• Lucia Joyce

I'm Done Ranking

2019 Summer was a different time.

There are too many things to love exactly as they are, to get so invested in hierarchies any more. And I know, from experience, that worrying about being the best is the enemy of incremental improvement. Also, I'm just now realizing that there's no such thing as 'objective ranking'. There's just a range of ways we officially judge everyone. (!) How is that helping anything? Why put so much stock into follower stats and view counts rather than the maker or the content itself? Ranking, in my opinion, distracts us from the journey to find our truest personal alignment.

We want to know the "best" resources for our lives: 'best' online guitar teacher, 'best' restaurant near me, 'best' supporting actor in a motion picture or television series, 'best' face and voice of the social justice reform movement, 'best' shortstop of all time.

Really think about this in relation to yourself. What does 'the Best' even mean? Chosen by the Committee That Knows Best? Who would that even be? Our idea of "the Best" is forever subjective. Personal best is the only actual 'best' anyone can truly reach.

Sports are an interesting medium for looking at this, full of calculable 'best' times, 'longest' laps or jumps or throws, 'fastest' physical calculations and 'most miraculous' executions of movement. Still, so much of it is chance. We know this. It's why sports fans can't help being some degree of superstitious. But we cheer, and watch, and buy tickets for so many reasons other than to celebrate winners and boo losers. We like the action and the sounds and the energy of sports fandom. We like that anything could happen. We like to watch trained athletes problem solve and team-orient and bounce back and handle sh*t. The Edmonton Oilers have made the NHL playoffs 3 times in the past 17 years. That's less than an 18% chance of just getting near the winner's circle. Yet always, they remain a prominent source of adrenaline and joy in my home city. As frustrating as they can be in the regular season, there can be no denying the electricity of a hard-fought playoff game in the new downtown arena. And they do so much more than win/lose games. They raise millions of dollars for the local children's hospital and Make A Wish Foundation. They help tons of causes and reinvigorate the local business community by adding players' faces to ads and newscasts. They employ hundreds of people in good jobs with benefits. They weave nostalgia, hard work, and the perpetual dream of the underdog into the hearts of people who need something to cheer for.

I think the actual 'winners' are the people finding creative ways to be happy. There are athletes and artists, architects and agriculturalists who aren't ranked number one in anything, but they love what they do regardless. They love the way their careers and daily lives unfold. They love what they wake up to. How is that not considered an objective win?

There are people at the top of everything who aren't happy at all. They're numb to the beauty of their lives and endlessly focused on being 'the best' to some old societal standard. They place their worthiness on conditions, like money, assets, status, outer validation, human-generated statistics, sex, accomplishments, outer beauty, and failure:success ratios. What is happiness to these types of people? What is the kind of happiness that comes from quiet gratitude in every single moment, to someone concerned only with the moment after next? What about the kind of happiness you can't chase and must, instead, feel around for clumsily in the dark of the Self? What is that worth to someone who only values what is outside of them? Why do you think the power-hungry self-interested douchebags who fill network media coverage seem to downplay that kind of free, accessible happiness at every turn... endlessly redirecting us to buying and achieving more surface level things? Perhaps they can't imagine a day, or even a moment, untethered from the egos they're so wrapped up in. When you perceive every transaction in life as a transfer of wealth/status, you miss the untouchable power and beauty within.

Political campaigns use fancy targeted ads to take advantage of our tendency to rank. They pull out all the bells and whistles to try to make themselves look 'better' and their opponents 'worse'. Meanwhile both sides are lining their pockets with consumer dollars and very few real public issues are being addressed. Give your money and time and attention to people and organizations solving problems that you care about. F**k political ads.

I'm done ranking things. 'Best' has become just another word for 'badass' or 'fly'. I don't care which restaurant was voted #1 on Yelp. The things I look for in a quality restaurant experience are vast and varied. Yelp's #1 picks are chosen, first of all, by people who like to write Yelp reviews. I do not like to write Yelp reviews, or even read them, so what are the odds that I'll agree with Yelp's #1 ranking? Pretty f**king slim. Sorry, Dan's Super Subs, although I'm sure your nearly 1300 decent reviews were hard-earned.

There are beautiful, serendipitous things, people, and events for every moment you're in. Who cares if they were assigned a ranking by someone else? Rankings should be used to get to know the people doing the ranking, not objectively deciding what's best for everyone.

There are colors that are more satisfying to me than others, mostly because of my personal life experiences and associations and unique relationship with my own eyeballs. There are movies I could watch every day, and others I watched once that changed me forever. There are times I have felt like I truly won, and times I felt crushed under the weight of my own failure, neither of them having much to do with trophies or medals or certificates of accomplishment.

Most of life is the time in between losses and wins, moments bubbling over with potential for joy whose outcomes are still progressing. Each day in 2020, I see endless new tracks playing out, full of sh*t I could never have predicted. Instead of taking on the impossible task of arbitrarily ranking it all by comparing myself to everyone else, I'm stopping to find bits of good, in everything. Quirky moments. Awkward, but important lessons. Growing swaths of acceptance. Easier bouts of forgiveness. Moments of trust to build healthy relationships on. Hilariously imperfect bits of joy that I might miss in the painstaking fight to 'win' and 'not lose'. They are rarely exactly what I'm expecting, but they are always worth finding.

Why rank when you could just align with the next good thing?

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