The trophies were being handed out to us on the last night before we graduated and officially became adults. We were sat in our chapel. It was a large building with some speakers and lights that hung from the roof. Hundreds of us sat there, most of us students but some of them parents.
The awards given out were mostly for nothing. Best at sucking up to teachers, best at arriving at class early, best at fitting the mold we made for you. I was bored and uninterested. The only reason I was here is because my parents received a note in the mail that I was to receive an award on the night and, them both being highschool dropouts, that meant a lot to them.
So I sat there, waiting for my name to be called out. At this point I was pretty sure that the only reason I was here was because of a typo or because someone sent out an invitation to the wrong address or something. Names were constantly called out and teachers were invited up to give a review of their last four or so years of teaching us their respective subjects. It was all very tedious and boring and us students weren’t old enough to drink yet so there wasn’t any entertainment in the beverage department.
We got to the Signature Student Speech, which is what my school called it for some reason. And for some reason they didn’t get the best speaker – let alone the best student – to give the speech. So We were forced to endure a full ten minutes of stuttering, boring cliches before we were allowed to move on with the rest of our boring cliches.
Finally, the last few awards were being given out. These were the big ones. The ones that would make mommy and daddy oh so proud of you. The ones that schools pit student against student to get. This was the reason for the fifty or so hours of teaching and studying. Not to get smarter, but to earn these few prizes. This was an honor that would linger with you for a lifetime.
A few winners rolled through and then my name came up. Best in English, best in Physics, best in Math B, best in Extended English and then, finally, I was awarded a small glass prize that had my name and ‘Dux of 20XX’ on it. I tried my best to put on a smile for the crowd. But I still felt that none of this meant anything. It was kind of ironic that the essays I wrote in each of my english classes were mostly against institutions, and yet here I was being praised by an institution for my writing against institutions. And I guess if knowing that shit falls down qualifies you as best at physics then, yeah, I was the best at it. But this is highschool, and nothing here means anything.
While I was accepting my useless prizes I couldn’t help but think about the prizes I hadn’t won. Most likely to get laid, most likely to live a happy life, most likely to use their skills to further human development. Instead I just won an award that said I was most likely to fit into whatever mold it was that some shitheads above me wanted me to fit into.
My parents were proud that night. They even let me have pizza. I probably shouldn’t be complaining about this shit. Not when there are some people who get beaten for getting less than an A in any class. But it just all felt meaningless – as if it was less that I had achieved those things than my parents had achieved a child who had accomplished those things.
And, let me tell you, those accomplishments meant nothing for my future. I didn’t end up becoming a famous physicist or something. I washed cars. Then I washed windows. Then I did basic IT work. Now I’m unemployed and write for the internet.
Focus on what you want to. None of the people who control your life mean anything. Do what you want when you feel like doing it. Nobody else can control your life – only you are in charge of where you go and what you do. Don’t let some useless prize guide you into a life you don’t want to live.
In the end when the sun explodes or we nuke each other, nothing that we do will mean anything. So do whatever the fuck it is that you want.
That’s what I wish I had done.
And I was dux.