As I’m trying to navigate my professional future, I was reminded of a past situation that was similar in the way it made me feel.
Let’s go back to my sophomore year in high school.
I was a pretty good volleyball player and most people– including other girls on both JV and varsity squads– were certain I’d make varsity that season.
Everyone was shocked. I was hurt.
My dad who was noticeably pissed too, calmly told me to hold my head up and just do really, really well on the J.V. squad and shame the varsity coach every time I stepped on that court.
I did. I was a captain, a stand-out and I was doing as my dad so wisely suggested, using this time to improve and show the folks who didn’t accept me that it was a dumb decision.
Mid season, the coach asked me to join varsity. But I noticed the sophomore he chose to bring up to varsity instead of me wasn’t really playing that much. I loved leading my J.V. team and all the support my teammates gave me and all that prime playing time I had. But I had a tough decision to make. Wasn’t I finally being recognized? Wasn’t being a sophomore on Varsity worth it, even if it meant I could possibly be sitting on the bench the majority of the time, waiting my turn behind juniors and seniors?
I had another heart-to-heart with my dad. He said he had my back regardless of what I did, but he thought I should take a more honorable stand and stay with my J.V. team, play well, have guaranteed playing time because the coach passed me over when it really mattered. He surmised that this was either a half-hearted attempt on my coach’s part to make things right or to make scrimmages among the varsity team more competitive, not necessarily a move to make me a star.
I listened to my dad, and I turned the varsity coach down. I said I didn’t want to leave my team now, and frankly it hurt not getting selected the first time around. The varsity coach was shocked, and told me if that’s what I wanted, then he couldn’t force me, but he wished I changed my mind. My J.V. coach was shocked, but she understood where I was coming from and she even gave me a big hug and we resumed practice.
I still went on to have successful seasons on varsity junior and senior year, but the lesson I learned as a sophomore was something that crossed my mind recently.
Sometimes in the work world, you might be really good at what you do. You may get passed over for promotions, but when the chips are down, people in charge want to “bring you up from J.V.”, and pick and choose when your gifts are only beneficial to them.
They will psych you up and have you to believe a shiny new uniform and the appearance of status should be enough for you, and that sitting on the bench in that uniform should be enough. Because after all, you’re “only a sophomore.”
I learned then and there I should never let anyone put a ceiling on what’s “good enough” for me, except me.
Looking back, that “just a sophomore anyway” premise was faulty.
I was a sophomore. But in a number of classes, I was already taking junior honors classes and excelling in them the same way I excelled in my sport.
I appreciate the lesson my father gave me. Never dull your shine for anyone, and sometimes what looks like taking a step back, is just that. It looks that way; it doesn’t mean you did. It was true for varsity volleyball, and it’s true right now.