You know how sometimes you swear everyone in the room is staring at you? And you’re completely sure that its because of that spaghetti stain on your shirt?
Ok, in case you didn’t figure it out, I’m trying to make a metaphor here! (….because I sure have never had to go into a meeting with a food stain on my shirt….how dare you even suggest it…)
When I think back to one particular day in college, that’s exactly what I felt. It was our yearly awards ceremony for our department, and I was lucky enough to get an invitation. They were recognizing me for some scholarships that I had received earlier that year. (In fact, I received them three and even four consecutive years in a row.) It was typically a small ceremony because not that many students were invited, and it was a nice deal with a reception before and a chance to meet some of the scholarship donors.
Well, I should’ve been happy, right? I was going to be receiving 4 different awards!!
To be honest, I was mortified.
I was receiving awards as recognition for the scholarships I had received ….scholarships that were awarded based on financial need. I was mortified that someone was going to do the math: 4 scholarships….all based on need? If that wasn’t an indicator of “where I was coming from”, I don’t know what would be. Add that mortification, to the fact that I am not used to receiving a lot of attention….and I just wanted to cry.
After the second award and every time they’d call out my name people would jokingly comment “oh, there she is again!” It was all I could do to keep from crying or running out of the room.
I have never told anyone about how I felt that day. Never. And its kind of embarrassing for me to admit it. I felt like a big fat elephant in the middle of the room, everyone was thinking the same thing (“exactly how little do her parents make?!”), and yet no one wanted to point it out in front of me.
I shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that my parents don’t make a lot of money. I should be proud that they were able to raise me so well that I was able to earn those scholarships and maintain them throughout my time in college. And yet….that’s just how it is. Those without money try their best to hide the fact, to blend in the best they can. As if it would be the worst thing in the world for anyone to find out. In the end….well, its just money, isn’t it?
(What is it Kanye says in his song? “Having money’s not everything, Not having it is!” Something like that…)
Money shouldn’t be used to gauge how good a person you are, how smart you are, how much you’re capable of. I should know that. And yet there I found myself squirming in my seat, sinking a little bit further as the dean said “…and this scholarship was given based on merit and financial need….” (Hey, in my defense, I still don’t think he should’ve announced that….its like he was advertising my financial aid package.)
Anyway, I’m not even sure why I’m sharing any of this, other than the fact that I’ve never told a soul, and it just makes me so sad to think back to how I felt that day. Another blogger recently wrote about how life often feels like a contest, and we’re constantly using others as a measuring stick for our successes. (That would be Paranoid Asteroid, and I’m very much paraphrasing). Well, that post brought this incident to mind. I didn’t just feel bad, I felt inferior to everyone else in that room, and it still makes me sad that we often take our “Net Worth” to be a statement as to our actual value and self-worth.