“Yer okaaay,” my cousin slurred as he leaned into me.
“You’re okay, too,” I said trying to shift out from under his weight. I was tired. It was late. I just wanted to go to bed.
“No, you don’t understand!” he persisted. “Everybody always hated you, but actually yer normal.”
He was drunk. I was sober, and the words that he spoke stung because I knew they were true. Everybody hated me. They hated me because my father, who was reluctant to praise me to my face, gushed to everyone who would listen about his prodigy daughter. People hated me, because they couldn’t stand to hear about me.
“Yer not even bad looking,” my cousin went on. “If you weren’t related to me, I’d even sleep with you.”
Now I was disgusted. I only stayed awake with him so that he didn’t fall into the pool and drown. Many years my senior, he was a known drinker and always loose with sexual comments. I had never been comfortable in his company. Yet, everyone loved Brucie! He was the life of the party.
But the party had long since ended, and here I was, the woman despised for her intelligence, and the man loved for his lack of it.
The family had gathered for a reunion, honouring my eldest sister, whose health had been failing in the past year. I hosted it, as I had the largest home and a pool for entertaining. No one seemed reluctant to partake of my hospitality. Brucie’s comments left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
I learned at an early age the importance of being humble. I was embarrassed by the comments my parents would make when they thought I wasn’t listening, and at the same, I yearned for them to tell me directly. Achievement has always made me uncomfortable.
It’s why I never promote myself when it comes to a job interview, or taking credit for work well done. The little girl in me still tells herself: “No one wants to know.” The adult in me worries that my efforts go unnoticed.
“(A)chieve quiet excellence in your work,” Derek Lin writes. “…..let your work speak volumes on your behalf.”
Good advice, and reassuring.