When pride is absent.

I’m the worst dancer you’ll ever meet. When I dance, it looks like my limbs are flailing.

My parents introduced me to a lot of activities as a kid — which I’m incredibly thankful for. I played sports, took art classes, and did dance. I’ll bet you didn’t know that when I was about four or five years old, for however brief a time, I was a ballerina. And let me tell you something: it was terrible.

I distinctly remember my ballet teacher’s name was Miss Sugar. I don’t think I knew what the word “bitch” was at the time, but looking back, that’s what I thought of her. She favored the other little girls. She always singled them out and gave them trophies (for reasons that I honestly don’t remember). I was ignored and I hated dance so much. Now I realize this post has two points, but we’ll get there. I only remember one dance recital where I had to dress up like a bunny and wear this RIDICULOUS white feather boa around my neck. I abhor feather boas. It’s not a texture I enjoy. I won’t touch them. I threw a temper tantrum over the feather boa and I’m not sorry about it. I think it was after that when my mom decided it was high time to take me out of dance. I wasn’t getting any awards and clearly wasn’t having any fun.

The fact that I sucked at ballet was probably only half of it.

My art classes, on the other hand, were something I looked forward to and talked about every day. I had this pair of overalls where the whole right pant leg was covered in paint. When I was eight, I painted that dog portrait and my parents entered it in the art contest at the LA County Fair. It got first place and best of show. Which, to an eight year old, is a pretty big deal. I was never any kind of prodigy and I’ll admit that I’ve seen better from younger (hey at least it really does look like a puppy). But I’m pretty proud of that painting, it’s still on display 17 years later in my parent’s house — ribbon and all.

Back track a little bit to sports. When I got to high school, I heard a rumor that if you participated in a team sport you didn’t have to take PE. I decided to jump at that course of action. So what sport to people who suck at sports take up in high school? Swimming.

I enjoyed swimming. By my senior year I was fast enough to make varsity and not come in last place for my events. I wasn’t the star of the team. I was the hairstylist and braided all the girls hair so it didn’t get ripped out by their swim caps. I never achieved the required times that would warrant me receiving a varsity letter. If I’m being totally honest with you, by my senior year I wanted to quit swim altogether so I could focus on yearbook and choir and have a social life. But my dad insisted that I should stay on the team.

These are facts.

My senior swim banquet, all of the seniors were called to the stage and were handed a letter. We were thanked for all we did for the team. Then the girl who was mere milliseconds away from CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) didn’t receive one. I was rightfully upset and ridden with guilt over receiving something I flat out didn’t deserve. My dad got mad at me for it, but I tried really hard to give away that letter.

I have absolutely zero issue with the fact that I never received recognition or praise for an activity where I was a mediocre participant. I take a lot more pride in admitting that I sucked at ballet than when people see the shadowbox my mom made with my letters from high school. (I got one for choir, too. But I actually wanted that one and I was VP of all the choirs so…yeah damn right I got a letter.)

My first point is that you can’t be good at everything. The people who are good at everything were probably definitely sent here by aliens to make us all feel inadequate. The other point is that I will never understand why we award mediocrity. If you ask me, pride is absent in participation trophies. I take no pride in that swim letter.

I’ll always be proud of my determination to give that letter to the girl who actually deserved it.

I can admit it shouldn’t have gone to me. It’s time we stop giving each other the false idea that the bare minimum is worth celebrating.


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