The day Chester taught me that I am an overachiever

If anyone knows me, they know I talk a lot about my golden retriever Tommy. I’ll also post a lot of pictures of him on social media.

It’s no secret that I am a dog person, and always will be. I grew up with goldens my whole life, including Chester. He was our family pet from when I was in the third grade, up until he passed away the summer I finished my third year of university. He would have had his 16th birthday this year.

What? I’m a crazy dog lady, like my mom and my Nana.

He made me smile, with all the weird thing he ate, his love of chewing on ice cubes, his ability to give high fives, and his desire to always receive attention like a typical goldie.

Rather than write a sappy post about how much I miss him, even though I miss him dearly, I thought I’d write a funny story about one of the few times I could ever be mad at my dog and the day he taught me something about myself.

If it’s anything you need to know about what I was like in high school, it was that I was an overachiever. I know all my friends and family are reading this right now and thinking “No! REALLY, Em? You, someone who practically lived in the college newsroom and was involved in like every media club in university at some point or another, AN OVERACHIEVER?? Wow. Never would have guessed.”

If you were wondering how I got this way, it all started in Grade 10. I went from a student who lacked confidence and struggled academically, mainly due to my learning disability, to someone who won a proficiency award for being one of the students with the highest mark in a Grade Nine Learning Strategies class. That gave me the confidence to really push myself and make it onto the honour roll and strive for success after high school.

I felt ambitious, as in, I was looking at journalism colleges to attend and thinking hard about which post-secondary institution would be best for me. IN GRADE 10.

I don’t know why I stressed so much. I mean, I went to both university and college in the city I grew up in and it worked out for me.

To be fair, every student in Ontario has to take a mandatory careers credit. It was basically a bunch of personality tests, a resume assignment, and a cumulative assignment about your dream career and how your personality and skills shape it.

Shocker: I picked journalist. More specifically, I wanted to be a journalist who eventually would run my own magazine. I was tired of the tabloid and catty B.S. found in entertainment publications and women’s magazines, as much as I still read them for album reviews, interviews, and makeup tips.

I’d also like to add that this was before new media journalism was in full swing. Considering I graduated high school in 2010, applications like Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever else kids are on these days, were either just in their peak, didn’t exist yet, or under development.

I remember everyone being on Facebook when it first became mainstream and it being a huge deal when I finally got my own account after I left high school.

Anyway, you’re probably thinking “What does this have to do with your dog?” I’m getting to that.

As any student, high school, post-secondary, or otherwise, can tell you, final projects creep up around the same time as exams. I was feeling tense because I wanted to get perfect on all my exams as an overachieving teenager, but I had to get this final Careers project done first.

It was basically a summary of what we did all semester, so it wasn’t like the information was anything new. I did most of the written part in class. All I had to do was put it together in a colourful book with bright backgrounds, fonts in every colour, and tons of pictures using Microsoft Publisher, which I really wish was still a thing.

Poor little 15-year old me was stressed out, and just wanted a bowl of macaroni and cheese at lunch. I took a break and heated up a pack of Stouffer’s mac and cheese. I was living the diet of a college student before I was even in college.

Come to think of it, I definitely ate way more mac and cheese between the ages of 13-18 than I ever did in my 20s.

You have to let Stouffer’s mac and cheese sit for a few minutes after it’s been in the microwave, so I put it in the middle of the kitchen table. Big mistake.

This is when my Nana was living with us for about a year before she moved, and back when she had a chocolate lab named Coco. She and Chester were the best of friends, and I swear they were playing tag team that day.

Chester was in the kitchen with me, and Coco was outside. Coco barked to be let in. I let her in, turn my back, and next thing I knew, Chester was eating my mac and cheese!

I was angry, and when I went upstairs, I couldn’t even look at the picture I had of him on my desk and just focused on finishing my assignment and the fact I was stressed out.

What? You’re saying you don’t have a picture of your pet by your desk, as your phone background, or anywhere else in your house? Liar.

Looking back, it is a hilarious story because that would happen to me, and I don’t know why I didn’t just make some more mac and cheese. Then again, do we really know why we made the decisions we did at 15? I doubt it.

I forgave him that night, and I did well on my careers project. My exams? Well, I got a 92% on my math exam and I passed the other two, so my unrealistic goal wasn’t met, but oh well.

I’d like to add this wasn’t the first time Chester ate something he shouldn’t have eaten and I wasn’t happy with him about it. He also ate my participation ribbon, and little optimistic nine-year-old me was convinced it would come back in one piece when he, well, pooped it out.

Sometimes, I feel sorry for my mom when I look back and think about the harsh doses of reality she gave me, including that I’ll never get my orange participation ribbon back.

By the way, that doesn’t even cover half of all the weird things Chester ate. He was unique, and I love him for it.

I know there are probably a lot of teens freaking the heck out about projects and exams right now, so I hope this story about my goofy pet made you laugh.

Sadly, I don’t know when my overachieving attitude will disappear, if it will at all. Some days, it’s a blessing, because it keeps me busy and motivated. Other days, it’s a curse where I know I took on too much and I have so much work to complete, but all I want to do is watch Once Upon A Time in my worn out sweatpants.

If it’s anything I’ve learned from Chester that day, it’s that eating my mac and cheese is a great way to annoy me, never turn your back on your food and that I work too hard at times. Okay, fine. More times than I want to admit.



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