Forget about awards

Several years ago, I remember being faced with a tragedy that I thought would take years to overcome.

I was a confident 12-year-old on a mission to be the world’s fastest boy, and at that time in my life, I thought I had achieved it.

I ran in cross-country meets that were always held at the same location and always had the same race path.

Having won the previous four straight races, I was poised and ready to bring home the gold medal at the Youth Cross Country Championship.

I took off in my usual blazing fashion, and after just a few moments, I found myself far ahead of the rest of the runners.

I began to daydream about the finish line and what it would be like to have that first-place prize handed over to me while hearing people talk about what an incredibly fast boy I was.

But that’s when the greatest catastrophe of my life occurred.

While daydreaming about my fictional victorious finish, I didn’t notice that the course was slightly altered since it was the championship race, so I was running in the wrong direction.

By the time someone got my attention and helped me get back in the right direction, I had been passed by several runners.

I gave it everything I had, but I was not able to catch up to the lead runner. While looking at my lame silver medal through eyes filled with frustrated tears, I painfully watched the people pin the gold medal on the tall blonde boy I had beaten every time before.

I never thought I would get over that race. Night after night, I replayed the race in my mind, and wondered what it would have been like to have not messed up and have the gold medal hanging up in my closet rather than the silver medal I hated so much.

A few weeks later, something else that I thought was significant happened in my adolescent life, and the tragic race was quickly forgotten.

As the years have gone by, I’ve seen awards and achievements come and go–everything from the Most Inspirational Athlete Award to the Science Award and, most recently, a second-place finish in a regional award for column writing.

Unlike the second-place finish in my boyhood race, I was initially excited about receiving this final award.

I figured that a regional second-place finish for column writing among college writers was probably good enough to give me the celebrity status to be on “Dancing with the Stars,” or at least land me a job as an “American Idol” judge.

Winning this award also caused me to reflect on all of the times I had gone to awards banquets and walked away sheepishly with an unoriginal participation award.

As I looked down at my new award, I felt like it was another one of those participation awards. It wasn’t very impressive looking — just a white cardstock paper with black ink that was already fading away.

It made me think about how most awards are really pretty insignificant, and at the end of the day, you are who you are regardless of any award someone may give you.

I think the real award is personal achievement. If you feel like you’ve accomplished something great, you don’t need some piece of plastic or worn-out piece of paper to prove your success.

Sometimes a person’s best achievements are only known to himself or herself. Many people do great things that no one else even knows about, and that’s usually where the best awards are found, anyway.

Wish I would have known that when I was a 12-year-old.