What are you most proud of?

It’s an interesting question.

And the answer to “what are you proud of” has pretty normal answers. (I’d say my marriage and my children- but those feel more like winning the lottery than something I can take credit for) So… graduating college. Some trophies I got during my teenage years. Becoming an instructor in karate. Being promoted. This career I’ve worked hard at. Buying a house. The occasional exuberant spring show on my roses… And some others.  And I am proud of those, I am. But no. What comes to mind when I think of the thing I am most proud of is a day I was sitting sullenly on a shuttle bus- heading to take a final at UT Austin.

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I was behind on my studying. It was much too early for me at the time- crack of 8:30am- and it was before my enthusiastic leap into the caffeinated world of coffee. So there I was- hair a mess and wearing a dog hair covered t-shirt. I’d timed my entry on the bus to snag one of the last seats so I could read my textbooks- cramming furiously. And yes- that means some pretty callous line cutting was committed by yours truly. And I was wearing uncomfortable shoes. I had about 5 years there of just uncomfortable, cheap shoes. I was 21, maybe 22.  And sullen. Don’t forget sullen. Painted that less than rosy picture yet? Okay. Moving on.

So a young mother and her toddler daughter get on a few stops later. There were no seats left. And nobody gave up their seat. Not any of the guys. Not any of the people on their phone or staring off into space. And so I – notebook and textbooks in my lap- offer her (sullenly, I’m sure) my seat. She turned me down, shyly. Politely. And so she stands there, holds her little girl’s hand in one hand, and holds onto the seat rest right behind me with the other. And… I know how precarious that is. Those shuttle drivers  were quick to brake, and even faster to accelerate. I’d seen people fall before. People who weren’t holding onto children.

And so… I had this weird tension. And I guess it was attentiveness, but not to the studying I needed to do. So when we braked suddenly, and that young mother pitched forward and would have fallen on her daughter- I caught her. I grabbed her upper arm and jerked her backwards. It happened really, really fast- but I was ready for it. Later, walking to class my right arm hurt from the force I used- I’m sure I left a mark on that poor lady. I stood up (dropping one of my books in the process) and told her to sit. She again tried to refuse, but I made her take the seat. She sat and put her daughter on her lap. I awkwardly picked up my book and stood in her previous spot. I had to put my books up in my backpack so I could hold on with both hands- there would be no more studying. My feet hurt. It was another 30 minutes to campus.

I bolted off the bus(sullenly, still, I’m sure) and trudged off to class so I could sit in the hall and try to finish my studying and then a few hours later took a test for a subject I can’t recall now. I have no idea what grade I got.

And yet- it feels like I passed the test that counted that day. And I may not have passed with flying colors or anything. But still.

It’s what I’m most proud of.

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