The Art of Being Selfish

By Maria Pianelli

903627474You do you.

I’m all too familiar with those three little words.

The words that greet you at the end of a relationship.

“He’s an ass anyway. You do you.”

The words that console you during the resulting dry spell.

“You do you for awhile. The right guy will come along.”

Mom’s well-intentioned advice when your Friday night plans fall through.

“You do you. Relax for the night. Turn off your phone. You don’t need anyone.”

At 15, these three little words are the mark of defeat. Oops, sorry, things didn’t work out too well. But here’s your consolation prize: you have endless time on your hands! In high school, hearing those words meant I wasn’t good enough but now, that stupid little phrase is music to my ears.

So what’s with the change of heart? Here’s the sitch.

Though group mentality is often associated with high school, college makes friends more accessible than ever. You live together. You go to class together. You make dinner, go to the bar, dance all night, wake up at noon, rinse, wash repeat. When you’re not at each others’ sides, you’re texting, Snapchatting, messaging… possibly all at once. Despite your major, despite the off-campus job, everyone is pretty much on the same schedule, so if you are the one who’s left out, it sucks. A lot.

For better or for worse, those sentiments go down the toilet come graduation. Suddenly, everything’s up in the air. Janie’s globe trotting and is less than responsive on What’s App. Mary’s off to a new city, winging her post-college plans and taking whatever odd jobs come her way. Sue’s already established in a white-collared company; she’s so busy, you’re lucky you hear from her at all. And Beth? She’s sprawled on her mother’s couch, deep within a Netflix coma — she may need medical attention.

For the first time in a long time, you’re on your own. That giggling group of girls isn’t on your side, sharing stories of their late night rendezvous. You don’t know what Billie Jean ate for breakfast and you’re not sure which guy Joanie’s hooking up with, but guess what? It’s okay.

You do you.

When I first left college, I freaked out when I noticed the silence that shrouded my life. I was no longer living in a residence hall. Drunken squeals ceased waking me up at 3am and no more did frat party invites clog my Facebook calendar. Instead, I pulled myself out of bed at 6:30, braved two trains and a boat and worked until my eyelids ached. At first, it was lonely, really lonely. I graduated a full year ahead of my college friends and worried that they’d forget about me. At 11:30, I’d be half-asleep on the couch, watching re-reruns of Friends in my pajamas; they’d Snap me from the bar, two shots in and glammed beyond recognition.

As I embarked on business trips and sat through meetings, I wondered if I was a subpar friend. Shouldn’t I go upstate more often? Maybe I talk too much about my job; I guess I should act more excited to hear about who’s dating who and who drank too much at Bacchus.

I felt like this for awhile. My schedule at work got busier and busier. I befriended colleagues and made new connections in the city. Yet I continued to wonder — do my high school friends hate me because I’m never on Staten Island? Have my college friends moved on because I’m seldom around?

And then one weekend, I had the time. I went up, saw the girls, went to Snugs and  ate a lot of pizza. And things were fine. As soon as I stepped off the bus, it was like going back in time, picking up where you left off. My friendships continued to flourish, the night blossomed more beautifully than I had remembered.

All of lives we’re told that the twenties are our time to explore and discover ourselves. For the first time, we’re truly off on our own and given the tools to succeed, but everyone’s adventure looks a little different. We’re all in the same boat — and people understand.

You do you.

If you want to plunge head first into a career, great.

Looking to travel the world? That’s perfect.

Just want to settle in at home? Even better.

Communication patterns will shift. Immediate needs will change. Some nights after work, I crave a night out with my friends. Other times, I just want to go home, work on my novel, and ignore the rest of the world.

You do you.

This is the decade to transform ourselves. This is the time to mold into the individuals we always longed to be. It takes sacrifice. It takes patience. It takes self-involvement.

I used to look at selfishness as a negative trait; why would I want to spend so much time with myself anyway? Now I realize having time to think and grow and feel on your own is an essential part of growing up.

You do you.

If I’m ever going to make it as a writer, if I’m ever going to be a big shot in the PR world, I need to take care of myself and cater to what works for me. Maybe I’m no longer in that dizzying college crowd. Maybe I don’t have plans on a Friday night. But I’m more than fine.

You do you.

I’ll do me.

Things will be more than okay.

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