About a month ago, I was spending my evening in a cafe listening to an acquaintance, talk about her issues at work. The girl was not a friend, a relative, or a colleague even. She was just someone I met maybe twice in my life. Regardless of who she was and in all my good spirits , I was there, listening whole heartedly. You see, she called me earlier that day and said that she really needed to see me and that she needed a favor from me. In her call, she affirmed that she needed my advice. She even said that she wanted to talk to me in particular because I was smart and because I was the only person she can relate to . She said she knew she would feel better after speaking to me. So I, a girl taken by the sweet talk indeed responded to her plea.
That evening at the café, the girl went through her personal monologue. There was no sense of dialogue in the meeting because she simply spoke, and I listened. The talk extended to four hours. It involved a full account of her boss and how he picks on her, her crush who is in the off again, on again mode and the cash which is tight, alongside a bunch of other problems. I was just unable to keep up with all the details since they were too many.
At some point in that evening my mind drifted off to my issues, and in one moment of lost concentration, I even found myself looking around me at the other tables.
I realized the café was packed, and in its bustling ambiance, I saw people laughing with each other, couples on dates, older men reading their papers, and students studying in groups. However, I also saw myself in that scene. I saw Dana, the girl listening to someone who isn’t even interested in talking to her personally, but who was rather only interested in talking.
At that point, part of me even felt like asking the girl where her friends were and why they were not the ones listening to her. But the bigger question I thought of asking was whether or not she would be there to listen to me talk three to four hours about my personal dilemmas. However, being the reserved person I am, I didn’t dare ask. I knew the answer to that question already, and I figured I didn’t want to hear it out loud. From the few times I did come face to face with this girl, she appeared to be almost always very busy. I didn’t care much about this realization because I figured that should I ever have a problem; I wouldn’t be calling an acquaintance to talk about it. I am kind of old fashioned in this area and I do believe certain problems should remain private or within the confidante of a close circle of friends.
Despite explaining in great detail how busy she was , ironically the same busy girl had enough hours to spend with me , the girl she hardly knew, and in these hours she only spoke about herself.
While she was talking, I wanted to shout “I am fine thanks, how sweet of you to ask” because I realized that she never even paused for one second to ask about me. I am not a needy person, but I figure that if a person was planning to spend hours talking about him/herself , he/she could manage a “How are you doing” somewhere in the conversation just to acknowledge the idiot sitting and listening. Aren’t I right ?
I didn’t know why these thoughts were filling my head . I even judged myself as being too cynical and bitter to think this way. However, In the simplest of terms, I do believe that life is a series of gives and takes, and if I were sitting there listening to a person talk about his /her issues , that person had better be ready to listen to me.
If I put up with people’s mood swings, they should put up with mine, and if someone is crying to me on the phone about a break up or a lay off or whatever problem they may have, I should be allowed to call them and do the same. The same ideas apply when it comes to lending money, doing favors, being supportive, listening etc.
While allowing the girl’s personal monologue to sink to the corner of my concentration, I made a mental note of all the people I know and I tried to ask myself who exactly would sit and listen to me. Sadly, I realized that the list was pathetically short in comparison to the people I sit and listen to.
Then, the sad truth hit me in the face, I realized that I have been there for people so many times, and I have also met the people who walk away the minute my job of being there is done. Looking at the evidence, I don’t blame anyone for the toxic trend of interaction I find myself in, because the fault is mine. I am aware that no one ties us to a seat and forces us to be taken advantage of, as we and only we let these things happen to us. So, this note is not one of self pity. In fact this is a statement of self reproach.
I am the one who gives out good advice, smart advice, and who is tolerant by nature, and that is why people never expect that I may not always be ok or that I may need to talk. Its my problem and my fault.
You see, I was raised to be nice, but I guess the time has come to ask, when being nice turns into being stupid? I guess no one taught me that lesson and I am learning it the hard way in my thirties.
This situation with this girl was one of those situations where I was simply stupid. This girl had spoken to me once in the last seven months yet she managed on one fine evening to take four hours of my time, and where is she today, well today she fills her Facebook pages with photos of outings with friends and obviously I was not a friend in any of these photos but rather I was someone who plays the role of councilor, advisor, and favor doer in this girl’s life.
On another similar occasion, I was stupid enough to help a girl with her paper, when like the rest of us she should have done her college masters term paper on her own. I was dumb to help a guy plan his events, when this guy could easily figure it out himself. Needless to tell you, that when the Job was done I didn’t hear from these people ever again.
I guess the favor doers like me are a product of an upbringing where our families teach us that saying no is rude. We come from a society where we should help the guy next door, the family member, the colleague, and help the man in the supermarket down the street. Not helping all these people labels us as mean. So, we grow up helping first then we think of the consequences.
This is obviously an incident of being stupid, but yet I am not saying we should turn into the ice people, nor am I suggesting that we should help no one, but I am saying that we really shouldn’t help everyone and anyone either. Not everyone deserves it. On the simple issue of helping whom , when, and why? I would say help those who talk to you no matter where you are, and what you are doing. Respond to a simple test where you ask yourself will this person still talk to me after I had helped them out?
But, more importantly I think at some point we have to be selfish. We have to realize and be ok with the fact that we come first. Today, I am more inclined to help myself first. Maybe help one or two more people who deserve my company and my help. While doing that, I will let the rest of the world deal with their issues on their own.
I don’t know why I am in a rut of negativity, but I am done with the hours of listening , helping, and being nice. After all, I don’t want to realize that I am 50 with nothing but a pack of good advice and wasted favors on people who don’t give a damn. These people may remember me and simply smile and say oh Dana was nice as they turn around and live their lives. But right now I really don’t care if anyone thinks I am nice or not, I care about being nice to myself .
I think in such situations it is really ok to be self centered, but then again I am being very negative these two three days. Until I remember why it is nice to be simply nice, let me be.
In the simplest terms, nice girl has left the building !