Last week I found out I was nominated for The Duke Unsung Heroine Award because of my blog inspiring students to be more vulnerable and honest around campus.
I was shocked. I may be getting an award for basically writing a diary and opening it up to anyone that wants to read?! The award has heroine in the name?!
At first, I was kind of mad. What makes anyone think that by being honest I somehow deserve recognition? Our society is pathetic. We should all be honest. I’m not some hero.
But then I was honored. Wow, people really care about the words I so vulnerably write and want to recognize me for that. Wow, I’m reaching an even bigger audience than I realized. Wow, esteemed faculty members are thanking me for making Duke a better place, when I’m just being myself.
But here’s the problem with being nominated for an award.
I then kind of got my hopes up. I went from being mad, to honored, to conceited. I started playing through my head, “Yeeeeah, I’m taking risks and putting myself on the line and I deserve this award!”
And I started writing a post that so wasn’t me. It was calculated, forced, too thought-out and self-seeking. It wasn’t honesty, it was me thinking I was cool.
The funny thing is that I was about to post this calculated writing when my phone went off. I went to check it and saw an email from the Committee who nominated me for the award.
I didn’t get the award.
And I had a slight identity crisis. Because for that entire week I had been writing as if I was this elitist girl who wrote this phenomenal blog and everyone should check me out because I’m awesome. Which is sooooooooo far from the truth. (Especially considering my last post reached a thousand views and Forbes’ Top 40 Blogs list has blogs that get over 20,000 views…).
So here’s the problem. It’s amazing to be recognized for something, but if you have any inclination that you could be getting an award, you start doing whatever you could be potentially recognized for only because you want the award.
Admit it. You did tons of things in high school for the awards. I know I did. My freshman year we got this extra award if we got A+s in our classes, and I would slave over extra credit for every class just because I wanted that award. It was so stupid. And I didn’t realize how stupid it was, what a waste of time it was, until I got the award and realized I felt no satisfaction from holding it in my hand. Why? Because I knew that I had played the game. I didn’t do all the extra credit because I wanted to learn or because I needed the extra points. I did the extra credit for the award. And that’s so backwards.
I don’t want to be remembered by my awards, anyway. I don’t want to be remembered by overachieving in every class for no reason or for having a lot of goals in field hockey. I want to be remembered by my honesty, vulnerability, empathy and thoughtfulness.
And I lost those qualities when I started to write my blog in a way that an Unsung Heroin Award Winner would write her blog. I lost my outlook, my purpose, when I realized there could be an award for the work I was doing.
I’m so glad I got the rejection email right before I posted the writing I’ve done this week.
So, instead, this is my post. It’s a post about how I hate awards. A post about how I hate that I got conceited about an award I didn’t even get. And a post about how funny it is that we all think being bold, vulnerable and host deserves an award. And a post to say hey Committee, hey person who nominated me, hey all the people who read every day: Please give me a reality check if I ever get cocky about my posts. Because that’ll be bad for y’all and for me—bad writing on my part and bad feedback on y’all’s part.
And thank you. Always just a big thank you.