I have nerd flu.

Last weekend, not like two days ago, I’m talking the weekend before that, I went to the incredibly geeky event known as MAGFest, where gamers get together in a hotel for four days to do all the incredibly nerdy things they normally only do alone at home.

Ew, that sounds gross. I promise that I didn’t get sick from a huge furry orgy or anything. Basically, it’s a conference where you play video games and go to concerts for four days straight, and I was totally not using my anti-bacterial hand sanitizer often enough for the number of sticky joysticks I was touching.

Ew, that sounds gross too.

In any case, it’s been over a week and I’m still coughing and still have no voice. Which my roommate is loving. Except now his throat is starting to tickle, so I think his prayers that I will continue to be voiceless are backfiring. Mwah ha ha.


Something that I thought was really, really cool about this event was the fact that it was very much a come-as-you-are type of atmosphere. You would blend into the crowd at MAGFest no matter what, pretty much. I saw everything from Pikachu onesies to top hats to fangs to bunny ears to capes to…well, you name it. And it wasn’t just about being in costume. Sure, there were some people in costume, but others were just wearing what they felt comfortable wearing. It was like, “Go ahead, be who you are. If you want to wear a tiara, do it!”

Photo by cogdogblog

When is the last time you opened your closet and gave yourself that permission?

Sometimes, I’ll see a kid wearing something odd to the mall. He felt like wearing his Spiderman costume today. So what? Or she felt like wearing her tutu today. So what? We give them a free pass because they are kids, but if an adult would wear something like that outside of MAGFest, we’d all point and laugh, at least inwardly.


And why do we, as adults, take it a step farther and get embarrassed when we do anything that is non-traditional, even if it isn’t visual, like wearing a Spiderman costume? So often, we don’t do the things that make our hearts sing because we’re worried about what others will think.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago when I told you that my cat is the smartest creature on earth, but I think it goes even farther than just worried what other people will think, the worry that others will think that we’re weird. Sometimes, I think it is a deeper problem of wanting so badly to make sure that everyone else is comfortable that we give up our own comfort.

We take that job we don’t want to take so we can afford the nicer apartment that our roommate wants. We live in a city we hate because our spouse wants to take a job there. We sacrifice our weekends because our parents want us to drive the five hours every Saturday for a visit. We take on some of our coworker’s half of the project so he can make it to his kids’ ball game. We sacrifice what we want again and again and again so that other people are happy and comfortable.

And I’m not saying that we should always throw a fit to get our own way. Life is about compromise and doing nice things for other people. But there’s a line. There’s a line that is so easy to cross where you go from doing something selfless because you want to be nice to someone and crushing your own soul because you don’t know how to make yourself happy first.

Today, I’m suggesting that you put on your Spiderman costume and dance.

Sit down right now, grab a piece of paper, and think about what you would want if you had no one else to consider. No friends, no kids, no spouse, no roommate, no coworkers. If you didn’t have to worry about what anyone else thought or felt or wanted, what are five to ten things you would do right now to be happier in your career. You can do this with any part of your life, but let’s just think about career for the moment.

Would you move? Would you ask for a raise? Would you send your resume out to find a job you like more? Would you quit your job and open your own business? Think about small things you would do, like skipping the carpool so you could listen to music you like on your way to the office. Think about big things you would do, like going back to school in a completely unrelated field to go down a new career path.

Now look at your list. And do one of them.

Before you are obligated to anyone, even your family, you are obligated to yourself. You are responsible to make sure that you are happy, in your career and in life in general. Give yourself permission to open your figurative closet and wear whatever you want to wear. Along the way, it might mean that you disappoint some people or even make some people upset, but you know what? I bet, when you weigh it on the grand scale of life, you’ll make a lot more people happy. If you’re a happier person, making others happy too is a lot easier.

And I bet you’ll find that all those responsibilities you thought you had, all those obligations you felt…I bet you’ll find that most of them were self-imposed. I bet that once you stand up for the things you want in life, others will not only be willing to compromise with you, but will be happy to compromise with you. At least, the people worth having in your life will react that way.

And everyone else? Let ‘em stare at your cape and tiara. Some people will always be grumpy when they see other people poised to take over the world.

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  1. Farnoosh (Reply) on Tuesday 25, 2011

    Alli, what a gorgeous post, and what grand truths and so brave of you to say them. We are obliged to ourselves first. I advocate selfishness all my life and yet my friends believe me to be considerate, kind beyond words, useful, helpful, you name it, because I always put ME first and then I can take better care of the world around me. Sacrifice is way over rated. But compassion and giving, when you have first served yourself and ensured your own happiness, is key to a fulfilling life…..thank you - I came here to ask you something - email forthcoming - and got distracted with your amazing writing, all the way to the end.

    • Allison (Reply) on Tuesday 25, 2011

      I’m reminded of your post on why you are choosing not to have children, oddly enough. It’s a selfish choice, but I don’t mean “selfish” in a negative way at all. I admire you for making choices with your life that make you happy, because like you said, when you put yourself first, you can turn around and take better care of the world around you. I think I get bogged down on this need to sacrifice myself for the happiness of others sometimes, and while that seems like a noble thing to do, in the end, it doesn’t really help anyone. I’m trying hard to take a more selfish approach to life, since a happier Alli means a happier everybody!

      I’m so glad you stopped by, Farnoosh! I always love your comments!

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