(illustration by Mary Sullivan )
Once upon a time, my day-job was writing for the Austin American Statesman newspaper.
This was back in the olden-eighties (as the child still says) when blogging was an unpaid passion project we did at night and lovely conversations still flourished on the Twitters.
A long, long time ago.
One of my fave facets of the Statesman job was creating/writing a serial for kids.
I took the serious (from breaking news to William Shakespeare), draped it in fiction and had the opportunity to “teach” young readers without their realizing.
In a way it’s the same as the Child and my “open healthy food” sneaks of today!
And, because no children’s serial is complete without illustrations, I had the opportunity to pull in one of my *fave fave* illustrators as well.
I told her then and I’ll happily tell you now:
I couldn’t believe she agree to work with me.
More than being overly humble (I wont lie. I loved my writing. I didn’t question if my writing was enough.), anyone who’s worked for a newspaper knows the job isn’t high paying.
We definitely couldn’t pay Mary what she was worth for bringing to life the characters in my head.
Flash forward a few years and we’ve both gone on to different things.
Bigger and BETTER.
So much bigger and so much better the New York Times took notice.
As soon as I spied the kudos linked above I reached out to my old friend.
I started a message. I typed the words:
I’m so proud of you!
I erased them.
I hit delete 20 times.
I sent a message which merely stated something along the lines of I’d seen the article and how cool I’d thought it was.
Mary thanked me and our conversation turned to other stuff.
Still conflicted about phrasing — for reasons Id not yet identified— I sent the snippet below:
I’m so proud of you.
The five words felt oddly condescending when typed & sent—but I couldn’t figure out why.
I was proud of Mary. I was impressed by Mary. I was proud of and for her she’d progressed beyond my little serial and created a book so widely adored.
The rest of my day I pondered the words.
I considered who’d said them to me (parents, siblings, dear, dear friends.) and how I felt (happy, noticed, affirmed.).
I thought about the PROUD-sayer’s relationship to me (close relatives, long time companions) and wracked my brain for anyone who’d used the P-word in reference to my actions/accolades where it had meant little.
While I was pondering this Mary messaged me back and referenced a post about the word *proud* and teased me Id chosen it in my writings to her.
To be proud of someone means you know where they’ve been and how far they’ve come — pride is a word about growth.
The last six words above were my ah ha! of sorts.
Pride is a word about growth.
That *nailed* reason I’d welcomed the word PROUD from family/close friends and bristled at a vague sense of condescension the P-word elicited from mere acquaintances.
Yet it was not until I went to use it toward another I realized how laden with meaning & power the word was for me.
From the proper person? A welcome and often needed affirmation of my work. A reminder I mattered and what I do matters.
Proffered by someone to whom I feel no real connection? Icky and condescending no matter the intent.
For me proud is about connection, shared history and growth.
Which brings me back to you.
To your PROUD-experiences and use of the word.
Does your response to I’m proud of you shift depending on the person in your life who proffers it?