When I was 7 years old, I quit the local Lower Merion Aquatic Club mini swimming team, the Mighty Mites, simply because it was difficult, and it became a running family joke.
My mom would sing, “Mighty Mite drop out, no mini meet for you,” to the tune of “Beauty School Dropout” from the musical Grease. It was all in good fun, but when I heard that tune, I felt my blood boil as I was reminded again and again of my failure.
I learned early on that when something gets difficult, giving up isn’t always the answer. This childhood memory has motivated me to never quit without a good reason ever again, but my will to persevere was tested throughout my four years at Temple University.
Coming from a family of athletes, I was raised to be competitive. This innate drive brought me to Temple with a spot on the field hockey roster.
As my college journey comes to an end, I’ve realized how my competitive nature has served as both an asset and detriment to myself, and I’ve ultimately learned to embrace it.
When I arrived at Temple in the summer of 2019, I had no idea the physical and mental trials I would face on the field, in the classroom and beyond.
I was quiet, nervous and naive, but full of aspirations. Adjusting to collegiate athletics was no easy feat; the workouts were hard, playing on astroturf was a completely different game, the academics were arduous and I struggled to form strong connections as an introvert.
Ironically, during my freshman year, a billboard across the street from Howarth Field, where my team practiced, read something along the lines of “It’s Time to Quit.” It was likely a public health announcement intended for a different audience, but I interpreted it very differently. I recall gasping for air amid a grueling sprint workout and staring up at the looming sign, I questioned everything.
There were many times throughout the past four years I felt compelled to quit the things I loved.
When I wasn’t getting many minutes on the hockey field, I wanted to quit the sport I adored. When I became overwhelmed in classes, I wanted to quit trying so hard in the courses I enjoyed. When I questioned my sense of belonging, I wanted to quit the student organizations I was thrilled to join.
My competitive nature was working against me. Quitting would allow me to regain a sense of control and to avoid the pains of failing. When my hard work didn’t result in desired outcomes, impulsive thoughts like “Why try?” and self-loathing weighed me down.
However, it was also my competitive nature that ultimately pulled me up. For most of my college experience and life, I wished I could just turn off my intense will to win. I wished I would care less about getting an “A,” how fast I could run or even winning a board game with friends, but I knew there was no switch I could flip.
I often tried to conceal this part of myself, worrying I’d be unlikeable. In many social settings, from playing games with friends to discussing grades with classmates, I put on a mask feigning nonchalance. At Temple, with time, I learned to instead embrace this side of me to persevere.
Whenever I performed poorly at practice or received difficult feedback, I’d show up the next day ready to work. When I was lost in class, I set up meetings with professors. When I was given leadership opportunities at student organizations, I took them.
Above all, I didn’t quit. No matter the circumstances these past four years brought me, I kept fighting forward. I’ve accepted my nature, and now I have an appreciation for my will to compete, rather than just my result.
As graduation swiftly approaches, I’m proud of all I’ve been able to achieve and all the people I’ve met along the way. I now look forward to taking my ambitious disposition with me into the work world. I’ll take on my next steps with a self-awareness that my nature can be wounding, but ultimately I know I can handle it.
On May 11, when I receive my public relations and communication and social influence degree, there will be no jokes about quitting. I will simply celebrate this victory.
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