Last Saturday I received a text around dinner time from a friend who asked me if I would accompany him to go dancing at a local bar that night. Did I want to go dancing? Yes (I always want to go dancing). But my mind immediately jumped to the inorganic chemistry exam I had Tuesday night. I thought about how slowly my studying had been going, and the potential hours of study time I would loose by choosing to go out, even though in reality it was unlikely I would have been very productive in those hours. With these thoughts, I texted a mutual friend of ours, asking him to instead accompany the first friend. The response was prompt, “Eva you need to go out with [name] stop being an over-achieving asian and take a few hours to have some fun.” The text was quickly followed by another, “…Don’t stress about inorganic none of the seniors actually gives a fuck except like 4.” But – the thing was that I did give a fuck.
I care so much, that every day I seem to grow a little more anxious (ok, not panic-attack anxious, but looming dark cloud anxious). I stress-eat, stress-run, and my weekend doesn’t start until I’ve had at least one very necessary drink to help me relax. I’ve sacrificed sleep, and yes, my social life, to try and do better in my classes. And I know I’m not the only one. You need only walk into any library during any night of the semester to see students huddled over piles of books and papers, caring. They’re there because for some reason or another they also can’t help but care. And not just about school.
Why study chemistry? Many other majors are easier and more financially rewarding.
Why be nice to everyone? People are assholes.
Why bother to vote? Our government is fucked anyways.
Why buy organic, or recycle and compost? It’s cheaper and easier not to.
Why do I care? Do I do these things to please myself? To please others? To prove something to myself? To others? Because they’re ‘right’? Just because I’m expected to?
In some of my darker moments as I sobbed in frustration into a tear and mascara-stained pillow because I felt unappreciated as a friend, daughter, girlfriend – because I put so much work and effort into something only to receive very little reward or gratification – I would craft this twisted idea in my mind that everything I did was to make other people happy. It had never been my life goal, my burning desire to play the violin, to study chemistry, to learn Chinese, or to be the perfect girlfriend, yet I had done or tried to make myself into all these things. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret choosing to study chemistry. Once I started studying Chinese, I found myself wishing I was better at it. And all of my relationships have had their ups and downs, but I don’t regret any of them either. But still, I would think to myself that they were not things I truly chose for myself. And if they weren’t things I really wanted myself, why did I bother? Why did I care?
I realize that this is actually an incredibly self-centered line of thought, that to make myself feel better I was portraying myself as a selfless, suffering victim. I was looking for a reason to justify why I bothered. Because what kind of crazy, pathetic person does things robotically, just because? Why can’t I just give no fucks, take the path of least resistance, and YOLO (yes, I said it)? I could be enjoying life.
Maybe my life would be easier if I cared a little less or not at all about certain things, but I don’t know how to – or even if I’d want to. People call me an overachiever, a masochist even, just plain crazy, but I know that’s not it. I still have trouble explaining exactly why I care, but at least I can accept it as a part of myself that’s not just going to change.
Why do I study chemistry instead of something easy and profitable? It’s a mix of the need to do something intellectual to have self-respect, genuine interest in the subject, because it just made sense… Why am I so nice to everyone and why do I try so hard in relationships? Because people deserve respect, the world could use more positivity, because I just feel wrong every time I act like a bitch. Why vote? Because it is my legal right to do so, because I refuse to buy into the mentality that the wishes of one individual can’t make a difference (where would we be if we all thought that way?), and because I want an “I Voted” sticker. At the heart of things I’m still a cautious optimist and an idealist. Despite my lack of rock-solid reasons for caring – I might not be able to give you an earnest speech about how everything I do is driven by an ultimate greater plan – my justifications may be flaky and best and even sometimes hypocritical – but I can’t nonchalantly “give no fucks” either.