Living for your own sake is, for many, a terrifying formula. We all know what comes next: sin, addiction, and degradation. But frankly, as soon as I decided to open my eyes, I saw that my life was often not mine. There was too much “need” and not enough “want” in it. Duty landed on my shoulders like a stone that I wear as a badge of honor.

And then I thought: enough, enough. I was tired of turning my life and soul into a radioactive dump, looking shyly at my feet and awkwardly explaining to everyone how I dared to put my own interests above others. I thought it was time to live for my own good. Choose happiness and not convince myself that evil is good. Live for love and not for duty.

This was the beginning of my scandalous and antisocial year of healthy selfishness. The word ‘healthy’ or ‘reasonable’ here is a real help, thanks to which the people around me did not immediately recognize me as a violator of social laws.

Many are sure that you must first know the difficult moments up close and personal, and only then, if you are still healthy and strong enough, will you be able to live for yourself.

Well, I considered the opposite.

A Voice In The Wilderness

At first, I was scared. I had no idea what to do, just a vague certainty that it was for the better. I felt like I was going to go around the world in an inflatable boat. I didn’t know if I could handle the waves of “must-sees” or someone else’s expectations. Becoming an outcast with the label of ‘selfish’ stuck to my forehead was not in my plans, but I understood that it was my only path to freedom.

To everyone around me, I became blatantly cheeky because I stopped playing the game where you are forbidden to argue about your right to live your own life. I stopped apologizing for my own plans and wishes. I stopped making excuses. I stopped feeling guilty for wanting to be happy, calm, and own my own time.

From Whines To Wins

First, I decided to stop the flow of complaints, tears, dark monologues, and hate speech in my ears. I love my family and friends, I value my colleagues, and I respect my elders, but that doesn’t mean I should make their long, sad confessions a part of my life.

I pulled the “24 Hour Power Giver” sign off my door and it became an act of civil disobedience. ‘Don’t you want to hear the details of someone’s personal life? Not interested in another pig boyfriend of your friend? How dare you!’

I was barely breathing in terror as I gently but firmly avoided all attempts to tell me another tearful story with the words, ‘I think this is disgusting to you and me, why don’t you tell me about …?’ I thought so. I would be accused of cruelty.

However, I did not go. In fact, my eagerness to hear good news was a signal to start talking about it. And, most importantly, it got me out of the bad habit of complaining. Refusing to hear bad things, I didn’t mind saying it myself.

Yes, I’m saying ‘no’ to you

The next step was the most difficult. I had to teach myself that rude, unethical word “no.” Previously, any vague complaint request would have made me help in any way I could because I was too shy and afraid of hurting someone’s feelings to refuse.

And I felt guilty for destroying the image I created for myself. But when I said my first serious ‘no’, it was all over. My friends were so shocked you’d think I ate a live rabbit in front of them.

I dreamed of giving in to the desires of my heart, but in reality, I worked for others with no return. I replaced, helped, and cared for my lazy friends while they were relaxing in the spa. It’s so easy to become a modern-day slave like this, so I gave a resounding ‘no’ to this brilliant career opportunity.

Over time, I learned to see through the requests I was receiving and to understand which request for help was genuine and which was just an attempt to manipulate me. A fair “no” became a concrete foundation for my own healthy ego, which did not allow me to forget myself and go out of my way for others.

Freedom For Everyone

“Nobody owes anybody anything” is a good creed, but, as it turned out, hardly possible. It was not as difficult to reject the role of an eternal debtor as it was to stop demanding that other people follow my orders. I had to constantly remind myself that no one owes me a life.

My private life was also in debt. It was thunderous because ‘I give you everything for nothing in return!’ played from both sides until I realized that expectations and demands can ruin love and friendship.

And I approached the problem mathematically; I have just accepted its conditions. I stopped begging for treats for my ego and getting angry when my boyfriend didn’t follow my rules and finally challenged him to a negotiation.

We sat all night, drank about three liters of coffee, talked frankly, and in the morning we signed a pact that said we both had the right to be him or herself. We fled from the eternal drama to the desert and freedom.

Now, when I feel offended if someone has not done something that I thought they should have done, I repeat, in a low voice, that everyone is free.

Preview photo credit Dmitry Zelinskiy