A Title’s Worth

It’s funny how hard we work for and place so much emphasis on titles. MD, JD,MSW, Mrs, NP, PhD, all of these typically mark the levels of work that we put into our various careers. Even in these times when having a title as prestigious as the ones I just mentioned doesn’t guarantee success, they are still great ways to get “one’s foot in the door”.

I learned a lesson as a youngster that a lack of acknowledgement of these titles have serious consequences. As a 6th grader in a private school, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime by one of my Science teachers, Mrs Lee, to join a team of three to work on a science project that was to be entered in a national science competition. I was floored! So myself and two friends who were chosen – Gail and Peta-Gaye  – spent a few weeks getting ready for this competition after school with Mrs Lee. The showcase was held on a weekend out-of-town, so we packed up and headed to the event.

It was awesome setting to be in! There were displays and people were talking and you had middle schoolers and high schools showcasing their projects and love for science. Now Mrs Lee told me we entered into the middle school division for the onstage presentation where I had to go up and speak for two minutes on the project.

So I studied hard that Friday night and most of that Saturday afternoon for the big moment Sunday morning. Man I was so nervous! When I went up there, all I saw was a sea of eyes looking at me. Now, you had to say your speech without a cheat sheet – that was the one requirement. As other students participated, I didn’t pay as much attention to their opening line in which they acknowledged the judges in their speech.

It was my turn and when I hit the stage I was nervous as hell and froze. All I remember doing was something my pastor used to do whenever he was about to start his sermon: I said “Good morning everyone”. The place instantly lit up and I smiled too. I felt so comfortable and the speech rolled off my tongue.  I felt confident I did well.

I was shocked when the announced the winners. I placed 4th! Mrs Lee was outraged, and became even more so when the third place winner was a girl who actually read off her cheat sheet verbatim! She never looked at the audience at all!

So why was I out of the running? You guessed it – I didn’t acknowledge the judges during my speech! Mrs Lee did tell me that was the one thing I didn’t do, but she didn’t think the judges would have hammered me too much for it. So even though I gave the second best speech in my age group that day I walked away with nothing to show for it.

So these days even though I’m still I not intimidated by a person based on their title, I still begrudgingly acquiesce to the fact that these monikers do have a place. Life has taught me since that competition that all these titles do is to help get a foot in the door. After all, its how the man carries himself that matters more than how the clothes make the man. But like anything else, balance is always the key…

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