There is one kind of praise that I hate.  I hate it when people try to make me exceptional.  The “it’s so nice to see someone [insert usually age related descriptor here] doing [insert various commitments/achievements/basic intelligence here]” sort of praise.  The people saying such things are always well-meaning and always genuine in their desire to share their opinion with me.  I know this.  I won’t dispute this.

The phrasing of their praise though, makes it easy for me to hear it like this, “I’m astounded that someone of your [usually age, but any] group is doing something so [pick a complimentary adjective], but I’m going to refuse to let that change or challenge my basic stereotypes of aforementioned group.”

Usually it’s my age, sometimes it’s my gender, sometimes it’s related to my health, and every time it feels like the person refuses to see me.  I’m not exceptional.  There are lots of other young people, women, and people with a less than perfect health history doing all kinds of noteworthy and amazing things.  I’ve made choices that have allowed me to do some pretty cool things.  I’m proud that I’ve done those things.  I was able to do them not despite or because of my age, gender, or health, but because I was able to figure out what it would take to accomplish these things and willing to do the work.

The challenge isn’t me, or people like me, doing things.  The challenge is seeing people doing the things they are doing.  The challenge is seeing what I do become ordinary.  Because I’d really rather it did.  I’d rather be exceptional for doing exceptional things.