Yesterday I decided to treat myself to a lazy Sunday morning in bed with the dogs and spent most of my morning having my French press and re-watching Van Wilder for no less than the 15th time. While it’s an admittedly silly raunch-fest full of “bro humor” (AKA my favorite genre of film), there was a smart line that stuck out to me which I’d previously never given thought.
“Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand,” the dean of the university yelled at his nemesis Van after being the brunt of yet another one of his Dennis the Menace-style hijinks. Believe it or not, the writers of this cinematic masterpiece did not come up with that one on their own; it’s in fact a quote from author Bodie Thoene.
The reason this line stood out to me now is because in the past I don’t think I really grasped the full meaning of being apathetic, and in the years since my last viewing of the film, I have really come into my own in that department.
In addition to the aforementioned quote, there are plenty more Pinterest-worthy lines regarding the fine art of not caring floating around the internet, most of them seemingly negative. But I’m here to challenge this opinion and say apathy might just be the greatest character trait of them all. Hear me out.
It seems people tend to poo-poo on an apathetic attitude during times of unrest, usually political or the sort, which is understandable. But on the flip side, how many times have you been told to be less caring for a better life? Ever been told “don’t sweat the small stuff,” or to “choose your battles?” How about, “lions don’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep?” So I ask you, which is it? Do you want me to care too much or not enough, or is it only about certain topics?
To be quite frank, the level of apathy I have developed has saved my life. After years of mental torture trying to control outside factors, finally accepting that I can’t has relieved all my stresses and created a domino effect into every aspect of my life. There are now less than a handful of things that can really rock my world, or even warrant more than an eye roll before becoming a meaningless blip on the radar map of my life. The older I get, the more trauma I endure and the more experience I gain, the more I realize just how little actually matters in this life. People online badgering each other nonstop over hot-button topics? Delete or unfollow and move on. Lost your job? Eh, gotta go find a new one because that one wasn’t meant to be. Friendships becoming one-sided or toxic? Stop reaching out and keep it moving. The more you mature, the smaller the friends circle gets anyway. Did you get your heart broken? Meh. Learn from your mistakes and adjust accordingly, which in my case has been to never trust anyone but myself again, and after too many glasses of wine, I don’t even trust her.
I do care about some things and I think that is the balance. My parents, my 1-2 lifelong friendships, my dogs, and my quest for self-improvement…beyond that though, I literally feel nothing. I’ve long suffered the anxiety of what others think about me and since letting that go, I cannot express to you how free I feel. I live my life the way I want, I do what I want, when I want, and as long as it’s not harming others, I really don’t care about their opinion. In this time of constant social media engagement, I think this becomes quite problematic. Since people now have the ability to express themselves on every single tiny matter, they think that it is now their civil duty and it’s not. News flash-social networking is simply tiny webpages for individuals. I personally use mine as a sort of yearbook of my life. I love to look back and see what I was doing over the years because it brings me joy. Others choose to use theirs as a platform for their political beliefs or for building their businesses, or to meet friends and that’s ok too. As crazy an idea as this may seem, and stay with me here because it’s wild, no one has a gun to your head forcing you to observe their beliefs and you have the power to simply unfollow without saying a word. Poof, just like that, problem solved; you never have to see it again. In the grand scheme of life, how important is your number of followers versus everything else?
So here’s my opinion—definitely choose your battles. Don’t become apathetic to the point of just floating through time and space without purpose. Find something that makes you feel alive and invest in that. But ask yourself if you’re feeling stressed, just how important this is in the grand scheme of things. If someone screws up your Starbucks order or a stranger on the internet thinks you’re annoying, is it really going to affect your long-term happiness? Then who gives a crap. Life is short and I’ve come to realize I was losing a lot by small meaningless distractions. I’ve derived more personal pleasure from setting down the phone to quietly watch a sunset in the last year than trying to express why I’m right and someone else is wrong. Remember, nothing in this life is permanent, so take the time to appreciate your current place in the universe before you have to accept it’s gone forever. That’s the most optimistically apathetic thing to do.