As those of you who visit this blog regularly may already realize, I’m a relatively self-aware and down to earth person. I have been that way pretty much my whole life. I have always known my own mind fairly well, and I don’t worry too much about trying to pretend I’m anything other than exactly what I am.
Unfortunately, that sort of trait doesn’t always sit well with others. I tended to hang with a small group of close friends during my school years, because I couldn’t really relate to most of the other kids, and I couldn’t be bothered to act like I gave a shit about their boyfriend/makeup/shopping issues. I didn’t join extracurricular clubs or groups, again due to my chronic not-giving-a-shitness. When everyone around me in college was either joining a sorority or partaking in the local club scene, I stayed out of it. Why? Because as for shit, I gave it not.
I followed my own path, even though it lead me into a somewhat more isolated place than I might’ve been in otherwise. I recognized that many people thought of me as being somewhat of an “other” – maybe a bit too serious, maybe a bit out of it, maybe a bit weird. I was an unknown quantity, and I was someone who orbited around others without engaging fully with them (or being engaged fully by them). I was OK with that, though, and I never had any reason to change my views or my ways.
Flash forward to today. I have a decent circle of friends that I see or stay in touch with on a regular basis. Among these friends, there is a sentiment I hear over and over again, in one form or another: “You know what I love about you? You always do your own thing, and you don’t care what anyone else thinks about it.”
In other words, these people love me because I just don’t give a shit.
Now, isn’t that hilarious? The same attitude that, as a teenager, alienated me from almost everyone else is now an attitude that, in my middle-aged self, is apparently admirable. Go figure.
I have a couple of theories about why this might be. One is that society and culture have changed a lot since I was younger. We’ve embraced the geeks, the iconoclasts, the outsiders. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs became two of the most powerful men in the world, despite the fact that they probably never got invited to too many parties when they were younger. Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement empowered loners and losers in every high school around the country to pick up guitars and start a band. Things that had once been the antithesis of hip (like black-rimmed Buddy Holly glasses and tee shirts with video game characters on them) became the new hipster uniform. The Big Bang Theory became a huge TV hit, and scientists, comic book fetishists and MMORPG fanatics finally had their day in the sun. Even fringe groups like goths went mainstream, and before you could say Jack Skellington, little girls across America were choosing adorable sneakers with pink skulls on them from the local Target. We all just stopped noticing weirdness, as weirdness was assimilated into our everyday lives in cool and non-threatening ways.
The other theory I have is that, as my peers got older, they stopped giving a shit themselves. I may have been a bit ahead of the curve in that respect, but eventually, most people come around to the idea that trying to fit in all the time is no way to live. People begin to know themselves and trust themselves a bit more. They graduate and get jobs and raise families, and they gain some confidence in themselves that comes from accomplishment. They reach a place where they don’t feel the need for approval as acutely. Being accepted in a clique is no longer a pressing concern.
That’s not to say that adults don’t get insecure sometimes, or that they never worry about what others think of them. But I suspect that most of us have come to realize that that we aren’t in high school anymore, and that the mentality we had back then is pointless now. We base our friendships on traits that matter, rather than on the clothes someone wears or whether they’re on the pep squad or not.
I never thought there would be a time when my complete indifference towards the opinions and expectations of those around me would draw people to me, yet that is pretty much how things have happened. Though it was inadvertent, I’m glad it worked out this way. I now have a very special circle of friends who know me as I really am, and accept me that way 100 percent. And believe it or not, I really do give a shit (and then some) about each and every one of them.