Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Goodbye Apathy

Today I waiting for my train to go back home after work. An older homeless man sat down next to me and I just did my best to ignore him like every other person on the station. I had a lot on my mind today. Starting a second job. Trying to balance it with my first. My missionary's first birthday away from home. My school schedule for next semester that wasn't working out. My new medications I have to start soon. Paying bills and rent. Anxiety's been settling in nicely these past few weeks.

As much as I tried to block out everyone around me with my huge headphones on with some loud Timbaland song playing, the man tried to talk to me. He spoke, waiting for me to respond, and when I didn't, he spoke louder. I took off my headphones unwillingly, not in a good enough mood to talk to strangers in downtown Salt Lake. The man asked me various questions about myself: where I was coming from, where I was going, how did I like the U, why did I leave BYU, what do I want to do with my life. He told me about his niece my age and his brother who lived nearby, all with the sweetest smile on his face. And I found my anger, anxiety, and frustration slowly draining. My train home finally arrived and I got up to board the train. The man called out "God bless you, and you just keep working hard. It will be ok. Good luck with everything." It was all I could do to stop from bursting into tears on the train. And I had no problem with doing it as soon as I got off the train. Who the heck was this guy and why did he know that I so desperately needed someone to tell me that?

A few weeks ago, I had my job interview at Build A Bear Workshop and one of the questions that kept coming up on my interview questionnaire was "Do you believe people are inherently good?" I asked my manager about it and she read me a section of the employee handbook where it says that one of the company's core beliefs is that people are inherently good and that it why good customer service and strong relationships are so important to the business. I checked all the right answers just to get through the interview but for the next few days, that question stuck with me. Do I believe people are inherently good?

I haven't really come up with a yes/no answer yet but I thought a lot about how most people I know, particularly my generation, are inherently acting in their own self-interest. Which can mean a lot of different things but for my age group in particular, it doesn't necessarily mean "good" things. I'm at the age where everything is a competition: School, work, dating, friendships. Life is survival of the fittest and you can't expect to amount to anything if you aren't the best at what you do. You can't be the top in your class unless there are contenders below you who didn't perform as well. You can't get the best job unless you're more qualified and efficient than the other contenders. You can't have the best significant other unless you're the world's idea of Prince/Princess Charming and there are other contenders that are less desirable than you. Life at this age is pure competition! Which means there are brutal and unfair ways that people fight to the top. Which makes it pretty hard to believe that people are inherently good. If people were so good, wouldn't they do their best to lift up everyone instead of pushing down others to bring themselves to the top?

So survival of the fittest is all fine and dandy. It's what keeps life evolving and progressing right? One thing I've noticed is that my attitude towards this selfish competition is becoming more and more relaxed. Life is all about me right now. My problems, my dilemmas, just ME. I've been trying in past months to be a little more selfless but I justified my selfish tendencies by saying that I need to be selfish during this time of my life so I can have the resources to be selfless in the future. I tell myself it's ok to just focus on myself for these next few years because I'll have plenty of time in the future and be more prepared to be a better citizen of life when the "me years" are done.

Pretty stupid right?

I didn't realize this until the man on the train took time out of his own day to be selfless for a very selfish person like me. He was the person I didn't deserve in my life right now but I desperately needed to remind me what's really important. Because trying to be the best at work and trying to be the best in school certainly isn't it. Being more aware of people going through hardships around me and being more receptive to their needs, however, is ESSENTIAL.

Thank you random homeless man for telling me that things will work themselves out if I just work my hardest. Thank you for being selfless when I'm sure you have more reasons than I do to be selfish and egotistical. Thank you for being an example of inherently good people when society gives me plenty of examples of inherently selfish people. And thanks for the remind that I am an inherently self-interested person who needs to be a person more interested in others.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Give Me Love

Hmmm... I'm still not sure if this is a good idea to post about... Ah well, when have I ever been rational?

So I'm sure every single one of you has seen the article "Marriage Isn't For You" A better way to say it is I'm pretty sure your Facebook feed has been drowning with this post for the past couple weeks. At any rate, I've seen a lot of seperate articles, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc. all voicing their own opinions whether they think this guy is a heavenly genius or a certified lunatic. So that is my post for the day, simply adding to the noise about this marriage article. I'm not married so this is going to be from a different perspective but I think the concepts apply to some degree.

The author starts off with some advice that his father gave him about marriage. Copied and pasted, he said "You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy.
Let's start with the first part, you marry to make someone else happy. I could not disagree with the wording of this sentence any more. When has it EVER been healthy to let your happiness rely on one person? Any person at all? One of the most important lessons I've learned in life is to never let your personal happiness be determined on another person. People will always let you down, whether they intend to or not, whether they are the love of your life or not. Letting your happiness depend on how other people act is like walking around with a sign on your head saying "Please stab me repeatedly in the heart until I wake up from my dream in Fantasyland where Prince Charming is a mind-reader, where unicorns run across fields of candy trees and chocolate mountains, and where perfect people exist." The fact that people aren't perfect is one of the most BEAUTIFUL things about this world. Yep, that's right. The fact that people make mistakes, piss you off, ruin your life, ruin their own life, and overall mess the order of the universe up is BEAUTIFUL. As my wonderful friend Josh Nelson said, who wants to live in a world where everyone is perfect? How boring, how drab, how useless and unproductive of a life.

Anyways, back onto personal happiness. Now assuming that you marry to make someone else happy, wouldn't you also have to assume that everyone is perfect in order for this to work? That your spouse, partner, significant other, acquaintace knows exactly how to behave at every moment at every day in order for your personall happiness to be maximized? Sound a little too good to be true? Oddly enough, it is.
The author goes on to say that "A true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”

Which is all sweet and fantastic and whatever. But is also so entirely unhealthy. Being entirely selfless worked for Jesus but that's pretty much where we draw the line. The other billions of people living around the world have the problem of being imperfect and selfish people. And I think that's just fine to be selfish sometimes! When I think of any relationship that I've had, romantic or otherwise, there have been moments when I had to be the strong one when the other was weak or when I needed the other to be strong because I was weak. And since we're imperfect people who live life like it's a rollercoaster, we're going to have ups and downs. It is simply impossible to be selfless all the time. Sure, it's a nice goal to work towards but don't be too surprised when it doesn't work.

I know it sounds like I'm just continously bashing on this guy's thought process but he's not completely wrong. He's right in the sense that you need to be constantly aware of the other person's needs and that being selfless is something to work towards (even though we already know it's next to impossible to always be that way). I think a more accurate title would be "Marriage Isn't Just About You." It is so important to be loving, supportive, and understanding in all of your relationships, really to anyone you meet in general. But it's equally important to be aware of your own needs and to realize that you can't fully rely on another imperfect person to take care of those needs for you. It's important to be aware that it's ok to be selfish sometimes. It's important to be aware that you can't always be Superman. Sometimes you have to be Lois Lane.

As I've said before, one of the most significant lessons to learn is that you can't let your happiness depend on the actions of imperfect people. I've seen this reliance on other people break people's hearts and it's broken my own heart multiple times, and not just in a romantic relationship either. What I've learned about relationships is that sometimes you need the other's help and love to remind you of your strength and potential to succeed. Sometimes you're the weak one and sometimes you're the strong one. But the beautiful thing about any type of relationship is that true love and friendship is when you don't care how often you are the strong one or how often you are the weak one. The only thing that matters to you is that you are continously working to build up the other and to build yourself up because you want to see the both of you succeed and progress towards your personal happiness.

One thing that I learned from this article is that there are many "recipes" for love because no two relationships are the same. Isn't that beautiful? My way to build a successful relationship is totally different from yours, even if there are a few similarities. Take what advice you may but also recognize that this article's advice or my thoughts may not apply to you as much as it does to others. People love others differently and people feel love from others differently. I think the amazing part of any relationship, whether it's a family member, a friend, or a significant other, is the journey in discovering how your relationship needs to work in order for both people to benefit the most from it. And for some relationships, that's a life long process. But enjoy the journey, enjoy the lessons, enjoy the mistakes, enjoy the triumphs, enjoy the imperfections. And always keep moving forward with unconditional love, not backwards with apathy.

P.S. This is one of my favorite songs ever.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Everybody's Watching Me (Uh Oh)

I'm being watched.
And it's terrifying.

About a month ago, I went to my home ward to see sweet little Ansel perform in the church's Primary program. I noticed during the Sacrament that the little girl sitting next to me was copying everything I was doing. She was sitting in the same way that I was, ankles crossed, hands folded on my lap, a little slouched over. Just to test her, I uncrossed my ankles, sat straigh up in my chair, and started to braid a piece of my hair. And even though this girl couldn't have been more than three years old, she sat up straight and pretended to braid her hair. I reached down to open the hymn book and I started to read a sacrament hymn. The little girl opened her hymn book and began to pretend it, occasionally glancing up at me from the corner of her eye to make sure I wasn't shifting my position.

This should have just been a cute little moment where I thought it was just adorable that this little girl was trying to act like a grown-up (or whatever you want to call me). But I was terrified.

Why is this girl following my every move?
Why doesn't she follow someone else's movements?

I've never really considered myself an outstanding example to follow. Not only am I the most embarassing person in the universe but I am so far from being a positive role model. I make mistakes. Big ones. A lot. I've done plenty of things I'm not proud of. And it really pains me that this is the model that the people in my life have to look up to. Me, the person who is hard-hearted and cold, who is fleeting and afraid of settling down, who is wandering without a clear path, who is slipping off the slope in every direction. This is the mess my brothers have to see, my roommates have to see, my peers have to see, my friends have to see, my family has to see. And they're expected to learn something from me? Maybe what NOT to do in life. But I'm certainly not much to be proud of.

I think this little girl made me realize that as much as I wish people didn't look up to me, people still do. And we have to always be ready for that. We always have to strive to be people we're proud of. We always have to be individuals that others can learn from in a positive light. We have to put the fake smile on our face and pretend we know what we're doing. And that's something everyone can do. You can always be a better person than you were the day before. You can always shine a little brighter for the people around you. You can always talk a little nicer, stand a little taller, smile a little brighter, hope a little higher.

Always be the best representation of yourself.
You are always being watched. Even when you wish you weren't.