Another guest post from my favorite guest blogger!! Luckily for me, she’d rather write a blog post than her essay for school.
As you probably know, my mom came to visit me at school last weekend. We had booked her a flight to the nearest airport, and then a bus ticket from the airport to school. Then I learned that my friend’s mom was on the same flight and had rented a car to get to school. My friend suggested they carpool, and I eagerly texted my mom the suggestion and told her to reach out to my friend’s mom. “Has she asked her mom yet?” my mom asked. “I don’t want to impose.”
Oh. Right. That. As it turned out, her mom had actually offered, and they ended up carpooling very happily, but I realized that I had gotten so comfortable asking for help that I sometimes needed my mom to make sure I was being polite. For me, this is radical.
A lot of the time we go through life trying very hard to be polite and composed and incredibly self-sufficient. This has its merits, and I assure you that in a professional setting I do know how to embody these qualities. But it also has its drawbacks. We are stressed, and emotionally drained, and socially isolated, and we believe there is something wrong with us if we can’t get something done alone. Besides, this assumes that we all start on a level playing field – that we all have the same socioeconomic resources, physical and mental health, familial support system, and so much more. That is fundamentally untrue. And yet I, being my mother’s daughter, went a very long time convinced that I had to prove myself by never asking for help. Newsflash: this was not fun. College is stressful even when you don’t feel obligated to be independent. So in time, I learned how to ask for help.
Because that’s the thing. College is stressful for everybody, and we all end up with too much on our plates at one point or another. We double-book ourselves and need someone to cover our work shift. We have to write a final paper in Spanish, and we really want someone more fluent than us to edit it. We schedule an important doctor’s appointment, and then the local shuttle falls through and we have no way to get there. We’re leading a middle school science club, and we can’t do the experiment without a lot of pennies. So guess what? We ask. And sometimes no one can help, but sometimes someone can. And since we’re all asking, it never feels too imposing and we never feel too indebted. We’re just honest, and our lives are a lot less stressful because of it.
Last week I had to miss a mandatory talk for class, and my professor told me I could make it up by finding someone else to attend in my place. This seemed like a slightly absurd request – how was I supposed to force someone else to go? – but I sent out an email to my teammates to see if anyone would be interested, and sure enough, someone was kind enough to volunteer. This is not something I would have been willing to do until very recently. But considering that all of the above examples are also emails I’ve received, I realized it was probably fine. No one would be offended by my lack of independence. Honestly, it would just make my life easier.
Because asking for help does make life easier. It tells the important people in our lives that we are comfortable being indebted to them. It admits that life is not an equal playing field. It keeps us from feeling pressured to do it all alone, and it reminds others around us that they don’t have to do it all alone either. It encourages honesty. And it results, often, in really funny emails.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!