I remember the first time I had the opportunity to win a gold medal in a judo competition. It was my first year in the sport and after a series of heartbreaking losses, I finally had my moment. As I was preparing for the match, I asked myself, “can I really do this? Can I really defeat this girl?” I had my doubts even before I stepped on the mats.
To ease my worry, I reminded myself that even if I lose, I still get a silver medal. I still get to be on that podium and I have something to celebrate for. “I can live with that,” I convinced myself.
Lo and behold, I lost the match—and yes I cried. Not because I lost, but because I knew, deep down, I already accepted defeat before the match started. A massive feeling of regret loomed over me. I worked my way up to the finals only to back down because I was afraid of wanting something so much and have it slipped through my fingers. I didn’t fight for it. I could’ve gotten the gold, but I settled for silver instead.
I didn’t believe in my own strength. I didn’t see myself as someone who can win the gold.
After that day, I vowed to always keep my eyes on the prize and that no matter what happens, I will not let my fears and doubts get the best of me. I will give it my all so even if I lose, I’ll have no regrets. And that’s what I did for the rest of my judo career.
I wonder what happened to that high driven girl. It’s been four years since my last judo competition. Somehow, somewhere, I lost that mentality.
See, one of the harsh lessons I learned outside the safe walls of my university is that, you can’t get what you want all the time because you worked hard for it. True, there are inspiring stories and people that overcome the trials of life because of their determination. It all starts there, right? Work hard for it and don’t stop.
But there are many variables that you have to account for—and you can’t control all of them; people’s perception for one thing. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how many times you go at it over and over again, you can’t just win. And it’s hard to admit, but sometimes hard work is not enough. I tried again and again, and again and again, I failed. Miserably.
“Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard.” I kept telling myself this throughout my judo career because I didn’t have the talent. The athlete that I am is all because of passion and hard work. Somehow, this mentality is failing me now.
So I started questioning myself. What am I doing wrong? Am I not enough? Is my best not enough? Have I peaked back in college and it’s just all downhill from there? Will I ever be good enough to be employed in a good company? Will I ever be good enough for my dreams?
Right now I am chasing a dream. I dropped everything because I don’t want to give a half-ass effort. I wanted this so badly that I want to dedicate every moment of every day into making this happen. Again, I know I don’t have the talent or the resources, so I am depending on the one thing I am good at; my fucking determination.
Just like my first gold medal match, I started questioning myself. There are nights, like tonight, I wake up in the middle of the night from a panic attack.
I AM SO FUCKING SCARED.
I can feel the cold hands of fear all over my body and I shudder at its touch. I fight for my breath as I try to save myself from the drowning feeling of uncertainty.
The future is so hazy, and I feel lost in a maze, taking all the wrong turns.
Perhaps I am making another wrong turn.
There’s a voice in my head asking if I am good enough for this? What if I fail to get this dream? What if I am not good enough for this? What if I do get it and then I realize, it’s not what I really wanted? What if I sacrificed everything and it’s all for naught? What if I’m leaving behind my true happiness because I am a selfish person who thinks she can get something better in this life? What if I am just an ungrateful person who is never satisfied?
What if all of this was a mistake?
Whenever you have to take a big leap, whenever you know that a lot is at risk and you’re chasing after your heart’s desire, doubts and fears will always be part of that. I don’t face my demon, I carry it with me. And I think it all boils down to whether you will give in to that fear or have the strength to carry it with you and believe more in your strength. I don’t face my demon, I carry it with me.
Yes, there are times when I will fall, and carrying this fear will weigh me down. But here’s the thing, I forgot I wasn’t alone. The future might be unclear, but I am not treading down this road alone. I have a family who will always be there for me and a group of friends who are not afraid to tell me the things I need to hear.
I don’t know if I am making the right choice. I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, next month, let alone next year. Maybe, just like in competition, I should focus on one match at a time. I don’t know what will be the outcome. Maybe that’s why we need to believe in our strength and hard work.
And if I fail again, I can say that I didn’t settle for silver. I went for the gold, and I gave it my very damn best and more.