You ever feel like people aren’t listening to a word you say?
Lately, that’s how I’ve felt every day. I can’t count how many times a day I have to repeat myself because no one cared enough to listen the first time. My boss keeps asking me what I’m studying in school, even though I’ve known her for three years and my major hasn’t changed. My boyfriend frequently says “You didn’t say that”, even though I know perfectly well I did.
No one at work knows my birthday, or my favorite band. They don’t notice when I cut my hair or when I put extra effort into my makeup. I see these people every day, but I’m invisible to them. Even so, I don’t want anyone to feel invisible like me. I always remember things about them. My boss’ favorite food is donuts, especially the lemon filled ones. Denise has a thing for diet Mountain Dew and always has a chocolate bar in the freezer she can nibble on. Her parents are alive but she’s estranged from them. Her birthday is in November and she used to sell antiques on eBay to make a living when she was in-between jobs. Jean has no kids, but has two nieces in their twenties who she’s always sending little presents and cards to. Her favorite flavor donut is strawberry sprinkle, or whatever fun seasonal one they have out at the time. She loves to cook and hates Lily Collins. Barbara lives with her long-time boyfriend, and says she loves him, but I suspect that he abuses her and that she only stays with him for the sake of their daughter. She loves Twix bars and plain Coke. Her favorite donut is Boston Creme. She wants to go back to school and move on to bigger better things than she’s doing now, but she doesn’t know how to go about it. These things may seem little and they may seem like things you could easily glean from a conversation, but I promise you they don’t remember these things about me.
For years now, I’ve thought about deleting my birthday on Facebook just to see who, if anyone would remember. I remember once, I didn’t mention that my birthday was coming up, and sure enough, once it was here.. my boyfriend didn’t even tell me happy birthday.
No one knows that I love to read and that I claim the classics are my favorite, but teen fiction is my guilty pleasure. No one knows that I used to collect field guides and that I once wanted to become a naturalist. Or that I once cut myself so deep, I reached the muscle in my leg. Or that I’ve been raped twice and that both times I was drunk. And trusting. And underage. While both of them were sober, and older, and knew perfectly well what they were doing. Or that I went to my car in the middle of the night last weekend, picked up my handgun, flicked off the safety, and put it up to my head, while my friends were all inside laughing and having a great time. Don’t worry. I’m not suicidal..most of the time. But sometimes the thoughts are harder to ignore.
My friends really aren’t my friends. They’re more just people to hang out with. They’re not here for me when things get tough. But that’s okay. I’m here for them.. and that’s all that matters.
Others come first.. right? Isn’t that what we’re taught? Don’t be selfish. Don’t think about yourself…
So we listen.
We put others first. We take care of our kids. We smile for the customers at work. Then, eventually.. things start to add up. We start to get tired and sad. Putting on that happy faces gets harder. Our mental health starts to decline. Only then.. people start to say things like “Why aren’t you taking better care of yourself?,” and “Why don’t you put yourself first once in a while?,” after you’ve spent your whole life being told to do the opposite.
Don’t listen to what you’re taught. Take care of yourself. Be mindful of others and treat them well, but I’m here to tell you that if you don’t put yourself and your happiness first, then nine times out of ten, no one else will either.