Why being selfish isn’t necessarily a bad thing

Brooke LakeI would categorize this time of my life as being quite selfish. I’m not in a serious relationship, I do not have any children, basically no one is seriously dependent on me emotionally, financially or spiritually. Most of the decisions I make directly benefit me. My five year plan does not take into account another’s interest except my own. Can I be frank? I absolutely love it.

Don’t get me wrong — I volunteer, I pick up shifts for my coworkers when needed, I invest in friendships because I care and love for them, I make sacrifices for my family and friends. But if I were to be completely honest, I am being careful to keep my heart, mind and soul high on the priority list. Before you start to write me off as just another self-centered twenty-something, let me explain.

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Let me paint a picture of my life two years ago: active evangelical Christian, just got out of a serious four year relationship and greatly lacking in self-awareness. Most of all my emotional and physical limits had yet to be defined or even tested. I settled down in a value system which I had never earnestly questioned and used it as a safety blanket. Maybe if I spent all my effort lifting others up in good intention I could avoid peril, I thought.

Then I met a guy. He was handsome, interesting, and best of all he asked me out on a formal date. With giddy excitement I obliged. I planned my outfit two days in advance, made sure my makeup and hair were just perfect and nothing could wipe the stupid smile that was plastered on my face.

Needless to say the date didn’t go as planned. There were no fireworks, the conversation was boring and by the end of dinner I knew there was not going to be a next time. However, I was so set on making sure I didn’t hurt his feelings that I forced myself to laugh at all his jokes, pretended every story he told was fascinating and even said to him I had a fabulous time on the drive home.

I remember sitting in his passenger seat twiddling my thumbs in the awkward moments before I was going to say goodbye. It was quite late, and almost all my energy had been spent lying about enjoying my time with him. I was just about to call it a night when it happened.

Without warrant I found myself pinned under the weight of a 6’3, 190 pound man forcing himself on me with untamed lust. Alone in the dark parking lot shoved against the hard plastic of his car’s interior I was sexually assaulted. For the first time in my life I decided it was time to start being selfish.

In vain I tried to shove him off of me as I screamed “no” but to no avail. Finally after twenty terrifying minutes I somehow managed to rip the door open and escape. My carefully planned outfit was wrecked, my makeup smeared, and the stupid smile which was camped on my face for so long was replaced with an anger.

Flash forward to today — no longer do I live in a way that disregards my heart, dreams and safety. Those terrifying twenty minutes took me two years to process but I have arrived at a place of understanding. I need time to be selfish in order to develop my character and values. Before I start my career, get married and have kids one day I realize I need to proactively secure who I am.

I am using this unique time in my life as a twenty two-year-old college student to be selfish. I am in the process of questioning all that I believe, pushing myself to be brave, reading as many books as I can get my hands on, developing my character, and allowing myself to have grand adventures.

Why? Because I refuse to let myself live in such a way that I am pinned in the darkness, unable to escape, again. I want to know who I am, what I believe and have the bravery to be myself.

Editorial Assistant Brooke Lake is a senior international studies major. Her column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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