
and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace,
and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten…
but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try?
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all,
for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place!
You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!”
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit,
and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place,
head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place,
the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face,
another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”


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