The Monthly Milestone: Where is the Love?
November 21, 2011 • 623 views
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I’ve recently become occupied with the worry that people are becoming increasingly more selfish. I don’t necessarily mean “greedy” but rather the concept of being overly focused on oneself. The thought was spurred when I was in French class a couple weeks ago. We were having one of our many conversations about themes in literature and the life lesson’s that we can take away from them. “Nowadays, you have to pay someone to listen to you,” Madame Gross said, in reference to incredible societal demand for psychologists. “People don’t have the time to listen.”
I realized she was right. I could see undeniable proof of that in myself. I used to love to listen to people talk about themselves and tell me their stories. I used to love to help people. I used to just enjoy verbally meandering with someone about whatever thoughts happened to pop into our mind.
Now, when friends begin to talk about an issue they’re having, or try to tell me about something they’re going through, I only half listen, as I am preoccupied thinking about all the things that I have to do. Even worse, I subtly encourage them to rush through their words as I simply “don’t have a lot of time” and “have to go soon.”
During sleepovers, there used to be hours upon hours of the night where my friends and I would stay up talking about anything and everything. Now, we simply fall asleep and I can’t even begin to remember what it was that we used to talk about for so long. I have become so committed to a Question and Answer format that I cannot say anything unless I can decipher a concrete issue. If there are no questions, my brain shuts off, and the ingrained tiredness of a too-busy life takes over.
I don’t mean to blame high school for this, as I don’t think that is the only factor. I think high school is where it all begins, but otherwise it may just be an inherent virus of the 21st century. We are trained to be busy from the time we enter freshman year at age 14. By the time we graduate from high school, we are handed a diploma and an individual 24/7 schedule sketched into our brains (or our smartphones, as it may be).
We are trained to go to work (or school) all day long. We are trained to think critically about important issues. We are trained to take work home with us. We are told to never stop trying harder, and never spend a moment relaxing when we could be doing something productive. It’s all about Your Schedule, Your Commitments, Your Projects, Your Work, Your Responsibilities.
One day we stop and realize we have a million problems spilling out of our pockets that we were just too busy to deal with, and everyone else was too busy to listen. The problem has reached such a point that we have come to depend on psychologists to listen to us. A psychologist is so often just a paid stand-in for a friend, a paid ear. I fear that sympathy is fading from the free world, for we are all bred to be too obsessed with ourselves as individuals. Ayn Rand might holler a cry of triumph for this post-communist concept, but I wonder if the 21st century is getting a bit too carried away. One day we may go so far just to realize that progress was a few turns back: that success is not to be measured in how much money we make, but how little money it takes to make us happy.