Yesterday, I watched a woman park in the bus zone for 15 solid minutes. Her car was off, she got out, put her shoes in the trunk, and basically couldn’t care less that she was doing something illegal. I kept thinking she parked in the bus zone because she had car trouble but no, eventually her friend sauntered out of the BART station and the woman started her car – slowly, I might add – and took her sweet time leaving.
I was floored. In that same situation, I know I would have been fidgety, glancing over my shoulder every two seconds waiting for a bus or a cop car to pull up. I can’t help but contrast this woman’s behavior with mine, someone who cares too much.
Last week, I flew home from Vienna where I sat in a window seat. Luckily, there was no one in the middle seat, but there was a woman in the aisle seat. I have to go to the bathroom approximately every hour, and on a six-hour flight, it can be obnoxious for the people who have to keep getting up for me. I noticed the woman started getting huffy and I began caring about what she thought of me. A stranger. A person I will never see again. I wanted this woman to like me, to not get upset with me, to hold me in positive regard, and so I resolved to use the bathroom less. That is, until I realized my bladder wasn’t having any of that and got up anyway in as polite and gracious a way as I could muster.
The experience got me thinking about how I care sooo much about how other people are responding to me. I’m over being judged for how I look, speak, and dress – for the most part – but I’m still sensitive to how others react to me. If I’m doing something that causes someone any negative emotion, I want to modulate my behavior immediately to please them, even if it means discomfort for me. Um, this is nicht sehr gut, as they say in German. I can’t spend my life constantly trying to please other people. The very act of being alive means I’m going to ruffle some feathers.
I can’t try to shrink myself or shirk my own needs in order for other people to like me. I can’t disappear or live in a bubble. I’m an adult and as an adult I need to take care of myself, even if that means disappointing someone else, or annoying someone else, or angering someone else. To make that process easier, I need to care less. I’m not saying we should all start parking illegally in bus zones or acting like jerks in order to get our needs met, but maybe those of us who care a lot need to care less. And vice versa.
I dream of a world where we each find the sweet spot between caring too much and caring too little. A world where we’re considerate of each other, but not overly so. A world where we take care of ourselves to the best of our capacity while also taking care of those around us.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.