3.22.2011

One and Ten (or, Yeah, I Care A Lot About Stuff)

My friend and homeboy Drew Curtis once gave me the most insightful, helpful and impactful critique of my personality I've ever received. And no, he didn't tell me I was an asshole. I mean, he has before, as have thousands if not tens of thousands of other people. But that's hardly a revelation.

He told me, and I am probably butchering his exact words, that I have only two settings on my emotional dial: Zero and Ten. If I'm not at "zero" about a thing, I'm set to "ten" about it -- meaning I'm very black and white, with no middle ground.

And this isn't a measure of liking and hating. It's a measure of caring. I either don't care at all about it, or I care a WHOLE FUCKING LOT IN ALL CAPS. The things I like, I love with a fiery burning passion that I want to spread to everyone in the world, and the things I hate, I want to punch everyone in the world who like it just because they like it.

He gave me this bit of insight during a pretty dark time in my life. He was being a good friend, and it was was a revelation of the sort that doesn't come with bright lights and neon and a horn blaring. It was the kind of revelation that you listen to and ponder on for a minute, and then go "Hm, yeah, I guess I DO do that." The kind that actually do sink in and take hold and make you ponder yourself a bit. The horn-blaring-bright-light kinds just hurt a while until you accept them and realize you don't care. These, however, actually get to you.

And for a long time after he told me that, I tried imagining stuff I was going to talk about as having a setting on a dial, a la Tony Robbins (or whoever came up with that, I've heard it expressed a few different ways by people who somehow think someone is going to deliver happiness and confidence through a few cassette tapes and a folder full of jargon for $149.99). I'd try to tone it back if it wasn't that big a deal, or dial it up if I didn't actually care but needed to at that time. And that works, for a little while. It's a brain hack. And like all brain hacks, eventually the brain patches itself and it stops working.

What I realized a very short time ago is that Drew had absolutely no idea how much I actually do or do not care about a thing, except for what he observes me reacting to. He wasn't really in my head, showing me some facet about myself I never knew before. He was saying "Dude, you wear your emotions on your sleeve." I gave him all of the information he needed to provide the observation he did.

And so, I tried the very short lived experiment of Not Doing That. And for the duration, I felt false. Fake. Like I was lying all the time.

There's some part of me that feels that even the mere fact of hiding how I feel about a thing is being dishonest about it. And while I won't ever attempt to fool myself or you into thinking I'm some paragon of truth, I will say that, white lies aside, I absolutely do try to live honestly. I feel falseness is a sin. It's deception. It's altering who we are, at our core, in order to attain some sort of goal, wether it be getting ahead at someone's expense, or just convincing someone of something we want them to believe.

It actually physically makes me sick to be false. And it makes me even more sick to realize when people are being false with me. It's not just the act of deception, it's the wasting of my time that really kills me. Things go so much faster and more smoothly when we cut the shit and just get down to brass tacks, doesn't it? If you don't like a thing, say "I don't like this thing." It lets me know where you stand and we move on. It's smooth. It's easy. It puts an end to a thing you don't like, and allows us to get on to something else.

But, and I think this is where Drew really wanted me to land on all of this, that doesn't mean I have to be so damn intense about everything all the time.

And that's difficult. It's not an act when I get intense about liking or disliking a thing. It's just me expressing how I feel about it, and sure, there are definitely things I'm ambivalent about. But for the most part, for me, it's not so much about liking or disliking, it's caring or not caring. If something deserves my attention, I think that warrants caring about it. And if I don't care about a thing, I don't waste my time on it at all.

But that doesn't mean everyone wants to hear about it. And I get that now. So, it's with this in mind that I want to apologize to the Barenaked Ladies fans out there. For years, you've heard me complain about how much I hate that lazy, horrible piece of shit band. You've heard me go on about how ridiculous it is that anyone would give them a single dollar for a single note they play. You hear me rip on their abuse of changing "Chickity Choco, The Chocolate Chicken" from Busta Rhyme's classic lyric in "What's the Scenario" to some stupid whatever thing frat boys the world over think is genius.

And the reason I'm apologizing is not because I've expressed these opinions, or that they may have hurt your feelings. It's because I'm so sorry you're such a fucking idiot that you can't actually find some decent music to like.

And as far as changing my 1 and 10 method of caring about stuff: I am who I am. And while I have changed to some degree my reactions to things in front of certain groups or people, it's only because I value the relationship I have with them and want to preserve it. And the method I've used to keep from feeling false is to simply not express an opinion at all, because the last thing I want to ever do is lie to someone. And faking my opinion on things is lying, at least to me.

You may not like me, but at least there's one person on this Earth you never have to wonder where they stand on a thing. And there has to be some value in that.