Cherish that ‘participation’ trophy

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Lucia Rivera

There is value in participating in activities that do not come naturally to you. Sometimes those involvements and commitments help us truly become hard workers.

I sat at my desk and felt a familiar sense of anxiety and frustration fill me. It was the first Quiz Bowl match of my last season; even as a four-year member, I couldn’t shake my nerves. Worst of all, one could say, competitive academic trivia isn’t my thing. I have no natural inclination towards memorizing vast amounts of information or knowledge tidbits. 

Yet, I haven’t genuinely considered quitting. Every season, with every frustration or round of stress, I’m challenging myself and learning in a way that other activities don’t replicate. I’ve been able to find a different value in my commitment to something I’m not inherently great at.

It’s also not often that we naturally enjoy things we don’t excel in, and Quiz Bowl definitely is not the only example of this throughout my life. 

When I was younger, I thought it would be marvelous to master the guitar. Thus, when my parents asked me and my two siblings to pick an instrument to learn, I rallied for the guitar, convincing the deciding vote onto my side.

It wasn’t too long into our practices, however, that I dreaded those afternoon sessions. It hurt my small hands and I had no interest in being able to play the classical songs we were learning. It was safe to say that I had not imagined this when thinking about playing the guitar. I had imagined knowing all the chords to my favorite songs and playing them effortlessly while singing along.

When it didn’t come to me that easily, my motivation drained. Then, when my family moved and the classes stopped, I regarded guitar as a dream left behind. Until this year! 

Sure, we learn hard work from committing to our passions, but we truly apply hard work when we persevere in things that are difficult for us.”

— Lucia Rivera

Now teaching myself, I find YouTube videos and websites that work for me and learn songs that I already know and love. 

It still doesn’t mean I’m great at it, though. My singing voice is mediocre, which is okay as I can’t seem to figure out how to keep my strumming pattern going while singing to the beat. 

It takes an extra sense of commitment to pick up my guitar in the evenings and press forward, reminding myself of the joy I do find in the activity.

And sure enough, I’ve seen subtle improvements over time, with the successes almost more valuable because of the real effort I had to put in. Yes, I’m not progressing at the speed I’d like— in either Quiz Bowl or guitar— but that’s what makes it so valuable. 

Sure, we learn hard work from committing to our passions, but we truly apply hard work when we persevere in things that are difficult for us.

While I sometimes wish I was naturally talented at everything I gave a shot at, I actually think it’s better this way. Each of us around the world gave the things we excel at, and those that we don’t. It helps us appreciate the skills and talent of others while pushing and challenging ourselves. 

There is value in that “Thank you for participating!” at the end of a season or class. We just have to let ourselves be okay with earning it.