This week was a great reminder for me that I don’t have to care about—or pretend to care about—everything. What’s more important is that I know what I really care about, and make sure to honor and explore those things. The megaconference South by Southwest (SXSW) is happening here in Austin right now, and there are thousands of panels, sessions, parties, networking events, films, comedy shows, concerts, you name it. There are a dizzying array of open bars and celebrities just walking around like normal people. It’s simply mind-boggling and amazingly overwhelming if you let it be.
I was a featured speaker at SXSW and I even had my very own book signing which made me feel very fancy and very nervous. It was my first time attending SXSW with an official Gold level badge that basically grants me access to almost all technology and film-related events. The choices of how to spend my days and nights were endless. It was the recipe for a fullscale panic attack or a perfect excuse to go into avoidance mode. In fact, at one point I felt so overwhelmed by it all, I contemplated not going to anything.
Then I realized that I didn’t have to try and attend everything that sounded interesting and cool (it would be impossible anyway). I could just focus on the things that I really care about and do my best to hit up some of those things. Keeping this in mind, I had (am still having in fact) a great SXSW experience. My panel went well and I had fun hanging out with my fellow love and sex writers. I met some of my internet entrepreneur heroes (Chris Guillebeau for the first time and Ramit Sethi who I see around quite a bit but get excited every time I see him anyway). I saw a film that made me cry from the first 10 minutes until the very end of the movie—and then walked out of the movie to receive an excited hug from one of the stars who was so happy that I loved it so much! I sold a copy of my book to Christina, the woman I most looked up to when I was in college and who is still being lovely and amazing. I had a blast at the Harvard party, and was reminded of how diverse all of our journeys are once we leave the ivory tower. I hosted two of my friends for a week and basked in their beautiful energy and the fun of being the hostess. Later today, I’ll be meeting up with one of my clients (it’s a rare treat to meet my clients in person) and then I’m going to go see some more movies with my film pass.
So often in life, we feel pressured to care about and try to keep up with the comings and goings, news, and updates of things we just don’t really care about. Whether you’re a guy who really doesn’t care about March Madness, or you’re a Black woman who just does not care about what’s happening on Scandal (that’s not me. I care deeply about the show Scandal), or were raised Catholic but really just don’t care about who the new pope is (Surprisingly, I was very interested in the whole papal selection process, perhaps due to NPR’s excellent coverage of it), I give you permission to not care, to not even pretend to care, about things that don’t really matter to you.
I’m not telling you to be rude or dismissive of other people’s interests. I’m just saying you don’t have to adopt them as your own.
I used to really get down on myself as an admissions consultant for not caring about all the tiny updates and microchanges of the MBA/MPP admissions process. I thought, “Well, since I’m not monitoring all the schools’ blogs and social media profiles, I must not really be in it to win it. I don’t think this is for me.” Then I stopped pretending to care about the details and focused on the big picture: helping my clients have the confidence, clarity, and support they needed to submit the most compelling and authentic application they could to get into their dream schools. I stopped blogging about admissions, and started writing articles like these. I stopped wondering what everyone else was doing and just focused on what I cared most about: 1) making enough money to support myself while I wrote my book, and 2) making sure my clients had the tightest applications possible.
Yesterday was a great reminder to me that focusing on what really matters to me and the people in my tribe is what I need to be doing. On the Be Your Own Boyfriend world domination marketing-my-face-off front, I received this awesome message (among many that I receive every day) from the postal service worker who processed my 200+ books when I mailed them out and then bought herself a copy the very same day:
On the admissions front, one client got into Ross with a $30,000 scholarship, and another one just received her admission to Harvard Kennedy School. Another client got rejected from Harvard, and that sucks. I’m excited to be there for all three of those clients, and it’s because I know and they know we are only going to discuss what really matters, which is their feelings about all of this and how best to move forward.
Right now, I feel so immensely grateful that the things I do and don’t like to do are so clear to me. I do struggle with making big pronouncements and then quietly taking them back (“No more admissions consulting! Just kidding. Come on in!”), but the core place they come from (“I give myself permission to openly love what I love”) is always the same.
If you’re feeling stuck, blocked, stifled, frustrated, or confused, it could be because you’re pretending to care about something (or someone) that you feel like you should care about. You can be loving to yourself and to others while being true to yourself as well. Just remember this: you don’t have to care about everything. But you do have to care about some things, so get clear on those and then get to caring.