I wrestled competitively for five years. I quit after my freshman year of high school, picked up the guitar, and began writing songs.
Before and during a wrestling match, I'd create a great pressure over myself. I'd never meet my expectations, even when I won, and the release I felt after the match had ended would often break me into tears. Which was endlessly embarrassing for a teenager.
I later realized that the pressure was created by my eliminating all distractions but the opponent. And then I'd still have to center my energy toward him in order to invade him, inflict pain, and force submission.
This is the reason I didn't enjoy competing. But I still loved practice for another reason -- pushing myself beyond exhaustion. The temperature of the wrestling room was always set above 110 degrees (to facilitate weight loss) and would only increase when 20 to 30 men sparred and trained throughout a 2 hour practice. After wind sprints and sparring, after 50 takedowns and 50 escapes, 200 push-ups and 200 crunches, my body was rubber; but I felt euphoric as the sweat pooled beneath me -- knowing that I'd given my all.
Competition was too much for me and I finally quit. The pressure disappeared after I quit wrestling and started writing songs. I thought it was because I had traded conflict for harmony, but instead, it was because I'd finally eliminated the last distraction, the opponent. Now I was alone with the conflict.
I was ecstatic to discover that the energy needed to pierce through the dissonance, to gain the clarity necessary to write creatively, required greater endurance, training, and dedication than wrestling practice. My favorite aspect of competitive sport had returned, heightened.
Without an opponent, I could never win. But after the coffee cups and the grief, after the red eyes and sleepless nights, after the cramped hands and disheveled hair, after the broken soul, after my mind turned into rubber and the pages gathered around my feet, I would again feel euphoric when I made something true on paper.