Burning Bridges

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Welcome to another Friday, one of the last ones we’ve got for a year. As the last week of classes has wrapped up, I’m ready for break. Very ready. I just have to get there. Lucky for me, a week to go and I will. It’s got me thinking.

Sometimes we start to ask ourselves why we do the things that we do. Whether it’s caring about people who do not deserve us or working hard at something that doesn’t require it, it’s just how we are as people. It could be a good or a bad thing, sometimes it’s both. I’ve just been wondering why.

Remember that date we talked about, and by talked I mean me telling you and making you read all about it. Well when it comes to other people, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to leave them hanging. If I choose to bring someone into my life, there was probably a reason for it. I like having steady relationships.

At least I thought so.

You see, I went on a date with a boy two weeks ago and haven’t really talked to him since. At first I felt bad about that. I mean, if I give someone a chance and spend time with them, it almost seems rude to not follow up on that. Not to say hi or acknowledge that we spent time together. It’s not that I’m ignoring it, I’m just not saying anything about it either. 

Because ultimately, it isn’t my responsibility to make sure other people feel good about things. Not when there isn’t anything to feel good (or bad) about.

Think about that. I don’t mean it in an “it’s all about me” kinda way, I mean it in a “your life is not my priority, mine is” kinda way. There are things we can do in this life simply for other people, and that’s okay. I think about my 16 WOWies or 21 Orientation Leaders and I really would do (have done) countless things for them simply because I wanted to. Because I care about them and they deserve it.

That’s not bad, not at all. I love caring about every single one of them, I enjoy supporting my people. It’s just that sometimes that’s what makes me forget an important piece of this: caring about someone else may also mean the opposite of doing something for them. Here’s what I mean.

If I reached out to my date simply because I feel bad that we haven’t talked, knowing I’m not very interested in getting to know him more, it wouldn’t be fair. Not to him or to myself. After all, I would be leading him on at that point wouldn’t I?

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There’s no point in getting someone’s hopes up when they shouldn’t, it’s too short-term to look at it that way. Say I did talk to him and keep up conversation, giving him the idea that we should keep up with whatever we were doing in the first place. That could avoid him possibly feeling like he did something wrong or that the date didn’t go well in the first place, a short -erm avoidance of unhappiness/doubt. 

In the long run though, it could become a bigger issue if I know I’m not interested already; the longer we keep things up even when the coming end result isn’t necessarily a positive one, why keep it at all?

We are not obligated to make other people happy when it takes our time and energy to do so without any real benefit to ourselves.

I bring this up now because, well, it’s the holiday season. Some people spend more time with family, friends, or other loved ones that maybe they’ve had a rocky relationship with in the past. I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel guilty about those things because relationships take two people. If there’s something wrong, I feel that I often have something to do with it, some control over that.

But I don’t, not really. None of us do. Now, if you argue with that one super political uncle over Thanksgiving and things get heated because you all don’t agree, only to pretend things are fine to keep it cordial over Christmas, that’s fine. You’re not doing any harm in not pushing something that doesn’t need to be pushed. That’s not what I mean we don’t have control over.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

We have no say in other people’s expectations. To a certain point, we can be ourselves and let others see whatever they see in us— it isn’t up to us to make them see what they want to. In the same way, it isn’t our responsibility to make other people happy, especially if it is a detriment to ourselves in the process.

If something isn’t working, why pretend that it is just to keep up the other person’s ego. The truth isn’t something we should avoid, not when it usually comes up in the end regardless. So, why bring this up now?

Because the holidays usually mean expectations; whether it’s towards the season or family time or gifts or making sure to hug all the relatives that we don’t care to hug, there are things people want us to do. Sometimes, we don’t want to do them. And we shouldn’t have to.

Not out of reason, anyway. If it’s a holiday tradition to give people gifts and someone simply doesn’t want to do it that year, that is a bit out of reason. It wouldn’t be fair to sit out just because we don’t feel like it, knowing it takes away from everyone else’s experiences.

But when asked to hug this random person who remembers us as a child—a child young enough to not know who they are by now—it’s not too much to politely decline. When presented with an old friend in town who wants to catch up, while we have no interest in doing so, it isn’t on us to pretend we want to out of obligation. 

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Just because it’s a busier and more social time of year does not mean that we need to keep up obligations. I know I hold my own feelings towards keeping other people happy, even when at a detriment to myself. This year, I think I’m letting myself become my priority, not other people. The attachments I have to always being what other people need me to be, I’m burning those bridges and finding a better balance in it instead.

For all of our sakes, put yourself first.

You deserve that much. Enjoy the holiday season for you; if you can do that, you’ll be happier and in turn, they people around you just might be too. Think about it.

And happy Friday. 

Living out of Obligation

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Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Do you ever do something not because you truly want to, but because you feel like you should? I could easily be talking about work or writing or love or smiling… I could be talking about living.

In a way, I kind of am.

Let’s make this personal shall we: throughout middle school and high school, 7 years of my life, I was a runner. Here’s a concept— I hate running. Give me a 4×1, I loved it. But only if I didn’t start. Give me a triple jump or long jump, loved that too (probably more). But don’t make me run, not in a competition with a start gun and a timer.

I loved the people and the jumping. Not so much the running.

So why did I do it and keep doing it, running varsity all four years of high school and taking on team co-captain senior year?

Because I was good at it. What a shame it would have been to waste my talent right, to let my team down?

It was an obligation. Not one that I regret for the physical shape and amount of connections I made through the sport, but still an obligation.

Now think about yourself, why do we smile at strangers even when there’s nothing funny or amusing or remotely smile inducing about them? I don’t even know if it’s considered polite, we were simply always told to be kind and smile at other people. It’s an obligation of sorts.

Like the black person nod— no, I do not know every black person I see out around Folsom or Cal Poly, but that doesn’t stop me from nodding at them when I pass by. I never really questioned it, it’s just what we do.

You get what I’m saying.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When it comes to these things, from the smiling to the nodding, maybe it helps us in the long run. I know with track, I met a handful of incredible people and learned a lot about myself in the process. Even with the smiling thing, it’s paid off working in customer service and retail for the past few years. We do a lot of things out of obligatory feelings of needing to do it. Whether we’re good at it, it’s polite, it’s “the right thing to do”…

Maybe sometimes that’s a good thing. And maybe other times it’s not.

Because what happens when we do something out of obligation that in turn compromises our own intentions or integrity? Now I’m not talking about doing something out of your comfort zone, those things are important for growth and experience in the long run.

I am talking about priority.

There are a lot of things that we may do because we feel like we should and it ends up helping us too. But if we take someone else’s needs and put them above ourselves, that obligation can turn around and hurt us in the process. Think about it, I’m sure you’ve been there.

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Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

Have you ever had a deadline coming up but a friend needed your help, so you put the work aside and helped them out leaving very little time for that deadline?

Or maybe you offered to help tutor a classmate or walk a coworker through something every day, only to watch your performance and time slip due to your time spent on them.

Whether they’re friends, family, coworkers… Anyone really, I understand the want to help people or to support them as best you can. Sometimes that will in turn take away from your own time or sleep, maybe even your own well-being.

There simply needs to be a line somewhere.

There is this grey area between being kind or helpful, and being a pushover. I know it’s something I’ve always struggled to find a balance in. Always putting other people’s needs in front of your own may not help them in the long run, and it definitely doesn’t help you. But never supporting others or letting yourself not be the center of your own life every once in a while doesn’t help anyone either.

The older we get, the more important our relationships become— that includes our relationships with ourselves. So find a balance in there, between obligation versus self-prioritization or self-neglect versus love and support.

sean-stratton-744839-unsplashI know it’s hard to find the line that balances the two sides out, I’ve been looking for it for years and still haven’t found it. But a life out of obligation isn’t a good one, not when you’re doing it for the wrong reasons or the wrong people. So find a balance and make sure it’s a good one…

I’ll be looking for one too.


See you Tuesday for a new Bookworms post. Happy weekend!