Why do we love? Do we need people or want people? I was in a therapy group called “Understanding Self and Others”. There was a participant there who seemed very cut off from people. It seemed like he hadn’t dealt with others in years. He was in recovery for drugs or alcohol. I don’t remember which and he often referred to women as a separate species. He wasn’t my favorite. But, he kept going to group. As did I. And one day he said something that still intrigues me to this day. He was looking to better his life. Going textbook. I used to be like this.
I used to do things because I was told. I didn’t have a drink of alcohol till I was 21 because I was taught it messed with growth and development along with all the other nasty side effects. I did not date in high school because my parents frowned upon it. I didn’t start dieting until I turned 18 because of the consequences to growth and whatnot. I didn’t graduate early from high school because people told me to enjoy my youth and not to speed it up. I went for advisable. Safe. Boring. I don’t drive or leave the house unless I have to because my mother installed an unhealthy fear of car wrecks in me. And you know what I am most regretful for? That I allowed it. I allowed others to decide my life for me. I trusted slogans and chimes from transient people more than myself. Then I didn’t.
Then I went to college. I went despite my father’s wishes. I went on a camping trip that first year and stayed quiet as a friend who’d been sleeping the whole car ride decided to drive on the last leg back to campus. I stood there as the current driver hesitated to hand her the car keys and looked at me for confirmation, a reaction, something! And I stood there! Didn’t say a word, until I was in that car swerving on and off the highway when I was screaming “STOP!” as I clutched on to both overhead handles in the backseat.
After that day, I expected my life to change. I expected to value my existence or suddenly see all the beauty in the world that I had missed. I didn’t. I was disappointed. I was confused. It took me several more years—It took me until now to appreciate that moment. I understood it, intellectually, since it happened. I kicked myself for not speaking up. It’s one of my character flaws. Yet, I continue to rely on others and keep my mouth shut. It grates me to depend on others. It’s what I’ve done my whole life. But people are wrong. Or sometimes they are right. The one thing they never are, is me.
So, when they tell me not to drink before I’m 21, or to value my family, they are speaking in generalities. They don’t know what’s best for me, even if they wanted that for me. I don’t either. I don’t know if I want what’s best for me. I read a book for my high school English class either sophomore or junior year. The Picture of Dorian Gray. All I got out of that was a new vocab word: hedonist. One who lives for their sole pleasure. And with that new word, I got a new life philosophy. A fantasy. I still care about others and that’s what is killing me miserably.
The guy in the “Understanding Self and Others” therapy group asked if people, friends specifically, were necessary for life. I don’t remember if he said a good life. I think he just meant in general. My response to that, and many others chimed off with agreement, is that friends-people- aren’t necessary. Life goes on with or without them, but with is much more enjoyable. So, he became quiet, having the answer he sought, and the rest of the group watched with worry and sadness as we saw a calm, hushed fuzz come over his eyes. There was the smallest glimmer of disappointment that faded into his meaningless stare. Just because something isn’t necessary, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pursuing.
Since that semester, fall of 2016, (reinforced by the fact that it was the semester I began dating my first boyfriend) I have had a complex between the binaries of want and need. My argument firmly on want being more important. Allow me to explain. Humans need water to live, but we don’t love it. We want soda and juice and tea and coffee and a myriad of things that pollute that which we need-water. If we wanted water instead of forcing it upon us as a necessity, I argue that people, as a species, would do exponentially more than we do now to preserve and protect this jewel of our planet. More than we do now that we need it.
Likewise, if I need someone, I use them. Maybe I keep them around for emotional support, maybe they have a car and I don’t, or they feed me. Whatever the reason, if I stay with them because I need to, because I must. It’s not really my choice. However, if I want to share my feelings and thoughts with them, I want to spend time in the passenger seat with them, and I like the food they make, it is my choice. I don’t like being forced into things. Even if they are the things I would have chosen myself. But there is no clear distinction between want and need. I never know if I am talking to a friend about something because I want to have a conversation with them, because I like them, or because they were the best person for the job.
And what if they are the best person for the job? I wouldn’t go to my grandmother for sex advice! Is it wrong that I go to my best friend? No! Of course, not. Want and need are Venn diagrams. There is overlap. Often times more that I would ever wish. I don’t know. I don’t know how to classify everything I say or do. I don’t know why I do anything or nothing. I don’t know if I want the life I have, or if I need it. All I know, is that I have the life I have, and I can either do nothing or something with it.
Our bodies instinctively do what they must to survive. If we need water, we get thirsty. However, when we get thirsty we decide whether to drink water or vodka. Or anything else. I can choose how to handle my needs through my wants. That’s why it’s so important to keep a balance. All vodka and no water makes Jack a drunk boy. But, only water makes him almost inhuman. We need variety. Or do we want it? Either way, it’s the human way of life. I refuse to listen to every piece of advice I get from parents, teachers, religious figures etc. and follow their instructions. But, I also refuse to ignore them.
This mentality has gotten me into trouble. Listen, then decide for myself. I’ve been doing it for a few years now. It got me into a nine-month relationship, a year of exploring different kinds of alcohol, and much anguish. It also got me to go to college, have a pet turtle for a year, and start this blog. Whatever my philosophy in life, good things will happen, and bad things will happen. I’d rather make my own decisions and be there when it’s time to take pride or take responsibility for the fall out.