I had this discussion with S once. Late into the Parisian night we sat in a cozy cafe, its walls lined with books. Candle light flickering between us. I sipped my glass of wine, she wrapped her hands around the warm cup of grog. A salted almond, delightfully sharp on my tongue, then mild.
Name one thing that you've ever done, ever, that has been all about yourself, where you haven't taken a single other person into consideration? Just one decision that's been only and all for you?
One flat second and S had her answer.
I leaned back in my chair, slightly, absurdly, bewildered. I had uttered the question in the course of conversation, not really realizing its import. But her response made me pause. Did I have my own answer? Did I have at least one such decision? One such action?
I said no to her then.
And weeks later I am still racking my brain. Because it can't possibly be true, that I have never done any one thing purely and solely for myself. I'm not talking about the mid-afternoon nap or the rebellious hot chocolate date with myself instead of class. I'm talking about something real. Something impactful. Something that stays with me. Something I can almost hold in my hands, the memory of which is tangible and solid in my mind. How can it be that I have never done something like that with only myself to consider?
I am not selfless. I am not the kind of person who doesn't mind if her boyfriend munches up the last piece of chocolate when I've been looking forward to letting it melt on my tongue accompanied by some tea. I am not, in my own estimation, one of the more considerate people I know.
But apparently I have never done a single thing in my life without considering the impact of that action, of that decision, on at least one other person. Apparently I have never actually made any decision absolutely and utterly for myself and none other. What does that make me? What does that say about "my" life decisions?
So now I sit here, an unfinished take-home exam in front of me, a melancholy song playing wiltingly in the background, wondering how I can do something that is only for myself.
And I can't come up with a single thing.
Maybe tomorrow I'll go get myself a cup of hot chocolate.