Not many things make me sicker than disloyalty. When someone or something has depended on you, loved you, supported you, and celebrated you, to turn your back on that makes you one ungrateful bastard. Marriages, friendships, jobs... it doesn't matter to me. If you give up, without putting forth more effort than you ever thought possible, then you did just that. You. Gave. Up. On something, that at some point in your life, you valued and loved. And, even when it's necessary to give it up (because sometimes you have to call it quits, it's reality, peeps), it still makes me sad. I gave up on something I loved 16 years ago when I walked out of my basketball team's locker room because my coach hurt me to the core. Everytime I step on a court, I think about that 10 second walk across that room, away from a group of girls that had been nothing but loyal to me. It is the only thing I've ever truly regretted because I had committed my own worst sin of disloyalty.
Call me sentimental. It's okay. I love the storybook ending. I constantly wish for "the way things used to be" even if I'm not ever sure that's how they really were. For example, being a coach and a lifelong sports fan, people always want to chat me up about sports -- especially the professional sporting world -- and my answer is always the same. I... don't... like... pro... sports. "Whaaaatt????" they say, as they stare at me like I just answered their question in Japanese, totally bewildered and completely disbelieving. Let me explain. For a long time, I thought my distaste resided in the fact that many pro athletes are overpaid, whiny-ass, sometimes thug-a-delic, pantywaists who need to realize that they are paid millions of dollars to PLAY A GAME for fuck's sake.
Don't get me wrong, that's a big part of it. But what really whips me is that they are pantywaists who can't even stick around in a city that adores them because they're looking for even fatter paychecks to PLAY A GAME. (I hope those jackasses get re-incarnated into any occupation featured on that show Dirty Jobs. Now those are some peeps who deserve a fat paycheck. For real... have you SEEN what those people do? Gross.)
My example is turning into a rant, and that's not my intended purpose here today though.
Many of my heroes (even those in sport) are people who have demonstrated loyalty. Larry Bird. Drafted in 1978 by the Celtics, he played in Boston for 14 years. His ENTIRE career as a pro basketball player. When he couldn't play anymore, he went the only other logical place... to his homestate of Indiana to coach and work for the Pacers. Where he has worked and still works--since 1997. Cal Ripken played for all his 20 years with the Baltimore Orioles. The dude homered in his very first at bat in the first game of a 2,131 consecutive games played streak. Two thousand, one hundred and thirty-one games, people. Do you know anyone who has shown up for 2,131 straight days of work? Sick? Injured? Forget about it. It's not about cash. It's about pride. And passion. And loyalty.
Same thing with Mike Krzyzewski. This year, he coached his 1,000th game at Duke and everyone's all "Well, yeah. It's Duke. Why would he leave?" But after just a few games, those crazy ass fans all had their doubts. And their voodoo dolls. They didn't scare him off though, and he's got four national championships and an Olympic title (if not the medal) to prove it. Seriously, the man coached some of our biggest pansyass fatcat pro players into winning... for their country instead of for a paycheck. When each of those men that I once detested (and now kind of like. Kind of.) put their medals around his neck, I fell apart. That's what loyalty and hard work gets you. Respect.
Pat Conroy, my favorite author, was a cadet and graduate at The Citadel. Then he wrote a little book called The Lords of Discipline. It's not such a flattering look at life, and especially the brutality, that exists in a military academy, and he pissed off a whole lotta people from The Citadel who could clearly see through some thinly-veiled name changes. In fact, the school pretty much turned its back on him and even demanded he give his class ring back. And that was okay with him because as his school's biggest supporter, he also claimed right to be its biggest critic. Because he lived it; because he survived it. And he lived it when the entire school, and most of its rabid alumni, wanted his head on a pike. Seriously, these dudes served in war(s). They could give a crap about offing some word nerd for the sake of a little school pride. Yet, he never quit on them and has finally been accepted back into that long gray line, even receiving an honorary doctorate and giving the commencement address in 2001. His loyalty and love of his school could not be shaken, no matter how much it was tried. Say it with me, now. Loy-al-ty.My dad and both my brothers married their best friends. All put together, that's like 70+ years of marriage. Was it alwasy easy, this idea of being with the same person for all those years? Hell to the no. It CAN'T be easy. It's another PERSON... in YOUR space... all. the. damn. time. How could that ever be a breeze? But because they love each other, they stuck it out. I've had the same best friends for 15+ years. I've known one of my very best friends ever since her sassy 5 year old butt told me where to sit on the bus every stinkin' day of 1st grade. We don't talk every day, but if I needed her, she'd be in the car, breaking every landspeed record in her way. It's loyalty that does that. And don't even get me started on my other greatest friends in the world. They are a study in loyalty like the world has never known.
Examples aside, however. Here's the meat of my story today.
Today, I celebrated the end of my 10th year with my school. The same school who gave me my first job when they DIDN'T EVEN HAVE AN OFFICIAL JOB OPENING FOR ME. That principal hired me because she believed in the person recommending me, and that person who recommended me has unfailingly believed in me since Day One of our 15 year friendship. When someone sticks their neck out for you, a little loyalty is the least you can re-pay them with. I hope you know what you did for me, Crazy Lady. You changed my life by giving me this job.
And, believe me, there have been hard times. This year, in fact, was a pressure cooker whereupon I dealt with a species of 7th graders which this world has yet seen before. Ten years ago, I started at my school, knowing nothing of it, but quickly learning that many people in the district thought very little of it. It was a building bursting at the seams with kids of all colors, economic levels, and academic ability. Its reputation wasn't highly regarded, and many times, it still isn't. Here I was, a kid who graduated with 32 other people in her entire class. I was a girl who grew up in a town where racial divides were clearly drawn (hello, train tracks) and white faces filled my class pictures. The entire population of my hometown is not even twice the population of the two grades within my school. Here was a girl who'd barely even traveled out of the state, trying to teach English to kids who weren't always even born in our country. I wanted to quit after the first 6 weeks. But I didn't. I couldn't. Every fiber of my being told me I had to stay and finish what I started. Because all my heroes finished what they started.
Every day in my school was an uphill battle. Most days, it still is. People doubt us, snub us, forget about us always. Last year, we were labeled "Academically Unacceptable" due to test scores (by like only 9 test scores, however) and everyone in the district rolled their eyes and whispered, "Told you so." Hell, some of them even shouted it in our faces. Thanks, by the way, Mr. Big Boss for your total lack of confidence; it was inspiring. Just so you know, not everyone cheers for the underdog.
It would have been easy to jump ship then. To cut and run. But no one did. In fact, we actually had to lose some teachers, some really great teachers, to try to help balance our district's budget crunch. And today, we found out we were unacceptable no more. In fact, we were finally Recognized. We rejoiced in the news, on this the last day of the toughest year yet, knowing full-well that the battle begins again much too soon; knowing full well that those who were whispering behind their hands will probably never even mention our success. And that's fine by us because, at my school, when someone steps to you, talkin' a buncha hot mess, it's time to throw down and get... some shit... straight.
Because we're loyal, see?
Today, in my 10th year of teaching -- all 10 years at my same little school, I stood up and accepted my piece of paper and dinky little pin. But I'm not sure if I've ever been more proud of a piece of paper and a dinky little pin because I accepted them in front of a faculty that gets me. They may not always like me, but they get me, and, in my world, that's way more important these days. Today, in my 10th year of teaching, I can name at least 10 other teachers who watched me walk in that very first day of my career. Ten other teachers who didn't ignore me or tell me to run for it. Ten other teachers who guided me, instead, and showed me, time and time again just what it takes to do this job well. Ten other teachers who have been there for more than a decade. And I can probably name another 20 in 20 seconds who have been there for 5 years or more. That's a mother-effing lifetime compared to someone like Terrell Owens.
Am I naive to wish for that storybook ending everywhere I look? Probably. The Days of Old are old for a reason. Things change no matter how much I wish they wouldn't. People leave, marriages crumble, and the world keeps on turning. It's reality. I don't like it, but I still have to face it. Do I ever think about leaving? Sure. Quitting? On almost a weekly basis. I rant and rave and threaten. But I can't. Not yet.
Not when there's an Exemplary Rating out there, somewhere, waiting for a throwdown with me and my homies.