A few months ago my eight year old son and I embarked on what we consider, our annual expedition. We packed our bags and headed to BWI Airport, destination Florida. Everything was going as planned. We made it through security without a problem, boarded the plane and prepared for take off.

As my son and I buckled our seat belts, the stewardess walked up and down the aisle closing overhead compartments and making sure everyone’s carry on bags were stowed underneath the seat in front of them.

Like any normal flight, the attendants proceeded to go through the standard safety procedure demonstration. I have to admit, my attention was elsewhere. My son is a very energetic eight year old and a Power Rangers enthusiast to say the least. Therefore, my concern was ensuring his comfort and keeping him occupied during the flight.

While I was connecting my iPad to the airlines WiFi network, something caught my attention. All I heard was, “In case of a decrease in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from above….be sure to secure your mask first before helping anyone else around you.”

All of a sudden, searching the Netflix database for Power Rangers episodes wasn’t so important anymore. My son was puzzled at the look of confusion that was plastered on my face. For a minute everything seemed to stop. I was frozen in perplexity. The constant question of “daddy, did you find it yet” continuously echoed through my mind.  I eventually signaled for my son to take over the search. I really needed a minute to think.

It wasn’t like I had never heard a flight attendant remind us of what to do in the event of an emergency. I’ve been privileged to travel often and I’ve heard the safety demo so much I can probably repeat it verbatim. But for some reason, this time affected me differently.

I spent the next few minutes replaying that statement in my head over and over again. I started questioning the logic behind it. I desperately needed to put it into perspective. I kept thinking, I’m a father of two, in case of an emergency my first thought would be to secure my children. As a parent, isn’t it our natural instinct to ensure the safety of our kids before ourselves?

I thought back to my childhood. Being raised by a single mother, I remember nights offering my mom the last few bites of my dinner, not because I was full but because I knew she was hungry. My mother always made sure I was taken care of first, even if it meant her going a night without eating. Was she wrong for doing that?

I was raised to be selfless; built to be a giver. Growing up, my mother and I didn’t have much, but if there was anyone in need, we’d be the first to offer assistance. I’m the same way today. Not much has changed. I’ve always looked at selfishness as a negative trait. But after pondering over the airlines standardized emergency plan, I was wondering if my unfavorable perception was valid.

My mind started racing.

I’ve been certified in CPR, First Aid and AED for over five years and was a personal trainer for four of those years. Therefore I understand that the average human can only go a few minutes without oxygen before passing out and that the brain may suffer irreversible damage if it goes without it for too long.

But given the circumstances, I started thinking, it shouldn’t take me too long to secure an oxygen mask on my son, right? I’m a thirty year old man with a great bill of health, I can survive a few minutes without oxygen, can’t I?

I was confident, yet still unsure. I’d been in emergency situations before and fortunately I’m one of the few people that can maintain my composure in a crisis. However, I’ve never experienced any type of emergency with my kids involved.

Then it hit me! The first law of nature is self preservation.

It all started to make sense. In the event of an emergency, if I didn’t secure myself the chances of me saving my son would decrease dramatically. Who would be there to help him if I couldn’t?

I’ve never been much of a gambler and even if I was, I definitely wouldn’t gamble my children’s lives to save foolish pride. Although watching my son suffer, even for only a second would torment me for years to come, I would much rather deal with that than lose my life and my son’s life due to negligence and irrational thinking.

This realization took me back a few years ago when I struggled with an addiction to anti-anxiety medication. When my feelings of failure occurred more frequently than Verizon Fios commercials. At any given moment I would be struck with intense anxiety and paralyzing fear. I’d be confined to my apartment for days, too afraid to leave the familiarity of my own sorrow. Clenching to the idea of change but tormented by the pain associated with the journey to sobriety.

It was in those times of despair that I needed to protect myself from myself. I had to learn to love me personally before I could truly love anyone else, including my children. It took me years of self reflection, constructive thinking, and positive affirmations to become a man of greater quality. Every morning I take at least ten minutes to acknowledge myself through mediation. In doing so, I became a better father, son, friend, teacher and student.

I’ve realized, sometimes life will put you in a position where your challenges seem to outweigh your successes; when stress seems to engulf your serenity; when the kids need dinner but you just need a break. Whenever you feel trapped and it’s difficult to breathe, let me remind you— don’t forget to secure your oxygen mask first.

Taking care of yourself does not make you selfish, it makes you intelligent. @quentinvennie
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It is the truest form of selflessness one can experience. Remind yourself, today you are better than you were yesterday and tomorrow you will be better than you are today. Only through fastidious self care can you be of the greatest service.

Find what works for you. It could be an evening walk around your neighborhood, a morning bike ride or an afternoon yoga class. It could be fifteen minutes of silence laying on your living room floor. Whatever it is, be sure it’s something you enjoy.

Keep in mind, the most important meal of the day is whichever one feeds your soul. Be mindful, be inspire and be well.

Quentin Vennie is a New York City-based Wellness Guide. He is regarded as a wellness expert who believes how the body feels and looks externally is a direct reflection of what is happening internally. With that in mind, he always addresses the obstacles happening inside the body, allowing the external changes to occur as a direct result. He continues to transform lives by advising his clients and sharing his life changing experiences with juicing, yoga, meditation and fitness that helped him overcome addiction, anxiety, depression and become migraine free. You can find more information on Quentinvennie.com and follow him on Twitter 

Image courtesy of Niksin.