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It seems sometimes that my whole life is just one big competition. I can remember all the way back to nursery school and my first best friend. Her family had more money than mine and she always had better toys. She had a sister to play with too, while I was an only child. She had a bigger room, she had nicer clothes, and always got better gifts on her birthday, at least it seemed so to me. The jealousy I felt towards her made me miserable. I tried to make up for it by bossing her around when we played, like at least I had more power over her if nothing else.

But it didn't work because soon we started real school. She went to a private hot shot school on the other side of town, while I attended the tiny public elementary school. She was smarter than me. She was learning German numbers and some French words too. It seemed like my finger-painting could not even compare. She always seemed to bring home perfect report cards and always got gifts for it. At that age the most important thing in the world was to have a best friend to play with and I was always so jealous that I let it ruin our friendship.

But I was young and had plenty of time to move on, so I made friends with a girl down the street. At first it was cool because I was in second grade and she was only in first, which gave me something over her. But competition still flourished. First it was My Little Pony; who had more, which were prettier, how many new ones, etc. Every time one of us bought one, the other bought two. Television was also an issue. She had cable, and even more important, MTV, and I didn't. She had two dogs, I had one. She had long hair, I had short, etc.

This friendship lasted for many years and as we got older, competition began for better grades, cooler lockers, more party invitations, and who had more clothes. Looking back on it, I think about how I let competition play such a big role in my childhood and it makes me wonder why I didn't let things go and play like a free, happy, normal kid.

Adolescence. Just thinking of the word makes me cringe, and I am sure I am not the only one. Once we hit puberty, things got fierce. The first hint of what was to come was in eighth grade-the day I got my period. My best friend didn't have it yet. I was so happy, I called all my friends, told them about my cramps, and basically tried to give off the idea that I was cooler because I was menstruating.

Soon after that came cheerleading tryouts. It was my second time trying out, while my best friend was a year behind me and already was a captain. I had no sense of rhythm and I didn't like the way the uniform fit. I was more quiet and had less spunk, while my friend was a creative dancer and very outgoing. I made the team, but I always felt inferior from the rest of the team.

When high school started boys became a serious issue My two best friends were outgoing and beautiful and always had boys chasing them. I was always the third wheel on their dates, and I felt like the ugly duckling when I was with them. When I actually did have a momentary boyfriend I made it into so much more than it really was, just to get some admiration from my girlfriends, but It always ended up in a fight and I would lose the boy. I am sure this was a common problem among teenage girls, but worrying about boys consumed a large amount of my time. High school in general was all about competition in itself. Whether it be sports, grades, cars, clothes, or boys. Competition consumed our daily lives even without us recognizing it.

Toward the end of high school the college application process began. This was much more of a serious issue compared to previous issues. It did however bring back sports, activities, money, and grades. It seemed like everyone was talking about what schools were better and which were for "the losers." Which school had a better football team or a bigger library was important. It was like the school you chose would be a representation of yourself.

Acceptance letters were even worse. Who got accepted to which school was constantly gossiped about. People in my classes, whom I thought were smarter than me, didn't get accepted to schools where I had been accepted. I felt that sometimes we were so concerned in perfecting our image by going to a cool college, that we didn't consider the education we would be getting.

Of course competition followed me to college: Who had the best roommate, the bigger room, easier classes, even how much you could drink without getting sick. Boy issues still existed, but a little less harsh. I have started to anticipate what it will be like when I enter the work force and hope that competition will not bring me down.

Competition is an issue for everyone and society forces us to feel like we are on a different level than our peers. In today's world it seems to be imperative for a woman to be smart and beautiful. Magazines show thin women in tight clothes and makeup companies compete to have the best ad. Since the beginning of television, household product commercials had a war of their own. Which woman uses the best bathroom cleaner gives off the impression that they take care of their house the best. Without viewers even realizing it, the media was forcing us to compete with product sales. In addition, television programs showed "perfect moms" and even more "perfect families" that made us want to be like them, and had an influence on our daily lives.

There is also competition for self-identification. People compete to be more mature, more beautiful, more successful, and who can be a better person overall. This competition is not always negative, because it can give the incentive to work harder and do a better job in the process. Therefore, competition is healthy if not taken to an extreme. Everyone of all ages deals with it, probably without even realizing it, but it is important to always be fair and keep jealousy under control.
February 17, 1998

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