That’s right. ‘Zero F***s Given’
When we came into this world it was magical. Our parents watched us with affection and involvement, wiping our slobber and stroking our angel hair. My god, the way they lit up the first time we smiled. This admiration continued with the first steps and giggles. And they gave us an attentive concern that held us in our first falls and failed attempts at writing our names.
This goes on for our first years and even seemed to have an effect on the world beyond our home. We had good teachers that encouraged a challenge. Grandma seemed to build her kitchen around us. Even the barber seemed fascinated by how fast our hair grew.
It was all a bit weird, to be honest, but we still got used to it. It wasn’t necessarily vain or pretentious of us, it’s just what we had come to expect.
Then we grow up and the horrible truth sets in: the world just really doesn’t care that much about us - what we say, what we do, what we think, or quite simply, who we even are.
It may hit us at different times. For some, it may be as early as adolescence when the nail is really driven home. For others, it may be when we are in our 20s, wandering an empty city street alone at night.
Whenever it happens, it hits us hard: we really are quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
We stroll through crowds of people that don’t even see us, much less show any concern for our well-being. Trucks drive by shaking the very ground we walk on, only keeping an eye on us so they don’t lose their job for running someone over.
We are small creatures crawling around in a fast-paced world with tall towers and flashy advertisements that catch more attention than we do. We could die and nobody would even notice.
It seems a bit grim to accept this reality, but what is worse, is the way we focus on only the bleakest aspects of it. It’s as if we go through the five stages of grief, not because we lost someone we loved due to love or death, but that we have lost ourselves in the crowd due to life.
Yet, what we fail to see through our wise philosophical eye is how not being constantly watched rescues us from the often consuming and wearing self-conscious eye placed on us, and in turn, we place on ourselves.
My partner and I come from two very different perspectives on this as far as family goes. I disappointed my family from the beginning by dropping out of college and joining the military and therefore wasn’t much supported after. She was an only child that was perhaps too much the focus of her family. This left us in very different situations facing the world as we grew into adults and even still affects us as we are living our lives today.
Given, all of this information must be put into some context: traditions, culture, etc. My partner is an only child from Mexico and lived with her parents until she moved in with me. I have lived mostly in foreign countries whilst coming from a family that doesn’t have passports.
Nonetheless, where she was always under the conscious eye of her family, I was not visited once in my adulthood by mine. Long gone are the days of petting my delicate scalp and dabbing away my saliva.
It can be disheartening to have so little regard from one’s family, especially when they give so much attention to a younger, more proud and ideal, sibling. However, it can be oppressive to have such an overbearing presence which never allows you to truly grow into your own without bouncing between the extremes of guilty obedience and reactionary rebellion.
There is always a side of our minds that will never accept the indifference we get from others, family or otherwise.
We actually suffer often from how much we think, quite assuredly, others think about us.
We hate hearing our own voice and so others must surely find it annoying as well.
We get up to walk to the counter to pay our bill knowing somebody saw the shape of our shameful belly through our shirt.
We sit alone at the park and figure that people must be feeling sorry for our lonesomeness.
We made a silly comment on a Facebook post that will have us laughed at or judged.
A former lover will still be losing sleep at night over how badly we treated them.
Obviously, we don’t really have any evidence for these, but it can sometimes feel certain it is happening. Our failings, shortcomings, and awkwardness are seen, weighed, and found wanting by society at large.
Yes, sir. The sane, good, and respected members of the world know all about our clumsy moments with members of the opposite sex, how bad our hair looks in the morning, and how we tripped in the privacy of our own house last weekend.
Let’s flip this idea though.
Let’s say we see someone walking down the street. They are dressed in a way you find absolutely ridiculous. They think they are being judged or laughed at by someone somewhere. But the truth is, they probably walked right past us without us even thinking about their outfit, much less the fact that this human was even born or will one day die.
Or our friend is quite proud of their new pair of shoes. They spent a lot of money on them, and they took months trying to find exactly the right color. We may notice a new pair of shoes, but the thought doesn’t go beyond the fact that we think there may be something different about this pair compared to the previous ones they always wore.
Or the most obvious and painful example… We are at a party and we walk into the kitchen to grab a drink when someone we kinda know goes beyond the casual hello to tell us of how things ended with their romantic partner. Was it betrayal or an act of liberation from an oppressive marriage? We can barely pay attention to this life-altering news of this person without thinking about the silly conversation of midgets and ‘side-ball’ that we are missing out on back in the living room.
Basically, if we use the truth we can see from within ourselves, from our own real experiences, we get a much better idea of what other people are most likely thinking about us. Which, thankfully, it is not very much.
It is, like everything else in this life, both good and bad. Yes, I may be dead for months before my family will even notice, but I am also not under their constant scrutiny as to what my apartment looks like, what kind of clothes I’m wearing, or the fights I may be having with my partner. [They probably won’t even read this.]
Though I spent a long time being angry with my family for not being there for me in my darkest times or in my most joyous times, it isn’t fair to say they are terrible people. Their lack of caring is not absolute. No doubt, if I really reached out in a dire situation for help, they would come.
The same can be said for all of us. We wouldn’t watch a person drown, and we are happy to give a friend a hug when they need warmth and understanding.
It is just that we must be selective. We all have our own lives to worry about: paying the bills, feeding the kids, and finding time to sit down and enjoy ourselves when we can. By the time we have organized our own lives, we have a fairly logical and excusable reason for not really caring about our friend’s new shoes or the party-acquaintance’s marital problems. Even our parents and siblings are at fault for being humans too.
It may seem like a harsh and cold world today. And quite truthfully in many ways, it is, and always has been. Yet we shouldn’t get despondent about it and suffer needlessly. We should take the indifference of others as a small blessing in disguise. Even to give this gift except for the more important events of life.
Being disregarded or overlooked shouldn’t cause a feeling of discomfort, but a feeling of freedom. Because of this gift, we can now jump more bravely into those adventures that before we thought were unreasonable based on outside expectations.
We can go on that date we would normally be too ashamed to accept.
We can start that business that everybody says is a waste of time and money.
We can raise our hand and ask a question that we know is a bit ridiculous.
Sure. The date was probably a horrible one. The business did fail. And yes, we got a few glares for asking our question. However, the comforting truth is that nobody really gives a shit about any of it in the end anyway.