Things We Don't Apologize For: Being Successful

Friday:Never apologize for giving your best in a relationship that just didn't work out.
Today:Never apologize for being successful. Only haters want to keep you at their level.

On day 2 we discussed not apologizing for speaking proper English and I told the story of my election to Vice President of my high school's student council. I also mentioned my then-best friend's commentary shortly before the election.
The week of the elections, one set of nominees showed up to school with water bottles and the other set, frisbees. Each item had the names of the respective team on them. That had never been done before either and I had nothing to fight back with. I had neither the money or the time to produce such a gimmick. I'll never forget my then-best friend looking me in the eye and saying, "I don't think you're going to win..." (in hindsight, she was a hater and let her insecurities leak out into my space).
The hating on her part continued. I mentioned in that post that I went home and waited to hear the verdict. Allow me to be more specific...

The first year I ran for an office (9th grade class President), the then-Student Council President called me to let me know I had run a good race, but had not won. The next 2 years I recieved no such call and discovered I had lost via the announcements the next morning.

The night of election day a school play was opening and I had friends who were both in the play and had worked on the play and that night was the only night I could go support them. For some reason, probably because it was close to finals time, I also didn't go to community service that afternoon, so I didn't see my then-best friend anytime after the last class we had together. The then-Student Council President, David, was in the play and I had heard that as a result they were going to do the ballot count earlier in the day than normal. I secretly hoped he would see me after the play and deliver good news.

He didn't see me after the play, but I remember calling my mother on my way home to ask if there had been any calls or messages for me. She said there weren't. I rushed home anyway, hoping that maybe my mother had overlooked or forgotten a call but discovered that my mother had been correct. I checked my e-mail and had no e-mails. I tried to quit thinking about it, but that didn't stop me from attaching both the house phone and my cell phone to my person and jumping everytime the phone rang. As I got in the bed that night, with no phone call, I shrugged to myself and assumed that I hadn't won. I was a bit dejected, but figured I could still run for 12th grade class President and at least I would have less competition.

The next morning, I got to school a little bit earlier than usual because most of my class was going on a field trip that day (FYI: Field trips for us were non-existent, at least in the normal sense. This trip was for all the students in the "regular" Physics classes -- we were going to a local amusement park to measure things). On my way to my usual morning spot, I decided to stop by a part of campus where some of my friends hung out. I hadn't been by there in a few weeks and wondered who might be there as early as I was. One girl was there -- she and I had been friends since my first day at that school. She saw me walk in and said
"Hey! Congrats on your win, man."


"Your win. You won the election, right?"

"I did?"

she seemed to stop and think and then choose her words carefully "Yeah, I mean I'm pretty sure. Maybe you should go check the announcements."
I'm actually assuming that last part because I took off for the library. On my way there, I kept walking past people who were smiling at me or congratulating me. My heartbeat sped up and I could barely enter my login information for my hands shaking so bad.

There, at the very top of the announcements was the greatest news I'd seen all day. I had won the position -- all on the strength of one lone speech. I was on a high I had never experienced. I was relieved, I was happy and very anxious for the work that lay ahead. As I headed back to retrieve my backpack I wondered what happened to the phone call letting me know I had won...

Later that morning, most of my class was gathered in one location preparing to board buses for our day trip. I was, of course, with my friends who were all somehow also basking in my limelight as if any of them had helped me at all with my campaign. I didn't really mind, I was just happy to have won something. After the 5th congrats, my then-best friend tapped me on the shoulder and said,
"I knew you won last night."


"Yeah, David stopped by my mom's office to see if you were there. He told us you had won. I was going to tell you but I figured he probably called you later."

"Well, no, he didn't. Probably because he thought you told me."

"Oh. Well, sorry. Congratulations!"
I remember being a bit dumbfounded. She didn't apologize either for not calling me, if ONLY to congratulate me first OR for doubting my ability to win (oh and did I mention she also "forgot" to vote for me?) And yet, there she stood, next to me, as if she had worked her butt off in any way to help me get elected. All she had done was try to be discouraging and then couldn't even accept that I had won. She was redefining being a hater.

It's been a long time since she and I have spoken. We parted ways in a very awkward and painful (for me) way and since then I've seen her once and there wasn't much to say to one another (though we both acted as if everything was normal for the sake of others at the table). In the time since we went from being attached at the hip to knowing absolutely nothing about each other, I've pondered a lot of situations like that one. Why was she such a hater? What was the deal? I don't know, I have theories, but I don't know anything for sure. What I have taken from that is a lesson to watch out for anyone who would do something like that to you. Real friends are happy to see you succeeding and only want to support you. What she did was underhanded and devious and should've served as great warning for what was ahead for me.

That's why you can't apologize for being successful. You'll miss the warnings about who should be along for the ride and who shouldn't. There will be a whole lot of folks who jump on your bandwagon, just in case you beat all odds and succeed, but don't ever think they're going to help you in anyway and in fact many of them will work subversively to make sure you DON'T succeed.

I have, over the years (still do), downplayed my success. I don't ever want people to feel like I think I'm better than they are, because I don't. I've had to learn that sometimes it's ok to be obviously happy about my success in life and to expect people around me to be happy as well. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't -- and that's ok -- but I also try to be cognizant of the people who expect me to apologize for it. Those people are looking for something I don't have and can't give.

Tomorrow: Never apologize for crying. Wear waterproof mascara and express yourself.


A.Smith said...

And not only do they hate when you're shining, but they want to do their best to cut it off. For shame.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

As they say, it's lonely at the top...

But not always. I find that a lot of people who have fame, power or wealth (think Donald Trump or Diddy, Oprah or Obama), often have quite an entourage once they "get there". Of course, they have their detractors and haters, but they also act as a magnet for those who wish to emulate them.

Sad to say, I think it's it's when we are at the very bottom or the very top of our lives that we figure out who our real friends are.

A long time ago, my best childhood friend was the first of our group to buy a house. I went to see it, and gushed over it. I was so happy for her.

But then I was shocked when she sadly said, "You know, of all my friends, you are the only one who is really happy for me."

I couldn't fathom why others weren't. She studied and worked really hard to get that house, and was an example that we could too. Not a threat, but an example. This was so clear to me.

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