"It's a Major Award!" These are the words Ralphie's father utters as he goes out on the porch to sign for the crate that has just been delivered there. At last, all those crossword puzzles and radio contests have paid off. At least that's how it works in "A Christmas Story." It makes sense, given the number of times I have watched that film even before the TBS marathon showings, that I would have this phrase bouncing around my head when I read my e-mail last Wednesday. I have been selected as Outstanding Elementary Teacher for Region Two. Immediately upon having that bit of dialogue pass through my mind, along came all the ways that I could diminish it: "Sure, Region Two. The real competition is in Region One." Or how about, "Well, I guess they had to get to me sooner or later." And just about any other Eeyore-inspired grumble that would have made this major award something less than a lamp in the shape of a woman's leg.
So here's the deal: After sixteen years of toiling in obscurity, I'm still not fully comfortable having someone come along and pull the bushel off of my light. I am, by nature, much more inclined to continue along with the periodic pat on the back or mention in the newsletter. Even that one gets me a little nervous. What if everyone figures out that they could be doing the job I'm doing, and then suddenly there was no more work for me to do? This condition is nothing new. Whenever I have ascended to any new position of authority or achievement, I have always looked for ways to diminish that accomplishment. Way back when I was named Assistant Warehouse Manager and then shortly thereafter elected to the board of directors at the book wholesaler where I was first employed in California, my father responded this way: "That either says something about you, or the people you work with." Maybe it was both, but that is the sound success makes in my head.
Now I've got a month or so before the ceremony to reconcile my ambivalence. How much humility is appropriate, and how much am I allowed to feel, "Hey, it's about time?" And if I was really that concerned with toiling in obscurity, why would I be writing about it here?