I knew the card was motivational sap, but I bought it. When I got home with the groceries, my husband found it between the napkins and a box of detergent. “Who’s this for?” “I thought we could send it to Anna,” I continued apologetically, “I wish it used the words success and failure instead, but I was drawn to the idea of persistence.”
“You can send it to her if you want to,” he said with a smile, which meant he wouldn’t sign it. It’s been sitting here on the raised kitchen counter, staring at me for the last two days:
A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.
Putting additional pressure on a kid who’s just started college is absurd. Even though Anna knows we don’t frame success as competition and we don’t expect straight As, this tidy little aphorism reinforces a cultural deception, a delusion that there are two kinds of people in this world and you, too, ladies and gents, girls and boys, can be a winner! It’s about YOU and how hard you’re willing to work.
How American. But, no, it’s not even that inclusive. It’s Caucasian American, as long as you’re not too different (e.g., LGBTQ, disabled, disfigured, disproportionate in height or weight to media standards).
Instead of throwing the card away or striking through 'a winner' and 'a loser' and scribbling in success and failure (which doesn't work on any level), I stare at it and decide there's something still valuable behind the flawed nouns: Trying. To keep on keeping on. The question then becomes, “What’s worth trying for?”