October 1, 2023


Deciding what to post from the archives tonight, I came across a list of accolades earned between 2006 and 2010. They meant something to me at some point, but now they’re entirely meaningless—infinitesimal blips on the timeline of my life. It’s easy to brush them off because adults will puff kids up for anything—it’s positive reinforcement. But it got me wondering if the pride in all things earned fades with time, no matter the effort or exclusivity of the achievement.

Perhaps it’s best not to rest on your laurels. But what’s the appropriate window of time in which to bask in your own glory? I suppose it scales with the nature of the accomplishment. Running your first half marathon is not the same as winning a Pulitzer. Surely there are analyses on emotions felt after winning the highest awards in one’s field. I’d be interested to know the decay of the probable positive emotions. Unless those who win such awards are so far advanced in their fields that the acknowledgment of their influence and contribution is simply an expected byproduct of what’s already been done, published, and put out into the world. Besides, the folks who earn such things are very likely not striving for any particular form of acknowledgement… the work should be rooted in pure passion. Or maybe not.

What are you striving for? Or if not striving, what would be a welcome and pleasant response to your toils? And would it matter in the end? Is validation necessary for motivation to create and a requisite for mental health—a justification that what one is doing is right, or on the right track? To what end should someone work? Does legacy matter, or is it a line item to be eroded by the sands of time? Maybe a stacked resume on a cleanly-designed site is just plain cool. It sparks jealously within niche groups. Or briefly perks the attention of some small gang of people who find themselves mindlessly perusing the lives of others through curated presentations. What are people with fancy, cherry-picked histories like over lunch? Would you want to earnestly lunch with them again?

Who would you want to have lunch with, if it could be anyone? I know there are some I’d never want to meet personally for fear of breaking down the facade of their fiction. Because sometimes the real world is disappointing. Like these now-laughable tick-boxes of a prime student…

2006 to 2007

  • Lancaster Elks Lodge #134 1st Place Poetry Contest Winner
  • AAA School Safety Patrol Award
  • Superior Achievement in Mathematics
  • Good Character Team Award

2007 to 2008

  • Academic Excellence in English
  • Academic Excellence in Social Studies
  • Excellence in Reading
  • Outstanding Achievement in Science
  • Student Council Service Award
  • Lancaster County Office of Aging Essay Contest Winner

2008 to 2009

  • 1st Honor Roll (All 3 Trimesters)
  • Outstanding Social Studies Award
  • 1st Place MTMS Poetry Award
  • Nominated to National Junior Leaders Conference
  • Student of the Month (October)

2009 to 2010

  • 8th Grade Class President (Student Council Award)
  • Excellence in Social Studies Award
  • Excellence in English
  • Overall Academic Excellence Award
  • 1st Honor Roll (All 4 Marking Periods)
  • Middle School Songfest Participation Award
  • MTMA Music Award
  • Student of the Month (December)

Most of these were earned by doing the bare necessity asked of any student—basically, do your work and give one fourth of a shit about it. Not sure these line items were worth the relative stress of bushwhacking through the tedium of grade school worksheets and blandly-structured essay briefs. Though, to be completely honest, I’m not sure my current work briefs are any more developed (that is a joke… grounded in truth, as they often are).

I’ve bored you by this point. You want to know something? Estrogen has made my skin extraordinarily soft. So soft that some twenty minutes ago, I cut my own thigh with my recently-trimmed left thumbnail. An insignificant amount of blood came out. Now I understand why the women I’ve been close to have by and large accumulated mysterious bruises (don’t read into this).

I feel strong in my delicacy. And maybe that’s just it—fragility is strength. The susceptibility to damage is what gives us the impetus to break boundaries because we’re accustomed to alteration. In the case of my mildly-sliced upper knee, I am reminded that I am at the mercy of my environment, and that sensitivity gives me permission to integrate with the world around me. Whereas as a man, I was shielded by a literal thicker skin and was somewhat ignorant to any effect my actions, both intentional and not, would have on my body, and thus my being. In other words, I’d not had the same integrated channel of feedback I have now and could not experiment with living with the same gleeful abandon I can now. Or maybe I’m just finally happy to be me. And have heightened senses to boot.

Awards? Fuck em. They’re vehicles for envy and gatekeep creativity and marginalized voices. Or maybe don’t fuck em. Little ego boosts can be fantastic distractions if you buy into them, especially if your compassion game is strong and you alight from the achievements of those you admire.

There are endless articles about how job titles have lost all meaning. There are too many awards out there. There’s so much of everything, really… it’s an enthralling bore. And the highest honors are all antiquated anyway. One might posture: How else should people organize themselves and assign meaning?” Personally, I like where we’re headed with decentralization, whatever that means. There’s something there—even if it’s only good on paper, like some might say about, I don’t know, communism (ooh, such a spicy word) (I don’t have well-developed thoughts on that topic and would rather not explore it further at this time).

This all potentially loops back around to the concept of pride and how self-appreciation might motivate one to continue to do what may not result in logical compensation but fundamentally necessary self-expression. When you feel good about what you do, you do it more. Feel good, do good. And that’s why I’m here with you today, on this page. The only thing I’m getting out of it is another line in my Archive, and that makes me feel accomplished. I earn my own award for most posts on my website every time a new post appears. And yes, Academic Excellence in English and multiple poetry medals helped along the way.

It takes the gall of an 8th Grade Class President to nuke your nature-given testosterone in exchange for silky, slice-prone skin. If only he could see me now!

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