“I would do almost literally anything for the people I love,” my friend once told me during one of our nightly curbside smokes.
“Hmm,” I thought aloud. “Let’s say you had a girlfriend and she asked you to quit smoking. Would you?”
“Yeah, definitely dude,” he responded immediately, looking down to kill his cigarette into the concrete.
That got me thinking. “What would happen then if she left you?” I asked.
For a quiet while he thought, and then said, “Then I’d smoke a hole into my lungs.”
What I’ve come to learn is very simple and obvious, but is a lesson I learned the hard way. See, the thing is, you should be as self-centered as possible, especially when you’ve just recently entered the world of adults – the world of crushing and disappointing reality. In being self-centered, you shouldn’t make any decisions for anyone else but yourself. It just isn’t and never will be practical in the long run to decide on anything with anyone else besides yourself in mind. And really, the only person you can rely on or fully trust should be yourself, and no one else.
I always believed that teenage relationships never lasted and that the “love” all the high school couples claimed to have and be in was a false and forced idea planted into our minds by our Hollywood-dictated modern society. But let’s face it: at some point during your stay in high school, all you wanted was to have a boyfriend (or a girlfriend). I admit to having these feelings and all other implications that come with this possession, all of which I felt despite my innate realism (or more appropriately, cynicism).
Needless to say, I fell into the same trap that people my age (myself included) have called and continue to call love. I fell madly in love with a boy who was the first to call me beautiful, the first to laugh at my horrible nerdy jokes and think me adorable for telling them, the first to pull me up from my I-don’t-need-a-man-to-define-who-I-am world and send me flying into my own fairytale. It was everything I wanted.
But if there’s one thing your first experience of such intense emotion shows you, it’s the realization of the immense control you willingly give away when you turn someone into your world and your prime source of happiness.
I gave up a lot for this boy because I was in love. To name a few of these things I willingly lost, there were the trust of my parents, the close friendships I had, my then excellent grades, and even my promising future in Track & Field – all given up for him, all choices made with him in mind. I obviously made terrible and stupid decisions, but at the time, I had myself convinced that he and I were going to get married and name our children Jacob and Anna.
Sparing you the details of our horrific, painful, and overly-complicated break up, he ended up cheating on me, and I was left to finish what remained of the final semester of senior year completely betrayed and empty, with shitty grades, no Track meet medals, maybe one or two remaining good friends, and what was that? oh yeah, no boyfriend. It was a pretty damn low point. I’d given him pretty much literally everything I could think of, everything including my physical and emotional self. And when he was out of the picture, not only had I lost him, but I felt as if I had lost a certain part of myself, all because I thought of him all the time.
Making decisions for other people or with other people in mind is like making an investment. You put your trust in someone in the hopes that this trust will thrive while with this person, and in return, you hope to be given security. But when the person turns on you, what happens to your trust? It’s gone. You aren’t going to get it back, and the person may or may not keep it with him/her. While it’s usually the latter, it really doesn’t matter because your investment turned out to be a total waste.
The story of my teenage fairytale-turned-tragedy is one of many instances of the horrible effects of decision-making with particular people in mind, and is actually one of the most harmless examples of these effects. Let it serve as a warning.
Don’t choose a university because your significant other is going there. Choose a university that best suits what YOU want. Don’t start working out because you want to look better for someone else. Do it for YOUR own benefit.
Don’t change your beliefs, don’t completely alter your lifestyle, just for someone else. Don’t do things with other people in mind, because when those people leave, which they most likely will, everything will have been a waste of time and effort, will serve as a constant reminder of your loss, and will leave a permanent unfillable emptiness inside of you.
To sum up, this is what I learned and what my smoking buddy needs to learn: you shouldn’t quit smoking because someone you love wants you to, or else when this someone leaves, you’ll smoke a hole into your lungs.