“The Winner’s Curse/Crime” Tour: “What’s Your Winner’s Curse?” @mackidsbooks @marierutkoski #thewinnerscurse #thewinnerscrime

WinnersCurse-BlogTourOh man, guys, I dropped the ball on this one big time (real life intervened with a serious family health emergency this past weekend, and this post was supposed to go up Sunday!), but here’s my tour stop on the “Winner’s Crime” blog tour!

The prompt is: “The ‘Winner’s Curse’ is an economics term that means you’ve gotten what you wanted – but at too high a price.  What would you pay too much for?

My winner’s curse and price? I suppose I’ve already paid it.

I was hellbent in high school on getting into a good school, and going abroad to study in Japan for my major. The price? My health. My health started to decline in my junior year in high school – I’d been pushing and rarely had a break since summer 1999. I thought it was just stress, so I tried to slow down after I knew what schools I’d gotten into in senior year.

16069030Alas, that wasn’t the case. Things continued to get worse, bit by bit. Again, I thought it was stress – having to adjust to a whole new city/environment/school/people is bad for a neurotypical person, but if you’re autistic? It’s probably the first or third circle of hell. I had to learn words in a foreign language for my condition which still carry a stigma in that culture, and I had to remember them, which even today I still need to look up when needed. Thankfully, I don’t need to look them up as much anymore.

I finally got what I wanted in 2005, when I studied at ICU in Tokyo. But my health continued to worsen, to the point where I had to go to a doctor with one of the UC Center gals (who I still thank to this day for looking after me – had they not been there, I probably would have ended up hospitalized and going home six months early), get an ultrasound, and navigate that entire nasty bit of business where I wasn’t entirely savvy on that speciality’s jargon. I literally had to go over what the words were to use, and how to describe my symptoms. It wasn’t just one illness slowing me down – PCOS, depression, anxiety, Asperger’s syndrome, fibromyalgia – so I had to sit down and figure out what was going on, and what was making me vulnerable on any given day.

It got so bad I had to fly home spring break, go to a PCOS specialist and get a six hour glucose tolerance test (amongst other things) done. If you’ve never had one of those, be thankful you haven’t. It’s not fun.

20443207I was also grieving for the loss of my grandfather, who died a month and a half after I started on my overseas journey. I wasn’t even able to make it to his funeral, held three days after his death – the turn-around time was too quick, and my courseload was heavy as hell. My mother encouraged me to stay and study. The good part? I knew he was dying before I left, and I was able to say goodbye before leaving. A few years later, while still getting better, my mother revealed that my grandfather had wanted me to stay in Tokyo for the duration of the funeral, because he wanted me to succeed, and to remember him as he was.

But I got better enough to finish out the year, and I’m glad I did. It cost me a good chunk of my social life, my GPA, and my health, and that’s my winner’s curse. It cost me so many things – but now I’m fluent in a language most people back away from, I have a double/international BA, and I take on translating/interpretation when the opportunity comes up. It also made me reevaluate my priorities, and recalibrate my expectations for myself and my life. The start of the Great Recession didn’t exactly help (coinciding with my graduation and its quiet start in 2007), but it gave me time to heal, and time to really think about what I wanted to do with my life.

I have my answers now. And I have paid my price. But learning has always been my winner’s curse, and it probably will continue to be my entire life long. At least now, I know what the cost is, and can sensibly evaluate whether it’s worth it. I plan to re-take the JLPT this year for the fourth time. Here’s hoping I pass.


The first two books of “The Winner’s Trilogy” are out now – my review for “The Winner’s Crime” is going to be up soon, so you can read my take on that. Definitely check them both out, as they’re apart of my top picks for 2014 and 2015 respectively. You can get them now from Macmillan Children’s in North America, so don’t miss out!

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