Dear Snarky Brunettes (myself very much included),
You are not April Ludgate. This is not to say there is anything wrong with being April, particularly if your job in the Pawnee Parks department allows you to get away with a constant demeanor of deadpan sarcasm. Behind the eye rolling, April’s a good friend and a great wife. Truth be told, I love watching Aubrey Plaza as April, as Darius in Safety Not Guaranteed, as Daria (seriously, someone please do a live action movie already).
The thing is, Daria sort of represents the last phase of life where one can get away with acting like they don’t care. In high school, not caring is actually sort of an asset – popularity is determined by forces far beyond our control, so if you can get away with not worrying about parties you are or aren’t invited to or who’s asking you to what dance, that’s probably for the best. For those of us lacking the blonde bubbliness often favored in high school, for those of us who read too much or listened to music that wasn’t mainstream or just never felt like we fit in, a layer of jaded sarcasm was the best defense against rejection (perceived or real) by our peers.
The beauty of high school is it ends after four years. The beauty of actual life is that it doesn’t, but that means the attitude that got you through high school isn’t going to serve you quite as well. High school is by definition a limited time thing, if you don’t care about or for the people you’re surrounded by, it’s okay, because you never actually have to see them again if you don’t want to. Cynical detachment is acceptable in high school because you have no control of the situation, it’s about surviving it whatever way possible. Once we reach adulthood, it’s a different story. You have options and choices that are somewhat limitless; if you’re in a situation you constantly roll your eyes at, you can just walk away.
Despite this, it’s easy to fall back on that high school ‘don’t care’ attitude. Sure, adulthood has more options than high school, but people and choices can still be disappointing. Get burned a few times, and it’s easy to decide that the world is never going to live up to your expectations, so why bother caring about it? It’s easy to decide not to take risks or get emotionally invested because you’ll probably be let down. Unfortunately, hiding behind a veil of apathy can be a funny way to live if you’re a TV character, it’s a lot less amusing if you’re a real person.
Apathy is only a skill you can put on your resume if you work for Ron Swanson (who doesn’t care) or Leslie Knope (who cares about everyone regardless). Acting totally bored with life works in elementary school if you have one of those really great teachers who recognizes you’re bored because you’re smart, not bored because you’re lazy. Real adults don’t get handed fancy DC internships because Ben Wyatt recognized our potential. Real adults have to act like they care and actually try at their jobs. Sure, you could fail. Sure, you could work really hard and having things not matter due to circumstances totally beyond your control. But that’s not really a reason not to try.
I’m only speaking for myself when I say this, but I don’t think I’m alone: I often come across as someone who doesn’t care and who doesn’t like people, but the opposite is actually true. I really care, and I really like people, but I’d rather appear the opposite way. I reject the world before it has a chance to reject me. Sure, this may have protected me from getting hurt, but it’s also probably caused me to miss out on some cool experiences, jobs I didn’t think I was qualified for, or dates with guys I thought were out of my league.
I know it’ll be easier said than done, but I’m done being detached because getting attached is too scary. All of us at our core have something we care about (even April’s going to veterinary school), so why are we so averse to letting that show? I’m tired of pretending that I’m too cool to care or doing things ironically. I’m going to do things I’m genuinely excited about, and I’m going to do them with enthusiasm. When I need my sarcasm fix, I’ll stick to living vicariously through April.