Conversations with my Uber driver – an unexpected pep talk

Uber drivers, I’ve found – certainly the ones I’ve met in Sheffield – like to strike up a conversation. I usually travel by Uber in the early morning to catch an early train or on an evening return from a full day of travel. Both times I’m either still groggy or very tired. These conversations then have been to me like little pick-me-ups, reminding me to relax and take it easy, that it’s possible to have a good day.

Maybe there’s a certain Malaysian ‘look’, or perhaps it’s the way I wear my hijab, but these drivers can usually tell my nationality at a glance. “Are you Malaysian?” is usually how they break the ice. From there the drivers will almost always mention that they have been to Malaysia once on holiday, that they have a son studying there, that they have been on a long transit in Kuala Lumpur. They will comment on the weather; Asian drivers are all in agreement that the weather is much nicer in Malaysia but a British driver once complained to me about the humidity, which I found amusing. When I get the chance, I like to ask them what they think of the food, because we Malaysians are very proud of our food. To my delight, they’ve never said a bad thing about the food; except, again, the British driver who found it a little spicy.

But I have to say, my most favourite conversation with an Uber driver was the time I received a pep talk. We started off as usual, “Are you Malaysian?”. To which I replied yes, I’m studying here. “How long have you been here?” I told him this is my third and final year here. At one point, he remarked that my English was good and didn’t sound like someone who had been here only 3 years. So I tell him that I actually spent part of my childhood in England. My dad did his PhD here, during which the whole family moved to England. The accent in my speech is the one I gained during that time. “So after graduation, you’ll be working,” he said. I don’t know why but at this point, I felt comfortable enough to confess to him that I wasn’t feeling very confident on the job front. I was afraid of the competition, I was afraid of failing to secure a job. At one point, becoming a hikikomori seemed the likeliest option.

But he took me by surprise. “You are very lucky,” he said. He went on to list the reasons I should feel very lucky. I have experience studying both in the UK and Malaysia. I am attending a good university and studying a good course. I have the advantage of sounding like a local.

I didn’t know what to say. At a time when I felt zero self-esteem, a stranger reminded me of the things that I have to be grateful for. I worried so much about the things I didn’t have (a first class degree classification, internship experience, any work experience for that matter) that I forgot about the things I do have.

So here’s a reminder to anyone who needs to hear this. You are doing OK. You are so much more than you realise. And no matter what it feels like right now, you will be OK in the future.

Just as I found encouragement from an unexpected place, I hope this blog post will do the same for you 🙂

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