As I mentally prepare for this year’s round of spring cleaning, I already dread opening that same box I open every year: the box of trophies and awards. Every year I am stumped with the same questions: keep them, toss them, donate them or repurpose them?
… And then they go back into the box as I defer the decision to the next year, and the next one, and the next one.
What makes the decision so difficult is that behind every trophy is a great deal of hard work, dedication, discipline, and blood, sweat and tears on my part. Of course the latter are just metaphorically speaking; Grade 8 in suburbia was far from “The Hunger Games”.
At the same time, behind every trophy is a judge or a panel of judges, who took time out of their busy schedules to consider my work and to so generously bestow this symbol of recognition.
To me, the trophy represents an act of extreme kindness and generosity, which still humbles me today, still elicits a great deal of gratitude and frankly, “guilts” me into hanging on to this symbol.
And then I consider the possibility that there may be a colleague who worked harder than I did, yet did not receive recognition for their accomplishment. They could possibly be thinking that I am an ungrateful brat for even considering tossing a trophy I received …37 years ago.
But the big question is this: at the time of the recognition, did the judge or panel of judges truly expect me to hang on to the trophy until I am pushing daisies?
In recent years, I have made progress in slowly chipping away at clutter (one cubic foot at a time!) but the trophies and awards are especially troublesome to me. I cringe at even putting the words “trophies” and “clutter” in the same sentence out of respect to the judge(s), the colleagues and of the honour itself, but the reality is that trophies take up space.
If I was a celebrity with a 10,000 square foot mansion, I would definitely have the extra room for them. However, given the square footage of my modest dwelling and the fact that I like to think I am at a point in my life that focuses more on life experiences rather than “stuff”, it is a paradigm shift and decision I am trying to make with the deepest of respect and sensitivity.
Having seen some of the “how to downsize” shows on TV, I think that the fact that the trophies and awards are in a box and I only see them in my annual spring cleaning is probably an indicator in itself.
Also, as another point of reference, if there was a house fire, would I take the time, effort and expense to replace them? I probably would not.
It does not mean that I am not proud of those achievements or that the commendation from the judges means any less to me now, but the trophies were far more relevant at that point in time, at that stage of my life.
I try to put it in perspective and wonder if being recognized for being good in math in grade 8 has any bearing on what I do today. Maybe not so much, not even at tax time.
Looking at it from another perspective, the medallion, running bib and picture from my first half-marathon in 2014 are a huge source of pride and joy. But 25 years from now, will I still have the same appreciation for them? Time will tell.
Even some of the awards I have received at work, some are very meaningful like a commendation certificate for my contribution in keeping a call centre running during the big electrical power failure of 2003 or my long service plaque for 25 years with the Government of Canada. Those mean considerably more to me now.
But I will admit that I have one from a work project from 15 years ago that was an excellent learning experience during which I met some truly delightful people in our collaborative effort – I loved our group meetings – but the project itself was just something I did off the corner of my desk that was not overly meaningful to me. The trophy is a beautiful piece but the personal significance for me is not fully there.
Even though I usually wrap up each blog post with a conclusion statement to wrap up the topic with a nice, neat bow, I leave this one open-ended as I still struggle with this one.
What would you do? Keep, toss, donate or repurpose?
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