Competition and Daryl

I had a friend in high school – let us call him “Daryl.” Daryl was smarter than I, better looking than I, more athletic than I, had girlfriends (I didn’t) etc. And he was my best friend at that time. We did everything together – acted in plays, played in bands, went to parties, got in trouble doing dumb things with cars and eggs – all that stuff.

I looked up to Daryl, I think much the way li’l 5´4˝ John Hall with a 70’s porn mustache must have looked up to 6´1˝ blond god with The Voice Daryl Hall. It’s not an accident my friend from high school has “Daryl” as a pseudonym.

We went off to different colleges – he to an Ivy, me not to an Ivy, and at the end of our freshman year we reconnected back home, and we had an interesting conversation about being depressed. Freshman year isn’t easy, and I mentioned this to Daryl, that I found it hard and was a little depressed at school. Daryl quickly one-upped me: He was more depressed at school than I was. I felt slighted, felt that my depression wasn’t to be poo poo’d, so I upped back a bit: “Yes, but I blah blah blah…” I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I remember what Daryl said: “Oh yeah? Well I was CLINICALLY DIAGNOSED with depression!”

It occurred to me in that moment that we were competing about who was more psychologically disturbed. Yeeks! I let him win: “Ok, dude. You’ve bigger mental problems then me.”

After I said that our friendship fell apart. Much later I realized that as much as I was looking up to Daryl, he was in fact threatened, somehow, by me. Or maybe he was threatened by everyone and I was nothing special. I’ll never know, but that isn’t the point.

The point is this: Do you have a Daryl in your life? A person that has to be right and win, even at things that completely suck? Win at things that really you don’t want to win at? The worst diarrhea on record. The most forgetful person ever. The most depressed.

There are people who put on a negative identity and wear it like a crown. There are people who think the basement apartment is kinda like the penthouse.

Do you have a Daryl in your life, and is that Daryl you?

My students, so many of you procrastinate, as do I. So many of you can’t discipline yourselves, can’t finish assignments, can’t complete things, can’t start things. I’m the same way, and I feel for you. But when I, or someone else, offers you something, like a system to get things done, or a way of approaching a problem or task, or an assignment that offers the potential to move you to action, do you have a Daryl inside of you, whispering in your mind’s ear: “I’ll never be able to do that. You have no idea how bad I am. How lazy I am. How much I procrastinate. I’m so bad I can’t be fixed.”

Do you really want to win that one? Do you really want to be unfixable? Beyond hope? Beyond the energy and persistence of your teacher? Of yourself? And does this negative identity have many coats in your closet? No one will ever love me. I can’t do anything right. Blah blah blah.

You will have to shut Daryl up if it is possible. Or get him out of your life. Or not listen. Or if that all isn’t possible then you must learn to say, “Oh Daryl, I hear what you’re saying because you never shut up, but I chose to do this thing that you don’t think I can do. I chose to press on and go around you or over you or under you or whatever, Daryl, but you’re not stopping me, you asshole.”

Remember, and I am not trying to preach here, but, remember to compete only for things worth winning. Compete at things that help you get more accomplished, that make you long term happier, that improve you as a person, as an artist, as a human. Lose, or better yet, don’t even get involved in stupid contests that require you to go lower to win, especially if you’re lowering yourself. Don’t be the person who comes in first in the skydiving race by taking off the parachute. Don’t be an ass. Don’t be your own Daryl.

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