Attendance Awards

There’s this business saying, or maybe it’s sports, but whatever it is, the gist is “Showing us is half the battle”, or “showing up is 80% of life”.

That’s pretty inspiring, right? I mean, all you need to do is show up. Just be there.

As a kid I routinely got the “award” for spotless attendance. I was always at school, always in class. Never had a sick day. I had an impeccable record. Not much of an award, really. I mean no one WANTED it and it was kind of like getting a medal for existing. Yeah. I made it to school. My mom drove me.

But if we skip ahead to my Senior year of high school, you’ll find I was rarely in Band, infrequently in Spanish, and the Newspaper class let me write from home. I didn’t win any awards that year. I barely made it to my “necessary” classes before the bell rang. I had random absences throughout the year too. I was barely in school at all. In one class I remember my teacher told me “I gave you the grade you would have gotten if you’d been there.”

The phrase “showing up is 80% of life” is inspiring because it means even if you put in the least amount of effort possible something great can still happen. But I still couldn’t manage to show up to school as a teen. Was the least amount of effort too much effort?

It’s ironic, now that I think about it, how much I flippantly regarded those attendance awards. I can’t believe I thought going to school every day was “no big deal”. I’ve had arthritis every day of my life now for eighteen years. Eighteen years, or the age of a high school graduate who could have had perfect attendance for 13 years of standard US education.

13 is also my age when I was diagnosed with arthritis and when my perfection started to plummet. As someone with a high school graduate level of experience with debilitating illness, let me assure you of something: showing up is not easy.

Showing up is the hardest damn thing I have to do in a day. In any day. Showing up to work, showing up for friends, showing up for responsibilities…being anywhere is hard.

Almost everything I know about life is that the cards are stacked against your ability to show up. The weather can affect your ability to show up. Mechanical failures of any kind — from car accidents to power outages to malfunctioning alarms, an event in someone else’s life — a total stranger — can affect your ability to show up. All of those are externals, of course. And then there are the internals: you’re too tired, too stressed, too sick, too….something.

My birthday was yesterday. Now, half of all adults think it’s not worth mentioning. It’s just another day on the calendar, let’s not make a fuss, or they’d even rather everyone just forgot it entirely. The other half want to celebrate in some capacity. Perhaps a dinner out, a cupcake, a present they got for themselves, a card from a loved one, something to recognize the incredible accomplishment of another year on this earth.

A birthday is a milestone, a victory to be acknowledged. Another year of earth attendance.

I may not be able to show up to all the activities in life the way people think I should, but I’m 31 now, and I’m pretty thrilled about that. Just that. I’ve never understood (yet) the compulsion to lie about age. Aging is miraculous to me. There are so many obstacles to getting old.

Shoot, with my diet, miraculous doesn’t even begin to cover it.

If you ask me, showing up is 100% of life.

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