Dear Allison,

I need tips to stop being such a sore loser.

Sour Samantha

Dear and Gentle Samantha,

I want to be honest with you, Samantha, because you are me. I needed to hear the answer to this question, and so I let my inner-Samantha ask it. Dear Reader, you are my heart, and I will always be straightforward with you- most intimate public: I lost a hearing last week, and the judge gave my client an unexpectedly harsh, but unfortunately legal, sentence. I am grieving and furious, and I am struggling to move on.

The feeling is terrible, because my pride is stung that I so misread the situation and went into the hearing confident that I would be able to convince the judge to see things my way. And then she did not. The ache inside me is only made worse by the fact that I know I wasn’t the one who went to prison. How can I care that my pride is hurt when someone else is suffering so much more than I am because of my failure? This man trusted me. He barely knew me, but he put the next years of his life in my hands because he had to. Because he was poor and stuck and frightened and powerless in the cage the State had put him in and I was the only one who showed up to help.

This is the fire that mocks the sun: the shame and anger and embarrassment and sorrow that are burning in me because of this. The judge’s words fell out of her mouth like something thick and strange and unreal, and her demeanor was so casual that at first I didn’t understand. It took me a minute to even put together what happened because her style was so flippant and it so mismatched the meaning of the actual words she was saying. Like someone announcing, “The cancer has spread to your brain” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”

They teach you in law school to say “Thank you, Your Honor” after all rulings. F|STAR||STAR|k that. I will not. When the ruling is unjust and adverse, I will not stand there like a slack-jawed fool begging for another slap in the face. I respect the bench, the office, the court, but I don’t have to simper and fawn and respect the institutionalized biases and social control mechanisms that caused that person sitting on that bench to make that ruling.

I can go on and on all day about every aspect of what happened, but I won’t bore you with my heartache. The truth is I don’t know how to be a graceful loser when these things are at risk. We play for high stakes, you and I, Samantha. If it were only selfish, stupid pride on the line I would tell you to work to conquer ego, comfort yourself with thoughts of things that are bigger than you. But that’s not what we lose. Our losses are years of a person’s life, and I don’t know how we take that well.

I pictured the prosecutor going out that night to celebrate the win. I pictured the prosecutor raising a drink and telling friends about the surprisingly long sentence and cheering. I walked into the bathroom and I cried, my fingernails digging into my palms as I balled my fists in futile rage. I talked to my client’s anxious sister in another state. Over the phone, I told her what happened as she wept and prayed. I told her I was so angry, and so sorry. I pictured my client, lead back to his cell, dropping his head into his hands as he sat down. I thought about the judge, who probably will never think of my client and his life again, and barely thought of him during the hearing.

I don’t think I can ever be a good sport when this is the game. I think the best I can do is keep getting back up each day. I will make that choice today, to stay and fight. Wish me luck.

Love Always,