Last night my cat Jackson broke one of my awards. I was sitting in bed watching TV and I heard the dreaded crash. I walked out of my bedroom, into my study to find my aptly named “Yes I can award” broken on the floor. After yelling at him and cleaning up I held my “award”- now in three parts in my hands. I thought back to middle/high school days( grade 9) – Oh with those teenage years. When everybody wants to fit in and anything or anybody that is different is outlawed. I was never the smartest, In fact I had a TA (Teacher’s assistant) with me for a good chunk of the day. I had friends but I wasn’t by any means popular. I was always presentable, but never really in fashion – Oh and – I had the worst case of acne in my grade! On top of all that I had Cerebral Palsy. I was stuck in the middle of the perfect storm. But that’s for another day.
My school and family were very competitive, we still live to this day, I’ve learnt to embrace it. I have become pretty competitive myself in my own way. Back then though, we can track and field day. My siblings would come home with metals and ribbons, I would always come home with nothing. This was fine I told myself, gym of all things was never my forte; and because I had CP I was never going to win against all these able-bodied people anyway. One of my TA’s, in grade 8, was even nice enough to make me a certificate, since I was saying it wasn’t fair people got ribbons. Everyone should get something for participating. A gesture like that was so nice of her, and yet, in my grade 8 head I felt singled out and “special.” “ She only did this because I said that” I told myself – it’s not even in colur. By grade 9 I hated the track meet and only participated in it to get out of classes.To be fair, I didn’t hate everything about it, I liked everything except the events.
My school also had awards day which took place in the morning of the last day of school. The whole school would gather the gym, and class by class, awards would be given out. Awards for, the most improved, the highest average, and the highest GPA over all. Every year I sat in anticipation… and got nothing. That was okay though, because when I got home my sister would always have one, and I would get to congratulate her. While dying inside, punishing myself, saying I got decent marks, maybe there’s been a mistake, it’s all rigged anyway. Until one year when my resource teacher asked me if I had ever been nominated for a “Yes I Can” award. When I told her I didn’t even know what that was she got started on the paper work.
Fast forward a few months, and I was sitting at a banquette table waiting to receive my award – when people at school were given awards they didn’t get a banquette too. I was on top of the moon! The award ceremony started and it became clear that there wasn’t one recipient per category, but several – at least at the provincial level. It was only once someone got to the national level that they would become the only recipient in their category. Again I was one of many, but this time I wasn’t an outcast, on the contrary, everyone had disabilities. It was a night I will never forget my parents were so proud, some of my friends were there, even my brother and sister had to come.
This morning in bed as I was going over what happened last night, how it happened, what could’ve been done to prevent it, when I realized it’s not about the award it self. The award is a symbol, it’s about what happens afterword. The confidence that award gives you. I’m not saying that because of that award I went to university, graduated high school, or started a YouTube channel. But, on that night, in that moment, I was on top of the moon, more than that, I felt the same; jugged like all these other kids, over coming some of the same obstacles as all these other kids, and deserving like all these other kids.
So what. Jackson broke the symbol of what I had accomplished at that point in my life.
Thinking back on those years, and what they bring up for me, I can’t believe I didn’t brake it myself. I don’t need to be reminded of ridicule, sadness, and being thought of as an outcast, when I would go on to accomplish so much more. I don’t need an award to tell me “Yes I Can”. I epitomize Yes I can.