A popular question in interviews is “what is your greatest achievement?” If you are a parent then that it is all too easy to answer. Even if you are trying to get this job so you don’t have to spend as much time with the annoying little shits, replying with “my children” will always be one of those acceptable, politically correct, collect-£200-as-you-pass-go answers.
For the rest of us singletons, low-flyers, hobby-less people out there this achievement question is a tough one to deal with.
Thinking back over my life achievements, or lack thereof, it brought me back to a school memory that I had stashed away, alongside the embarrassments, foot in mouth moments and that time I heckled a Morris Dancer. The unlocked, dark memory was The Tale Of The Swimming Certificate. Are you ready? Then I'll begin.
Back in primary school we endured half a term of weekly swimming lessons at the local pool. The class was sectioned off into “sink like a stone”, “can manage the doggie paddle” and a select group of “the next Michael Phelps”. Guess which group I was in?
I started off in the main group of kids who could manage and just needed to learn a technique, but was quickly cast out to the group ran by someone’s mum who used to try and alleviate my fear of water by saying “look, I’ll have a lot of paperwork to fill out if you drown”. Fears and the longing looks to the uber-swimmers splashing around in the deep end aside, I splashed, kicked and floated on. My main aim being to complete a width of the pool and receive that coveted swimming certificate.
At the end of term we all gathered in assembly, the buzz of the certificate presentations milling around the class. We sat cross-legged and watched the teacher in anticipation of hearing our names read out.
The first certificate was for “confidence”. Basically the absolute bog-standard, pee-poor excuse for an award. Looking down the line of my friends I rolled my eyes and shot a pitiful look for the poor saddos who would be forced to accept this. My patronising looks were soon cut short when my name was read out. WHAT?! I stood up and collected my rubbish ‘award’ half-dazed and half absolutely gutted. I was still in disbelief as I watched my friends pick up their ‘width’ and ‘length’ certificates. Bastards!
Ironically this award for gaining confidence totally knocked my confidence and whilst I still visited the pool frequently at weekends in my teens, I still to this day have no real technique other than ‘flail and don’t drown’.
The moral of the story? Don't write acceptance speeches unless you are a sure-fire winner.