For quite some time I’ve been fond of reflecting on the selfishness of my last four years. It makes a nice justification, I suppose, assigning a purpose and meaning to years filled with much chaos and rallying. One reflection I had lately is about the diversity of selfishness. Coming from the perspective of a marketer, I cannot help but notice different brands of selfishness. Different incarnations of the human condition selfishness seem to be adapted and catered to the specific desires and the needs of our incredibly diverse human race.
One of the primary purposes of selfishness in youth is to get it out of your system. Different people have different things to get out of their system, and college is a time where so many of us do the things that will no longer be appropriate (or fulfilling?) by the end of this decade.
Some people’s selfish college experiences are exercises in hedonism – the absolute and ruthless seeking of personal pleasure. In college many people consume all the alcohol, drugs, sex, and junk food they can, spending every penny and every moment on their own pleasure. Which, when you’re 22 and (relatively) un-attached, is probably ok (as long as it doesn’t kill you). In fact, by over-saturating themselves with stimulation in the college years, many good people go on to be loving spouses, parents, and mentors to others.
Another form of selfishness is the exercising of the intellect. College is a time when it is most people’s full time job to educate themselves; with brains like sponges soaking up everything they can, students bend their minds into positions they never knew possible. Eventually these individuals will go on to cure cancer and teach our children to fill their heads with knowledge (assuming they themselves are not too far deep in their hedonism).
Another brand is vanity. This selfishness, more than any other I think, seems to be carried into adulthood (or maybe that’s just living in California). Still, youth is the time when we have the wrinkle-free faces and cellulite-free thighs, so it becomes the best time to play Narcissus in our own narratives.
For me, hedonism has never been an issue – sex, drugs, and partying have never been my scene. Rather, they’ve never been my vices, even if they were my (escape) scene. I have been or could abstain from all of those thing with relative ease. Intellectualism certainly is not my crutch, and I eat far too many carbohydrates for vanity to be much of an issue either. My brand of selfishness is one with a capital S-E-L-F. My brand of selfishness turns inwards, loosing perspective of anything else, and making me the center of the universe. When I am selfish my words are sharp. My affections are fickle, and more than one well meaning person has been burned by the fire in my soul.
Like any selfishness, mine is one to be learned from and of which to one day be rid. As I have said many a time before, this phase of my life was a necessary evil; one that has made me powerful and strong. The last four years have been about internal strength – one great big test of endurance. My college years were my awkward years, filled with so much uncomfortable growth and the constant feeling you experience when running up a hill, muscles burning with exhaustion and developing strength. I learned to live without needing anyone else. I learned to live with a black hole in my heart. I learned to live on nothing but dreams. I learned to fend for myself. I learned how to live broken into a thousand pieces. I learned how to live without faith. I learned to live without a lover. I learned to live without happiness. I learned to live without fear. I learned how to be unstopable.
So… great. I am a force to be reckoned with. I am invincible. Now what?
For my next trick ladies and gentlemen, I will learn to be whole. This summer will also be a time of SELFishness, but I am trying a different angle. Instead of endurance training, my workout will be a nurturing one. I don’t have many friends out here and most nights I come home and sit in my hotel room by myself. I go out into the neigborhood or the city on the weekends, but to observe and absorb, not to socialize. And while I know that I will never be complete without love and people to love, I also know I will never be whole enough to love anyone else until I learn to be a little less broken. And the only way to do that is to take some time to take care of myself. Not to torture myself of test myself, not beat myself or brace myself, not to shout who I am from the rooftops and not to pit myself against the world. At Albion I used to lay on the floor in the dark meditating, resting my hands on my hipbones, holding my red root chakra between them. Now it’s time to stop neglecting the others.
Ironically, in a land of Botox and a job I’m not sure I really like, I’m finding the time to focus on me and my own (fairly well concealed) inner beauty. I’m eating healthy – farm fresh and organic. I run almost every day, usually at least a couple miles (last Saturday I think I ran 4). I do yoga and meditate with my arms out to the sides (palms up). I drink wine, I lay by the pool sunning myself and come back to the room to wrap up in a terrycloth robe. I lay in bed in the morning on weekends, and cook delicious thing even though they’re just for me. I’ve always been a believer in the irrevocable connection between ones body and ones soul, and I finally feel like I’m beginning to connect the two. I think all the time about everything, but for the first time I can remember, I smile to myself when I do.
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha