I used to go through life with a pre-set plan. I would do this well in school, do these hobbies and sports, move on to this caliber of a college, follow this level of a career… It made life easy. Then I hit the end of my high school career and getting through each day wasn’t nearly as easy as it used to be. I walked with a gray cloud above my head at all times, muddling my thoughts which seemed to enter and leave at the speed and power of lightning. It was weird–what the hell happened to me?
Happiness Isn’t Black and White
This was not in my plan, this inexplicable and confusing downturn in my mental health. It affected every single thing in my life: my friends, relationships, school, creativity… I didn’t see the point in anything. Nothing made me happy, nothing brought my excitement; I was the epitome of someone just going through the motions. I was so desperate to dig myself out of this that I searched for clues; now that happiness wasn’t something that just came naturally to me, how can I find it on my own?
I started reading blogs, philosophers, artists and talking to my family and friends. There’s been a ton of people who have lived and died on this Earth, someone is bound to have the answer. But I quickly discovered that there is no one solution, one pill, or one exercise that reveals a genuine joy for life. That’s when I started practicing selfishness.
Forget What You Think It Means to Be Selfish
Yes, yes, I know, no one likes that person who only does things for themselves. Trust me, I HATE those people. But it’s really not about that. You don’t lose some sort of humanity and common decency by focusing on yourself. Selfishness is all about consciously putting yourself first as much as possible to discover what makes you happy, what makes you passionate, and what makes you feel enough self-fulfillment to best help others around you.
The over-used airplane emergency metaphor really drives this point home: you always put your oxygen mask on first. Yeah, you wanna help other people, that’s great and everything but you can’t do it unless you’re taken care of first.
What It Means for the Future
And there isn’t a finish line that you can cross with selfishness. It’s not like, “Yay! I put myself first in 100 decisions! I’ve reached bliss!” It’s a constant effort. It’s the act of disregarding what you think you’re supposed to do or what you think others want you to do and discovering more about yourself. How are you supposed to be happy if you don’t even know what that means for YOU?
Dedicating the present to working on yourself will give you the happiness you crave. Just like there isn’t a finish line with selfishness, there isn’t a finish line for self-improvement or self-fulfillment. But tweaking your thought process even the tiniest bit can kickstart your own navigation of enjoying life. It did for me.