My mother has a saying. It’s usually imparted in song form, when I’m mid-breakdown about some thunderstorm that has rained out my Grace parade. It goes a little something like “In one ear and out the other, listen to your mother and not your father.” Admittedly, as I approach thirty, “father” is more often replaced with “the internet” or “moronic asscakes.” No matter what changes in the last stanza, the gist is the same:
Grace, stop giving any fucks.
My mother is the queen of not giving any fucks. She is meme Julie Andrews, twirling empty-handed of fucks, while on a peaceful, flower-bedecked mountaintop. People can chatter in her ear all day long about how they disagree with her or think she’s doing something wrong, but if she wants something badly enough, she goes after it anyway. She rolls her eyes, does what she believes in, and keeps moving on. No grudges are held; no plans are changed. Criticism is filtered, analyzed, and tossed as needed.
I did not inherit this gene. Let’s break down my response to criticism, shall we?
Grace: Good news, universe! I have finally found my true passion in life, training Bichon Frises for competitive water polo!
Father: But, Grace, is there any money in that? Sure, it pays the bills, but don’t you want to be Surgeon General? You know, when you’re Surgeon General, you can train swimming fluff balls on the side. Mature people call that a hobby, not a job.
The Internet: You? You do know that, in order to be a true Bichon Water Polo trainer, you need 18 years of experience and a degree from Oxford in Canine Watersports, right? Amateur.
Moronic Asscakes: Ha! Chubby bitch! Go eat some cake, instead.
Which, of course, quickly progresses to this…
My initial reaction to strong criticism is, and has always been, boat loads of tears and buckets of ice cream. My emotions are directly linked to my tear ducts anyway, as Professor McGregor will tell you. The man has started fast-forwarding through SportsCenter’s daily human interest story, for fear of his wife becoming a puddle of feelings. Someone tells me I’m not good enough or that I’ve done something wrong? Grab a boat, Noah, a gully washer looms.
Usually, the tears are quickly replaced by righteous indignation. How dare they tell me I am a bad bowler! I shall reap vengeance upon them with my bowling badassery! Now, what are these holes for? The valid criticism I can handle. After the anger, comes the light of knowing that there’s a kernel of truth there. But the pure doubt in my ability or loathing for my person? That shit lingers. I can talk a good talk and act like the shade has gone in one ear and out the other, but it hasn’t. It lodges in there, insidious and sticky, telling me that I’m not good enough. It whispers that these things are pipe dreams, not practical, achievable goals.
However, part of being an adult is receiving criticism, both valid and not. Functional adulthood involves not going to pieces every time someone thinks you’re lame. In my chosen career, specifically, critics hide behind every damn bush. There are really only two options here. Either my skin thickens up or Professor McGregor and I will need to buy a horse farm in Montana, so far into the mountains that it doesn’t have reliable internet. There, we will live off the land, periodically have our neighbors over for raccoon stew, and avoid the outside world altogether. Considering my addiction to civilization and the dear professor’s aversion to rodent cuisine, we’re probably better off with the first option.
I must learn how not to give any fucks. I must hum my mother’s jaunty little tune. Teach me your ways, those without fucks.