David Dodd 2:53 a.m., May 21
We are all told from a young age to dream big, but not too big. You want people to like you, but the gods frown upon those that incite jealousy in others.
Anyway, we are all conditioned from birth to be “friends”. "This is your new neighborhood. Be nice to little Johnny, you want to make friends.” Who the hell asked me? I do not want to be friends with this kid, let alone sit with him in school. The parents move the kids around. To San Diego, Northern California (which is its own state), places unfamiliar to us. We are expected not only to adapt, but to flourish. “Oh, but it’s good for you!!” Any kid who has ever sat alone at a lunch table knows in their heart of hearts that this is not only not good for them, but brands them forever the outsider.
Protective mechanisms come into play when you are plucked from your comfort zone and thrust into the unknown. The definitions solidify your status as a weirdo. Defensive, bookish, UNPOPULAR. In reality, as adults, these are traits more commonly referred to as not willing to take crap, smart, no need for the drooling adulation of others. Teachers were trained to identify these children and make them examples. Anyone who ever defied the order of Our Sisters of a Merciful and Possibly Non-existent God were doomed to a childhood of standing in the corner, made the modern day pariah. The good kids were afraid of these kids, but secretly wished they had the nerve to do whatever it took to get that teacher to lose her composure.
These kids grow-up to be adults who are incapable of being marginalized. You know what I mean. Unable to adhere to the rule that we all need to play nice. The happiness craze drives many people to the psychiatrist’s office, seeking relief from some unknown malady that eats away at their innards. It’s because they are not allowed to live an honest life. “Don’t raise your voice”. “Don’t confront injustice. It’s not ladylike.” “Don’t eat too much.” “Don’t drink.” “Don’t get pissed off – EVER.” “Don’t be honest with people. They can’t take it.”
There are certain people who do not care what others think of them. This is not good if you are of a hostile nature, but it can be refreshing in a society of sheep, where we are all groomed to read self-help books. If we need to be told “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, what does that say about us? The book “Who Moved My Cheese” is abhorrent. When a company tells its employees “go with these changes” and expects them to do it with a cheerful smile and enthusiastic gusto, they are not addressing the nature of human beings. Change is not good. Change sucks. Ask anyone who has had a new operating program installed at work.
It is not so much the fact that change does occur, and it is uncomfortable, it is the fact that no one addresses the discomfort. Wouldn’t it be better to tell people “this is going to be hard at first”, rather than make them feel bad about themselves because they aren’t supposed to have these feelings in the first place? Who Moved My Cheese would not exist if these feelings were not natural. To deny the existence of bad feelings by telling people there is something wrong with them is denying them an honest existence. Living lives of “quiet desperation”.
Friendship is one of those areas that falls into the category of dishonesty. What do you say to a friend who is in a bad relationship or is doing things that damage themselves? Nothing. And you know why? Because you can’t. You tip-toe around it, pretending everything is peachy. When it finally comes out, when you can no longer listen to them complain about how something is affecting their life and you tell them the truth, they no longer like you. What is it about that? This conditioning to pretend that all is well? Isn’t that what friends are for? Or are they merely props to make us feel good about ourselves? How many friends you have is not indicative of character. Everyone has amassed large groups of friends, only to look back and say “I wonder what ever happened to (insert name here)?” Ever looked at your wedding album or photo albums? It is a veritable graveyard of former friends, divorced couples, dead people.
Much of this all boils down to wanting to be liked. Humans are strange in this respect. Facebook, twitter, who is following me, who commented on my page? In the grand scheme of things, most “friends” are not even that. They are former acquaintances, old flames, people you would not seek out if the internet did not exist. No one talks on the phone anymore. Too much of a bother. Remember when the phone would ring and you would jump to get it? Not anymore. When the phone rings, most cringe, having been subjected to a barrage of calls at work and not having the energy to make small talk with their friends, because like I mentioned before, the big stuff, the looming problems, sit like an elephant in the room and cannot be talked about. Not with these people anyway, who are not your close, close friends, who you can talk about the big stuff with, but your daily acquaintances. Instead, they look at the caller I.D and say “oh, it’s just so-and-so. I can call them back later”. Which you don’t, and the days and weeks go by until you are embarrassed by your neglect.
Many have lost friends who became too honest with them. When they told you of the abusive spouse, the family problems, or the time one cheated. Because they don’t leave the spouse or fix the source of their problems. And you are a constant reminder of their inability to love themselves first. One day you wake up and say “I wonder why they haven’t called me in months?” And you feel bad, because this is a person who you invested a lot of time and energy in, listened to them rail on and on about their problems to the point of exhaustion, threw a lovely wedding shower for, did tons of favors for, whatever. Cast aside when you are no longer of any use.
Why we put the needs of others (not including your kids or your family) first in order to be liked is a phenomenon that can be all-encompassing. The overbooked weekend, when things you are supposed to be enjoying get checked off the list like never ending chores. Barbeque with the neighbors? Check. Dinner with the parents? Check. Taking the kids to the movies? Check. Check your voicemail. Check your e-mail. Check your Facebook. Check.
It is exhausting, being over-available to everyone. Sometimes you just need to check out. Don’t ever put others first in order to be liked, because the bottom line is, in a few years the person you are fretting over today is most likely going to be a blip on your radar. Not your good friends, the ones you have had for years, who you love like family. Hold them close. Be good to them. They will always be good to you. Just the ones who if you honestly ask yourself “could I call this person and would they drop everything and run to me?” and the answer is “no”, those are the ones who deserve less attention. Interestingly, one of the hardest words in the English language is “no”, but in order to maintain our sanity, I think it is a word we all need to use more. Accepting every invitation, over-scheduling, making too many plans only makes you resentful. Take time to be alone and learn to like yourself.
Love yourself first. Narcissus had it right, even if he paid a price.