Last week, I ran into a long-time friend of my (future) in-laws at the bus stop. He’s a well-known figure within certain circles in DC, and since I am never one to pass up an opportunity, I approached him and introduced myself. Pardon me, but are you Mr. Important? I’m the Snappy Dish. I’m engaged to the Captain. And his face lit up with recognition. Oh, hello! Yes, we didn’t get to talk too much at dinner last week, did we? Thank you for coming up. And we had a very lively conversation. We talked about my upcoming wedding, the multiple graduations he and I had just attended, and just how hot a DC summer can be.
Over the course of our conversation, he asked me where I’d grown up, where I’d done my undergraduate study, and where I’d been in private practice. It was with great relief – nay, pride – that I rattled off my stats and saw his face light up again.
I had passed The Labels Test. He, the managing partner of a BigLaw shop in DC, was pleased with what he’d heard. Perhaps he wasn’t expecting much out of me, a stranger engaged to his college roommate’s eldest son, but he deemed me worthy enough to chat with again at the bus stop the very next day. I was thrilled. See? All that fancy education was good for something! I can sit with people on the bus!
Which got me thinking – why was I so eager to be validated? I work hard, I enjoy my work, and I am looking forward to the future. That should be enough. And yet. A major reason why I even have my labels is because my parents knew that certain labels would offer me passage into a better life, a life where I wouldn’t feel shy about approaching a managing partner at the bus stop. My parents instilled in me the value of education by their words. By their actions – their continuous, self-motivated endeavors – they instilled in me the desire for more. Not necessarily more in terms material things, but more in terms of achievement, of accomplishment. Of security. I am exceptionally proud of what my parents have been able to provide for me and my sister, especially because they were immigrants and didn’t have the advantage of a native tongue or culture. They willed themselves to success.
My urge to be validated, I suppose, is really an urge to show that I, too, have worked hard to have what I have, that I have earned my place and keep. Which is why I simply cannot stand complacency or smugness.
But that’s another story. I’m just glad to have a new bus buddy.