When I was in junior high we had a very competitive block in basketball. One day we all decided that we would have a two-on-two tournament the next Friday to decide who was truly the best and to crush some over-inflated egos -- not mine, I was sure. People began to talk trash on Monday; all week long you could hear the taunts and the heckling. We dared each other to try this or that, threatened each other with monster stuffs and amazing dunks in the faces of our opponents.
Finally Friday came. The tournament lasted for about three hours, peppered with constant complaints, arguments, and threatened fist fights. To my own disbelief, we lost -- by one point! For the rest of the night I rationalized our loss by creating stories of how they must have cheated, accented by remarks about the character blemishes of their mothers. I just kept saying that we were still the best and it didn't matter that we had lost. By the end of the night no one was speaking to me, not even my partner in the competition. I finally snuck off and went home. All the way, I could feel myself choking on ...
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...core group of about four of us in a sixty person class who were the know-it-all fact gurus. We knew the date of Plessy vs. Ferguson and who founded the UNIA. But when my teacher asked "How does the black dilemma of assimilation vs. accommodation tie in with the Native American experience in the U. S.?" the responding pool narrowed to me. I was able to synergize all of these different historical atoms into one congruent molecule.
The following week, a girl from my class let me borrow two dollars. She said, "You know, I am only doing this because you are one sharp brother!" I felt then that I must be getting better at being confident without being arrogant. The two dollar coke was extremely satisfying; it felt like a victory toast for the man I am learning to become -- one who is confident in his abilities but not arrogant with his character.
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