Last week I suffered a rather crushing personal and professional defeat. Everyone knew I was the most qualified for the job, the most dedicated, and the most likely to win (though there were some odds that did end up overcoming me).
I knew there was a chance I would not get what I wanted. Someone else might be awarded the very thing I spent months working for and they, comparatively, spent days on. I kept that nugget in the back of my mind, but I didn't dwell. There is nothing to be gained from worrying. Acknowledge challenges, but do not surrender to them.
The morning of my defeat, I did not know it would be that way. I rose early, like super early at 5 AM, both anxious and relieved, knowing the end was near, and I was prepared to win my way to defeat. I walked to the gym as I normally do, and it was so early the sun had yet to greet the sky. I wondered if I'd even see the sun that day. Clouds cloaked dawn, or what might be dawn, because everything was dismal blue-gray. But then as I walked down Hanover Avenue, crossing Lombardy, the clouds seemed to shatter. I thought this was it, dawn was over, but it lasted only so briefly that before I even knew it, the sky burned pink, greater and more awe-filling than a picture can record, and I felt a spiritual connection. I don't care if you believe in God. This was God. This was Mufasa in the sky. But then it ended. It collapsed and blew away so fast that it felt like a removed fantasy seconds later.
I managed to snap a photo (I always manage to snap a photo because I'm a millennial with an Instagram), which I've posted here. I attempted to record what God told me, or rather what He or She or It showed me. And the message was hope. Have hope. What will be will be.
You will win.
Now I am not the superstitious sort. I have only experienced one other time in my life where I believe I spoke to God, and that means I discerned a message, not I heard a voice. But in this moment, on a Wednesday at 5:55 AM, I saw a message.
I no longer felt worried. I even told my friends, We're going to win. I'm going to win. The sky told me. I'm not crazy.
But I already told you, I lost. It wasn't a crushing loss. I lost by mere inches. You would think that makes the defeat worse. And maybe it does. But again, there is no point in dwelling. If I had known there were inches between us, could I have gone a foot? Heck, I would've gone a yard.
But I didn't know. And what happened, happened.
(The funny thing about this whole essay is I am not talking about the 2016 elections, but yes, I see the parallels. And yes, I am the Hillary in the story. The sure victor who loses despite all qualifications, all bets, and all hope.)
For the last week, friends and advisers have expressed their regret and sympathies. I have grown accustomed to saying thank you and then trying to say I'm not that upset, I'm not upset even, it always could have happened this way, I always knew that, I'm disappointed, but I look forward to continuing to work toward the success of the thing I built, the thing I deserved (did I deserve it?), the thing I lost.
I've always felt awkward accepting congratulations for things I have won, but it may be even more awkward to accept defeat graciously. Because when you are gracious, you fear that others are thinking, Surely, he isn't this gracious. Surely, he's bitter. And it is awkward holding your head up, saying you aren't affected, when you are affected, but you aren't as affected as they think, and so you're going to make sure they know that.
But if I'm not bitter, I’m also not gracious.
I would label myself confused.
Because I keep thinking of the sky. Of the hope. Thinking I could and would win.
A few months ago, I made what I thought was a profound quote: "A storm is only poetic after you survive it." I had just come through a tribulation with some coworkers where I thought we would also lose, but in this case we couldn't lose, the stakes were much higher. And we didn't lose. We prevailed.
In the darkest hour, I remember standing at my bathroom sink brushing my teeth, contemplating the imminent cloud over us, and realizing we were a boat on the high seas, a squall ahead and above, but we would survive. We just had to make it through the storm. And we did.
That's how I thought this latest trial would go: I would sail the sea, I would be beaten by a storm, but by God, I would prevail. I mean, look, even God told me so.
But I didn't. I lost. My boat sank. Maybe not fast, but it did not make it to shore as fast as the other boat.
But the storm was poetic. I thought of the clouds. Had I misconstrued them? Maybe God or Nature hadn't spoken to me?
Life isn't fair. I've long known this. But what are you going to do about it? There is God, or so I believe in one, but that doesn't mean karma happens or the scales are even or, in this case, I should have won. Because I didn't win.
But I survived. Didn't I? I am still here. I went through the storm. I did not drown.
The clouds told me to have hope, and maybe this is what they meant. They told me I'd win. And maybe I have won.
Today a close friend told me she respected how I was handling everything. "I know it must be rough," she said. "This is your baby. But you're handling it well. I respect that."
"Thank you," I said.
And then she went on: Maybe it wasn't meant to be. Maybe this wasn't the right opportunity for me. Perhaps there were other obstacles ahead and this defeat prevented a larger defeat I knew nothing about. This could be what was meant to be.
What will be will be.
That’s what the clouds meant.
You will win.
And I have won. I survived. Life goes on. I’ve achieved a different victory: surviving.