It was on a 3x5 white index card.
In all caps handwriting, it read: PROUD OF YOU
Taped onto it, with one slab of scotch tape, was a single red rose.
The rose was then laced through my steering wheel.
I had ran out to my car, jumped in and there staring me in the face was my dad’s love, written in black ink.
What I wanted to do was burst into tears. I felt so loved in that moment. I felt like the big huge arms of my daddy were wrapped around me telling me everything was going to be okay.
But also, I felt SUPER uncomfortable, squirmy in my skin. Because this note was because I had just broken up with a boy. And my dad was telling me he was proud of me for it. Dads aren’t supposed to know about PMS, tampons, boys or broken hearts, at least that’s not what my teenage attitude thought. So I pulled the rose out of my steering wheel and tossed it in the seat next to me.
PROUD OF YOU. That’s not a phrase I’ve used often throughout my life. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used those words until I found myself in the ER with Bella, her little 9 months old body limp and listless, veins blown from failed IV starts. Her eyes were repeatedly rolling into the back of her head and there was yellow bile projecting out of her mouth. With seven nurses and one doctor bedside, I was pretty sure I only had a little bit of time left with her on this earth. As my right leg convulsed up and down uncontrollably, my eyes filled to the brim but not yet overflowing, my voice mustering as much strength as I could, and I spoke and proclaimed over my daughter as if to hide any fear: Bella, I am so proud of you. You hear me, your mommy, is sooooo, Proud. Of. You.
And now here I am, five years later, and those words have been surfacing a lot more. In my season of hard, it is family and friends who speak this over me: I’m proud of you.
It came first from one friend, then another, then my dad popped in again with those words. And gawd, this is a shitty thing to confess but I HAAATED it.
And I didn’t know why.
So I googled it; seemed cheaper than therapy. Turns out, I am not the only person who feels weird or a tiny bit frustrated when someone says “I’m proud of you.”
Some people don’t like it because it’s like someone is taking their slice of the pie. Like you didn’t bake it, you can’t claim it just because you're somehow connected to it.
For me, I realized I felt like when people said I’m proud of you, that maybe they were saying something like: oh wow, geez, Kaylee, really didn’t think you had it in you but I mean, ok, gall, good work. And a part of me also wondered: Oh, now I’ve done it well enough to earn your favor? Like if I did it any worse-er-er you wouldn’ta been proud?
Gawd, I know, right? I felt horrible for feeling this way, but I couldn’t figure out why people were saying it to me. But then, I found this quote in one of the articles I read amidst my google searches:
"When I tell someone I’m “proud” of them or their performance or their words in a situation, I’m not saying this out of a sense of ownership and propriety of them. What “I’m proud of you” is saying is “For one reason or another, I relate to you and your experience. I feel similar to you in some way, and seeing someone like me do what you just did makes me proud of that identity I share with you."
[LEMME LITERALY INSERT MIND BLOWN HERE]
It finally made sense. At least to me. Maybe it always made sense to you. Maybe you’ve never felt weird when someone has complimented you with these words.
But I have. I did.
But I get it now.
It’s an honor thing. It’s a humanity thing. It’s a nomaste. It’s a “bravo” and “well done.” It’s an applause of the sacred kind.
It was in my hardest days as a teenager that my dad wanted me to know he saw me, he got it. From his experience as a teenager, there was a part of him that knew just how hard it was to do what I was doing and so he wanted to say: I see you, I get it.
It was in Bella’s darkest moments, when I didn’t know if I had minutes or years left with her, that all I wanted her to know was that I saw her. I saw her fighting for her life and gawd, was I proud of her. At such a young age, she was fighting, her body giving her all to live.
And that’s it. When we see people giving their all to LIVE. We get it. We don’t have to have walked a mile in their shoes to see them, to be human alongside them. And so for some reason, when people LIVE well, we tell them. We say, to see you doing that thing you’re doing, it makes me proud to be human alongside you. A belief that we’re all connected and that what we can relate to, we identify with too. That thing you did well, becomes that thing the world as a whole receives.
PROUD OF YOU. You’ll find me saying these words a lot more these days. Because I think they’re world revolutionary type words. Like I’m pretty sure we can change one heart, one soul, one story at a time if we but eyes to honor, applaud and embrace our unified humanity.
But I’m gonna say these words. And then I’m going to add a little bit more. I’m going to say, I’m proud of you because…. And then I’m going to tell them just exactly what they did that was strong and brave and courageous and hard and beautiful. And I’m going to thank them for making the world a better place for it.
You? Who, in your life are you so proud of – for doing life well; that maybe you should tell them as such, like today?