12. On Not Caring and Letting Go of Control

Living with family has its perks; no rent, home-cooked food, the company; but there are things that can also irritate you. These include excessive noise, little personal space, and having to guard things you find valuable from people who do not hold the same opinion of those same items.

I once came home to find the entire living room rearranged, the television moved, and with that, my video game system dismantled and the console and wires carelessly tossed into a storage closet buried under items much heavier than it, that could easily damage it. I spent nearly $400 of my own hard-earned cash on these things, yet it did not faze those living with me. They justified their actions by simply stating that loose wires didn’t look nice just laying about. Try as I might, I could not convince them that a sophisticated and expensive gaming system was anything but loose wires unaesthetically strewn about. This made me upset because I could not communicate to them that my opinion also mattered and that they could not simply dictate their decisions with no consultation with me. Out of frustration, and an argument brewing, I gave up. Even now, writing this, it makes me upset knowing that my opinion mattered little.

But…that must have been 3 or 4 years ago.

Today, I came into the living room, much like that distant afternoon, and saw the couch and television rearranged. And, you know what? I didn’t care. In fact, a part of me appreciated the change, not because of the resignation that it’s something that I expect from those living with me, but because I tried to see the positive in the rearrangement. The sectional couch had been changed from a t.v.-centric L-shape to a much more conversation friendly U-shape.

I have tried during this past year to let go of my incessant need to care about what others do. In her book, Defining Decade, clinical psychologist Meg Jay, PhD, talks to people in their 20s and early 30s about how the economy has somewhat stunted our emotional and socioeconomic growth.  Many of us are currently struggling to start our careers, and become independent. This leads us to living with and depending on family well up to and sometimes even past our 30s. In terms of the human animal, this is unnatural and unhealthy. Many of us are struggling to gain ownership of our destinies while having to live under our parents’ roofs. Many have sworn off relationships until we gain autonomy. Some of us, out of frustration, lash out at those closest to us. But this will ultimately not gain us anything.

Keep your eye on the prize

We need to know what our ultimate goal is, and gain, what Dr. Jay calls, Identity Capital and Social Capital. The first lets us take inventory of what we have: friends, dreams, choice of career, etc; the second is required to fill in the gap to achieve our dreams and careers and gain social connections to that end, such as meeting people with common interests.

Back to the U-shaped couch

The couch, much like the video game system, much like any minor nuisance in life, is a symptom of this much larger lack of ownership of one’s life. We lose focus of our path and focus instead on tiny, side issues because, really, the major issue is personal fulfillment, which is hard to achieve. By looking at Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs, we can gain some insight as to why we allow ourselves to lose focus of the end-game. We wish to be Self-Actualized, but we have not climbed the mountain past Love and Belonging (some of us, sadly, start even lower than that!)

Stop caring about that U-Shaped couch and focus on what matters. You can buy your own couch and another gaming system one day (or whatever you want out of life). In order to gain independence you have to start living for yourself!

This does not mean becoming an uncaring jerk; on the contrary, you have to care, but about yourself first and foremost! Put yourself first; give yourself permission to say “I love me first, then I love others.” Make decisions that you feel right with and that are right for you! Let other people gossip if they wish. It is no use trying to control others’ opinions (see the Anthony Hopkins quote below). At the end of the day, you and only you can take care of yourself! You are your most important priority!

*I have talked about this topic before, but I wanted to share the couch story and the resource of Dr Meg Jay’s Defining Decade. Here is a WikiHow on some great advice about how and when not to care.*

For anyone who is between 16-30, please do read Meg Jay’s Defining Decade.  Better you read it sooner than later. It is an essential for gaining insight as to how to go about directing your 20s and not end up in an existential crisis at 30.


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