An Experiment in Not Caring

I haven’t posted in a while because work has been insanely stressful. Upon much reflection, I am convinced that for many of us with outsized work expectations, the problem is giving too much of a shit.

I’ve always struggled with two sides of myself – the side that is obsessed with conventional professional success and the side that thinks it’s all meaningless, so we might as well live how we want. For the past 16 (!?!) or so years, the first side has always won out. I have earned the prestigious degrees, won the prestigious jobs, joined the prestigious organizations, networked (or tried to – never got very good at this) with the prestigious people.

All it has brought me is an ever more prestigious misery.

The other night, as I lay in bed contemplating either running away or just finally ending it all, I had an epiphany. If all of this prestige hunting hasn’t brought me happiness, then perhaps it’s time to stop. Perhaps it’s time to finally let the other side of me take the wheel and see what she can do.

So, I’ve decided to begin the slow, painful process of learning not to care about stupid, meaningless shit anymore. And since the main source of stupid, meaningless shit for me is work, my first step is to stop caring about my job.

Beginning a few days ago, I’ve started pulling back from everything that isn’t 100% essential to being an “adequate” (read: Not stellar, but not shitty) employee. I canceled an appointment when I was sick and skipped a meeting that I knew was pointless. Those might seem like small things to many people, but for me, they are huge.

Even bigger, I’m slowly extracting myself from extra professional obligations that I took on but that are not necessary for my career. I’m dropping a book contract that I no longer want (I did not receive an advance, as is the norm for many academic publishers, so there are no damages to worry about). I’m quitting a position in a professional organization that takes up countless hours and gets me little more than a line on my CV.

Most importantly, I’m extracting myself from some major work drama that has literally been causing me to lose sleep. I have found that my position is unpopular and requires endless politicking to advocate for. Well, fuck it. If the majority of my colleagues want to go another direction, then who am I too keep fighting? Let them do what they want. Yes, I still think my position is the better, more ethical one. And I’m disheartened to see my best colleagues allowing themselves to be led by my worst. But they are all adults, and it’s not my business to keep pushing my agenda if no one wants it. So, let them have theirs. My new agenda is to sleep at night.

In the end, this is not my life. It’s just what I do for a paycheck. I’m not going to stop doing my regular job, being decent to people, or helping clients. I’m just going to stop everything else. No more extra tasks, no more pointless meetings, no more politics. If people get mad and want more, oh well.

We’ll see how it goes. Caring hasn’t worked out so well for me; let’s see what not caring has to offer.

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