In Defense Of Apathy
When I was 12, my mother—upset with what she felt was a middling academic performance, especially when compared to my two all-star sisters—took me to a psychologist.
Alec Lebedun. Sometimes, if I asked, he would let me sit upright in his chair while he took a prone position on the couch. We met every Wednesday night, but not for long. After only the fourth or fifth session, mom told me I wasn’t going to be going back.
I thought I’d won. So, of course, I had to needle her. I asked her to tell me what the psychologist thought was wrong with me, knowing there couldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have to return.
“Nothing,” she said and I felt vindicated, but only in the moment before her voice turned angry. Harsher than anything I’d ever heard come out her mouth.
“You’re just lazy.”
She said is so bitterly. It stung.
But I kept getting B’s and C’s through middle school. What’s, I thought, the point of doing anything more than the bare minimum? If that is what is set as an acceptable achievement point, achieving it should be acceptable.
Not when you are me. Not me, David Covucci—I’m nothing special—but rather someone ‘blessed’ (I hate that word) with a level of intelligence that surpasses average, and other attributes, ones society thinks are both indicative of and essential to success. Because of what you’re given, you have to do more.
I don’t want to do more. I only want to do what’s necessary. Often times, I don’t even want to do that. Exerting any excess effort seems superfluous to me.
What do I like to do? I enjoy my couch at the end of the day. Everything else, I’m pretty apathetic to. Success. Family. Relationships. Mattering. None of it.
Why try at anything, really?
When I was 18, I joined my high school cross-country team. I wasn’t into running at all, but our lacrosse coach said that if we didn’t play a sport in the fall, we shouldn’t even think about stepping on his field come spring. He wanted us all to play football. I went the easier route. I ran. I turned out to be alright at it, thanks to having the long, lanky legs requisite for distance running. After one performance at some meet, at the next practice, my coach was running alongside me. He’d seen me train, do sprints, etc., and asked why I hadn’t passed a person ahead of me in the last 100 meters of the race. He felt I could.
I shrugged a response.
“You don’t want to win?”
“No, not really.”
“You’re saying to me you don’t see a person in front of you and immediately think, ‘I’m better than them. I can beat them?’”
I shrugged again. I shrug a lot.
I won a lot, too, back when I was younger. When I was 12 and 13 and 14, I was virtually unbeatable swimming. But victories didn’t come with some thrilling rush or any puff of pride. All winning really did was place untoward pressures on me. As someone who won, it was expected I keep winning. It’s a lot easier to lose. You can work less hard. Be less focused. Cede the silly notion that you are the best.
As I got older, no one began expecting anything of me again.
That was nice. When not as single person thinks you can succeed, it makes failure not at all awful to accept.
“Do you want to be a failure?” is the instant, reflexive, callous, mean retort I always get (it’s designed to hurt). It’s an acceptable response—that’s what everyone is thinking, so why not say it?—but, no, it doesn’t bother me. It bemuses me that a great number of people feel I should be some thriving one in seven billion, as opposed to what seems much more reasonable to me, just being one of seven billion.
Success is a form of abuse we’ve become conditioned to enjoy. It’s not my responsibility to perpetuate that perpetuation. And that strident belief that hard work will help you escape the modern subservience we’ve created for ourselves?
No. What if I want to escape another way? By not trying? The other option, the ‘right’ one, seems so Sisyphean to me. If I begin to put in nine hours, ten becomes expected. How is eight not enough? How are five days not okay? Really, how is it possible that all we do is create for each other more and more and more work?
It’s like we live in a world that breaks its own physics.
I don’t get how everyone thinks spinning their wheels faster than everyone else will solve anything. All I see is more spinning. More and more and more. To what end? Leave a mark? If you don’t, someone else will. So why bother?
It’s around the time in this rant that someone will mockingly ask if I have a girlfriend
Not in six years.
That was a long time ago. I don’t even know how to find one these days. I’m not going to be the guy who goes out to a bar to pick up girls. Never have been. I hate that conceit. Going out on a Friday or Saturday with the express intention of fucking someone else? Fucking awful. Why would you place upon yourself the same damn burden of expectations you endure every other day of the week? It’s no different. It’s the requirement to successfully complete a task and gain the plaudits of people you want to impress, be it your boss or your friends or yourself. Why would you want to succeed on the weekends? I’m forced by everyone else to try and do that all the time. I’m much happier drinking at home.
Plus, I’m not great at talking to people. Like when they ask me what I like.
Still, at my age–especially at my age–I’m starting to feel like I have to have someone to fit in. But these mechanisms we have now, facilitating the experience is harder than ever. I’m on Tinder and Hinge, but I can’t bring myself to look at either app but once every few weeks.
“That’s your problem,” people practically fall over themselves to tell me. “You gotta try harder for them to work.”
I guess I don’t care enough to work towards finding someone.
You’d think I can’t work at anything, but that’s not true. I can, when I have to. When it’s the best option. To me, it’s always about finding the path of least resistance.
Like my internship my junior year of college. I knew it had serious potential to lead to a job. And I really didn’t want to do the pre- and post-graduation career hunt, a situation so fraught with anxiety and dread. Instead, I got in early every day. Stayed late. Did more than what was asked of me. It was weird and uncomfortable—and yea, it felt alright. Before the summer was out, I was offered a job.
Out of school, I didn’t last long. It wasn’t a mere few weeks in before I was ready to quit. They wanted me to care. Not like, in the quality of my work, I already did that, but in the overall importance of the company itself and they work they were doing. Saying stuff like “we matter” and “this is important.”
It was the kind of company where if you fucked something up, you had to apologize. And not just apologize. You had to show remorse. My perpetual smirk didn’t sit well with them.
“Do you not give a shit?” adults screamed at me for the most minor of mistakes. The truth was I didn’t. I felt like I could do my job without caring. Same way I got through school without caring.
Once they knew that was my attitude, they ate me alive. When I was working by myself in San Francisco, when I once fucked up something, two different bosses flew cross country to chew me out.
Fun. All that did was inspire me to take things less seriously. If it’s all gonna end in bullshit no matter what…
Within two years, I was gone. My whole time working there, I was also involved in a long-distance, quasi-relationship with my college girlfriend. One where we were both holding on to each other while each actively looked for someone else. Pretty good stuff. But it was fine. We both hated each other. We both hated the situation. It wasn’t that hard to place all the blame on the other person.
Everyone kept asking me what the fuck I was doing. My sisters, my mother, my friends. They couldn’t—they said—fathom why someone would allow themselves to be involved in an experience that makes them unhappy (forgetting that is pretty much what everyone always does). The answer I never gave was the truth. Once you reach a status quo you are comfortable with, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you, you go with.
You keep doing what it is that you are doing it, because doing it is all you know. Happy, sad, it doesn’t matter. It’s just the thing you do. Her and I, we knew how to keep doing that, whatever it was. Doing anything else was different. Exponentially hard.
It turned my life into a four year long malaise, which in retrospect is alright. Not much happens in your twenties, anyway. But now I find it impossible to associate love with anything other than that dragged down feeling.
So why bother, is sort of my attitude. I’m not subjecting myself to future pointless pain by abstaining now, and that’s a good thing. I think.
My next job, which began right around when that relationship ended, was lobbying for the real estate industry. Rental housing, to be precise. The work I did was and is the reason your rents keep going up. Terrible, but they paid. Except one summer, when my landlord hit me with a six percent increase. I asked for a commensurate raise.
No, my boss said.
I lost interest in all people in business after that. Fucked up world, right? So why care? I kept working for them. Finding something else was hard. And they paid well. I didn’t actually need that extra money.
Until I got this job. I took a pay cut when I came here. Obviously, blogging instead of lobbying. I knew it was gonna happen and was fine with it, but my boss was very accommodating, saying we could reevaluate my salary sooner rather than later. Around my one year anniversary, back in September, my father asked me if I’d gotten a raise yet.
“No,” I sheepishly told him.
“No,” I confessed. I hadn’t asked. I made enough. I’d gotten shot down once before, albeit in another industry. It was enough to make me reticent. It would require asking someone to do something they might not necessarily want to do. I don’t want to make anyone do that, because I don’t want anyone to make me do that.
Lots of people in the world disagree with my sentiment. I sort of think maybe we’d all get along a little more if we all gave one less fuck. About everything. I stopped giving a shit about my own well-being a long while ago. I’m doing alright. It doesn’t hurt ya. And so what if I’m not gonna have a legacy or some shit. It won’t bother me if no one shows up to my funeral. I’ll be just fine being dead.
That sounds like a death wish. I don’t have one of those, I just have never particularly had a life wish. I like being alive. It’s fun and all. But I feel like since I didn’t ask to be here, I don’t need to act in accordance with the world around me, with the responsibilities of someone else’s construct from long ago.
I tried to use that argument once to justify not paying parking tickets.
“I didn’t agree to be part of the system that penalizes me for this.”
Of course, technically I did, by buying a car, but that wasn’t the argument I was trying to have.
“Well,” said the girl I was seeing at this time, and having this conversation with, who was not at all impressed with my cool, languorous disdain for like, society, man.
“What if everyone thought that way about everything? Wouldn’t everything fall apart? Wouldn’t the world collapse?”
Even if she’s right, I can’t think of a single thing that is anything less of my fucking problem. I am not here to keep this Earth spinning. It does that just fine on its own, and I’ve never seen it slow down, not even a bit, because I didn’t respond to an email I was “supposed to” at 10:45 p.m. on a Wednesday night.
Shit would suck, I guess, if society completely fell apart and like, humanity ended… I guess. I don’t really know. Neither do you. But it doesn’t matter what side of the argument you fall on. None of us is big enough to bring down whatever this churning mechanism is that we’ve created for ourselves. That’s the truth—that’s the truth—and since it is, I’d much rather live within it entirely on my own terms.
“You’re just lazy,” mother said to me some nineteen years ago.
Of course, I couldn’t leave it at that.
“What’s so wrong with being lazy?”
“You’re too smart to be lazy,” she said.
She wrong. I hate to say it, but my mother’s wrong. I’m smart enough to know it doesn’t matter if I’m lazy or not.