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Guest opinion: The Gallery of Modest Achievement

By Anneli Byrd - | Apr 1, 2024

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Anneli Byrd

Those of us who, like me, are related to … ahem … England’s royal family live exciting lives. Besides being a royal, I was also a regular dancer at world-famous Carnegie Hall. This is really true. But I’ve learned that it behooves greatness to be modest. This is especially wise if your greatness won’t stand up to scrutiny because the whole truth is annoyingly unimpressive. I once shared a few whole truths with some trusted people. They began to contribute their own stories and the “Gallery of Modest Achievement” was born. I’ll share a few excerpts now because I think all of us should be celebrated no matter how lame we really are.

My royal status

Unfortunately, no need to curtsey to me just yet. Dad liked family history and he had a thing for the royals. He was all excited the day he figured out how we were related to the queen. He told me that I’m something like a 30th cousin many times removed. So basically, anyone who has any kind of European heritage whatsoever is probably at least as closely related as I am. Still, that doesn’t stop me from hoping for an invitation to Buckingham Palace someday.

Dancing at Carnegie Hall

I was born in New York City. Back then, Carnegie Hall had (and maybe still does have) many small stages and classrooms around the edges that anyone could rent. When I was about 5 years old, Mom, in a doomed hope that I would learn some coordination, enrolled me in a ballet class which met in one of these rooms. I danced like I’d never noticed, let alone used, my arms and legs in my life. But hey, it’s still Carnegie.

Light of the New York stage

When my friend Mary went to New York City, she was spotted as having real star quality. This happened at a freak show, but it wasn’t too far off Broadway. On the stage, she was put into a modified electric chair that shot amps but no volts through her body. All charged up, she was able to ignite a fire-eating torch just by touching it with her tongue. These are the kinds of friends I’m proud to have.

Young entrepreneur success

I’m genuinely impressed by this and jealous that I didn’t think of it myself. My husband, Dave, founded and successfully ran a floral business at the tender age of 4. When he found out that people liked flowers, he went all over the neighborhood picking dandelions from the neighbors’ yards and then selling them back to the people who lived there. Because he was super cute, he made quite a profit before the union boss, Mommy, shut him down.

Superstar racehorse equestrienne

You may have heard of the legendary horse Secretariat, arguably the greatest racehorse of all time? My daughter, Catherine, got to ride one of his noble descendants, Classy. Take a moment to imagine a beautiful girl on a beautiful horse flying over green countryside. Enjoy the vision because what really happened was that although Secretariat sired several good racehorses, Classy wasn’t one of them. He was just your average sweet horse who happened to belong to a friend who let Catherine ride him around the yard. The only really impressive thing here was that she was just a little girl and Classy’s back was very broad, so she basically rode while doing the splits.

‘Jeopardy’ winner!

My aunt Mary Jo really was a contestant. Naturally, we were all glued to the TV when she came on. She looked great, got lots of questions right and even got Double Jeopardy. And then came Final Jeopardy: “Name a state capital with five letters” YES! Easy! Mary Jo was going to win! Dooo dooo do do do do doooo. … But it was November, and she claims she was full of turkey when she answered “Tulsa.” What? Noooo! Forehead slap! This has got to still keep her up at night.

What are the unsung glories in your life? I’d love to hear about them. Maybe they’ll be featured in a future column someday. You can email me at annelibyrd@outlook.com. I’ll wear sunglasses when I read because I’m sure I’ll be dazzled. (Be sure to tell me if it’s OK to include your name.)

Anneli Byrd is an academic adviser in Weber State University’s Student Success Center.


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