A few weeks ago, I received an email. This man was the father of someone to whom I used to give private lessons. He was asking for a favor: that I help translate a document his daughter needed to present for school.
This past week was a crazy one for me: I was in Italy, Paris, Valenciennes, Lille; I was working, and I was moving. Translating a 14-year-old’s document was the last thing on my priority list. However, when I explained that via email (without mentioning the fact that it felt like I was helping his daughter cheat), I got a very passive aggressive and almost angry response. I was afraid of this person over email. And so I caved. I was given less than a week’s notice while on vacation, and I lost a night of sleep translating it before going to the Paris open the next morning. I felt obligated and pressured and even threatened, via email, to complete this task, even though doing so wasn’t morally in my books, and I was under absolutely no obligation to do it- I haven’t seen this family in over a year. I let fear get in the way- I was intimidated, afraid to put my foot down and say no, and stand up for myself. OVER AN EMAIL. I was (and still am) extremely disappointed in myself, and I deserve better.
Stephen Chbosky’s novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, tells the story of a struggling teenage boy trying to find his place in high school. Charlie’s journey through his freshman year accurately captures the extreme highs and lows of growing up.
Throughout the course of the novel, Charlie develops a rather close and respected relationship with his English teacher. Charlie once confides in Mr. Anderson, “Why do nice people choose the wrong people do date?” Mr. Anderson’s response: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
On surface level, the quote obviously references the kind of love shared between two people, whether it be marriage/committed partnership, deep infatuation, casual sex, or something in between. This point in the novel almost forces the reader to think deeper about the kinds of love in their lives as they relate back to Charlie. It forces one to ask, “What kind of love to I want? What kind of love do I have at the moment? What kind of love do I think I deserve, and what kind of love do I actually deserve? Does the love I want and the love I’m getting actually coincide with the love I deserve? Do I deserve more than I’m giving myself?”
In my opinion, it is one of the most powerful points in the novel. And, in addition to the crucial and utmost importance of accepting the love you deserve from a partner, is the fact is that this analysis can be applied to so many additional contexts in life, including:
1. The love you deserve from your friends.
2. The love you deserve from your family.
3. The love you deserve from your colleagues.
4. The love you deserve from yourself.
As I finish up my second year abroad and enter into my third, I’ve begun to realize that one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is how to value yourself and others around you. Frankly, it’s not an easy lesson to learn; it takes practice, it takes bravery, and it takes vengeance. But, when the skill is mastered, it makes life so much more enjoyable.
1. The love you deserve from your friends: If there was any consistent theme I’ve read in advice columns for twenty-somethings, it was the idea that it’s okay to break up with friends. As children and teens, you are sort of forced to choose from the melting pot of your home town, but as an adult (especially post-grad) it is easier and almost necessary to branch out, and to mold your own social circle. Life comes in many, many stages; people change– they grow up, they grow apart, and that’s okay. When it comes to accepting the love you think you deserve in friendships, I believe that a friendship should be a two-way street in regards to what the two people give to each other. Of course, this means different things for different friendships, but for me: communication, honesty, trust, support, consideration, and the ability to laugh are all important things. That isn’t to say that I believe everyone should be breaking up with friends unnecessarily, but that it’s okay to expect certain things from friendships.
2. The love you deserve from your family: You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. With family comes a lot of tough love– I often hear a lot more criticisms from family members than from friends. Accepting the love you deserve from your family can be a bit more complicated, because unlike friendships, you can’t really break up with your family– they’ll always be there. Simply enough, sometimes it’s easy to accept less than what you deserve from family, simply due to the fact that they are blood. From mine, I need and deserve support, acceptance, and loyalty– and I offer the same in return.
3. The love you deserve from your colleagues: Work life can be complicated. From office politics, to office gossip, to the corporate ladder, work can sometimes be a hard environment in which to find your place, especially as a new employee. As an employee at any company, it is important to be given mutual respect, a voice to be heard, and a place at the table, as well as to give those same things to every person in your office, regardless of their status. For myself, this also applies when I work with families for private lessons. My time is just as important as theirs.
4. The love you deserve from yourself: I used to tease that if the voice in my head was a person, she would be my bully or worst enemy– and that in itself is really messed up. That voice was always the one there to tell me how much weight I’ve gained, how poorly that lesson went, how much I sucked at dating, how bad and unattractive of a person I was, etc. needless to say, I deserved better from myself– we all do. And every time I look at myself in the mirror, I work on breaking down that voice in my head when she comes out, and help uplift a new, more positive one instead.
So, here’s to The challenge of identifying the love you think you deserve in all contexts of your life. Identify it, challenge it, apply it, expect it, adjust it, and equally give it to others in return.