My apologies for being quite late to this week’s blog post! Just when you think you start to get a good grip on life, life has a way of reminding you that control is an illusion and that humans are no match for… well, much of anything in the scheme of things. But, that’s another conversation altogether and so let me get back to the topic at hand – selflessness.
I put quite a bit of thought into this challenge, more so than I ever really intended to. I wanted to go big on this one, really make meaningful impacts on the lives of those I encountered in truly memorable ways. I envisioned myself becoming an urban, thirty-something Mother Teresa, becoming a living vessel of altruism and charity for seven days. To say I fell short would be the understatement of 2017. However, I did walk away from the week slightly less self-centered, a bit humbled by humanity, and reminded that true selflessness can’t be found in buying a cute stranger a latte.
Goal: Seize every opportunity to be selfless I stumble across. Do ALL the altruistic things!
Reality: Day 1 was Super Bowl Sunday. I live in Houston, where the Super Bowl was hosted. To be more accurate, I live within the bowels of the production hell that was Super Bowl Central. I ventured out for a jog early in the day, ready to spread love and light. Thirty minutes later, I was cursing people’s deceased mothers who couldn’t abide by the most basic of driving principles. Things like stopping at stop signs, staying in lanes, yielding to pedestrians. It’s hard to be selfless when you’re fighting for your life every time you approach an intersection… I stop for a coffee on my way back to my house, aiming to buy one for a stranger to redeem myself and am nearly trampled by a herd of SCREAMING girls. Apparently, Ryan Gosling had been sighted at the restaurant next door. I head home, and hide there until it’s time to head out for the watch party. Selfless acts for the remainder of the day include: Letting five drivers over and offering them a friendly wave and smile, telling a cop he’s doing a great job and that dealing with a bunch of drunk Pat’s fans can’t be easy, allowing a stranger to pick me up and jostle my spine when the Pat’s rallied for a win, and not punching a very drunk Irishman after a most indecent proposal. Small victories are still victories?
Goal: Do Better, Vanessa.
Reality: Solid day! I sent adorable animal videos to a coworker to cheer them up, and paid for an elderly lady’s milk and eggs at the grocery store. Success!
Goal: Emboldened by yesterday’s success, I once again aim big. Do ALL the saintly things!
Reality: I start the day strong, being a courteous driver and allowing Houston’s commuters to bob and weave around as they willed. I consider this beyond selfless as every natural inclination in my being tells me that you fight for every square inch of space on Houston’s roadways and the only way someone gets in is if they 1. Use their blinker, 2. BE NICE. Trust me, I can be the bigger asshole, asshole. By the time I arrive to my first meeting of the day, I’m tired of being selfless. I stop for coffee on my way back into the office and notice a man struggling to carry both his coffee order and bags. I offer to help and am rewarded with a smile and a 75 lb shoulder bag full of what I’m certain must be bricks. We haul it to his car and off he goes, offering me a wave out his window. The final act of selflessness comes at the gym that evening, when I arrive at the last vacant stair master at the same time as another woman, and offer it to her while I opt for an elliptical instead.
Goal: Just be nice.
Reality: I woke up on Day 4 in a pretty foul mood. Rotten work dreams and fitful sleep set me on the wrong path from the jump. A day full of meetings, where I have to hear my own voice for 6 hours saying the same thing, does not help. I look for opportunities to be selfless during the day, but meetings aren’t necessarily conducive to such a thing. I slap on a smile instead, offer up helpful comments when I can, and vow to play catch up later. I go home and am tempted to hide away with my cat and Netflix for the night, but opt to call a friend I know is going through a hard time and talk to them instead. Surely, that can count, yes?
Goal: Make today about anyone other than me.
Reality: I bring doughnuts to the office in the morning. Coworkers love doughnuts. I pause anytime a coworker seeks my input or attention, and focus on feeling grateful for the break and interaction, instead of panicked and irritated for being interrupted when busy. I bring my trainer a card thanking her for her awesome attitude and work even though I know she’s feeling pressured by her own crazy schedule and school finals. I buy my cat a bag of her favorite treats. I compliment a stranger on her shoes and give her a hug when she tears up at the compliment and says they were from her husband who had just passed and this was the first time she could bring herself to wear them… (this is a reason why I usually keep to myself. Compliments, comments, engaging in general all to often leads to people getting REAL with me about their lives and I never know quite how to respond).
Goal: Just. Keep. Giving.
Reality: I knew today would be tough. I had four meetings lined up for the day, followed by a night with friends. As an introvert, days like this are beyond taxing and I self-preserve big time. I know this comes across as being withdrawn or even selfish, but it really is something I have to do in order to not feel flat out exhausted. Luckily, these meetings were one on one’s with people and I was able to ask them what they needed most from me. I was able to create materials for each of them to help them improve their business, and even though their improved business helps me, creating these materials for them was most definitely an above and beyond effort and so I’m calling it selfless! Work ends and I’m beat. I really just want to be a hermit on my couch. Alas, I persevere, pick up some snacks for a movie night to share with the group (selfless? I go with yes), and prepare to be charming and social. Movie night is a bust and my best pal, her boyfriend and I head to dinner instead, where I give an extra generous tip to the waitress. I stop off for a hot tea and encounter a dark-haired hunk of a man stranger. I buy his latte and we talk about music for a minute before his dark-haired babe of a significant other walks in. I consider this payback for trying to call a not-so-selfless thing selfless. Well played, karma.
Goal: Finish Strong.
Reality: I killed it today. A third season of a TV show I PA for has started up again and I spend the day being the most helpful, awesome, V I can be. Yes, they pay me. But, I focus on going above and beyond. I listen to a frustrated coworker who just needs a sounding board. I jump at the chance to complete any task, no matter how small. I am warm towards others. That in itself is huge. All in all, I end the week on the strongest note possible.
Well, that was fun. Thanks for shining a glaring light on my selfishness, Challenge! As much as I try to abide by The Golden Rule, and do for others without expectation, sometimes my attitude just plain sucks. On those days, I might not be awful to other people, but I’m certainly not helpful towards them either. My big takeaway from this challenge is that by simply changing my perspective to that of gratitude towards others can make a HUGE difference. Day 5 was a breakthrough for me. It probably doesn’t count as selflessnesss, but it’s something akin to it… in my mind atleast? There you have it, Tubbers. A challenge that taught me something, or reminded me of it atleast…