Thrilled to be Defeated

Before I got my back problem a couple of years ago, I was big on sports, and very competitive!

I used to be pretty big on arm-wrestling. Throughout primary and secondary school, I was “undefeated champ” of girls – being beaten by some boys but never another girl. I’m not particularly muscly and I was never one of those people obsessed with weights and exercise – I never used weights and exercised because I found sport fun – but I was strong. Still am pretty strong.

Talking with my friend Hannah today before a lesson, she told me about her weekly sessions of martial arts. I’d done a bit of martial arts too, and after telling her a bit about my sports history, Hannah said that she wanted to arm-wrestle me to see who was stronger, but that she was wary because she’d be insulted if she lost. I realised (and told her) that I wouldn’t be insulted if I lost, I’d be impressed.

Time has changed things for me. My injury has changed things for me. And whilst my back problem has been a right pain in many ways, I am grateful that it opened my eyes to some wider things. To building a greater passion in music and in theology. Losing the determined competitiveness I used to have and gaining competitiveness where the winning is no longer the only thing that matters – as long as we all have a good time then sport’s a success.

I’ve noticed some major flaws in sport. I still often long to get back on the basketball courts (I have a ball under my bed that I hold in my hands every once in a while and I remember the sound of the echo as it bounces in a sports hall), but I got to spend more time seeing the world around me. I noticed things I didn’t notice before. So much money gets put into sport. And it’s not right. It’s not right that a footballer can get paid millions of pounds, when so many people in the world have nothing to feed their families with.

Sport is fun. It’s a great piece of entertainment and it’s great for team enjoyment. But not when so much money goes into it whilst there are so many bigger problems that could easily be solved if they spent less. It’s just not right!

I was never big on money and I was always big on sharing. But taking a step back from sport really opened my eyes to the absurdity of it some elements of it. Sport can be really good, I mean hey, I was thinking of doing it at A Level before I got landed with however many hospital visits! But sport should be fun, and it should be beautiful… and by that I mean that sports(wo)men shouldn’t be paid millions of pounds and they shouldn’t start ugly fights!

God I used to think it was so important to win an arm-wrestle. To win a game of basketball. But it really doesn’t matter. Not in the scheme of things. Everyone wants to prove themselves. Everyone has something that they are good at – I watched Chariots of Fire last night and was thrilled when the young Cambridge student, motivated by his passion, won his race. But now, when Manchester United line up to play Manchester City, I don’t debate with friends as to who is better and who will win. I think about why that makes the front covers and the back covers, that is what we pay to see… when our money and our time could be saving the lives of those who have nothing. That, surely, would be far more rewarding than seeing someone get a red card for kicking someone in the shins, or seeing 10 men throw themselves on top of one another.

I used to think it was so important to arm-wrestle. To run fast. To prove myself as a strong person. But I’ve found, through illness and through everything else life has thrown at me, that while I don’t always feel it, I’m strong on the inside. And that’s what counts. That’s what makes a big difference in my life. I’m not that tough-nut I used to try and be before good friends helped me to see that opening up and just being myself not only allows me to feel true happiness, but to help others to feel the same in themselves too. No longer a tough-nut, but rather a big softie with arms open to hug before arm out to wrestle with.

I’ve never been a violent character, but I did a bit of martial arts in the past. It was fun and I never got hurt doing it. But when people do it and get bruises all over them, I can’t understand why they keep going back. People are beautiful, and I kind of want to pull them back and tell them to pick daisies (or something perhaps a little more enjoyable) that they can do whilst being safe! And I can’t understand (and can’t watch) when people box one another. *Shudder*.

Today, I lost my title. My friend Ellie (meeting me and Hannah a few minutes after our chat and feeling bolder than Hannah) beat me at arm-wrestling, and I am now the “undefeated champ” of my gender (through people I’ve met in my life not the world!). We were going for a few minutes, and when she finally got my arm down, I was surprised by her strength, and (happily) surprised by my reaction. A hand-shake and a pat on the back for her, I was impressed not insulted. And I even found that I felt absolutely thrilled. That was one label that hadn’t meant anything to me for a while. And now it’s gone, I feel like that tough-nut label that I used to hide behind, has, finally, completely been erased.


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