Something overlooked is the value of good people.
I am not talking about “nice guys.” They are not nice if quotes are used. I am instead talking about people who are actually nice, unfailingly and unflinchingly considerate and better. These are those strange folk who write thank-you notes, and the sort of people of who cook extra food to share without thinking and bring good, new and unpretentious beer to your house parties where they show up on time.
They are good people, and they are the best.
They really are. They are loved, liked, and respected, even when seen as curios. If you take pride, even sarcastic finance-bro pride in being a bad person, just know that being a jerk is less about Don Draper-esque edge and more a curse that will leave you spiraling with other self-described bad-people in your bad-people jobs with bad-people ambitions. We surround ourselves with ourselves, amigo; consider if a lifetime of instagrammed middle-fingers in nightclubs won’t get tiresome.
The good news is that they are always appreciated. Alden makes extra Indian food, Claire is always there to listen, and Russell lets you play on all his video-game accounts even though he takes them pretty seriously and you’re kind of awful. There was a kid, my Freshman and Sophomore year, who didn’t go out or drink. On weekend nights, though, he worked in the lobby, and gave people granola bars and water bottles he got for free from our campus bodega. I remember thinking he was weird. But later, I learned something. Lots of people are weird, or cool, or trying way too hard to be cool by deciding other people are weird, but goodness exists outside of that matrix. We spend so much of our life quantifying ourselves and each other through superficial criteria that it’s important to recognize something beyond and past that which gives us and the world more value.
And that is: this guy gave us water while we disrupted his homework, while we drunkenly staggered home, thinking ourselves better. And he, in his strange, admirable kindness, took it in stride.
The problem, though, is the root of all that appreciation is selfish. Good people in those examples were judged by what they give you, and that’s inaccurate. It’s a superficial understanding and it leaves you and your possibility out of the equation.
You can be a good person, too.
That probably felt wrong. You are a good person, after all; it’s a title you hold fiercely, when you remember. That’s the issue; goodness is something we forget, neglect, leave and return to as a virtue. Pursuing wealth, grades, and most of all coolness takes precedence. Our goodness is taken for granted, assumed, even unearned.
So earn it.
Do the good things that you admire in others. Be there for others. Bring the beer. Volunteer. Take the small, manageable steps to be better that you so admire in others. Because those good people are happy. They are capable and competent and they know a secret so plain that it’s become ignored, a cliche repeated to staleness and beyond, which is: being good is a good idea. The wonderful, positive irony is that it’s also good for the selfish, simple reason that it will improve your life.
Water-guy had better weekends than I did.
I am not one of those good people I cited above. Still, it’s something I consider, and I hope you will too. This is not a screed, or a boast, or a shaming, or anything else. It’s a think piece, and I hope it’s something you think about offhand now and then, when you’re sad or anxious or stressed. Not because I think you aren’t good, but because of that awesome, amazing truth available to you, which is that you can do good.
It’s an awesome, exciting realization if taken right. The fact that you can improve doesn’t mean you aren’t already great; it means that you can become even greater. Don’t shirk the gift of your own possibilities. Pursue it with the happiness it deserves, the happiness it will bring you and others to aim upwards and outwards towards the person you could be.
At the very least, test it out. Call home for a parent or write a Facebook message thanking a friend. Give yourself four minutes- just a check in- and stop. Doing good things aren’t always easy, but sometimes they are. At the very least, do those ones.