High-Achievers and Celebrations
Over the last several weeks, as I’ve been putting up more and more racks of medals (there are 208 of them so far), as well as ribbons, trophies, plates, and other various triathlon awards, and realizing HOW MANY of them there really are, I have wondered why in the hell I never put them up before. Why didn’t I celebrate myself as much as I now think I deserve?
I’ve been stewing over this question for a while and it struck me last night that I refused to go to my graduation with a PhD from Princeton. At age 24. I mean, I was eight months pregnant at the time and had a one-year-old and the graduation was across the country, but I didn’t even once consider it. I remember being happy that no one was trying to pressure me into going, because I’d tried hard not to go to my high school graduation, my graduation with a BA at age 19, and then an MA also at age 19.
I remember how uncomfortable I felt sitting through those graduations. It wasn’t the boring nature of them. It was that I felt like they meant nothing. I was always headed on to the next thing. This wasn’t a stopping place. A celebration felt meaningless. Because I had so many more important things to do. I planned to celebrate those important things, I guess. But I’m not sure if I ever got to the place where I thought I’d done any of those important things. I just — ran out of energy at some point and am now left feeling like I’m still waiting for the real celebration.
The problem was that I was so good at all of the things that people wanted me to celebrate that it felt like a cheat. It was easy for me to graduate with an MA at age 19. Princeton was annoying because it took so damned long for me to finish — 5 years! Even though I know that I was the first one in my class to graduate, it almost felt embarrassing, not like I should be celebrating. And in every single one of my races, I had set a goal to do even better than I did, so I came home with medals, still feeling like a bit of a failure.
So what happened that made me want to celebrate now? Well, a lot of shitty things happened to make me feel like I wasn’t just a bit of a failure, but was a failure on every level that existed and some that I hadn’t known existed below that. So now I’m quite a bit less cavalier about smaller achievements.