Hidden Victories

Along one of the many train routes that weave through the nooks and crannies of the city, there was a group of abandoned buildings. It was not so much abandoned, as it was frequently occupied by graffiti artists looking for a place to legally present their work.

As you rode the train, you might get a glimpse of the buildings, for they were easy to spot; like a beam of light during the darkest hours. The neighborhood in which it stood had nothing visibly exciting to offer, but upon laying eyes on this magnificent structure, anyone in their right mind would want to get off the train and take a closer look. It was surrounded by dull colored buildings, yet it managed to remain standing for years, until it suddenly disappeared overnight. The building itself remained standing but the artwork was nowhere to be seen. Large patches of white covered the building like bandages trying to conceal a wound.

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There was no point in getting off the train to see the buildings if there was no graffiti, the same way you wouldn’t go to a museum to look at a blank canvas. I rode the train a few weeks ago, and it was then that I realized that these artists had not just lost their masterpieces, but a battle. The city had a victory, as they were now able to build two apartment complexes that would graze the New York City skyline. At that moment it became apparent that with every loss, there was a benefit. The artists were unable to see the rainbow in the situation, because for them, they were still enduring the wrath of a thunderstorm.

I have lived through many episodes of this sort, yet I failed to realize their significance until I went to a little theater on the outskirts of town. The theater resembled the haunted house of your nightmares, but the soft-spoken acting coaches seemed to think otherwise. “It doesn’t matter that the steps creak or that the sign swings all day long like the hands of grandfather clock. What matters is the magic that happens on the stage,” one of the coaches told me when I questioned him about the theater’s peculiar state. I am no actress and I seem to fail to grasp the “magic” they claim to teach, so I was not at the theater to participate.

I had left my house at the break of dawn to support my friend who wanted to audition for their world-renowned annual play. To begin the audition they had to perform improv, where without any planning, they must become a fictional character of their imagination. I watched from the red plush seats as she and her stage partner climbed up onto the stage and began to act. Their passion was undeniable and their words seemed to flow like a gushing stream without a dam, yet I sat in a pool of utter confusion. I had woken up at an ungodly hour that caused my eyelids to bear the weight of a thousand bricks. As time ticked on, my eyelids became increasingly stronger and my confusion evaporated into thin air.

With nothing pulling me down, I watched my friend, whose confidence had taken a physical form. Even a blind man could see the glow of light that radiated from her body, for it was so overpowering I could not bring myself to blink, in fear that I would miss even a millisecond of her performance. The couple sitting to my right ceased their chatter as my friend, who I was oh-so proud of took center stage, and in a loud booming voice exclaimed, “You may leave through those doors or you may leave through the burning gates of the devil’s lair!” I dug my nails into the armrests, for what could her stage partner possibly say that would even remotely compare? Her partner started to fidget with her hair and her face turned beet red. The confidence she had brought to the stage was dwindling and gravitating towards a magnetic force somewhere far away from the large creaky theater. Suddenly she stuttered and produced a jumble of incomprehensible words. The audience remained quiet as they watched the humiliated girl fall to her knees and sob.

Wailing, she sprinted off the stage and past the sign that swings like the hands of grandfather clock. It was at that very moment when the realization hit me. What had just unfolded before my very eyes had not just been a loss, but a victory. My friend had just advanced to the final round of auditions, so she was champion of her first battle. Losing is inevitable, so ultimately we must remind ourselves that someone out there is going to benefit from our misfortunes. I suppose that if we look at it that way, then losing isn’t all that bad.