If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, the quality that helps you to go on in spite of all.
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hope for the hopeful
I would not trade this piece of paper for a billion dollars. Not even a billion and one dollars. A trillion, maybe, but not a billion.
My siblings and I grew up playing various board games. Eventually, Scrabble became one of my favorites. It took me years to become good enough to win against my father. Many, many years. It was one of those gentle yet repetitive lessons that was more about doing rather than being told what to do. Back then I thought I was just improving my vocabulary. In retrospect, I realize I learned more about strategy, persistence, and to resist being impulsive.
Any time he and I challenged each other, we always took on the challenge. If I ever refused a game, I do not think it was often. Even though I knew I might lose, I always hoped I might win. That hope bridged the gap between losing and winning. There were several close games over the years, but he was always the victor. The day I finally won, I kept the score paper and added the date. Although 1999 would become a critical year, my sole win was a personal milestone. I do not think I was a sore winner, but I know I was beaming with pride at least for that day.
I reflect on myself now and why I am the way I am as I knock on the door of 40 years young. I am overly optimistic. I consider the challenges I have faced both in the past and present. I have endured seemingly insurmountable struggles, including financial, mental, and physical. One of my go-to strategies when I am faced with hardship is to ask myself some of the basics:
Is it a matter of life or death?
Do I have food, shelter, and life’s necessities for my fur kids and myself?
Have I faced this situation before in a similar way? If so, what was the outcome?
When I frame my problems with reason, I realize something wonderful: I have a 100% success rate. Things may not always turn out perfect or how I intended, but overall they do turn out the way I need them to.
As I look at the score paper, I think about that game with my dad. For the first time, I am seeing the progression of the tally he kept since it is in his handwriting. In simply looking at the numbers, I envision the thought process of 17 year old Kim. Much of my logic then still works the same now, at least when I am faced with a challenge.
My first move yielded me less than half of his score. This was common and never a reason to panic. It was just the beginning. He dominated much of the start and I was playing catch-up. The adage “slow and steady” comes to mind. I was in college, approaching my first degree and growing in knowledge. (I will admit the Scrabble dictionary always helped!) I recall one of my freshman instructors correcting some of my writing. I made some novice mistakes, using too many phrases instead of thinking through what I intended to say. I needed to learn to convey a topic and let the idea flow seamlessly. I still have much to learn.
Use strategy. Resist impulse.
In Scrabble, it is easy to find a word. It is easy to place a word. However, to place a word that is going to garner the most points, that is the goal.
Find your spot. Make it count.
I began to close the gap. Halfway through, I tied his score. In two more moves I netted a 7 letter, 110-point word that gave me the lead that I would maintain for the rest of the game. Oh if only I remembered what the word was! If smart phones were around then I am certain I would have taken a pic of the finished game. I have to laugh again at the final score of the second game.
Listen and learn.
As I gained wisdom from experience, I learned to watch more. Where would he place his tiles, and why? Even outside the game, I became more aware. When I would observe those who are more knowledgeable with a certain skill, I learn from that expertise. I mimic. I grow. I grow…from losing. From making mistakes. From being plain terrible.
Then there was chess, a totally different story. I knew how the pieces moved. I began to try and develop strategy. I could never beat him at chess. But I never conceded. If he was still around and I kept practicing, I would probably be just good enough now to maybe win. Maybe.
Hope for the hopeful.
Several months later it was time to graduate. I did not want to walk the stage, so I did not. I was only half way through to my B.A. in Marketing. I set up my classes in such a way to earn my A.B.A at the two-year mark and keep going.
Right before that though, my dad was also approaching his degree. He took C.A.D. and photography classes. He ensured he set up his classes so that just before I graduated, he graduated! I laugh now in happy reflection when he told me he had to make sure he earned his degree before me. I was not allowed to beat him twice in one year.
Remember the basics.
When I look at the goals I have now and anticipate future challenges, I think back on simple lessons my parents, teachers, and other elders taught me. I admit I am a chronic, anxiety-fueled over-thinker. But this thing called life does not get to pass me by. I have needed to step out of my head and step into my reality. More so than stepping into it, I need to mold and sculpt it the way it was meant for me. Strange how sometimes the way back is actually the way forward. I no longer get to live in the past. I get to live in the present and plan and hope for the future.
Rise to the occasion.
There is one last thing that I am hopeful for. Around three months ago one of my favorite quartz crystal earrings came up missing. I hope the cats borrowed it and it will turn up somewhere around the house eventually. I hope.
Thank you so much for reading. Keep it groovy!