October 23, 2023
Andrea Doney

Once upon a time, when I was about eight or nine, I had to compete in a compulsory swimming carnival at school. I grew up in South Africa, so for some reason we called these events a ‘swimming gala.' Anyway, the point being that everyone had to compete and in doing so you earned points for your house. 

It will come as no surprise to you that I was never a strong swimmer. Let's face it, I'm no great athlete in any capacity. But I had been going to swimming lessons most of my life and I was confident and competent in the water, albeit more focussed on the Marco Polo type recreational splashing than the competitive kind. Anyway, competition day dawned, and I lined up with my friends and the rest of my school and did my part for my team. And to be fair, I can't remember the details of the day with any great clarity. But what happened next has become something of a family legend and the tale was told with hilarity around the dinner table for a really long time afterwards. 

Apparently, my mum came to pick me up at the end of the day. I was still wet from the pool and as she patted my dry she asked about the day and how the competition had gone. Apparently, I was beaming with pride. "Oh mum," I gasped happily. "I did so well! I only came a little bit last!"

And thirty-five years later, very little has changed. I come 'a little bit last' quite regularly. I come a lot last on several occasions. But I don't think my smile has ever faded. I'm proud of trying hard, I'm proud of having a go and I'm proud of how my best efforts make me feel. I wouldn't have understood the acronym DFL at the age of nine, but it's now a title I hold at several races and a badge I wear with pride. Showing up counts, enjoying yourself counts, trying hard counts and being proud of yourself is priceless.