I don’t want to be dishonest, so I’ll say that in caring what people think about this column, I am perhaps denying myself the peace I’ve found in caring less. Because caring is often important and rewarding: I want to write a good column so that you enjoy reading it. I want to make sure my friends are OK. People who do not care, or lack empathy, are sociopaths.
But oh, good God, I care about so many things that should not matter. This week, I will turn 31. For reasons too depressing to go into, I wasn’t always sure I would see 30. Lots of you will be older than I am, perhaps much older. I’ve always had friends in this bracket, so I cannot be fooled by talk of wisdom. I know that, whatever age, we never escape ourselves.
What I do know to be true, however, is the pleasure to be found in not bothering about certain things. Because of a clinically malfunctioning brain, I am probably less proficient at this than the average person, and always will be. Still, the older I get, the better I am at caring less.
You can see the signs of caring too much in the way teenagers often present themselves at swimming pools, how they fold in on themselves to hide their bodies. Or the way a tiny logo embroidered on a shirt takes on great importance. I am a people-pleaser, which I think of as a good thing, but I have discovered that some people will never be pleased. Or don’t deserve to be.
It used to be that, if I thought someone peripheral disliked me – which is rare, obviously: I’m amazing – I would spend a lot of time ruminating instead of indulging in the appreciation of friends and colleagues and the happiness therein. Often it turned out that X didn’t even dislike me, sometimes the opposite; I had just unilaterally decided it.
So caring less – the cousin of letting go – brings a joyful release. It’s like taking a bra off at the end of the day, or letting a ridiculously large backpack drop to the floor after a trip.
As I say, I don’t want to tell you this is something I have conquered because that would not be true, and never will be, I expect. But progress is a step towards contentment. Run without worrying about overtakers. Brunch wearing your comfortable joggers. Be bored by the film the critics are raving about. Who cares? Not me. And, hopefully, not you.