Emotional Baggage

Options and Priorities – The Birth of The Giraffe

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”  ~Mark Twain

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this quotation lately.  We all have priorities and we all have options – and sometimes (probably more than we should) we mix up the options and priorities in our lives.  The most interesting aspect of the above quotation is that it refers specifically to people.  The quote begs us to consider how we approach the relationships we have in our lives.  What makes someone a priority in your life?  And, wouldn’t it make sense that if someone is a priority in your life, you would, naturally, be a priority in their life too?  Perhaps this is not always the case – and it is probably the reason that Mr. Twain felt the need to put this sentiment into words.

Interestingly, if you look at how the quotation is worded, it refers specifically to what you “allow” yourself to do.  You take action to make someone a priority in your life, and you also take action in allowing yourself to not be a priority in someone else’s life. Kind of strange when you first think of it.  However, when you really consider what it says, it is evident that you can, actively, allow someone to treat you in a second-rate manner.  This happens, ironically, when you continue to make someone a priority even after they’ve shown you time and time again that you are not a priority for them.  It is all very simple, if you think about it for a second. Why does this matter?  And, why am I writing about it? I have been thinking a lot lately about the priorities in my life, what and who they are, and if I have them all straight.  Am I putting in the right amount of effort into the the right activities and relationships?  I am tempted to think that I don’t.  Not all the time, and not with every relationship, but I can definitely think of a few commitments and relationships that I’ve had recently where I’m not getting out of them what I feel like I’m putting in.  I’ve come to realize that there are three things that happen in my mind when these incongruencies surface: If it’s a relationship, I get angry or disappointed with the person for not reciprocating my efforts, I start to feel bad about myself because I feel like there is something wrong or undesirable about me, and I begin to wonder if there are other people in my life who’ve made me a priority and whom I’ve been neglecting while I chase after my wrong priorities.  Mr. Twain’s quotation really puts all three of these reactions into perspective for me.  There is probably nothing wrong or undesirable about me; it just so happens that other people have other priorities, some of which are, in all actuality, more important than me.  And, if these other priorities aren’t more important than me, then I really shouldn’t be making these people a priority in my life anyway (here we are, back at the action…).  The quotation also forces me to invert the sentiment and think about how people relate to me:  Who makes me a priority in their life, and if they aren’t already a priority for me, why not?  Can I change that relationship in any way to ensure that I am treating the people who care for and respect me in a way they deserve? Maya Angelou “rephrased” Mark Twain’s quotation in a way that completely takes away the idea of personal action.  She writes: 

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

This version is so much less flattering and I feel like it almost assigns blame in the wrong place.  It seems to say, “you are an option.”  Contrast that with Mr. Twain’s version – “you are not an option, you just allow yourself to be an option.”  This distinction is probably most important in how it relates to my self esteem.  As I mentioned previously, I tend to blame myself and think I’m the problem: Maybe if I try harder, maybe if I change who I am… Maybe I can make someone see me as a priority.  Ms. Angelou’s quotation leaves room for that self-blame; Mr. Twain’s does not.  Mr. Twain instills confidence in those who read his quotation because he reminds them, ever so subtly, that they are in control of how they are treated.  I like that much better.I could probably go on about this for a while longer, but I feel like I have achieved what I set out to do in this blog post – just think a little bit about how I relate to the people around me.  I don’t have very much spare time in my life after I do all the mandatory stuff that goes along with mothering and studying.  I’m beginning to realize that there is never going to be enough time or effort available to make everyone in my life a priority and I just need to check in with myself every once in a while to make sure that my priorities haven’t shifted too far away from where they should be.  And, if I find that they have become a little askew, I need to make sure I change my actions and re-align my priorities so I don’t end up hurting the most important people in my life
*This is the last post I ever wrote on my old blog – a blog I wrote as the real me.  The very next day I started “The Cranky Giraffe.”  I remember feeling like I was in so much emotional turmoil at that time in my life.  So much has changed, yet often I feel that the sentiment in this post remains the same.*

4 thoughts on “Options and Priorities – The Birth of The Giraffe

  1. So glad you re-posted this here. I love the Twain quote and your thoughts on it are insightful and challenging. Plus, I needed this reminder today. Thank you 🙂


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