One of the greatest lessons I have learned over the past four years at the College of William and Mary (yes, I’m a senior, so trust me) is to care less. There’s a scene in the romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” where Paul Rudd’s character tries to teach Jason Segal’s character how to surf. Rudd tells Segal he’s doing too much and should thus “do less.” If you’ve seen that movie and remember that scene, just apply that same lesson to caring about schoolwork and congrats, you have just figured out the point of this article. You may stop reading. If you have no idea what I’m talking about yet, let me explain.
Care less; this doesn’t mean don’t care at all. I’m not advising you to drop everything, move to Tijuana, and have seven children — I mean that’s your prerogative, but certainly not advised. Caring less means that you stop defining your life as the time before and after a big assignment. At the College, whatever the thing is that’s stressing us out — essays, exams, presentations, running out of Dining Dollars — we always tend to put it on a pedestal, like it is some untouchable life event that will, one way or another, change the outcome of our lives. Can we just take a second to realize how ridiculous that is? Before any major exam, I’ve heard plenty of people say, “This exam is going to ruin/kill/destroy me,” only to see them an hour after the exam ends ordering a sandwich from Wawa. Aren’t you supposed to be rebuilding your life somewhere right now? Wasn’t that test was it for you? Remember when you said, “This test is going to destroy me?” That is the sarcastic inner-monologue and eye-roll that goes through my head time after time. I might understand if before every exam you signed a contract that said in the event that you fail, you agree to chop off both of your legs, or donate your first born child to medical research, or do some legitimately life-changing, bald Britney Spears, thing. However, unless I have missed something, or just passed every test (jokes), then I’m pretty sure that has never happened in the history of this college. Let’s all take a collective step back and care less.
Caring less is more than just curbing your hyperbole when you say a test is going to destroy you. It’s more about changing our perceptions and the way we think. Can you imagine how much better you’d feel if you cared just a little bit less about each assignment? There’s no need to stress yourself down to pieces, feel better for a day or two, and then crumble apart like pastries (thanks, Ed Sheeran) all over again. Personally, I feel quite foolish if I let myself enter that unhealthy cycle because in reality, at the end of every assignment, I am still standing. So what was I so worried about? Did I really believe that one 50-minute test, in the grand scheme of my entire life, would change anything significantly? No. I think the real, underlying fear we all have is of failure. This is not a ground-breaking revelation, OK? I didn’t need Diane Sawyer and the crew from 20/20 to figure that one out. If we know that, at least to some extent, we’re all afraid of failure, can we just not be? Failure happens and it happens all the time. It has happened to you, and to me, and to your Uncle John, your dog Skip and your cousin Mary. In fact, it has probably happened to everyone except Beyonce. Fearing failure is like fearing your toenails growing — it’s going to happen, we all have to deal with it, and as nasty as it may be to cut your talons down, you’ll be okay by the end of it. I promise.
When you care less, you will realize that failure doesn’t define you — but how you think about and deal with failure does. Are you going to allow yourself to believe that your life will fall apart because of an Econ 101 exam, or are you going to make like Taylor Swift and shake it off? I choose the latter because T-Swift has the jams these days and we should all use her as a tall, blonde reminder to smile a little more and care a little less.
Zoe Johnson is a Confusion Corner columnist who can be currently found relaxing in the Sunken Garden in a pile of leaves.