I met this guy at a party recently. The first time we talked, I listened out of politeness. He’s neighbors with a close friend of mine, who has kickbacks quite often, so I’m used to meeting people I might never meet again. The new guy was a neighbor of said close friend, so I was more than likely to see him again. Which is why I listened out of politeness. I figured there might be something we both had in common if I listened long enough.
My initial reaction was that this guy was quite the dude-bro. (Definition: this means he knows how to have a good time, whether it be a weekend night or midday, while also having any socially associated bros’ backs.) I found out that he was somewhat gainfully employed, but I can’t entirely recall what. The problem with listening to someone out of politeness is that I usually don’t retain anything about the interaction, from their name to what we had in common to what was discussed. It’s a horrible habit I picked up to overcome boredom and social anxiety.
I ended up running into this guy again at a networking event. I happened to remember his name, by the grace of God. He carpooled with us to another kickback at my close friend’s house. On the way there, I gushed about some new guy I caught feelings for. As I’ve recently discovered, I’m pretty entitled when it comes to sharing my feelings, including affections I’ve developed for a man. I’m rather spastic when infatuated, and I tend to spill the beans. Luckily, my close friend and the neighbor were amused.
Fast forward to later that evening, after I’ve partaken in some social lubrication (i.e. alcohol), I’m listening to the neighbor talk again. Now, he’s already heard me gush, so I feel it’s only natural to actively participate in this conversation. I can actually remember the conversation, too. He mentioned real estate investment in a particular market, and even began nerding out over the economic developments of property values. It’s certainly not my realm of interest, but his excitement made the topic worth listening to.
After a few more drinks, he felt inclined to open up about people he knew in our community. The neighbor and a few others in attendance were talking about where they’re from, their Christmas plans, et cetera. In the midst of this, I began talking about my crush. Again. Like I said, I’m kind of an entitled idiot when I’ve caught feelings. (Aren’t we all?) Nevertheless, the neighbor starts going on about my crush, and that’s when I tune in again. At this point, there’s no guessing that my crush is one of his bros from college.
Fortunately for me, the neighbor is quite the dude-bro, as previously stated. Someone else in attendance suggested that I sit on Santa’s lap (based on my Christmas-themed attire), and I snarkily responded, “I’ll only sit on the lap of a _____-eyed man named _____.” The neighbor thought it was hilarious, wherein I repeatedly pleaded that he not tell his bro a word. Subtlety has never been my strong suit.
The long and short of it is this: If I’d been a totally entitled _____, I never would’ve found out that the neighbor was a long-term friend of the guy I like. And now, I’ve got an “in” I never had before. The best part is knowing that I’ve made friends with the neighbor out of a desire to simply know him. Although it’s a small reward, I enjoy the fact that my passion for fellowship and community drove this new friendship. I could’ve (and historically speaking, probably would’ve) ignored the guy. Instead, I’m putting the bigger picture ahead of me and my feelings.
The Moral (?)
I’m still kind of figuring that out, honestly. I only even shared the story above because of what I read in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Manson does a great job of beginning with the end in mind with his three subtleties implemented throughout the book. I’m not yet done manifesting my soul power (i.e. dignity), but I’ll let you know when I get there. Until then, I’m going to focus on what I can, like the little leaps and bounds of small wins.
Although it may seem morbid, recognizing that you will eventually die is freeing. It encourages new levels of honesty and authenticity with yourself and the world. No longer do you focus on convincing yourself that you should be x, y, and z ways to fit into whatever predetermined values of importance you’ve chosen. Instead, you’ve alchemically converted your fear, shame, and doubt into something else (a.k.a. sublimation). As Manson notes, the freedom which comes with this recognition is limitless. Therein lies the problem.
More isn’t always better. If you limit yourself with freely selected choices, you prevent an inundation of freedom. It often requires more strength, wisdom, and courage to choose not to do the thing. For most of us, we’re frequently choosing to overcome our entitlement. As I mentioned before, I’m pretty entitled via my feelings. Although I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, as soon as I emotionally react to a thing, I expect attention. I’ve let my need for external validation condition me to anticipate it, often limiting how I interact with others.
Freely feeling everything comes with its own price tag, just as choosing to not feel anything. I grew tired of socially limiting myself based on my feelings, or those of others, so I placed my values somewhere else. Mostly, I was worried about the impact I’d have on the world. Whether I taught myself to be selfish or learned it from elsewhere, I’m fed up with the consequences of that behavior. The freedom that comes with knowledge of limited life means that we all focus on thing–what we leave behind.
Manson summarizes this concern with one question, “What is your legacy?” and notes, “We avoid this because: 1) it’s hard; 2) it’s scary and; 3) we don’t know what we’re doing.” None of this is news to me, and hopefully it isn’t news to you. But think outside of yourself. Don’t let the freedom in your life stunt your growth. Choose those things which benefit the world, and you’ll probably benefit, too.