One day a couple of weeks ago, I woke up, ambled into the bathroom and proceeded to drop my tube of toothpaste into the toilet. I thought my day couldn’t get any worse until I gave a 15-minute class presentation on what turned out to be the wrong movie. (Who knew there were two completely unrelated films named “Chocolat”?) In short, I was on the struggle bus.
I first encountered the term “struggle bus” a month or so ago. Perplexed by Tweets like “I can’t even college right now #strugglebus,” I knew I had fallen behind the ever-changing landscape that is popular culture. Although I could deduce the basic meaning of “struggle bus” from context clues, I wanted more information since I revel in the discovery of new words. So, I turned to the one source that could tell me more: Urban Dictionary.
According to Urban Dictionary, “struggle bus” is a metaphor used to “describe a difficult situation, as in hard schoolwork.” An alternative definition describes it as “the state of doing anything simple and struggling an inordinate amount with it.” Urban Dictionary featured “struggle bus” as the Word of the Day on Oct. 5, 2012.
Google Trends shows that the first time “struggle bus” became a significantly searched term was in January 2010. Throughout the past few years, the term gradually gained popularity, reaching its peak last month, October 2013.
You can even ride the virtual struggle bus. Just type in your life’s struggles and watch the bus crash and burn. It’s strange, sure, but also strangely satisfying.
I once read a book called “Wordwatching” written by Alex Horne. The book documented the author’s vain, ridiculous and delightfully funny quest to invent new words and get them published in the Oxford English Dictionary. As a fellow-word lover, I appreciated Horne’s (largely fruitless) attempt to break into the lexicon. The book heightened my awareness of the new words that pop up in conversation and increased my curiosity in their origins.
I have no idea where the concept of the struggle bus came from, nor does anyone else seem to. Nonetheless, it’s beginning to catch on and become part of everyday conversation. People in my social circle are adopting the term to refer to the annoying, embarrassing, and perplexing moments of their lives.
The rise of the struggle bus seems akin to the “first world problems” trend that refers to the daily frustrations experienced by privileged people of wealthy countries. Both the struggle bus metaphor and the first world problems meme are vehicles for complaints that we’re not quite sure we even have a right to voice.
In any case, being on the struggle bus isn’t necessarily the worst. If you’re struggling, at least it means you’re trying. So, next time you have a bad day, take a seat and ride the struggle bus with the rest of us. We’ll wait patiently until we reach our stop, get off the struggle bus and get on with our lives.