Growing up, I had a great uncle who was a millionaire. He lived out of state and we only saw him every few years, so this relationship generally translated to terrifying dinners at restaurants without children’s menus and occasional dog-sitting for his two full-sized poodles, Spike and Spikeson, while he and my grandmother went for a swim in the hotel pool.
I honestly have no idea where my parents were during these dog-sitting rendezvouses—I can’t really imagine my grandma and great uncle willingly being like, “For sure, we would love to have this awkward pre-teen hang around while we catch up after years apart!” Chances are, I forced myself upon them, because I found my Uncle Jim super glamorous, not so much because of his money, but because he had written and published a book. It was a book about business, and it was self-published, but dammit, he was an author, which was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Along with the lead singer of The Bangles. And also Jem.
It was during one of these outings to the hotel that I remember having a very short conversation with Uncle Jim. I can’t even really remember what it was about, but I do remember him saying “You can’t make everyone happy all the time.”
To which I responded, with great dignity, “No. But I can try.”
And I did. Try, I mean. I actually completely failed at the making everyone happy part. But no one can say I didn’t try.
I don’t know why or how I turned into such a people pleaser. I do enjoy making other people happy, but I also love basking in the knowledge that, for the most part, I am universally well liked. (There is, I should point out, about 10% of the population that has a violent reaction of hatred toward me, which I can’t really explain. Is it my awesomeness? Or do they just have the ability to see through my bullshit?) I feel confident that if I died right now, my tombstone would read “I liked her, she was nice.”
But trying to make everybody happy means often neglecting your own happiness, it turns out—a lesson I learned the same night as the conversation at the hotel, when, in an effort to impress my uncle, I ate a cow’s pancreas and nearly had a mental breakdown over its awfulness. It was a scene that would play out again and again during the course of my life, though usually with less pancreas. Other people’s happiness became what made me happy.
So for now, I’m going to try an experiment—I’m going to try to find out what actually makes me happy. I suspect it might be copious amounts of television and pizza? It’s definitely not pancreas. But whatever it is, I want to find it, and I want to worry less about whether what I’m doing is making other people happy.
(–she said, while secretly worrying that everyone was going to be offended when they read this, and assume it was about them, because that’s what she would do. But then she remembered that creepy Madonna video where she was covered in latex and wearing cornrows for some reason? And she allowed it to be her new anthem. For now. Along with “Milkshake,” by Kelis.)