Monday, August 3, 2015

Go for the Gold

People from the "older generations" always lament about "kids these days" to the extent that doing so is pretty much a cliché.  I remember older ladies at church always having something to say about what kids wore, how we acted, and on and on and on at church when I was a teenager.  I remember thinking, "what should I wear then?  What you are wearing? Elastic waist polyester slacks and Aerosoles shoes?"  Once I heard a group of women ragging on the girls at the prom grand march the previous weekend because none of us wore nylons with our floor length dresses and strappy heels.  I think they were just jealous that we decided to liberate ourselves from those loathsome mesh garments as teenagers after they had been stuck with them their whole lives.

All young people are lazier, more spoiled, and flawed in ways the past generations were not, of course.  I think the same thing when I see teenagers spacing out on their phones everywhere they go even with their friends and forgoing real activities like sports and music in favor of video game time.  Don't they know what they're missing??  Oh, those millennials, the generation born since an undetermined point in the 1980's until now.  Some articles place the beginning with people born in 1980 which would include me and Justin (both born in 1983).  Compared to someone born in, say, 1995 or 2000 or 2005, however, I don't think we are at all the same.  Mostly because we have a significant number of years that we remember, including most of our childhood, without the instant gratification of the Internet. We had to watch commercials on TV and deal with rewinding VHS and cassette tapes and wait to use the family land line phone and miss out on plans with our friends because they tried to call but our moms were on the phone and the line was busy. No one cared about self esteem and in school the "good reading class" was clearly separated from the "slow reading class" and when it was time for the (dreaded, by me) Presidential Physical Fitness Test in phy ed the fit were clearly separated from the unfit by tests of speed and strength performed in front of the whole class.  Often, one phrase is used to describe this whole phenomenon, which is "everybody gets a trophy!".  This means that everyone is so worried about hurting kids' feelings (instant gratification!) that when there is any sort of competition everyone ends up with a participation ribbon or medal at the end and some sports for young children don't have scores or winners and losers. 

The reason I was thinking about that phrase at all is because this weekend my mom unearthed a little cardboard box containing my piano gold cups, which are the only trophies I ever won or earned in my youth. 

As soon as I opened the box I had a warm feeling come over me remembering the pride of earning the points to get these.  As you can see, there are three different sizes.  Every year, our piano teacher had her students compete at "Festival" which was like a recital with a judge that we didn't know.  It was held at a University and there were students of other teachers in the rooms so you often performed in front of strangers as well.  There was an event for solos, hymns, and duets.  You would play two songs for each event and the solos had to be memorized.  You could receive a score of 1-5 with 5 being the best and it took 15 points to earn a gold cup.  So earning one would take 3 years if you scored the best possible score.  I earned my first one for solos in 1994.  That big one I earned for solos in 2001, my senior year of high school.  I had a year in there where I had a score of 4 so the big cup took 4 years.  By high school the solos were pretty serious classical numbers so the memorizing was harder. The others are for hymns and duets which kids usually didn't start until they were older so there were fewer years to work with.  I think I scored 5s every time I did hymns because, in my opinion, playing the straightforward four part of a hymnal couldn't be any easier and the challenge was to not jazz it up a bit but duets could and often did end in chaos.  They required you to get together with your partner, usually a friend, outside of lesson time and practice and often the teacher wasn't there so you can imagine how productive that was. 
I had to think about if I earned any other trophies or special awards besides the pins for my letterman's jacket and I could remember two.  One was at basketball camp where I got a little gold basketball player trophy for being the most improved player in my age group when I was 13 (there were probably 75 girls in that group) and the other was when I was a sophomore in high school and I won second place out of a few hundred students at state FBLA in my testing event.  I believe it was called "Principals and Procedures" and it was the even that the advisors put most of their young freshman and sophomore students in.  First and second place winners got to go to the national convention so I got to go to Chicago that summer!  And...I think that's it.  My brother and sister both won Athlete of the Year when they were seniors and my brother was homecoming king and my sister was Salutatorian so they each had a few big trophies on their shelves.  Ok, enough of this, now I'm starting to feel pathetic! 
The point is that what I won was really earned and although it's all ancient history now and I went on to be an average college student (hey, I was on the Dean's list a few times!) and a mediocre law student I'm still proud of those accomplishments of my youth.  I didn't really study that much for the FBLA test because I didn't even consider winning a trip to nationals as an individual (most students won trips for group projects).  At that large basketball camp those coaches noticed something about me that week , whether it was real improvement or just enthusiasm to learn and a good attitude, that made them want me to get the most improved trophy.  And I worked on getting those piano cups for years, knowing it would take at least three years and maybe longer to just get one.  What I'm trying to say, I guess, is, I'm not a Millenial!  Don't you dare call me one because I was born in 1983 and not 1979!  I know how to call a stranger on the phone and have a civilized conversation to get what I need and I could go to a library to look something up if I had to.  I can wait thirty minutes for a meal in a restaurant without distracting myself with a video game. And as far as commercials, I think we can all agree that no one likes them, has ever liked them and they can go away for good! 
OK, I am off to set up our own little trophy case with the piano trophies, Justin's trophies from state darts and maybe the generic medal I received or being on a basketball team that went to the state tournament in 1999 even though I only played about three minutes in one of the games there.  Maybe I'll throw in the old Lutheran Sunday School perfect attendance pin with the attachable wreath and bars that I have stashed in a jewelry box. 
Yes, that's the one!  Disclaimer:  This is not my pin...I don't think I had that many bars.

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