It’s bred in the bone – don’t be selfish, put others before yourself, you will reap the rewards of your actions. How? When? Does it matter?
I was 15 when I first came across Ayn Rand’s notion that selfishness is not all bad and selflessness is not all good. It was a wonderfully disconcerting idea to present to my parents. They were trying to raise a child to be a good human being and selflessness was a requirement. Fifty years later I truly believe that it’s possible to be selfish and good at the same time.
I’ve spent most of my life trying hard not to be selfish and sometimes I wasn’t happy being selfless. Sometimes I volunteered grumpily because I couldn’t permit myself to back out of a commitment even when it was quite understandable to do so. And I found fault with myself for what I considered my bad attitude. It’s bred in the bone after all – put on a happy face no matter what and do what’s expected.
Looking back can be enlightening but helps very little with the decisions I must make now. I find that close study of my current situation is more pertinent to planning my retirement. It is now not a philosophical exercise of whether self-interest is the equivalent of selfishness. It is now a matter of just how self-focused I want to be in deciding what’s good for my future, on my terms. I don’t want to exchange one set of pre-arranged regulations for another. I truly want to experience and understand “Freedom 55 or 65 or 70”! For me it’s going to be “Freedom 69”!
I’m still trying to figure out what freedom means to me. Will I quit a job that pays me to work with great colleagues? Will I replace it with hours of work around the house that definitely needs doing and has been put on hold – you know, the unpaid variety? Will I be quite selfish and indulge in all the interests that I’ve put on hold for so long? Will I only do the chores in my left over time, rather than the other way around? If I don’t choose my own path forward there’s only one person to blame.
I’ve set a date for my retirement. It’s a significant one for me – May 02, 2019. It will be exactly 50 years since I met my husband. It seems appropriate to make another life altering decision on the anniversary of that date! After all it’s a decision that will affect my partner as well. I could potentially be around at least 8 extra hours EVERY day. Can we both be selfish and indulge in self-care while caring for each other? That is not bred in the bone but needs consideration and partnership. I think it can be done.