The Selfishness

Photo: Jack Kerouac Alley, San Francisco

Song of the Day: Say (All I Need) – One Republic


“Can I ask you what makes you happy?”

I should have known that question would come my way. In addition to this thought, my friend asked me another interesting question: “When was the last time you were TRULY selfish? When did you actually do something YOU wanted to do and not because you had to?”

I bit my lip and thought to myself. Well, the other day I didn’t want to have to leave the building I was in to have a meeting so I asked the other party if they would come to me instead. In didn’t want a sandwich as a part of the free-for-all group lunch order so I quickly grabbed one of the salads before it was gone. I felt like an asshole afterwards for not asking anyone else if they wanted the only Chicken Cesar salad in the pile. In the past months, I chose to work late so that I wouldn’t feel so behind the following day so I selfishly chose to work later instead of getting home to help with dinner. Those acts felt pretty selfish.

My friend asked me again, “no, REALLY. When was the last time you did something for YOU. Not for your spouse. Not for your family. Not for your friends. Not for your Company. What have you done that you SELFISHLY REALLY NEEDED in your life and you went after it unapologetically?”

“Hawaii.” I responded.

“I’ll have to admit, you lit up when you started talking about that trip. So what was it about that trip that made you happy? What would you like to do?”

“Sometimes, I just wish I didn’t have a huge sense of responsibility to take care of everything. That trip was amazing because it was spontaneous and unplanned.”

I broke down in tears.

And then that’s when the truth came out. I WISH I didn’t feel a large sense of responsibility. Sometimes, I daydream about not having responsibilities so that I can do things like take off on a whim to travel the world or even to escape to the local coffee shop. I sometimes wish that I didn’t worry about so many things and then get myself in a twist of having to fix them. I spent my twenties working my ass off to choose the safe path. It’s like a cycle that doesn’t end. I know we can’t live a life WITHOUT responsibilities at all, but sometimes, I just want to be the spontaneous one that just goes to have fun and let loose without having to worry about taking care of everyone else.

I can’t believe I just said that out loud. It makes me feel incredibly guilty, selfish and careless. I don’t know what to do with this feeling.

Then the excuses come. “Well if don’t take care of it, who else will? Who will help solve the problems, how we will keep the house going and who will make sure EVERYONE in our families is taken care of? Who will build the team spirit? Who will make sure our projects move along? Who will make sure their needs are taken care of? Who will…..”

My friend stops me. “THEY will. THEY will find a way to take care of themselves. When YOU STOP enabling and doing things for everyone, people will take care of themselves.”

I cried so hard. She was right.

I asked, “If I don’t do this, how will they know that I love them?”

She responded, “They know you love them. And you can’t love them if you don’t love yourself first and make yourself happy. Are you happy?”

Me: “That’s a hard question to answer. Have I had bad days? Yes. Do I wish things were different sometimes? Yes. Do I wish that things in my personal life were better? Yes.”

Friend: “So you’ve been unhappy?”

Me: “No. I can’t say I’ve been unhappy or happy 100% of the time. Of course I have unhappy days but even on my shittiest day, I try to find that one thing to be happy about. Even if it’s just as simple as being able to come home at the end of the day.”

Why? Perhaps sometimes unhappiness is a choice we make (except for medical instances). You can choose to be happy about what you DO have or choose to be unhappy with what you DON’T have. Even if things seem down, I can CHOOSE to be happy about other things.

I can choose to be happy about being able to wake up in a warm bed.

I can choose to be happy about knowing people who love me whether they are near or far.

I can choose to be happy about being able to do the things I do.

I can choose to be happy about having a job.

I can choose to be happy about seeing flowers. Seeing sunshine. Seeing my pups do silly things in the morning.

I can choose to be happy about the friends and family in my life.

I can choose to be happy about hearing a good song on the radio.

I can choose to be happy about feel-good stories on the news.

I guess when it comes down to it, you can choose to be happy about the small things (as well as the big things) in life.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to find happiness in only the big things when EVERYTHING is going well. When marriage/relationships are perfect, when jobs are perfect and when wealth and health is abundant. But if we only feel that we can be truly HAPPY whenever we experience life in perfection or abundance, we seem to sell the rest of life short.

What about that day when you wake up just feeling ok? Can we not feel happy about that?

There are so many opportunities to experience JOY in each day. It is tragic for us to not take advantage of the 86,400 seconds in a day to SELFISHLY CHOOSE to be happy if just for a fleeting second.

After I composed myself (and built a mountain of tissues of tears and snot) I looked at back at my friend.

“You are one of the kindest, intelligent and beautiful people I know. I am asking you that NOW, more than ever, that you be selfish. Take care of yourself and not anyone else. I want you to be selfish so that you can continue to be happy.”

I nodded.

“The you I know already embodies hope and joy. The you I know seeks to find the silver lining in anything and you always will. Being selfish doesn’t mean you DON’T care about others. Being selfish right now is about loving yourself more so that you can CONTINUE to love others.”

Again, she had a point.

If I don’t take care of myself or set my own boundaries, I will eventually build up resentment and that is not something I want to carry with me let alone hold against others. I believe so much in love that the idea of hindering my ability to share love healthily with others upsets me. I don’t want to ever want to lose the hope to find joy in each day to choose happiness.

So, I guess today starts a day where I will choose to be a bit more selfish about my choices and not feel bad about it- we’ll see how it feels in 30 days.

Love & Excel.

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