It’s not always about you
The lesson that taught me that the world revolves around the sun, not the self.
When I was fourteen, I had a best friend. We spoke for hours on the family landline phone, only to hang out in person afterwards. We had sleepovers where we stayed up all night, laughing, taking selfies on our digital cameras before selfies became a thing, and we talked about everything from typical preteen topics like boys, angst, and drama to religion, music, and relationships. As we entered the first year of high school, we shared handwritten musings of our daily lives in a notebook we would exchange in the hallways between classes. We filled up those notebooks within weeks.
At the end of the year, my family moved six hundred miles away. Before the move, my friend and I resolved to keep in touch as we had vowed to be (hashtag) friends forever. We set up a private Xanga page where we intended to exchange our daily musings — just like we used to in those notebooks.
As I entered a brand new high school, I was determined to make new friends. I joined the swim team, the tennis team, and the debate team, and my load of homework increased and became more challenging. Needless to say, my schedule was packed. Aside from working to score A’s in my competitive classes, I was so focused on making new friends that I neglected to keep in touch with my old ones.
As the high school years passed by, we still managed to keep in touch here and there, but it was not the same. We had inconsistent communication, and when I was busy, she was available, and when I was available, she was busy. There were long periods of silence, but deep down, we still felt our friendship was fine.
As college began, we stayed in touch, but developed at different paces and hardly any of our experiences were similar, making it hard for us to relate to each other — especially for me to relate to her. As previously mentioned, I adopted a paralyzing judgmental attitude toward priorities, values, and lifestyle choices that were different from my own, disabling myself from considering others’ perspectives.
Throughout the years, we never made time to address issues that bothered us about the other person’s actions or words. For instance, it was only years later, in the midst of a heated online exchange, that I was made aware of how hurt she had felt as she refreshed the old Xanga page only to find no new updates for weeks and months upon our separation.
As we wrapped up college and entered our work lives, I would call her on a biweekly to monthly basis, on average, only to be greeted with her voicemail time after time. The vibe of our communication became distant, brief, and stilted whenever we did have a chance to catch up — mostly via text messages.
One day, I received an apologetic email from her without the explicit apology, addressing our growing distance and acknowledging her absence from the equation. In my overly sensitive ways, I had taken her silence personally and didn’t accept her apologetic tone. I replied with an angry email where I expressed my pent up pain from the last year and beyond surrounding the miscommunications and overall struggles of maintaining a damaged long-distance friendship.
After a flurry of painful emails, I learned her side of the story in terms of why she couldn’t pick up the phone, and she learned my side of the story in terms of why I never updated the abandoned Xanga page. We both learned that the lack of communication was never due to the intentional ignoring of the other person. Rather, it was a difference of priorities at that time in our lives whereby our focus and commitments were elsewhere, and we should never have taken those long stretches of silence personally.
We ended up intentionally parting ways. It was a difficult breakup, but also a healthy one. Shortly thereafter, I was able to remove any negativity that tainted my memories of the time when our friendship first bloomed in the place where it all started, and I live on peacefully knowing that I was truly blessed with many wonderful friendships from that time and place that lasted as long as they were meant to.
The bottom line is: if things are not going your way, it’s not always about you. In fact, it rarely is.
If your significant other broke up with you after what seemed like a completely ordinary period of time, it might not be about you. S/he may be going through personal issues, needing some time and space to sort those out.
If you got rejected from a job interview that seemed to go well, it might not be you.
There are so many different factors affecting and influencing other people’s behavior towards us and a lot of it is outside of our control: people waking up on the wrong side of the bed, something else on their minds, other priorities in their life. It’s not always about you.
That’s not to say that one should not deal with the consequences of those circumstances appropriately, whether it’s addressing one’s emotions or hashing out solutions with others. But remember that most of life’s circumstances happen for an infinite number of other little circumstances that accumulate into big circumstances.
Part of a healthy and mature adulthood is realizing that it’s not always about you. Take the focus off of yourself sometimes and accept the reality that everyone is busy obsessing over him/herself to pay that much attention to you.