The year 2015 seemed to involve frequent misuse of the term “humbled,” for instance, using it to describe how you feel when your TED talk goes viral, or your novel gets props from Oprah, or you field five different marriage proposals within a week.
I would like to start the new year off by giving a real life example that might clarify what it actually means to be humbled:
Today at the gym, I had just completed a leisurely 18 minutes on my top choice elliptical right by the window. I left my water bottle and a clean, folded towel as a placeholder while I darted off to grab disinfectant wipes. When I came back, a man with salt-and-pepper hair was about to step right onto the elliptical as is but stopped when he noticed the items left behind and then me swooping in with the wipes. I excused myself as I cleaned off the parts I had manhandled, then offered a friendly “You can go ahead! I’m finished.” I walked to the other side of the gym to stretch on a mat and watched in the full-wall mirror as he retrieved his own handful of wipes and returned to scrub every millimeter of the machine — both sets of handles, the display, the water bottle holder, the base that no normal elliptical-user would even touch. It was as if this man had seen me rub it down with a wet armpit instead of wet wipe. He boarded the elliptical only once he seemed convinced that he had eradicated any possible trace of my existence. I spent the remainder of the day glancing in mirrors and wondering if I give off a general air of contagion.