To anyone who engaged in a conversation with me last week: I am sorry. I apologize, because if you had the courtesy enough to ask me, “How are you doing?” I likely complained about how crazy my week was, specifically mentioning the one paper and two exams that were on my plate. In short, I took part in the act of bragplaining.
Bragplaining — a combination of bragging and complaining — is a phenomenon that reduces a summary of an individual’s weekly outlook at the College of William and Mary to a series of academic tasks: tests to study for, papers to write and projects to complete.
The sneaky part of bragplaining is that we often don’t realize we are doing it, and how it negatively affects our well-being. People at the College are often very humble and aren’t typically boastful. But when a friend tells you all that she is working on this week, you understandably feel the need to reciprocally share. Soon, an unspoken competition has been initiated: Who has the most unreasonable workload? Who is the most stressed? The highest number of pages for a paper combined with the most tests within the shortest period of time and with the least hours of sleep makes you the winner.
As I was bragplaining for the majority of last week, I continually devalued my experience here. I was identifying my very state of being in terms of what I had to get done by the end of the week — reducing my answer to “How are you doing?” to a series of assignments.
I realized the extent to which my bragplaining had negatively influenced my outlook near the end of the week when I heard a mother speaking about her loving, imaginative sweet daughter who has been diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder. As she described this compassionate young girl, her face lit up with joy, as any proud parent’s would. The woman’s face clouded a bit, however, when she expressed concern about whether her daughter would be prepared to have the full college experience and be able to handle living independently away from home. The fact that she was unsure whether her daughter would have this chance was heartbreaking.
That’s when it hit me: I had forgotten how lucky I am. There are people who are bright and creative and full of potential who, for reasons outside of their control, may never have the opportunity I do — to have this complete college experience. Besides individuals who have to overcome innumerable personal challenges, there are also people living in underdeveloped countries with broken education systems, or places where they must work to support their families instead of going to school. I had gotten so caught up in bragplaining that I lost sight of the true blessing of being here. Here, you have the chance to be challenged, to learn more about what you love, and to grow academically and personally by being surrounded by people who inspire you to be a better person.
When assignments pile up and we feel overwhelmed, it can be easy to get so caught up in meeting deadlines that we forget the bigger picture; we lose sight of the forest for the trees. We should certainly not feel restricted in sharing our worries and stresses with our friends, and we should continue to support each other when we feel overwhelmed — but while sharing our stresses in the hopes of being comforted and encouraged by others, it could make us feel a little better to remind each other of why we are here. Here, we are learning how to best use our talents, and we are accumulating knowledge, insight and understanding to enrich our own lives, and the lives of those we will meet. We can help each other step back from the individual, towering trees to see the beautiful forest that we are traveling through together.
Email Andrea Aron-Schiavone at firstname.lastname@example.org.