On Valentine’s Day last week, myself and my flatmates decided to ignore the social expectations and have a wholesome night in, not with our respective other halves, but with each other. (Side note, this is much easier when you don’t have an other half). It was delightful. We ordered some food, we had some wine, and I even baked a heart-shaped cake. All in all, pretty damn wholesome if I do say so myself.
After dinner we sojourned to the table, where glasses were refilled, belts were loosened, and lips smacked. Content. Being single had never been so pleasant.
But the night was by no means over. Rather than retiring to our box room to fester in front of some mindless Netflix, we cracked open a board game from our ever-increasing collection. After much rule-checking and the occasional pee break, we had our winner. It wasn’t me. In fact, I had done so poorly that I had somehow managed to end up with fewer points than when I started.
No matter. This was our first time and we were all still finding our feet. Winning had involved as much luck as skill, and the sting of loss had been duly numbed by the overall enjoyment of the game itself.
Fast forward a few days and we once again found ourselves craving that rush, that kick, of adrenaline that only a truly enthralling board game could give us. And so we returned to our latest toy, excited to put what we had learnt into practice. This time, I thought, this time would be different. Like a phoenix I would rise to snatch victory, glory, and all the other things that come with vanquishing my flatmates.
Same shit, different day. Despite an early lead, I had fallen at the last hurdle as the others sauntered on by. I should have been annoyed that I’d thrown it all away. That I’d come so close only to be so cruelly denied. But I wasn’t. Like the last time I was totally fine with having lost.
Now this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. As a kid, and even well into more recent years, I have been a bad loser. That is not to say that I call winners cheats, or break things, but I do get very annoyed with myself when I don’t win. Jimmy Connors once said that he hates losing more than he loves winning, and I totally understand that. Winning is fun. Losing is not. It’s failing.
My family refused to play Monopoly with me for years because of my reputation for accepting anything other than a Charles victory, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I would sulk, I would moan, and I would a rather unpleasant little shit for everyone to be around.
It’s why this revelation is such a, well, revelation for me. I obviously don’t go out with the intention of losing, and am still very competitive whenever playing a game, but the ability to be a bit more mellow and let the little things go is a welcome relief.
After all these years, like a fine cheese, I am maturing. I am by no means perfect or anywhere close to being a fully-fledged adult capable of composure in all situations, but these little changes carry great weight with someone who is rarely happy with themselves. They are a reminder that faults can be corrected, that you can better yourself, and that how start does not have to be how you end.
Growing up is difficult, scary, and sometimes seemingly impossible, but maybe we should give ourselves more credit for the little steps we make, and not the jumps we don’t.
Image: Johan Larsson