When Hard Work Isn’t Enough

Yesterday, I watched someone I love get absolutely shafted out of not one, but three totally-deserved awards. Before you call out my bias, I’ve seen nominees get the same bullshit treatment because of the pettiness in someone’s heart, the preexisting prejudice against a program, and underlying favoritism. Obviously, I’m trying to keep this vague for the privacy of those involved, but I’m pissed off and I want to scream it from the rooftops!

I understand that this blog post reads more like a “personal Facebook status” in the words of my amazing editor (Thank you, Vanessa. Please hire her. She seriously is amazing). Just stick with me here and this vagueness will all have a purpose. Do I envy their job to choose between nominees who all deserve an award? No. Every single one of the nominations were valid, in my humble opinion. But, when the trend is always against one program because of your beef with ONE person on staff? Not cool. For those of you who did win, it was absolutely well deserved. Congratulations! They just missed a couple awards in what I viewed was an attempt to “stick it to the man”, which is just so on brand it’s disgusting. Those “couple awards” are not just with people I share blood with either… a lot of people got fucked over in this.

Okay, enough vague chatter. If you know, you know. So, what advice can I offer the person that I love? As someone who’s not directly involved, I’m angry. So, those who are have fire coming out of their ears – as they should! What do we do with that anger, hurt, and heartbreak? What can we learn from situations when we get totally robbed out of the recognition that we deserve? What can we do when someone else’s actions affect us, but we really can’t do anything about it? What do we do when all our hard work feels like it goes down the drain without answers or rationale?

I sat around thinking of the best way to say this today. Honestly, I can’t think of a way that doesn’t suck. So, I’m just going to say it and hopefully, you’ll stick with me: sometimes, hard work isn’t enough. 

Photo credit: Penny Hazeltine

Alright, ya’ll still here? Don’t get me wrong. I could write a novel about the advantages of hard work around your life. But as I watched the person that I love question if he worked hard enough, I was reminded that sometimes life kicks us really hard just to see if we can get up again. We can work as hard as our muscles will let us and as fast as our bones move, but sometimes life puts a big hurdle in front of us just to see if we can jump. 

Sometimes, there’s not a rationale either. Sometimes you do every single thing right. You show up, you work hard, you treat people right, and you give off positive energy that the world is asking for but somebody doesn’t like you that day and punished you for it. It was never about how hard you worked. It was about them; their insecurities and their power struggle.

Hard work is enough when it comes to running toward your goals in a full out sprint. Those bumps, though, they don’t discriminate against how fast you’re running. The person that’s at a slow jog probably navigates these bumps easier. The person that’s at a sprint probably gets knocked on their ass every single time. Yet, they still get up and they still sprint. 

Sometimes, my loves, life isn’t fair. That’s not me saying that as your baby boomer Grandma who is invalidating your feelings. That’s being realistic. If you walk through life thinking that only good things happen to good people and only bad things happen to bad people, you’re in for a rude awakening. Truth is, we get thrown the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, confusing, vulnerable, emotional, funny, heartwarming, and so many more to teach us lessons. No matter what your faith is or how you feel about God, Allah, presence, or even lack thereof. It’s a scientific fact that our brains take our experiences to turn them into little connections in our brain for lessons on how to act in the future. 

I didn’t say this to the person who was suffering because it felt kind of off topic, but I’m going to say it now. No one looks up to a bitch that hasn’t struggled. That sounds very judgemental and maybe it was, but truly no one looks up to people who don’t go through something. Please, prove me wrong, but people don’t idolize others who don’t work hard or go through something to get where they are. I mean, people with really successful businesses, careers, or activism go through something. It’s a fact. Prove me wrong. 

So, even if you’re planning on walking the most perfect path, there’s going to be pain, loss, and vulnerable times that don’t make any sense in the moment. Grand scheme, though, they just might.

So, what can we honestly take away from all of this so that it doesn’t make us want to fight someone like Bad Girls Club? 

  • Life tests us with hurdles to see how we’ll get up 
  • Sometimes people suck & they want to see you fail
  • Bumps look different to different people depending on how hard their working
  • You get a mixture of experiences thrown at you
  • Those who lack struggle aren’t the ones we care about long term

All of these pills are hard to swallow in their own way. I would consider myself a sprinter. I work hard at whatever I’m doing, but a couple of large bumps made for some scary falls and made it hard to sprint without being scared again. Even now, it’s hard to put all of my effort into something. I fear I’ll fall again… but that’s the test. Now, I’ve made getting up when I’m down a habit, a brand and a priority. People expect it. I expect it from myself. 

This blog is dedicated to the kids who got knocked down as a result of one adult’s beef with the staff member of one program. It’s dedicated to the kids who 100% deserved the awards they were given and praised for, but also for the kids that didn’t receive an award to project pain. This is for the girl that sang through nodes in all of her lead performances. This is for the kid that had to learn a brand new part and reteach an entire dance right before opening night. This is for the kid that played the Charlie Chaplin in the first high school rendition of Chaplin the Musical but didn’t win. This is for those who played The Music Man in the “The Music Man” which won Best Musical, but didn’t win best lead. This is for all the blood, sweat, and tears that have been put onto that stage, a run that has gotten taken away for a pandemic, and each ounce of hard work that you put in. This is not for the petty adult issues that caused these kids to wonder whether they’re picking the right path or what they could have done better. It’s not pitting kids against each other, but recognizing the beauty that came together to create such brilliance. This is about recognizing their hard work – what it ALWAYS should have been about. So yeah, your hard work wasn’t enough to push through the politics of the Jerry Awards, (whoops, that’s some tea….) but it was enough for every audience member, the writers of Chaplin: The Musical, and everyone that genuinely matters in your journey toward greatness.

Photo credit: Penny Hazeltine

People watch us when we fall. They applaud us when we get back up and they only notice again the next time we fall. So, you need to be the one that notices when you’re sprinting. You need to be the one that notices when you’re moving  fast and  powerfully. You need to be the pat on your back that says, “Wow, I got kicked down, spit on, and laughed at, but look at me now.” That needs to come from you. Grand scheme: if you are working your hardest, that’s all you can do. No ifs, ands, or buts. So stop beating yourself up about it, stop questioning your worth, and get back up every damn time.

At the end of the show, or the job, or crazy hard school project, you’re not going to remember who thought you weren’t worthy. You’re going to remember who thought you were. Make sure you’re one of your own biggest fans.