Treat Others… And Yourself

A long conversation with my boyfriend this early morning gave me huge insight into something.

I enjoy writing, particularly fan fiction and my opinions (gee, what gave the latter away?), but it dawned on me less than half a day ago I’ve been writing fan fiction for twelve years – nearly half of my life!

I never put thought into it or considered it a hobby or noticed it becoming one. I don’t recall what sparked it. All I remember is I started shortly after I watched “The Little Mermaid” when it came out on DVD in 2006, when I was 12 years old. It was the first Disney movie I ever watched, and what introduced me to Disney to begin with. I don’t remember that being any sort of inspiration, but it’s closest I can think of as a reason I may have started writing.

There were other hobbies I tried to develop later on, but I failed at them, despite genuinely liking them. As it turns out, it’s not always a bad thing to be selfish.

When I wrote, it was always for myself. Even if I made it public, and I do enjoy sharing, I was still writing for my own sake. I did it when I was bored or had some random idea pop into my mind. Most of the stories I write are kept private. As a pre-teen, I kept it secret partially out of embarrassment because they weren’t good (not to suggest my more recent stories are), but being a reserved person even back then, I didn’t care for anyone to know anyway.

But when I start drawing or playing some games or learning languages, it was for other people from the start. Drawing was sparked by my then huge love of Winx Club and jealousy of others’ amazing art, and the goal was becoming skilled enough to create fan art to share with the fandom. After finding the Sims community, I played the game more and more to create stories to share with the community. I first began learning another language in second grade, but when I got older and tried to study on my own, it was for the sake of being able to communicate with other people, not because I wanted to study. And I should mention I hated writing too… when I was forced to do it.

None of those reasons are necessarily bad, especially not the last one. But the pattern there is I became miserable with those hobbies because I was doing them for other people’s sake, not my own. Yes, I truly liked them, but they reached a point of solely being done to share with other people for their enjoyment. I stopped caring about my own. Realizing that, it’s no wonder they eventually died when I tired of trying. Yet, I never tired of writing stories, nor can I remember ever feeling burned out. I once wrote eight pages in a day. In the huge world of literature, that may be amateurish at best, but for me, it was a big deal because I wasn’t trying to.

This is not restricted to hobbies either. I did poorly in a number of things, particularly school, because they were for the sake of pleasing someone else. For a while, I succeeded in school over, but after a certain age, being a people-pleaser became too exhausting to keep up and I stopped trying so hard just to hear some praise that meant nothing to me because I didn’t want to do it in the first place, nor was I getting anything valuable out of it. Yet, I’ve discovered I am good at finding friendships, as I’ve made friends even when trying to avoid it, and I am good at holding my own relationship. But I am good at those things because although they involve other people, they are still for me. My friendships and my relationship make me happy, which is why I’m rarely hesitant to and very much enjoy doing things for my friends and my boyfriend. And the reason I hold them so highly is because they care for me. What I got out of friendship is love (platonic and romantic) and happiness I didn’t find elsewhere (please forgive the cavity-inducing sweetness). And I clearly have no problem sharing my friendships with the world!

Of course, there’s such a thing as priorities and some things have to be done, no matter how dreadful they are. This is not about that. What I’m referring to are things that are optional (yes, that now includes school). The truth is I have missed those hobbies. I miss when I did draw in my sketchbook, drawing either from imagination and tips I read, or trying to recreate a specific picture. I miss when I played video games because they relieved my boredom and I was interested in continuing the game’s story, not trying to create a story from the game to upload (though I have been slowly getting back into this one). I always hated studying, but I did like to try reading books in other languages after some weeks of classwork in my language classes, and much of the time, I could. I didn’t care I couldn’t understand what it was actually about (because I couldn’t translate quickly). I just enjoyed I could read it. I once got fun out of reading an Italian dictionary when I was still taking Italian class in tenth class, and I used to play around with DuoLingo, an app for learning languages, for the fun of the games. There may be other hobbies I’ve dropped as well, but I don’t recall them.

All along, the burn out wasn’t from doing too much, but from trying to give so much. During most of my childhood, I heard how “giving to others is a gift in itself” and “it’s better to give than to receive”. Maybe there’s such a thing as too much giving. As I said, I rarely am hesitant to give to those I care most about because I also enjoy sharing. It’s much simpler than I’m making it sound. It makes more sense to go through so much effort for someone you really love instead of dozens or hundreds of strangers you’ll never meet.

My boyfriend asked me if there’s any way to reignite those former hobbies. After realizing what I did, I think there may be. If I choose to try picking one or more of them up again, I have to remember who they’re intended for: me. They’re for myself and my pleasure. If I make them public, it’s because I want to have another place for them, not because I’m after attention and recognition. I realize those can be good motivational tools for some people, but I’m clearly not one of them. For me, hobbies are much more fun when it’s my enjoyment I have at heart. Thinking only of myself is selfish, but this is not exactly hunger I’m talking about. I’m talking about pastimes. I’m positive no one’s getting hurt.

However, I don’t think I’ll ever overcome the shock of taking twelve years to discover this. I now fear for what else I may be oblivious to. Can I trade this “identity crisis” thing for some more sketchbooks?

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Some Things Are More Important

Including today, I’ve had two days off from work. Today, one of my bosses called to ask if I’d like to come. Normally, I would’ve said yes and gotten ready as quick as I could. This time, however, I had to decline.

Well, that’s not the complete truth. I didn’t have to. Nothing was really stopping me from saying yes. But at the time she called, I was with my boyfriend, who I do not have the pleasure of seeing as often as we’d like. I was also in pain. Pain I deal with every month, but it’s still pain.

Accepting would mean I have to leave immediately, cutting my time with this person I see infrequently with barely a chance to kiss him goodbye. We’re used to the distance. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to use every minute we can have together.

It sounds strange for someone who needs money to turn down an opportunity for it, especially for a reason many would consider flimsy. I know very well jobs are hard to come by. But so are good relationships. While I would love extra money, there are some things money can’t make up for. In my situation, that was time.

Yes, more money would let me visit my boyfriend more often, but what would be the point if I had no time? My next day off is after three straight work days. The day I see my boyfriend, if we are both fortunate, may be on that day off. Three scheduled work days to one possible day with who I call the love of my life. Perhaps it’s me sounding haughty, but it’s not really a hard choice. I know I’m fortunate I can turn down the chance without worry. Some people would need to say yes.

When our time was finally up, we had to run to ensure my boyfriend got the bus he needed to get back home (it came earlier than expected). We hugged and kissed each other goodbye, and he waved at me through the window as the bus drove away. There will undoubtedly be many more goodbye affections and waves, but at that moment – when it was happening in the present – it meant everything. Nothing could replace it.

I’ll Be Stronger

Right now, as I’m typing this, I’m lying next to my boyfriend while he sleeps. I requested two days off for our anniversary, but I was somehow lucky enough to receive four straight days off. It’s peaceful, and the only sound is the air conditioner he seemingly can’t sleep without. Fortunately, he also has blankets.

I keep thinking “I could get used to this”. I imagine times like these as a preview of what our life would be like if we lived together. Of course, I won’t overstay my welcome and I am leaving tomorrow evening. Four days off just isn’t a daily opportunity. I wanted to use it wisely, and he agreed.

However, while I’m quietly playing on my phone to let him nap, I keep thinking about how things could’ve been so different. I think about how I’m trying to pave a path for my life. I remember when I was so afraid of adulthood, yet it gets better with each passing year.

What if I listened to my family, the people who want nothing more than for me to be blindly compliant and stay locked in a gilded cage? What if I followed in my mother’s footsteps, and had a child at 21 or 22? What if I gave in to the worst years of my life and cut my life off before I reached 20?

The truth is it’s an alternate reality that terrifies me. I really don’t know why since it’s clearly not my reality, but it’s what I’d make a horror novel out of.

Writing posts like these makes me feel like a braggart, but since it’s only recently I’ve genuinely been happy with my life, I’d rather write my positive emotions than endlessly complain. My family set the bar low, and once I was out of the childhood safety of fantasy, I never believed I could do any better. Now, I know I can. It’s not going in a standard fashion. I’ve definitely made some mistakes and it will take a while for me to really get where I’m aiming. But I can do it, and I’m not going to be like my family.

I’m unsure if this is a way of saying I am better than them. I don’t believe I am better. I believe I can do better. Although, I do believe I’m better than a lifelong cheating, abusive when drunk, self-centered alcoholic, but I imagine most people would think they’re better than that.

A Different Jealousy

I’m beginning to wonder if relationship jealousy would be easier to handle than this.

My family is jealous of how I treat my boyfriend. To be more specific, they believe I treat him “like a king” while I treat them “like crap”. The problem here is they were jealous because… I wore a dress.

I very rarely wear dresses, but I chose to for our anniversary weekend. Somehow, my family believes daring to wear a dress for a special occasion means trying to impress someone rather than just doing something special for a day that’s, well, special.

In other words, treating my boyfriend like a king means wearing a dress to his house. Meanwhile, treating them like crap was akin to… not giving them the password to my personal computer.

If there were ever one absolute bit of proof that shows how poisonous my family is when it comes to relationships, it’s this. I don’t expect a date between my boyfriend and me to be of any importance to them, but to be jealous over your family member’s partner? To get upset because I wear a dress for one special day instead of all the time at home?

To be truthful, a small part of me always suspected jealousy from them, but I don’t like to play the “you’re just jealous” card because I see it as immature. But I really don’t know what else to call it. It’s not the first time they’ve gotten upset about me spending time with my boyfriend. It’s just the only time they’ve accused me of treating him better than them. They make the same accusation when it comes to how I treat my friends too.

The kind of funny thing is they might be right. It’s not something I can personally see, but there’s a good chance I do treat my boyfriend better than I treat them. Except what they view as “special treatment” is really just the treatment that results when you don’t demand respect because “well, I say so”. My boyfriend and I have had our pitfalls, yes, but most of the time, we treat each other well and respect each other’s space and feelings. Most of my family wouldn’t know “respect” if it smacked them behind the head, and it’s a generational thing.

To give a recent example, my father wiped out my computer. It’d broken down and I intended to take it to a tech expert to be fixed. Instead, he took it upon himself without any permission from me whatsoever to try repairing it, and worsened the problem. On top of that, he had no idea why I was so upset, which didn’t surprise me since it wasn’t his computer he wiped out. Prior to this, he’d used my computer numerous times without asking, often when I was asleep or out of the house. When I restarted the computer after it was wiped, I set up the personal account again, but did not re-enable the guest account. Yet, he still tried to use it without my permission and asked for my password while I was visiting my boyfriend. I didn’t respond to the messages and deleted them.

This happened after a night where my dad and my grandfather had a heated argument that became physical because the latter intended to drive the family’s car while drunk. The car is under my father’s name and he believed my grandfather would get into an accident, which would result in him being penalized. That’s a legitimate concern, but my grandfather did not care at all. Note that my grandfather also has no valid license, which means he’d be breaking two laws. I don’t believe physical violence is how to solve things (my dad says my grandfather attacked him first; I didn’t see what happened), but look at the link there. My grandfather has zero concern for what could badly affect someone else. Thus, my dad, who was raised by this man, doesn’t either.

Those stories are two of many examples across my family. And yet, they still believe they’re entitled to my respect for no other reason than “family comes first”. If I really do treat my boyfriend better than I treat them, I have no guilt about that. Their jealousy isn’t something I’m going to worry myself about. At this point, I’m genuinely convinced they simply do not want me to realize the way they think of and treat people isn’t a positive thing. I figured that out years ago, but the more I get out into the world, the clearer it becomes. I often think about how my teenage self would be horrified if she knew what she’d be doing in the years to come, but maybe it was so horrifying because I was afraid of what I didn’t know and only had my family’s stories to go on. As it turned out, the world outside of what my family made for me is tough, but not so scary. It’s big and bright and alluring. They know it. And they know they can’t keep me from it anymore.

“Ex” Them Out

Something I subconsciously do on occasion is compare my relationship with my boyfriend to my “exes”.

I don’t like to refer to them as that because none of them were real relationships, but it’s the simplest to say. I say I subconsciously compare because these thoughts, like several, are random and usually pop up late at night when I can’t sleep for one reason or another.

At the time, I felt like I wouldn’t move on, that I’d keep wondering “what if”, that I’d never get anything better out of dating. You get the idea. Now, I genuinely feel like it doesn’t matter at all they once crossed my path and, to an extent, it feels like I never did meet them. On top of that, I feel like I would’ve been miserable if any of them had lasted.

The best example I can give is the one who came right before my boyfriend. To sum it up, even if he didn’t make me miserable, his lifestyle would have. Long story short, his time schedule was so constantly full, in the year we spoke to each other, we never once met in person. Going by what he told me, his life was full of business, constant travel, a lot of people, and very little down time. Nothing wrong with that lifestyle, but I hate traveling and I am not a people person. I’d only be going along with it because I’d have nothing better to do and didn’t want to be alone constantly. There’s no way I’d be happy.

In somewhat of an inverse, I’m the busy one while my boyfriend is often free, but I still make time when I can. Really says something that we live in different states, and can still manage to see each other every week or every other week, but that’s besides the point (my ex lived in the next county over!). I am a lot happier with him than I was with my ex, and he’s told me more than once he’s happy to be my girlfriend.

The other exes either only wanted sex and no real relationship, never made it off the dating website, and in one case, wanted kids later on.

I used to think of my exes as stepping stones I just had to take to get to my boyfriend, but now, I don’t even feel like that. If someone asked, the truest thing I could probably say is I dated around, found my boyfriend, and that’s it. Maybe it’s somewhat cold to say, but it does feel like they never existed to me, or never entered my life. That’s probably the very best way to feel about exes.

If my boyfriend ever becomes an ex, which I hope to high heaven never happens, he’ll probably be the one I consider “got away”. Unlike the others, I would’ve actually had something meaningful with him, and thus, a reason to really be heartbroken about. Of course, simply wanting a long relationship isn’t a good reason to keep it going if it’s failing, so letting go would be for the best. But in a way, I still feel like we’re in the “honeymoon phase” (how long do people say that lasts?). Early this morning, when we were discussing these thoughts I have, I told him, “Half my soul would die without you.” Dramatic? Maybe. True? Yes.

When I lost the first ex, my heart was broken for a week. When I lost the others, I was sad for a day. If I lose my boyfriend? That’s a pain I only want to know in my nightmares. And not even then.

In truth, I shouldn’t make these comparisons to begin with and I feel upset with myself that I do. My exes aren’t bad people. They just had ways of living that didn’t work well with me, and vice versa. This isn’t a rant about how evil my exes were because they weren’t. But I’m happy and very relieved they’re little more than distant memories. I don’t care about “what could’ve been”. I care that I have a loving boyfriend, and I’m happy now.

He’s also the reason I now believe in this quote. ❤