The Things We've Done

One of the many questions I like to ask people over a caffeinated or alcoholic beverage is "What are you most proud of doing?" It's a uniquely personal question that generally results in people thinking for a moment, exhaling, and responding with something along the lines of "I don't know". Very few people have an immediate answer for this because — for reasons I'm not entirely clear on — we don't seem to enjoy our victories for very long. Yet when we look back at the things we've accomplished in our lives, how can a person not be genuinely proud of a few things they've accomplished?

Hideki, the houseless person1 who has lived under a nearby bridge for the better part of five years, managed to get himself some stable employment at the start of the summer working for the city and cleaning parks. He was incredibly happy and soon moved into a cheap apartment on the south side of town. With autumn upon us, the city has let him go and Hideki has once again taken up residence under the bridge for the winter. I asked him why he's chosen to do this, and he explained in his meandering, rambling way that his neighbors are friendlier … and he likes that there are generally more steel and aluminum cans to collect for recycling in the area than other parts of town.

He's happy where he is, and he says he was proud that he could keep a steady job for an entire season for the first time in years. What he's told me of his past was generally not pretty, but his present is exactly what he wants it to be. We should all be so lucky to be happy with our circumstances.

When I think about the things that I'm most proud of, I struggle to answer why I'm proud of these accomplishments. They're not particularly amazing, nor have they changed the world for the better (yet). Despite this I'm genuinely happy to say "I have done this thing to the best of my ability" and leave it at that. I wonder if this is the case for others as well.

  1. Hideki has told me many times that "his bridge" is his home, so he's not homeless.