The alternate title to this post is The Art of Not Caring. That's not to say that caring is bad or you shouldn't do it. In fact it's the opposite: caring is precious and wonderful and shouldn't be thrown away on just anything. Look at it this way: every person has a certain amount of fucks they can give. Some people have endless fucks, while others are more laid back. Some people are discerning in who/what they give their fucks to while other people hand them out like candy and that's okay. The world would be boring if we were all the same. Fucking boring.
The problem comes when people give out fucks faster than they can replace them. It's basically kind of like the banking crisis, only instead of debt you have apathy.
Let me illustrate. For most of my third year at university I was Not Happy with my established friendship group. I want to say right now that this is no one's fault, just one of those things that happens sometimes and me and the people in question are all on good terms, though no longer as close. I don't want to air any more of my dirty laundry on the Internet than is necessary to prove the point so let's just say that certain new dynamics left me feeling like an outside, desperately missing the people my friends used to be. In their defence my natural instinct to protect myself may have helped to drive them away but there were also things I was not definitely not just imagining. Some people were more blameless than others. If they're reading this and remember it differently then I hope they realise I have no hard feelings, still adore them and am only mentioning it in even this very tangential, anonymous way because of the life lesson it led me to.
I was miserable. I didn't want to give them up. I didn't say anything about it to our mutual friends but one day I was so visibly down that Rachel, a girl I'd only recently met through the Writers Society, cancelled her plans and took me out for cocktails. Even though she had a nine o'clock start the next day. I've had strangers do a lot of nice things for me in the past: the three year old who returned my dropped passport, the stranger who wrote me a three scene play in iambic pentametre one Christmas, the man who stopped me at my waitressing job because his (female) friend had just called me beautiful in a foreign language and he didn't think I should miss out on the compliment, the parents who looked at their new, pink, squish-faced, noisy little baby and didn't immediately leave it on someone else's doorstep but instead ended up raising it. Rachel taking me out for cocktails remains firmly in my top five, not least because it was one of the things which lead me to a wonderful, supportive group of friends who never cease to be better than I believed possible and, crucially, have yet to make me want to punch holes in a wall.
Slowly I stopped caring what my other friends said, or did, or didn't say. It was a painful process: I essentially gave up on people I had a lot of genuine (and deserved) love for. Everything in my body told me to hang on, be patient, be loyal but once I let go I felt like an anchor had been cut. Anchors are ambivalent things: sometimes they keep you safe, sometimes they drag you down. The difficult thing is knowing which is which. I ask again: what areas of your lives are making you privately miserable or exhausted or cross. And how many fucks do you give?
This is, of course, your decision to make, but here are some of the things I'm Not Caring about in 2013.
*What people on the Internet think about pretty trivial topics. I had a minor epiphany this week, arguing with someone about fake geek girls. Every comment got more condescending and unlikeable until I snapped. "You know what," I said [paraphrasing wildly] "I don't need your respect. As a stranger on the Internet you mean literally nothing to me. I'm done trying to live up to your standards. If I want to wear a Wonder Woman tshirt as a fashion statement I will. You don't own geek culture. It is not yours to protect. And I am not going away. Direct further questions to John Scalzi's blog post on the subject,
*What people on the Internet think about important topics. I'm sick of being told my problems aren't important by activists who spend all their time on Tumblr*. Not you. I know because you're still reading, not writing a furious comment telling me I'm doing feminism wrong, or about how I'm not talking about your pet issue (on my own personal blog) and this makes me sexist/racist/homophobic/the devil or (and I kid you not this happened) "oppressing larger people by weighing under 180 lbs". No I don't understand that last one either.
It's great that people have so much passion and are trying to do things about it. I have a lot of genuine respect for them. Social media pretty much saved the world from President Romney (or denied the world President Romney: whichever way you look at it that's a lot of power). And that's great, it really is. So can we stop jumping on people with very little influence and get back to bringing down politicians, campaigning for reproductive rights, putting pressure on homophobic countries by supporting trade sanctions, or raising awareness to the lack of people of colour in the media, or raising awareness for mental health issues or any of the many other, valuable things online activists do?
*Things that are really important but I can't change right now. A lot of things about the modern world are really genuinely galling. But when a problem gets so big you can throw fuck after fuck at it and it doesn't even chip the paintwork you might as well save them for a place they can do some good. For example there's not much that I can do right now about... oh all sorts of things. The snobbery towards the fantasy genre, say. But if I keep my head down and write the sorts of things a moderator wants to read ad pay my dues and come out with a second Very Expensive Piece of Paper declaring that I am in fact a Competent Writer (and the actual skills I acquired getting said sheet of paper) I will be in a better position to argue and still have a ready supply of fucks to give.
So Happy New Year, one and all. May all your fucks be well spent in 2013 and afterwards. I hope 2012 has been kind to you and 2013 is fucking excellent.
*Seriously, I wouldn't mind so much if people told me what is more important than the right to control my own uterus.**
**I accept that lots of things are equally important, but that's not the same thing now is it?