How miserable do I have to be before you’re happy.
(Content warning: Physical abuse is mentioned in this piece.)
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve felt guilty for not giving things out to people with nothing in return. I remember during cheer camp, I’d bring a sandwich with me every day for lunch, and I would share half of it with one of my friends; it got to the point where the girls who did not like me very much were asking me for a piece, and I gave it to them because I’d feel sinfulness if they went hungry. After all, the lunch provided for us by the camp was borderline inedible. I failed to realize I was going hungry because I did something for someone who did little to nothing for me. They only spoke to me at lunch and never again during the day.
I remember in middle school, one of my bullies made me take an online book test for him, and I failed on purpose as a way to get back at him for treating me horribly. He hit me because of that and made me pick another book I had read before to take a quiz on. I got him a good grade. He ended up with an A, and all I got in the end was a contribution to why I felt I could never put a price on the labor I provide. I thought I was a terrible person for not wanting to do things for free, with nothing in return.
Last year, I truly started to feel guilty for everything I put a price on because I thought it was wrong of me to do. It never leaves my mind how someone told me I should give my merchandise for free and convinced me I was wrong for having a business. I even debated shutting down my shop and Patreon, not running ads on my channel, and only working my service job because of this feeling I had. Look, I was going through it last year, and with the rise of the normalization of piracy, I began to think that no kind of art or content should be paid for. I was not doing well at all. Not physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Something happened around the end of 2023; it was a big deal because I put in so much work for these people and got nothing out of it—absolutely nothing. I felt shallow but tricked myself into thinking the way I was treated was ok because these people are put up high on a pedestal by the people I am supposed to be in the community with. It was not ok.
I often listen to this song, a remix of some dialogue between Millhouse and Lisa from The Simpsons.
While the context of the situation is different than what I’m feeling, the line where Millhouse says, “How miserable do I have to be before you're happy?” sticks with me forever. I continue to ask myself, “Why do you continue to put your well-being at stake for the comfort of others? If you keep doing that, you’ll keep being taken advantage of and have no money in your pocket.”
I was hungry when I gave those girls my sandwiches for free. I risk getting in trouble for taking a test for another person. I can’t make myself miserable to make others happy.
For the record, I am not the kind of person who does things for people expecting something in return; I do nice things for people because I don’t mind. I enjoy helping others. I like doing nice things for people. When majoring in theatre, I would bring snacks for the cast and crew during rehearsal, and at the end of the production’s run, I made everyone goody bags. I like to bring happiness to people in this dark world we live in because you never know what you can positively do for them. It’s why when I’m at the store, and I notice a worker has a lovely hairstyle or I think their nails are cute, I tell them. But because of my kindness, I have been taken advantage of within workspaces. In 2023, I thought I stopped that, but then it happened again, and I was angry with myself.
I am tired of people wanting me to give them my hard work with nothing in return. I’m tired of people expecting me to give them everything for free. Why do I have to always give my skills and knowledge for free? I have no problem paying people for goods and services and shouldn’t have a problem charging for mine.
I already put out so much content for free. Outside of my blog posts and The Style Queen Zine, I don’t want to write for free aside from those two things any longer. Writing is the one thing that helped me keep it together when I was at my lowest point, and it's the one hobby I never gave up on; I refuse to have that taken from me. The situation that happened to me around the end of 2023 was a wake-up call. I’m putting my foot down with myself. I’m telling myself “no” to offering my crafts and skills to people who give me nothing in return. I have done that my entire life and I am the one who’s always hurt in the end—no more.
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