Does winning or losing matter?

You must wonder why the image is a pineapple with something in it, while the title seems to have nothing to do with food. This post is about a journey of letting go thanks to this pineapple food.

Beginning of the journey

I have just came back from a Korean speech contest that took place in Cluj Napoca, Romania. At first I was afraid of applying for it, since my Korean language skill is not that strong yet, but I wanted to give myself a chance and try it. Our university was allowed to bring 3 students and if more people applied we had to pre-select the 3 best contestants. 5 people applied so it was supposed to have a pre-round. I wanted to see whether I could get into the chosen 3, but in the end 2 people cancelled, so I was automatically in. The topic was about environmental protection. During the pre-round, I was with 2 other people and to me it was really terrifying experience since I was in my third year, but my Korean knowledge wasn’t at their level. But the teachers supported me and helped me in preparation.

The journey

Then the day came. We went to Cluj Napoca by train. It was a 8-hour trip. Long but I could handle it, since we sat in the first-class and had a separate cabin. When we arrived, we got to the hotel. All our stay and meals for the 3 days were covered. And I was fascinated by the accommodation, as it was 3-star hotel and was really luxurious. We arrived at 4pm and at 6pm we had the opening dinner. They treated us in the restaurant nearby. I only had a salad, but was totally full. Probably because of the travelling too, I was tired. At night I couldn’t sleep and I kept studying my speech, trying to memorize it. The next day came. I was totally fine even until the speech started. I wasn’t afraid when I went up.

“The purpose of our life is to be happy.” – Dalai Lama
3-star hotel in Cluj Napoca

But after the first line I already forgot everything and just tried to improvise something. What I was even more afraid of were the questions after by the jury. The day before at the dinner, I could understand people talking in Korean, but I couldn’t bring myself to say a word. I was really afraid I couldn’t answer their questions. Fortunately I made it somehow. The contest itself took 2 hours, where I only went up and talked for 7 minutes. Then we had lunch, in a fancy restaurant again. I ate seafood pasta. Later we went on city tours. It was snowing, right on that day, nearly the end of March. Still we climbed the hill to see a view of Cluj Napoca.

From the Citadel

Later that day we had a quiz contest. From a lot of people they did a pre-round to reduce it down to 10. I somehow managed to get into the last 10 people and went up to stage, where they asked questions and if you were fast, you got the chance to answer. One of the guy from my school got almost all the answer. After the quiz, came the result. They gave 6 prizes. I knew I didn’t get the chance to win any of it, but I was still hoping for so. And when the first prize came and my name was still not mentioned, I only wondered who got the first one. The other girl from my school got the first prize, with that our university was nominated for the first prize for 3 years in a row.

Disappointment and Enlightenment

I was glad and happy to see her being the first and my other teammate winning the prize for quiz, however, on the other hand I felt like a loser. Suddenly I felt shame and humiliated. I didn’t want to look or meet any of the people over there, I just wanted to disappear and took it like nothing happened. I turned my thought into another way and forced myself to take it as an experience.

The next moment I already found myself in an Indian restaurant for dinner. I ordered king prawn with pineapple curry sauce. I still felt a bit weird and like loser, since all of my teammate had a prize but I had nothing. Of course  there were more people who didn’t get anything and they were fine, at least from the outside. I started to eat and already forgot everything, when I realized how good the food was. It was served in a pineapple. That food deserved a photo.

King prawns with pineapple
Indian food

While eating I suddenly remembered what Panda told me, when I first cooked for him.

“This was very delicious. I didn’t eat a lot, but I got full, in the way I can enjoy it, not like that disgusting full when I eat in the restaurants here.”

That was the feeling what the dish gave me and out of nothing I suddenly said:

“This is a good food!”

My teammate bursted out laughing. And I realized how blessed I was.

I went to another country for 3 days and I didn’t have to pay a penny for it. My travel, my accommodation, my food were all covered. I could order anything I wanted. Not to talk about the next day we also had lunch. The organizer even told us to order for take-away so to have something to eat on the train.

When I arrived home, of course others asked me which place I got in the contest. It was awkward and I felt shame to answer them I didn’t win anything. And their reaction also made me feel more humiliated. But then I questioned myself:

“Why do I have to feel bad?”

Yes, I didn’t win, I might not be as competent as my family members or others. But … 

Does it really matter?

I got something that I could hardly afford. During 3 days I could eat expensive food for free. So after all, shall I feel bad for the contest where I did my best and was seen for 7 minutes, while I had another 72 hours living in luxury?

What does “letting go” mean? 

Before I thought it meant to give up, to not striving for the recognised result. But now I realized it means not to care about how other people see you. I didn’t tell anyone I applied for this contest. I was afraid how my school mate or my family would look at me. I only told some people because I had to, but I didn’t feel good telling them, since I was afraid of failure. And I didn’t want anyone to know that. But the reality is, it’s me who give the meaning to it. It’s me who chose whether it was a failure or a victory.

I remembered what my teacher, who is doing her PhD now, said:

“When I first got to university, I applied for every scholarship, contest I could. Some of them I won, some of them not.”
“I always put myself in the situation where I had to stand out and speak to public to improve my skills and courage.”

Her determination was an encouraging trait to me. To always keep going and trying our best. To not having regret of not taking the chance. Hearing her I also decided to take as much chance and opportunity as I could in my last semester at the university to broaden my limit more and more.

After all, I’m really glad and thankful for what happened to me in the last 7 months. I found a guy who I loved and had a trip together, then we broke up when I had a flight ticket to him. I took this chance to go on solo travel for 2 weeks, visiting West Coast while writing my thesis. I suffered from heartbreak and I met a coach who helped me going through that hard time. I had my teachers supporting me doing this contest. And I had an all-inclusive trip, living in luxury for 3 days. I didn’t win the contest. But I won something much bigger.

A courage to live

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