One of the many lovely perks of being a student again is constantly carrying around a backpack. I’ve had the same backpack since I started my undergrad so to say that I make things last is an understatement. With any luck this backpack will make it through 3 years of graduate school and get me to the other side intact. It doesn’t just help me lug around papers, a computer and books though, it’s also a conversation starter.
I ride the bus anywhere I can, which is nearly everywhere in a commuter city like Seattle. I do my best to be polite and friendly when I am on the bus and keep my backpack as close to me as I can. Whether people are drawn to my inviting smile, the backpack, the books in hand, or the fact that I’m not dressed like a drug dealer- I’m not sure, but inevitably someone talks to me.
Most of me would like to think it’s the smile of course but a lot of the initial questions are about my books or backpack. The series of questions usually goes like this:
Fellow Commuter or FC for short and Me!
FC: So you heading to class?
Me: Yeah (or) Nah, I’m heading home.
FC: Are you in college?
Me: Yes I go to UW.
FC: Oh cool. What are you majoring in?
Me: Social work
FC: That’s a great field to be in. You must be good with people. How close are you to your bachelors?
Me: (while mentally pushing aside that people always think I’m 18) Oh no I already have my bachelors. I’m getting my Masters in Social Work. I’d like to think I’m a people person yeah.
FC: (surprise written all over their face) Wow a masters? How old are you?
Me: I’m 24…
FC: Sorry I thought you were like 19 or something.
Me: Well thank you, (I guess?) looking younger will be a good thing down the line I’m sure.
FC: (laughter) Yes it will! So a Masters huh? Your parents must be very proud of you.
There it is. The pride thing. Every conversation I have around going to school and working always comes back to my parents being proud of me. As well they should! (kidding!) Why is it that endeavors such as the one I have chosen for myself are deemed worthy of immediate public pride over other choices?
I mean how often do you hear someone say, “I turned down drugs today,” and another person respond, “Oh your parents must be so proud”? That scenario carries a whole other kind of win that deserves recognition too right? At least I think it does. People deserve to be told that someone is proud of them and they deserve to feel proud of themselves even over what are seen as the small accomplishments.
So you made it to 18 without drinking, doing drugs, getting pregnant, or getting someone else pregnant? Good on you mate! You decided to skip college to support your family and you do so with commitment and perseverance? Well damn, that’s something to be pretty proud of too. Things like graduating High School, getting high scores on a test, going to college, getting a good job, these are all big items most people get commended for by parents, friends and family or even by strangers.
What if you don’t fit into one of the big brackets though? Pride in who you are and who you aim to become is something everyone deserves. You shouldn’t have to go above and beyond the norm to be commended or have someone be proud of you. What about being a good person? What about commitment to a dream? What about being a loving friend, a dedicated partner, a mindful role model?
Be proud of your victories whatever they may be. Whether you say it out loud or not, be sure to recognize at least the possibility of pride in another person’s actions too, however simple. Our lives are all made of up little victories that could mean the world to someone later down the road. Let’s all try to keep the day to day in perspective. Remember that the big ticket stuff is great but it means nothing without the little wins underneath.
So to all of you out there who have never had the odd experience of being commended by a strange for your life choices, or maybe haven’t even been shown pride in who you are by a loved one- I am proud of you! All you kind people, hard workers, dreamers, selfless parents, all the kids who practice safe sex, all the ‘Ghandis’ that choose to walk away from a bad fight, all the people who embrace who they are completely- I am so very proud of you.
Look at you! You got up today, you are living your life, you are special and you matter! Take the time to remind someone, anyone, that you are proud of them. Hey, maybe even tell a stranger. If you find a way to do that without sounding creepy though please let me know because I’ve been failing miserably at it =P