Who’s in Control of Your Self-Worth?
This is the story of how I learned that happiness is always attainable.
Like a wounded fish in a shark tank or the last cannoli at a DeNiro movie premiere, I never stood a chance. When he looked at me with the type of eyes you’d find on a James Dean character, I was dead in the water. When he smiled and said, “You know, you’re so damn cute!”, the vortex of that menacing curve of teeth and fallacies sucked me in, never to be seen again. Under the stars of a warm September night, on the porch of the house where we lived, he stole me away.
“John” is a good name. Simple enough yet creates the literary irony of a not-as-simple-man. So, for all the reasons I can’t snipe people out to the public, let’s call this fellow John. John was the embodiment of everything I would have ran from in another situation. A privileged prep school boy from Connecticut, he smoked weed like it kept him alive and shrugged off responsibilities like beggars on the street. College was a paradise for him and a parasite for me. I didn’t have my own life together by any means, so having someone just as clueless with a minimal drive was a recipe for disaster; bake until golden brown.
Somehow, despite all better (read: rational) judgment, I was tethered to him.
To any outsider (read: my best friends), it would be the classic case of “Sweet Girl Falls for Douchebag”, but in my mind it made all kinds of sense. He liked the same music I did, hated the same social conformities I hated, made me laugh without saying a word, enjoyed my writings, and was without a doubt one of the most interesting people I had stumbled upon at this school.
Suddenly my days revolved around our nights together; I was high off of just being in the same room as him. I’d do my homework in his dorm, being unable to complete it anywhere further than 300 feet from him. He’d keep my creativity flowing and I’d keep him off of Facebook. I thought I had found the right balance in life with John, but I was unaware that I was merely a game piece in a sick version of Shoots and Ladders. I took one wrong step, rolled the dice too hastily, and slid down the winding trail into a pile of all the other girls he ran dry.
I was used. Nothing but a plaything to pass the time until the next, more updated model, rolled off the lot.
It’s not that he didn’t care about me so much as he didn’t care about anything. It was personal, it was college and I was a means more than an end. He wasn’t exactly bothered by it. I, on the other hand, took a shot to the head in No Man’s Land without ever being considered for a silver star of courage.
I was the poster child for heartache, only proving that every sad RomCom character was certainly not exaggerating. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to move and be remembered of all I’d invested and let down. My friends didn’t seem to care, and made it a point to remind me every few hours, when I’d start up soliloquies that would make Hamlet shudder. They told me to chalk it up as a life lesson. To move on, there were plenty of other guys out there.
But I didn’t want any of those “other guys”. I was caught between being angry about being so stupid, and blaming myself, thinking that if I did x, y, and z maybe he would have wanted to keep me around more. That all boiled down into a very angst-filled human being.
I wish it didn’t take me as long as it did to realize how pathetic I was. Granted, I’m pathetic for many reasons, but this focus in particular was of severe importance. I had just left my creative writing class and was en route to grab some coffee and maybe get some words to form coherent thoughts. When I looked at the assignment I had received back from my professor, my eyes swelled up again. Of course it was about John. Of course it was a time when we (looking back, maybe it was just me) were happy.
It hadn’t occurred to me that I was fully in control of my own happiness.
Do people often have epiphanies in Starbucks? Maybe that’s why the coffee is so expensive. I’ve had too many for someone who has only lived a fifth of a century. This realization, had in front of an iced coffee and a long line of students, would reach far beyond my sophomore year of college.
I was investing my happiness into him. All of it, and not a scrap left for myself. And when that ended, I put the burden onto my friends. I hadn’t conceived the notion that I was in control of my life, of my abilities to feel and not feel, and that I alone should hold the responsibility of making me happy. I wasn’t despairingly devastated because I had lost John, but because I had lost my single source of happiness. He was just a tool (pun intended) for me to achieve something I was missing for so long. So in the end, maybe he was the one being used.
Don’t get me wrong. John was a massive jerk. He probably always will be, just like the million guys out there like him. But don’t let the Johns of the world, or anyone for that matter, crush your momentum. Don’t let them take away something as precious and coveted as your own happiness and worth as a human. We are given the power to control who we want to be, that is a right not a privilege. Just because someone has a strong gravitational pull doesn’t mean you should revolve around them. It’s hard at first; we want to give the people we care about our all. But that shouldn’t include the sacrifice of independence.
These experiences aren’t pleasant, but my friends were right, I learned more from it because they were harsh with me. I was able to realize that my personal strength would take me a lot further than a guy who thought “bitch” was a term of endearment. This philosophy is not exclusively for those guys who only text you at midnight when they’re lonely. It reaches to the friends you rely on to go out and have a good time, or that you need a certain job because you’ll be making more money than what you want to do; Anyone or anything in your life you think you need to have a white knuckle hold of to be happy. You’re not being selfish by thinking your wellbeing should come first. Repeat after me: I am important to myself. I am in love with myself.
So screw the guys who never call back and the the notion of other people being a yardstick of your value. You deserve the best, and it’s not the dude with the greasy man bun. Paint a picture, go to Target, do more of what makes you happy and don’t you dare let someone else dampen that. And at the end of the day, where do douchebags end up but in the garbage?