The Time I Won
My parents named me Therese after St. Therese, the little flower. I remember a quote from her writings, “Lord, if I cannot do great things let me do small things in a great way.” I had no artistic abilities, was of average athletic prowess, and suffered from ADHD, so I really did not excel in the academic arena. The quote became my excuse to revel in the land of mediocre.
My intrinsic mantra was, “It is not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.” This was a good thought process; it allowed me to try many things without the pressure of excessive expectations. I was in band, athletics, and various after-school clubs. I can say I played the game; I can also say, I never won a race, scored the winning goal, or won a single academic award.
Despite my shortcomings, I did not seem to suffer from low self-esteem. I had plenty of friends and usually led my own little click. I had a role, The Queen of Commonplace. Maybe I could have aimed a little higher, but I had a marked propensity toward procrastination and sloth.
The change came after I graduated from high school. I joined the Army. Boot camp cured me of the lacksidazical tendencies. I still did not do anything remarkable, I did not win sharpshooter of the company, or platoon leader. What did happen, besides survival, was a little flame of desire ignited in my brain. The flame grew into a blaze; it was the aspiration to expand my kingdom. I no longer wanted to be the Queen of Commonplace. I wanted to be the Queen of Extraordinary.
A couple of years later the chance came. I was attending military intelligence training in California. The school I was attending was multi services; I had Air Force, Marine, and Army classmates. The rivalry between the Marines and the Army students was intense to say the least. Most of my classmates were officers and college educated. I was not. One particular Marine officer made it very clear that he intended to be the class distinguished graduate. My previously suppressed competitive nature could no longer be contained. The war between the Marine Lieutenant and me was on.
We did not just leave it at academics; the young Lieutenant and I competed at everything. At PT (physical fitness) every morning we tried to do one more push-up, one more sit-up, one more second faster then each other on the run. Recreational time was the same, everyone went to the local amusement park and there we were; who could ride Montezuma’s Revenge one more time then the other? The garbage can was my friend after that contest. We traded back and forth on the highest test scores and then the big finale came.
The last exam was long and arduous. It lasted all day. The next day we were told whether we passed, but not our class standings. The Marines were fairly confident in their young Lieutenant and celebrated that evening with great jubilation. Truth be told I believed their triumphant attitude was justified. What was I thinking? How could I ever hope to beat out such an educated and gifted opponent?
The graduation ceremony was a sight to behold. The auditorium was filled with soldiers in their dress greens and blues. Six classes of around forty-two students each were graduating. A board of high-ranking officers stood on stage. A Two Star General was giving out the academic awards. When it came time to announce the distinguished graduate the auditorium grew quiet.
The Lieutenant had his hands on the arms of his seat and was rising out of his chair as the General announced, “.. and the distinguished graduate and highest academic scorer of this school to date is Sergeant Therese Guy.”
It took me a minute and a nudge from a fellow classmate to realize they had announced my name. The young Marine sat down quickly with a rash of red spreading across his face. I will never forget what happened next. He slowly began to stomp his foot on the floor, and as I rose and walked to the front of the auditorium to receive my certificate, one by one all the Marines began stomping their feet and chanting my nickname, “Mrs. Rambo, Mrs. Rambo.”
I will never forget that day, the day I won, the day I became the Queen of Extraordinary!