With her everyday warmth and enthusiasm, Patrice Washington has become a beloved sight in the Rathskeller at the University of Dallas.
Washington was born in Fort Hood, Texas, but she’s moved around a lot throughout her life.
“I am a military brat,” she said, branding herself confidently. “My mother spent twenty years in the military, so did my father. I’ve spent the majority of my life in California and in Germany.”
Lampoc in California, as well as both Nuremberg and Frankfurt in Germany, housed American military bases at the time.
Though she spent significant time in Germany and California, she’s traveled all over, including to Massachusetts, Georgia and North Carolina, and even took a field trip to Austria.
“Coming from Germany… to America, the education system is so different, they’re more advanced there,” Washington said. “When you come [to America] they’re behind a couple years.”
When Washington returned to the U.S, she began school in Georgia at a Job Corps. Her desire for a challenge and to stay close to family resulted in her choice to acquire a G.E.D instead.
In March of 2000, she returned to the Lone Star State.
“My mom moved here, and I wanted to be closer to my family,” she explained.
Six years later, she met her husband, and they’ve been married for 14 years.
“I do nothing but work and come home, that’s basically it. I stay out of trouble, and I spend time with my in-laws and my family,” she said. “I have a pretty boring life.”
Washington said she’s mundane, but quickly gave two reasons to doubt her claim.
“I have two fur babies, dogs, Sookie and Smokey, and they are Chihuahuas… for nine years I asked my husband for a Chihuahua, and he kept telling me if I got a Chihuahua he was gonna barbeque my dog,” Washington said.
“Guess what he was doing the day I got my dog? He was barbequing! And I had a friend of mine who had a box of black Chihuahuas, little puppies, had her come knock on my door and was like ‘your husband said pick one’ and I was like, give me a minute, let me go downstairs, I said ‘you tryin’ to be funny?’”
After her husband explained that his grilling was an innocent joke, he told her to pick one.
A few years later, she got another Chihuahua, Sookie, named after a character on the TV drama “True Blood.”
Chihuahuas aren’t the only animals Washington associates with family. She made a point to explain her love for elephants, even in the pachyderm tattoo blowing hearts with her husband’s initials on them up her arm.
“Elephants are very family oriented, they never forget anything, they love unconditionally,” she said.
Washington’s connection to elephants showcases her favorite personal virtue: empathy.
“My empathy is my talent. My ability to draw people in. I can talk to complete strangers on the street and they will tell me stuff I should not know, but they tell me anyway because I just have that ability to reach people,” she said. “That’s my talent that God gave me.”
Listening to Steve Harvey’s motivational podcasts has helped Washington discern her plans for the future. Washington remembered Harvey’s assertion that in order for you to be able to achieve in life, you have to use your talent, and she sat back a second to think.
“What is my talent? I know I’m not the best singer in the world, so I’m definitely not going for that,” Washington mused. “I want to be able to utilize it to where I could actually help.”
She has recently decided that counseling would be the way she would employ her talents.
“At this point in time, I’m actually looking to go back to school,” Washington said. “Because of you guys, I want to be a counselor.”
Washington related that distressed students reach out to her and she does her best to help out. Sometimes that means just having a brief, light hearted interaction, while other times it’s sitting down to talk about heavier topics.
Washington attributes a lot of her current ability to understand the whole person to her past.
She said she was like Icarus in her younger years:
“He was told not to do something. He didn’t listen. That was me for the longest time, until I became old enough to go ‘you know what, I was stupid for a very long time’… I had flown too close to the sun too many times and got burned.”
She hopes to exhibit her personal skills in a professional setting, which would require further education. Washington saw potential in her experience working at a college, acknowledging UD’s ability to provide both education and a career.
“I’m already here, so if I had an opportunity to get that degree behind me, and I came to UD and said ‘hey, you know, I’m looking to apply for a position as a counselor… if they know me, they may be wanting to try me out.”
When you are doing something big on campus, whether it be taking a midterm, going through comps or batting first in your weekend game, be reminded of Washington’s positive attitude towards life.
As she said, “A baby bird can’t fly until it jumps!”