I was ten years old when I went to this poetry reciting contest at the encouragement of my schoolteacher, where I was awarded the fourth place. I cried all the way home: no-one could convince me that it wasn’t a failure.
Ever since, I had a certain aversion to competitions. I did take part in a few, mostly in academic ones (the national contest for high school students and the like), was successful in some of them and less so in others. I avoided non-academc ones for fear of failing again.
I was 18 when I signed up to a dance contest as a soloist. I played finger cymbals (ever heard about the “Let’s Screw Ourselves” Movement?), I had a costume malfunction, and a jury who was not inclined to appreciate my style, to put it nicely.
It took me more than ten years to go to a dance contest again. Since last summer, I went to five different contests, the last one being at the Cairo by Night festival last weekend. And finally, I learnt how to compete. Of course, I’ve always known, in a rational way, that a contest is a means to learn, an opportunity to meet fellow dancers, a chance to get feedback from the masters and from the members of the audience – dancers and non-dancers alike. That it is a way to expose myself and be seen, with all the advantages and challenges of being seen. But now, finally, I internalised it. Finally, I can truly enjoy watching fellow contestants. Finally, I can truly appreciate all the feedback I get, even if some of the critique I get still hurts. Finally, I can heartily congratulate the both winners and the ones I like the best (and I’ll admit sometimes they are not the same, though this last time they were).
Finally, I learnt the meaning of friendly competition.