Since Hurricane Katrina upended my life, I took my unselfish self up quite a few notches, learning whole new ways to be incredibly generous. I opened my one-bedroom apartment to my newly homeless parents for a total of 16 months, only letting them pay for food, gas, and household items — no paying for rent, utilities, or insurance. After that, we moved to a rented house with much the same arrangement, although since we rented a larger house to accommodate our office as well, I charged the business a portion of the rent and utilities. I didn’t object when, after my grandfather’s death, my grandmother moved in with us for seven months, despite the fact that this meant a lot of adjustment for all of us. And when we decided at the end of that time that the only sane solution was to move across the lake — putting us living near enough that we could support and assist my grandmother while she lives in her own home — I went along, keeping my car, my furniture, and my financial resources available to my parents.

I don’t regret these decisions, because I love my parents and want to support them and give back to them for all that they’ve given me. But as a result of these choices, I’ve become jealously guarded about how I spend my limited free time. There has to be some area of my life where I come first, where I do exactly what makes me happy and nothing else. I’m no longer willing to compromise as much as I was. And so recently, I find myself in conflict with people who are similarly focused, who are more concerned with what they want than what I want.

Are they being selfish by not listening to what I want or need, by ignoring my feelings for the sake of their own? Maybe. And maybe I’m being selfish as well. But at this stage of my life, I feel like I’ve earned a little selfishness; I’m due having a few people listen to what I want for a change. And I’m more than willing to let go of any relationship that is no longer meeting my needs. I have too many demands on me to spend energy on a relationship that takes more from me than it gives back.

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