From a Teen’s Perspective: No more lucky socks

by Dylan Lanier on May 8, 2023

The lucky sock — or cap, or necklace, or any other object imbued with the power to alter the future in one’s favor — is a prevalent media trope, most often the property of high school athletes who need to win “the big game.” Many of us in the real world have our own lucky charms. In fact, even astronaut Buzz Aldrin brought his mother’s lucky charm bracelet on his trip to the moon (looks like it worked!)

I am very much a believer in the power of a lucky charm, and I have had many over the years. Whether it’s a special running hat or a favorite pen, my brain loves to attribute success to the mystical powers of inanimate objects. However, I’m giving up lucky charms (not the cereal, of course – that stuff’s the best!)

I always thought that believing in the influence of a fortune-filled item would provide peace in stressful situations and encourage my best performance. And that’s certainly true, to some extent. When I show up to a test unprepared or feel nervous about a big track race, lucky charms allow me to stay calm and believe in myself — after all, I think to myself, nothing can go that wrong with a trusty talisman on my side.

So why am I renouncing them? Well, there’s two sides to every coin, even — well, especially — the lucky ones. Attributing my successes to lucky charms diminishes the confidence I have in my own abilities. With each new item I’ve latched onto, there would inevitably be a time I would forget it, and instead of recognizing that its power was based in my own belief, I would immediately worry that I would fail whatever I was trying to achieve in that moment, regardless of whether I was capable of success on my own.

In this way, lucky charms became traps. They each became just another burdensome source of stress. I would be afraid about misplacing them, about the possibility they would “lose” their magic. Having a lucky charm became my baseline state, and as such my view of fortune became twisted; in my eyes, luck was only a thing you could lose, never gain. Bringing a special pen simply provided neutral, luck-less conditions; forgetting to bring it, well, that was when my luck would change, and only ever for the worse. Success was now only about following these arbitrary rules.

I want to show myself that success is the product of hard work. If you study hard for that final or train to your limits for an important sporting event, it doesn’t matter whether you wear those lucky socks. I want to prove to myself that, to quote the great Dragon Warrior Po in the animated classic Kung Fu Panda, “the secret ingredient is you.”

The truth is, you make your own luck. However you want to spin it, that is an undeniable fact. Maybe tomorrow you’ll find $100 on the ground — that’s lucky, isn’t it! But maybe it’s also lucky that you get to wake up in a comfy bed, or hug your loved ones at breakfast. We discount the ordinary because it’s in our nature to ignore what we have in favor of what we don’t. Ambition is a powerful horse, but too often do we constrain it with blinders. I want to get rid of my lucky charms in order to take off those blinders and practice a higher level of gratitude — one that recognizes how lucky I am to live the life I do and acknowledges the effort I’ve put into my growth and accomplishments.

From a Teen’s Perspective is a weekly column contributed by Menlo-Atherton High School Junior Dylan Lanier, who has lived in Menlo Park since he was two.

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