On Participation Awards

Sunday, September 23, 2012
We all know that many critics of the Millenial generation think we're a little lazy and spoiled. According to the critics, we received way too many participation awards as children and our parents and teachers focused too much on our self-esteem for us to really be hard-working and contributing members of society now that we're all grow'd up. (Note: apparently the fact that Baby Boomers hijacked the 9-5 work system doesn't factor into Millenials' floundering . . . ?)

I have a fair share of participation awards tucked away somewhere in my childhood bedroom: certificates from speech competitions and plays, gaudy pedestal trophies from soccer seasons, pins, badges and pucks from my hockey playing days.  While I was active child, I was by no means an athlete. While I had a good imagination, I was by no means an actress. The only merit I used to "earn" this myriad of awards was a willingness to "stick it out for the long haul" - to play the entire sports season or make every rehearsal and performance. I didn't particularly excel at any of my extracurricular childhood pursuits, but, by gum, I did them anyway.

Despite five years on swim team, I don't think I have a single swimming "trophy" in my collection

I've been thinking a bit about participation awards lately. Mostly, I suppose, because it's been such a manic month in which - I kid you not - I have had a grand total of three days off. On Tuesday night, as I submerged six pints of homemade barbeque sauce (the last item on my "to can" list for the summer) into the hot water bath canner, I said to Andy, "You know, I'm kind of proud of myself. I've done everything this month that I'd said I do."

It's true - over the last month +, I've worked two jobs, kept up with the garden and Etsy, made rather feeble attempts to keep my online content fresh, and didn't shirk out of single one of my freelance writing obligations. If it sounds like bragging, it's really not meant to be. I say it more with a sense of wonderment than pride: I did do it all.

Obviously, going at a breakneck pace isn't desirable for the long haul. The schedule I've kept over the last month is really bloody stupid and I don't deserve congratulations from myself or others for maintaining it. It's a schedule good on the bank account, hard on everything else.

And this week I've felt myself wearing out. I've needed a lot more sleep than I would in normal circumstances. I'm emotional and irritable.But it's all ending soon. I keep whispering the number one under my breath. One more set of "days off" spent working at a second job. One more month of full time work.

You know, I don't think the participation awards I received as a child made me lazy and I don't think they were totally without merit.

Because sometimes just sticking it out is laudable. We don't have to be doing mindblowing things all the time. We don't have to be the best of the best. In fact, the best that most of us can offer the world is simply doing what we said we'd do.

We're adults now. There's no one handing out needless awards that will just gather dust and eventually be tossed in the trash or make awkward appearances at a garage sale. But if there was I'd stand up and accept my participation award for this month gone by with pride.


  1. I agree- I received a ton of awards (some for legitimate placing, some for participation) and I felt like they kept me engaged in activities and actually BUSIER, not lazier. Interesting. I hate when people try to come up with a simple answer for why the world has evolved to the way it is now. As if it could be so simple as something like this. Plus, I have a whole room in my townhome dedicated to my ribbons and medals and trophies. kidding :)

  2. Eeek! Three days off in a month is not a lot. I hope next month is looking a little quieter for you and you can some of your sleep back. It does feel kind of good when you get to the end of a marathon session and see your accomplishments or things crossed off lists and mentally tick them off as completed.

  3. Congratulations on getting everything on your to do list done. You must be so proud of yourself - there is nothing in the world like that feeling of accomplishment.


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