Monday, October 29, 2007

Usefulness

I wrote this last night, but before I could post it, the internet in my dorm room shut down. I'm posting it anyway, even if the feelings are somewhat less acute this afternoon, because I think that this is a post that a) represents feelings that other people share and b) represents feelings that can surface depending on the situation, but are always somehow lurking. Let me know what you think.

I'm feeling a bit sad tonight.

I'm not so sure what brought on this mood. (Possibly excessive sugar consumption. I really need to cut down on that. Not to mention that my caf card supply is going waaaaay down . . . and I'm an in-towner! But I digress.) And I heard happy news today. News that made me feel relieved.

But I'm feeling a bit down in the dumps.

I wonder if I'm making a difference in anyone's life.

Does it matter to people if I am with them or not? Or am I just fodder for funny jokes or entertainment? I don't *really* mind being teased by my friends, because I know that it's not malicious and they only mean it in fun, but sometimes, it is a little discouraging when it seems that the only way I contribute to the general circle is by being funny/silly/one-track-minded and so they can use things that I say/my mannerisms as gentle jokes. I want to feel like I'm contributing more than that.

I can't remember the last time someone came to ask me for advice. I always seem to be the one going to others, asking others, complaining to others. Rare is it that someone turns to me for these things. Even good friends of mine - whom I consider myself to be close with - when I think about my relationship with them, I realize how one-sided it is: I will tell them personal things about myself, and they hardly tell me about themselves. (Then again, I do have some friends who do tell me their feelings/emotions/about what's bothering them, and it is two-way relationship. But sometimes it seems like those are in the minority.)

Does this have to do with me not being open enough? Am I not listening well enough to other people to make them feel like they can confide in me? Am I too focused on myself? Do people think that when they start talking about themselves, I'm going to ignore them and redirect the conversation to me? Am I that selfish?

Or maybe I'm just an initiator. Maybe people are happy that I reach out to them, that I approach them. Maybe my job is to make other people feel needed. Maybe I'm meant to help others feel good that people see them as people to turn to when in need.

But I want to feel needed too. I was SO happy this week when I was asked by my school's administration to act as a student ambassador for the school's open house. It made me thrilled to know that people thought that I would be a good representative of the school, that I have contributed things that have made a difference in school. That made me so happy. I have a lot of hakaras hatov to whoever suggested that I would be a good student ambassador.

Does this mean that I need recognition to feel good about myself?

I get in the habit of comparing myself to others sometimes. My sister, for example. My sister has quite a different personality than I do. She is much more introverted and much less critical. She has one of the sweetest, most golden hearts I know. Every motzei Shabbat (and sometimes more often than that), she goes to the home of a girl in our community who has cerebral palsy that affects her motion and her speech. My sister sits with this girl for hours and talks and laughs with her. They watch movies together. She helps the girl use the bathroom. She is this girl's friend. This girl loves her very much.

My sister is so much more of a giver than I am. Throughout high school, her friends (from high school and elementary school) would call her often to talk. (I was rarely called at home.) People felt comfortable talking to my sister about many different things. They still do.

I wish I could be like my sister. I wish I could be the person that others turn to for help. I wish people saw me as a confidante.

Am I helping anyone? Do I help people understand more about themselves or feel better about themselves? Or am I just on the taking end of my relationships with people?

8 comments:

halfshared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the apple said...

Halfshared - thanks so much. I really appreciate what you said about being an inspiration (wow). Truthfully, what you said about asking others is something I need to work on - being more aware of other people and how they're feeling and what they're trying to communicate, even if they can't/won't say it outright. I guess that's part of a larger thing of looking outward as well as looking inward.

halfshared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
comments from the peanut gallery said...

i'd like to say i understand what you mean, but no one can ever truly understand what another person is feeling. still, your current feelings echoe mine of not so long ago. growing up, i always struggled with the desire to be needed and validated (like most people). eventually, i realized that the only true validation in life has to come from within(cheesy, but true). i'm still working on it. you should know that the feelings you expressed show you to be a person with a lot to give and the desire to give it. that makes you an exceptional friend, not a mediocre one. it might also be a good idea to relax and just be there. you'd be surprised how many people will start to open up to you if they see you're available and non-judgemental.
regarding your sister, she seems like a wonderful person, but who she is has absolutely no impact on you. you were clearly created as two separate individuals, both endowed with the specific and taylor made characteristics you need for your respective lives. sometimes being a true friend to a select few is more important than being the one everyone calls to vent to. not everyone can do what your sister does in terms of helping others (i know i'm really uncomfortable around sick people), but if you truly feel that area of your life is lacking, there are numerous ways you can fill the void. volunteer, give charity, etc. G-d gave us so many ways to reach out and help others. i'm sure there's something out there that will fit your unique talents and abilities. sometimes it just takes a little work to figure out what it is.

Diet Dr. Pepper said...

Apple,

Cheer up. As soon as I'm back in the US, I'll need a place for Shabbos, so feel free to offer. I'm kidding (kind of). But seriously, in-towners can perform tremendous acts of hachnasas orchim.

And yes, people (such as me) do need you for more than a place for Shabbos. Think back to last year.

Erachet said...

Wow, Apple. I know just what you mean! Sometimes (okay, pretty often), I feel that way, too. I am constantly comparing myself to others, especially my siblings who all seem so much more outgoing and accomplished than I am - and I'm the oldest in my family! I get frustrated that I don't feel I have much for them to look up to me for, but rather I'm trying to live up to THEIR reputations.

And I know just what you mean about feeling like your role is mostly that of being funny. I feel that way, too, a lot. It was only recently when I started to become closer with some of my friends that I began to have that real relationship of having fun/being serious that I have been missing for a while. I know that with me, this stems mostly from my own insecurities and doubts about opening up to other people, which then also prevents those people from opening up to me, but I have begun getting over that. I'm not even so sure what triggered the change.

But anyway, rest assured that I, for one, definitely see you as a friend who I can go to and talk to if something is bothering me and I think that you definitely have more of an impact on people than you think you do.

the apple said...

HS - thanks again. I can totally hear how it can be frustrating when only one side of the relationship seems to be paying attention. Like I said, it's something I'm working on. I'll definitely keep that in mind.

CFTPG - welcome to the blog. What you had to say was really encouraging and constructive. You gave me a quite a bit to think about there. I appreciate it.

DDP - heh. Another out-of-town friend said the same thing about having people over. You're definitely welcome! And it was *great* talking to you the other day.

Erachet - thank you :). I always enjoy hearing what you have to say.

jackie said...

I commented--in your inbox.