Instead of New Years Resolutions, my group of friends decided to take a novel approach to 2016. Lots of people pick goals for the new year in an attempt to overhaul their lifestyles; it’s never bad to re-evaluate your situation and use the new calendar year as a fresh start. We all can make use of benchmarks to help us continue to move forward. However, it’s no secret that some people have trouble holding themselves accountable to their “New Year, New Me” mentality. Often we’re so enthusiastic that we sprint into change rather than pacing ourselves – this ultimately causes some of us to tucker out a tad early and slip back into our comfort zones. Change is hard to begin with so why make it even more challenging for ourselves? So, as my friends and I were sitting at dinner, we went around the table each taking a turn to pick a single word to serve as our individual ’16 mantra. Whether the chosen word turns into a quantitative and attainable goal OR simply acts a guide for tough decisions in the new year is up to the individual. But one word is a lot less intimidating than an entire sentence, right? After all, the first step in a well-constructed sentence is a single word (and sentences can be hard sometimes, ask Michael Scott.)
So what was the first word in my sentence of 2016, you ask? Selfish. I will not deny that the word has an innately negative social connotation, and the term “selfish” is often used in parallel with other seemingly negative terms such as “conceited”, “materialistic”, “rude”, etc. Merriam-Webster defines the word “selfish” as “1. Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others 2. Arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others.” Sure, selfish is a negative thing if you’re never concerned for others. But, what about those of us who always regard those around us and are never concerned for ourselves? I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, I’m actually pointing out this character trait as a flaw. Sometimes, I hate that I’m nice. I often give people the benefit of the doubt after they’ve proved they don’t deserve it. I invest way too much in those closest to me, even those that don’t reciprocate. And worst of all, I value the success and happiness of others over my own.
If you’re reading this and thinking “She’s never been nice to me” – I’m sorry we haven’t connected enough for you to see that side of me. I’m blunt and honest at times, but I have an extremely hard time saying no to or walking away from those people I really care about. I don’t want to disappoint them. I want to be the friend that’s always there and ready to go whenever they need me. When I get told I’m “too nice”, I shake it off (s/o to TSwift) and justify my actions with some overly optimistic excuse involving karma and “taking the high road” and blah blah blah. I, a 22-year old female with a college degree and an overly optimistic attitude, work 8 hours a day trying improve the lives of helpless people I’ve never met and will probably never meet. But I can’t prioritize myself enough to do the things that make me successful and happy?
Example: I love writing, but I put off finishing this post because I felt bad saying no to the social events I was invited to for the past 2 weeks. I spent pointless amounts of money doing things and traveling places instead of sitting in my room, not spending a dime, and finding contentment in finishing what I started. Needless to say, I’m still struggling to embrace the word selfish as my 2016 mantra. But, I’m finishing the post now, and you’re reading it, so I’m not a total failure, right? (
I’m a month into the new year, and this is what I’ve resolved for February 1st through December 31st. 2016 is the year of “me.” Yes, it sounds cliche. For the past month I’ve been singing along to a broken record of acoustic tracks by Resolutioners crooning about how this year is going to be ‘different’. Just as we all have different focuses for the new year, we all feed off of different methods of motivation. For myself, I need to write things down to hold myself accountable (writing this blog post serves as a reminder, as mentioned above. This is one of my many efforts to refocus myself in 2016.) Now, I’m sure many of you reading this post think that every year should be centered around your best interests. But let’s be real, life is an evolving mixture of exciting opportunities combined with poorly-timed, confusing, and stressful challenges. It’s a never-ending process we really never figure out until it’s too late. BUT that doesn’t mean we can’t work to manage it in the meantime, right? Right. So this is my proactive start. I need to be selfish when it comes to my happiness, but I also need to be selfish when it comes to my success and my career. I’m turning 23 in a month, and although I may still feel like an old-soul trapped in a kid’s body, I’m getting hit hard with the realities of adult life.
“What’s your next move?”
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
“Are you seeing anyone?”
“Will you be staying in Baltimore?”
“Still thinking med school?”
“Do you want kids?” (Yes, this is a serious consideration for a young female faced with the daunting idea of pursuing a doctorate degree.)
I feel like I hear these questions everyday in casual and professional contexts. They’re to be expected, honestly. I’m at an exciting time in my life where I’m introduced to new people, places, and opportunities. It’s impossible to make meaningful connections and build networks of people without revealing your intentions and directions. So, it’s only fair that I’m asked a variety of similar questions by my co-workers, friends, and family. However, in recent months, I’ve been finding it harder than normal to answer these questions to accurately reflect my interests. And the harsh reality is that it’s only going to get harder. My original “career timeline” is looking less feasible; I’m confused by where I’m headed; and my priorities are about as consistent as the sizing of women’s clothing. I can’t attribute this recent struggle to any one thing, so I’ve decided to make this “selfish” lifestyle change in hopes that it will help to resolve many of the aforementioned personal and career issues. I’m investigating other potential career options without doubting my self-worth. I’m beginning to say no to those who threaten my success and yes to those who take an active role in empowering me. Therefore, I’ve made my mind up to be more selfish. It’s my hope that when I start to take others out of the equation, my overall arithmetic skills improve.
The part I continue to struggle with, though, is where to draw the line. I believe we need to invest time and effort in ourselves but at what point do we say no to those who we care about? I don’t have an answer for this, and I don’t think I ever will. Life is a balancing act, and different stages of life call for different priorities. Without kids, my happiness and my future are my livelihood. And I’m sure there will be many more times where my livelihood is threatened. But, for now, if I am not for myself, who will be? Justify your selfishness. It’s necessary. Just remember, you gotta make the mistake to learn from it.
So, I hope you, unlike Michael Scott, intentionally build your 2016 from one meaningful word into a powerful and coherent sentence. You can’t always predict what life is going to throw at you, and sometimes it’s more than okay to find your “[sentence] along the way.” Reminder: Don’t get frustrated when you have writer’s block. Life is never easy, and sometimes we need to stall before we choose our next word. Think of this idling-phase as extra time to search the metaphorical version of thesaurus.com for synonyms, where an unpredictable future becomes a capricious one. And when you find the next word in your sentence, continue writing your story like you never skipped a beat.
Until next time, keep it stylish (and selfish?)
P.S. I promise this new attitude will not impact the number of #selfies on your IG feed. You’re welcome.