One of my favourite people sent me an email on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. The email contained a link, and as I was casting about for a distraction from doing any actual work, I decided to read the Medium article. It was a funny, insightful piece about turning 30, and this particular line grabbed me:
“And in your 30’s you lose the will to keep up the facade. The more in-tune you become with yourself, the more it becomes damn near unbearable to muster the will to fake it.”
When I read that, I realised, “I passed this point when I turned 24.”
I don’t even know exactly when it happened; it could’ve even been while I was still 23. But somehow, I’ve come to a point where I am unable to give much of a shit about things I don’t want to care about. (I really want to be holding a cigarette while looking bored as I say this, but cigarettes make me cough and my eyes are too shiny to achieve the perfect Mary Crawley face.)
Full disclosure: I’ve never been the sort to succumb to peer pressure. I’ve always been an ‘alternative’ person- I naturally revel in the opposite of what people like. But I always felt strange and uncomfortable whenever people sniggered at my fondness for old things and quirk, in general. People have always subtly made fun of me for genuinely enjoying things they don’t like or understand. “You and your weird music”, “How can you like these dirty old things”, “You like feeling like you’re so different”, and my lifelong bane, “You speak too much English, nobody ever understands you” are just a few sentences etched in my memory.
As you go through life, those who have gone before you pass down certain rules. Some apply to everyone; some are environment or status dependent. You can’t wear stripes and paisley together. Socks go in pairs. Where are your earrings? Answer your phone. Laugh politely, even when it’s not funny. Stop laughing like a horse. Don’t you know you’re a lady? Go out and socialize. Be clever, but don’t overdo it; ITK is annoying and makes people uncomfortable. Be tough, don’t ever look like a fool. Keep things together at all times- perception always trumps reality.
Giving Less of a Shit doesn’t automatically translate to being cool or being bored or being reckless (I’m the exact opposite of all of the above). For me, it’s about being my odd, snarky, cheesy, clumsy, know-it-all, parts-don’t-make-sense-as-a-whole self without reservation, without apology, without adjustment.
Even my old friends, the ones who knew me when I still wanted to fit in, couldn’t understand why I ‘changed’ so suddenly. How do I say, without sounding like a stuck-up tool, that these incessant conversations we have about your thrilling love life bore me rigid? That I really don’t enjoy talking on the phone, so I won’t be picking your phone calls for endless gabbing anymore (still love you, sis/bro)? That I LIKE dressing like someone from 1940, I actually WANT to look like a sexless teacher?
There are so many things I’ve come to unpack about myself since I began to Give Less of a Shit. I realized that I don’t have to indulge people’s egos. I don’t have to apologize for or minimize the things I enjoy, however strange they are. I don’t have to be ashamed when I look foolish doing something I like. I don’t have to aspire to things we’ve been told we must have, like a husband and babies. My career is what gives me intense thrills. PhD scholarships hold the key to my orgasms. Asides from being a generally decent human, I don’t have to do anything extra try to make myself likeable; I am who I am.
Can I just meander for a moment and remark on how everything seems to circle back to relationships with the opposite sex? I think that once you become an adult, it’s shoved down your throat (yes, I read it too, don’t be so juvenile, move on). You examine all your behaviours under the illuminating rays of your relationships. Your greed/generosity, your calmness/quick trigger, your thirst for attention- all become in sharper focus when you’re in a relationship, as though it is the most efficient of microscopes.
When I was in university, I knew something was ‘wrong’ with me. Men generally didn’t understand or particularly like me. I met men and smiled and smiled but sooner than later, my offbeat wit always tripped me up. Blank stares became as familiar as my own name. I was too mean, too strict, always going off on tangents they couldn’t follow. I always said things that made me bash my head against the wall in mortification whenever I did a post-mortem of my conversations with men. They never collected my number, and when they did, they never called.
I flipped my hair and said I didn’t care, but I was lying. I cared a whole lot. Oh, the crushing insecurity. The crippling self-doubt. In retrospect, I can’t believe how important I made these opinions in my life, opinions of strangers who knew nothing about what to do with me, who barely inhabited the same planet as I did.
I’m 26 now, a grown-ass woman. I’m not totally free, I still have inhibitions, still make concessions (the people-pleasing gene is stubbornly difficult to expunge) and sometimes, self-consciousness gets the better of me, but oh, look how far I’ve come. I’m wearing big-girl jellies; don’t care. I’m like that squiggly yellow teapot- odd, not traditional, but still serves great tea. I don’t have to be a cookie-cutter human, as long as I’m useful. I’m pursuing the things which actually fulfill me. I’m having the conversations that interest me. I’m loving the misfits I was born to love.
I’m not perfectly happy yet, but I’m on my way.