The most conflicting acclaim I earned as a journalist at Chicago Tribune was the General Excellence award in the 1980’s conferred by the company on an employee who displayed, well, general excellence.
I didn’t deserve this award the year it was bestowed, at least by my own estimation, which is really all we can go by. The year I received this acknowledgment was a year I burned out. I wasn’t familiar with that term but knew what burned out felt like. Or rather, what feeling nothing felt like.
Generally, I wasn’t excellent. I was a sleepy female in career clothing. My employer wasn’t responsible for this. I was. I worked hard and long by choice. I don’t know why this resulted in a visit to numb-land but it did. I did the work but was oddly, decidedly, most definitely absent. When I learned I was being honored for doing well I might have felt guilty if I was feeling. I wasn’t.
I do cherish this acclaim now. Brushes with fame warrant gratitude for their rarity if nothing else. I just wish I had been there to enjoy it.