Today I discovered that one of my go-to phrases of adolescence has become extinct in my vocabulary. Like so many other angst-y middle-school-aged girls, “I don’t care,” was a favorite weapon in my arsenal of retorts. Whether speaking to friends, family, or my teachers, it always ended the argument. Of course, just because the argument was over didn’t mean I avoided punishment, but that’s beside the point. As my composition professor would point out, it is really a brilliant rhetorical strategy. The point of an argument is to persuade your opposition to see your side, but if your opposition doesn’t give a crap, the stasis of your argument has been completely diminished. So, props to middle school girls for putting this horribly annoying but rhetorically promising tactic into play.
My main point here is that for some godawful reason, “I don’t care,” just isn’t a valid argument for me anymore. I, resolutely and vehemently, do give a damn. It got to Anthony Bourdain, the general badass of the cooking world, when he had his first kid, and somehow it has gotten to me. He wrote in his book Medium Raw that being a father made him want to turn in his leather jacket and be someone dependable and un-embarrassing for her (but I guess that doesn’t include cutting the cursing).
Maybe I’m not ready to give up my small-scale rebellions against societal norms, but I have definitely gotten over the cool factor associated with not caring. It’s almost as if caring is permitted now. We’re paying for an education, so we damned well better care about our grades, and there’s almost a collective homesickness we all see in each other but never acknowledge, even those like me who were always ready to be on their own.
I’m not stereotypically homesick, but I do miss my family from time to time. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’ve been allowed space from them or I’m maturing, but gone are the days of slamming my door in anger or leaving the dinner table with tears in my eyes. It seems so childish now. I think mutual respect has grown between me and my parents. I now respect my parents because I can think on nearly the same level as they can, and they now respect me because I have shown (a thousand times over) that I can take care of myself but also I acknowledge I do need their guidance from time to time. I know they really appreciate that. What can I say? I’ve discovered you can’t make it on your own — there are too many variable to consider and more often than not, you’ll miss one and end up somewhere you don’t want to be. Everyone needs someone who cares to keep them in check, and for some godawful reason, college has shown me that I care.