On Selfishness

You know how people say they do some of their best thinking in the shower? No... I guess that's just me then. Well, I've decided that I do some of my best writing while driving. Now obviously not the actual writing part but the thought process that comes behind all of it. The ideas, the right way to word things, all the hard stuff--I do it best while driving.

Problem #1 with this backwards way that my brain works: You can't actual write while you are driving. Problem #2: I tend to have a selective memory, and it never wants to cooperate when I sit down to write out my thoughts from driving. Problem #3: I attempt to write about it anyway (hence this post).

Today I had an epiphany of sorts.
I was frantic trying to figure out how I was going to see 10 different people in the next two days. I was stressed and unable to enjoy the better half of my time spent with a really good friend. I kept looking at the time, calculating the hours until my next move, constantly figuring out numbers in my head.

Then I lost myself for a bit of time. I actually started to enjoy my time with people who I wanted to be with. I stopped checking the time. I laughed and ate and talked about life. I was genuinely happy for the first time in a few days.

Then I got nervous and checked the time out of habit. I realized what time it was and immediately pulled up my google maps to calculate distance and time to the next place I needed to be. I was beyond stressed. But it was more than that. I was worried about disappointing people. I was scared to hurt someone's (or multiple someones) feelings. And while I was so worried about their feelings and their thoughts about me, I forgot about my own.

It wasn't until I was completely consumed with guilt that I realized something: I control my happiness. We each control our own happiness. And instead of letting myself enjoy some time off from work.

I spent the whole two weeks (my winter break) calculating and figuring out schedules.
Today I said enough. I swallowed my pride and told some friends that I couldn't make it work. I told them that I had to cancel on plans. I wasn't proud of myself. I didn't feel better. I felt guilty. I kept looking for a response that would make me feel better. When it wasn't immediately there for me, I panicked.

So I did what I do best when I panic. I called my dad. Now I tend to vary which parent I call, but they are my go to people in my times of crisis. I called my dad and made plans for dinner.
Now before you jump down my throat for making more plans after canceling other plans, I needed this. I wanted to see my dad again before I disappeared back to North Carolina. I didn't want to miss seeing him one last time before I had to go home. So I made an effort. And it felt good.

I did finally get a response and it eased my nerves. My friends understood; and why wouldn't they. They never put that guilt or shame on me, I did that all on my own. And that was hard for me to swallow. I realized that I was afraid to reach out for help. I was drowning (in my own mess of over-planning) and I didn't want to admit defeat. Once I reached out, by letting them know I couldn't make it, I was reminded once again that most of our problems stem from within.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day full of calculating times. But it is to see my sister who decided to move north while I moved south.... 14 hours apart and I haven't seen her since July. I'll make the effort.

Anyway, back to that epiphany.
I realized that sometimes we need to be selfish. Selfish. Definitely not one of my favored words. But it's true. Sometimes we need to put ourselves first.
The Webster’s Dictionary definition of selfish is: “Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others …” If we look at the definition closely, we can see: “caring only for oneself,” “concerned primarily with one’s own …” and “… regardless of others.” Those phrases do sound pretty heartless, bringing the image of Scrooge to mind. But the rest, “caring for oneself” and “concerned with one’s interests, benefits, welfare, etc.,” address a way of being that we all are, or should be, instinctually doing: taking care of ourselves. That makes it a little confusing; the word “selfish” contains both something integral to human safety, and a harsh censure against it.
 Like I said, not my favorite word. But I think Rena Pollak, in the quote above, reminds us that being selfish doesn't have to be a negative thing. Selfish needs to be examined; sometimes it is okay to be selfish if you are meeting your needs.

If you are still with me, you are probably wondering what in the world all this babbling had to do with the beginning of this post. I had my epiphany while driving home and started writing the ideas for this post in my brain; there you have it.


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