This past weekend, I did something truly frightening: I went traveling for the weekend, and I left my laptop at home. Like, on purpose!
I know, right??
It was because I went back to my alma mater, Brandeis University, for Homecoming Weekend! I wanted to spend the time with my friends, seeing them for the last time in a while, instead of doing work the way I inevitably would on my computer.
(Granted, that just meant that I did a lot of my work on my phone, but not as much.)
Here's the thing with going back, though. I've been around campus a lot this year, despite having graduated in May. I lived in Waltham for my last month in the Boston area, so I was less than two miles away from my friends who were just a year or two below me. With just a month left, there was no point to creating an entirely new social circle, so I just hung out at Brandeis in my free time. Then I was back last weekend, mostly to work in Boston, but I also went to see the first show of the semester by the sketch comedy club that I used to write for (Boris' Kitchen!) And then this past Friday I returned again, just a week later, for Homecoming. I've been on and around my old college campus a lot, becoming exactly the kind of person I had judged for the past four years - the alumna who hung around and couldn't let go.
Which brings me to something I have been struggling with for my entire life: Caring too much about what other people think of me.
I care so much about what other people think about me. It's a big problem when I know that someone in my life doesn't like me, especially if I don't know why. I will go way out of my way to make sure that people think well of me.
Now, to a certain extent, that's healthy. It's good to cultivate relationships, it's good to be good, kind, and generous to others, and I like to live by the Maya Angelou poem "I've Learned," particularly the quote "I've learned that people will forget what you said and people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel." I want my presence to always make people feel happy.
But I've realized that I am trying to make others like me at the expense of my own personality. I become self-conscious about doing things that other people might judge me for, even if they make me happy. So, in the case of visiting Brandeis, when people would tease me about how I can't stay away, I would start to freak out over how much they're judging me for it.
Even though they are my friends and I know they care about me and they're really just teasing.
Worse than that, I know that if I keep up this ceaseless, impossible task of trying to make everyone like me, I'll end up boring, both as a person and as an actor.
But this weekend was transformative for me! I was at Brandeis, being teased more than ever about being there, and I started to realize that it was totally pointless to care. Being there made me happy. The people saying these things were people who love me, and would accept me whether or not I chose to be there. And if anyone really did judge me for doing what made me happy, so long as it's within the realm of staying healthy, then they're not a person worth impressing in the first place.
Better than that, if I can choose to not care, then I can make choices in my life and my work that are bolder and more interesting. Yes, someone might not like it. But at least it will have made them take notice, rather than fade into the background.
Choosing not to care is very much a choice. I have to force myself to do it every day. But I've only been consistently doing it for a few days now, and I've had more fun with it. I can't wait to see what I can keep doing as I choose not to care!
(Damn, this was a long post. But it felt good writing it! And besides, I really don't care. See what I did there?)