February 22, 2011

The Benefits of Selfishness - Part 2

The term "selfish" seems to be the running theme this week. I have had multiple encounters with it this week and in extremely different, but no less meaningful and important ways. Whenever I have instances like I have had this week, I have to take a step back and analyze the situation and what the world, in its infinite, albeit convoluted, wisdom, is trying to tell me. I spoke to you yesterday about a situation that I dealt with this weekend that hinged on the declaration of selfishness. Well, yesterday another conversation roared to life that made me revisit the expression and its contextual meaning. The word "selfish" tends to have a negative connotation, but my goal is to demonstrate that the singular idiom does not have to be looked upon with such loathing and contempt.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with my grown son; grown in the respect that he is 19, not in terms of maturity. We talked about his experience with college, his subsequent dropping out (partially reasons beyond his doing, but also due to his frustrating lack to communicate and seek assistance), and his new quest for acceptance and vision in his life. He informed me that he was trying to figure out what to do with his life and that he was thinking of going to school locally or taking up a trade and going to a trade school...you guessed it...locally. I asked him why he was so hell-bent on staying local and why not get out and explore life and enjoy college and the experiences it has to offer him? I explained that college is about building relationships/connections/brotherhoods/networks, that you may not have the opportunity to create further down the road in life. At least, not as easily. I informed him to think about how hard I had it going back to school in my 30s - a wife and mother 3 times over at this point - and how much I struggled to get through. How I couldn't enjoy all of the benefits that going to school in my teens and early 20s presented. How I had certain regrets that I never wanted any of my children to feel. But, I've gotten off track...the main (or maybe, only) question I really wanted answered was...why?

So, my beautiful, loving, gifted, intelligent, amazing man-child gave me the dumbest answer one could probably give to that question. His Friends. Really? His friends? He chooses to stay behind in a town that offers him no true opportunities, working one dead-end temp job after another, simply because he doesn't want to leave his friends?!?! I have to admit, I was more that a little peeved at this point, but I quickly gathered my composure and simply told him the following:

"You need to be selfish. Now, I am not one to tell my children to be selfish, but in this situation, I am giving you full rein to think only of yourself. You are young, single, you have no children. If there was ever any time when being selfish is not only accepted but down right expected, it is now. You need to go out and figure what you want, where you want to go in life. You need to have experiences, meet people, build connections, learn new things, mess up, learn from your mistakes, have fun, be miserable, join a fraternity, not join a fraternity, live on your own and take care of yourself...or not. Bottom line, you need to not have regrets. You don't want to look back on life when you are in your 30s and 40s and wish you had listened to me. You need to stop thinking about your friends; what they want, what they're doing, what they think, and if they are still going to be around when you get back. If they are truly your friends, then trust me, they will be. For once, think about what you want."

Now, I am not sure if I got through to him or not. Only time will tell. But, the moral of this story is that there are times when it is perfectly okay, and even warranted to be utterly and completely selfish. When it comes to your career and your livelihood, only you know what is best for you. Only you can make the deicision as to whether an opportunity is the right one. Only you can decide the path you should take. You are the director of your career and your future. Navigate your path well, but know that sometimes, your journey through life will cause you to make entirely selfish decisions.

And that is okay.


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