Putting Yourself First

Sophomore slump

Stephen Kolison

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You know those kids’ movies that taught us that we need to be selfless all the time to become better people? Remember how our parents would chastise us if we ever did something that was a little too self-centered? Well in this hellish realm that is college, all I can say about those lessons is, “Screw that!” The minute we got our acceptance letters, we were asked to make our first overtly selfish choice. For the most part, we came to school to better our lives. When choosing majors and classes, some of us did what was recommended, while others did their own thing. I remember being told a long time ago that college is the time to be selfish.

It is shocking to hear someone say that you need to be selfish in order to succeed in college. It’s probably surprising because for the first time in our lives, we are being told to not consider someone else’s feelings. I do believe, however, that there are two kinds of selfishness. There is one type where you act in complete disregard of another person. I highly doubt that someone would advise me to behave like a jerk.

There is something completely different going on if you take the time to make a solid judgment on a course of action. There is also something going on if you decide to isolate the public’s opinions for one moment and focus on just you. I like to call this “self-analysis”; you are making an arrangement that comes from within but may have mixed reactions. The thing about making self-analytical choices is that if you’re making the decision, it does not seem egocentric to you at all. The people who are on the outside trying to look in may perceive your actions as egotistic. I think that is why people say college is the time to be selfish; not because the act itself is rude or self-seeking, but because others are only able to see how your decision affects you.

I’m the type of person who has to think out every minute detail that a decision might affect. I’ll know if that choice would have an effect on my sleep schedule. If that choice also requires me to buy a Sedan from a guy with one eye at a Chevrolet dealership in Iowa, then you can bet I saw that outcome from a mile away. One thing that I have never been able to predict is how my friends and family would react to my “selfish” decision. The unfortunate thing about making strong bonds in college is that they can break so suddenly.

I had two friends who decided to transfer out of Case Western Reserve University. I felt like I was being left in the dust. More importantly, I felt angry because they decided to choose themselves over our friendship. Sometimes what is best for you is not the best for others. It took me a while to understand this, but I was not being fair to them at all. I would have been the selfish one if I had forced them to stay somewhere they were not comfortable with. People get hurt in situations like these, and it sucks. Like the long time it took for you to make that choice, it will take just as long for the individuals in your life to come around and see that all you’re trying to do is be happy.

I can’t be Jesus, and I definitely cannot be “The Chosen One” who makes the ultimate sacrifice to save everyone. If my friend is crying on the floor about Bobby Joe and I have a final the next day, unfortunately, my friend won’t be getting all of my attention. Life is one part taking care of your fellow man, but also two parts loving yourself. College is not really about being selfish but about reorganizing and reprioritizing the stuff in your life to figure out where you are and where you’re going.

You can call this whole thing of doing what is best for you selfishness, or you can call it self-analysis. I know that you can agree that it is all preparation for adulthood. To become an adult, you have to groom the individual. Taking care of everyone else’s needs before getting to your own will not make you a stronger adult. I have learned the hard way in school that if you keep giving bits of yourself to other people, you will having nothing left to give to back to yourself. What’s even scarier than potentially hurting someone’s feelings is losing myself because I simply did not take the time to care about me. I am not asking others to stop caring about their friends or family. I am just asking my fellow students to be fair to and love themselves just a little bit more.