Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Necessary self-involvement?

Good morning, my sweet corn muffins!

So I was writing a new short story last night (!!!), which i think is not too shabby, and I realized, during the writing (a fictionalized account of actual happenings, as per usual) how completely selfish and self-centered I can be (and am). As I wrote, I was a surprised at one particularly ungracious thing I did last week. A friend of mine did a relatively large favor for me, and I completely forgot to thank him. Because I was too wrapped up in my own world to think about anyone besides myself. I didn't mean to be ungrateful, and I certainly wasn't--on the inside. But it doesn't matter how grateful you are if you don't speak up and say something, does it? Ashamed of myself, I immediately wrote him an e-mail asking him to dinner to thank him for his favor. But it was already too late. I had missed my opportunity to say thank you in person when the moment was right.

I started to think about this. I wondered how I had become so self-involved. The truth is that I care a lot about my friends, and I would do almost anything to help any one of them. But I wonder how often they see that, or if i would recognize an opportunity if it came up? I wondered if this was societal or generational, if it was a problem with everyone I know or just with some of us? I think that, as a generation, people my age are pretty self-involved. We are in our mid-twenties, most of us are single and struggling to find our place in society. We have big concerns: career, finding a partner, trying to make ends meet. There is a certain amount of necessary self-involvement: we are on our own for the first time, and we alone are responsible for our own well-being. No one else is going to take care of us but ourselves, and taking care of ourselves can take quite a bit of time and energy. But somewhere along the way, i think we may have forgotten the benefits of a supportive community. We meet up for drinks or dinner to complain about our busy lives or to blow off steam, but when we're struggling, really struggling with something, we believe that we have to shoulder that on our own. In an age where we are more connected than ever, I have found myself feeling more and more isolated. Facebook, MySpace, and text messaging have replaced the faces and voices and touch of my friends, and I miss their presence. I miss having a shoulder to cry on. And I miss offering mine. We forget to ask for help, or we are afraid to, because we don't want to burden our already stressed out friends. Or we don't think that they will find the space in their hearts to care about our problems. But I feel like I have the space, and that it is vacant most of the time. My own worry-space is constantly full, but the space I have for my friends' worries is collecting dust. Perhaps we would all be able to carry our loads better if we shared them with each other. Perhaps we could take some of our friends' burdens and they could take some of ours, and everyone could find their way a little easier. Perhaps our perpetual loneliness is not only a function of our own selfishness but because no one is asking for our help either. I am the kind of person who tries to do everything on my own, without asking for help. But I am also the kind of person who loves to help others. Except that no one is asking for it, and no one is offering to help me. Which leads me to the next question: How do we ask? And how to do we ask to give if no one is asking us?

1 comment:

Cast the First Stone -- said...

kudos on writing a story! yay, you!!! (there's a little cheerleading squad just for you and your writing!) by the way, i always feel supported by you and know that i can lean on you when i'm going through crap. it's just too bad that we don't live in the same apt building. sigh. at least we have the internet. although, i do miss your face...