For months and maybe even years, a certain tumblr post cycles through the feeds of Facebook, Pinterest, and even Twitter. I refer back to this post because it puts life, and more specifically my life, in perspective.
It reads, originally posted by tahtahtahtia, "today my anthro professor said something kind of really beautiful: you all have a little bit of 'I want to save the world' in you, that's why you're here, in college. I want you to know that it's okay if you only save one person, and it's okay if that person is you."
And you know what? It's okay that you are the first person you save too.
In college and even in life, people are so willing to do whatever it takes to keep others from drowning in their sea of problems. They will sacrifice and they will become so selfless, that their "self" is barely even there.
These people are easy to spot, but hard to capture. There's a point when they are so consumed by helping others, they can longer help themselves.
Ed Sheeran recently released a new album, containing a song titled, "Save Myself." The song goes on about how tiring saving others can be when you are choosing to save them before yourself. His lyrics read, "So before I save someone else, I've got to save myself."
The thing people need to understand is it is never and will never be selfish to put yourself first. You cannot drink from an empty cup. You can not continue to break yourself to mend others whole.
The best advice I ever received was as simple as hearing airplane safety instructions. When you board an airplane and the flight attendants are going over safety procedure, they always highlight that if anything was to go wrong and you needed to put on an air mask, you must put yours on first. The pre-flight safety demonstrations directly states, "that the passenger should always fit his or her own mask on before helping children, the disabled, or persons requiring assistance."
This is exactly true now. You have to put on your oxygen mask first and then make sure the wellbeing of others is okay, just like you have to make sure you are mentally fit and strong before taking on the baggage of those around you.
So that tumblr post, that song, that advice pushed me in a new direction. It's hard and it feels selfish. The worst part is sometimes you don't even realize you are giving your all before it's too late. Sometimes you don't realize it until all the pieces you gave to someone left you empty when they disappeared. Sometimes those people are disguised as a tadpole only to turn out as a leach.
In any of those given situations, you have to not only save yourself, but also find yourself. You have to understand and recognize if you are strong enough to help those around you. And don't let this taint you. It is not selfish and it does not mean you are weak if you realize that you can't keep helping other people's problems.
This also doesn't mean you can't help people. If someone is drinking from your cup, make sure there's still enough from you. If you are giving pieces of yourself to someone, make sure you are still whole. If things are doing down, make sure your mask is on first.
It's okay that right now the only person I've saved is myself. And it's okay if I keep saving myself. It's okay if I only ever save myself. But now, because I have saved myself, I know I can save others without losing me. And lastly, just because I've saved myself doesn't mean I can't now save you too.