I wish I could send a letter to my 20-something self.
If I could, I’d tell that young woman to give less fucks. Way less fucks.
I worked so hard in my 20’s in a job that ate me alive.
I’d wake up each workday in tears, stood on the crowed subway platform holding down overwhelming pangs of anxiety, fought back waves of nausea as I rode the elevator to my envied office with a view.
My friends at the time, many of whom had yet to ‘find their feet’ as we’d say, were envious of my career.
I had business cards, an office with actual walls and a door, sweeping views of the city and mountains beyond. Each morning I put on my suit and stilettos; I was adulting hard, succeeding.
Why did I feel so miserable?
Suddenly, when a family friend lost her battle with breast cancer just after her 31st birthday, I realized I could wake up and not have as many days ahead of me as I have behind me, maybe far fewer than I expected.
Is this how I wanted to spend my one wild and precious life?
I was sick and depressed. I lived in fear I’d bump into a client while out grocery shopping or grabbing coffee, terrified that he’d follow through on his (many, repeated) threats to kill me. Would he stab me just like he did the last public servant who told him No?
This was my life.
I worried about everything.
About my weight, how I dressed, mostly what other people thought, and that I’d let someone, everyone, down.
Well, lemme tell you the thing about all that worry, the precious fucks I gave to what other people thought, the effort of which made me physically ill.
When I finally walked out the door on that career, the one that I’d spent sleepless nights fretting over?
No one particularly cared, or even noticed.
All that shit I’d worried about didn’t matter. At all.
And six years after that, when I lost my beloved worrier of a Mum to cancer?
You know what I realized about all her worries? In the end, they weren’t worth a fig, either.
Since then I’ve asked myself this – what if lived my life less afraid? Less willing to give precious fucks to people and things who didn’t give a fuck about me? What if we decided to give less fucks?
What if I decided to be less concerned about what ‘they’ (whoever the hell they are) thought?
Stopped trying to anticipate how others would react, stop believing that I knew how things would go if I rocked the boat? Forced myself to start asking if maybe, just maybe, I could go live the great big juicy, messy, imperfect life I craved?
And that maybe, no one will care or even notice, because they’re too caught up giving their precious fucks to their own stupid shit?
We are all of us wandering lost, sleepwalking through this life, eyes transfixed on our own navels, while meanwhile, a glorious world of joy and pain and possibility swirls all around us, just waiting for us to take a breath, look-and-see.
I think about that Mary Oliver poem, This Morning, about the tiny birds being born into the morning – their eyes closed, so busy crying MORE! MORE! MORE! that they don’t even know they have wings.
Aren’t we all like that?
How do we open ourselves to the wonder of the world around us, free ourselves from worry and self-doubt and the pettiness of our empty cravings? We give less fucks.
We let go of ego that whispers the insidious lies – That we can possibly know how things will turn out. That we will know how those around us will react. That convinces us that everyone is watching.
Do not worry, no one is against you. They do not even know you are there. You are not that important. – Louise Bourgeois.
How freeing that realization was.
None of those folks I worried about letting down, felt so much shame about drawing that circle around myself, the one that said ENOUGH . . .
No one cared. Not one.
What if we all lived in our circle of influence instead of our circle of concern?
If instead of giving our precious fucks away to people, things, jobs, that we can’t control, that don’t care about us, who are too tied to their own navels to even notice –
What if we focused on the work in front of us?
The things that might light us up?
How would our lives, our view of ourselves, our beliefs about what is possible – change?
What might you try? What boundary might you stretch? What might you dare to dream?
You don’t have to know where you’ll be in 10 years to live a big, juicy life.
You simply have to lift your eyes to the sky and remember that you have wings.