How to Be Indifferent
by Veronica Song
First, if you are the type of person who has personal convictions, strong beliefs, principles, or any kind of soul, get rid of them. After all, being indifferent means having no emotions, and you can only be emotion-free if you have no opinions, morals, or deep beliefs close to your heart. On the other hand, if you are already soulless and convictionless, it will be much easier to be indifferent. In fact, you probably already don’t care about a lot of things around you; they just don’t seem to affect you. Bad events don’t faze you in the slightest. While that might be a good thing sometimes, it also means that you never think about consequences, and you don’t exert any effort to be better because it makes no difference to you if you do poorly.
Take school, for instance. You see other students diligently completing every assignment handed to them, whether it be reading history books page-by-page, meticulously writing out lab reports, or preparing outlines of what to say before literature discussions. You figure that you could be like those students and try your hardest. Or you could be lazy and put forth half the effort but still receive just slightly lower grades than those dumb over-achievers, grades still good enough to get you into college. Since you don’t care about much in general, especially not about learning, this seems like the best approach: it gets you the most reward for the least amount of effort.
Continue this tactic throughout your years of studying. Of course, going down this road requires a good deal of bullshitting (because you procrastinate so much), so make sure to polish those BS-ing skills of yours. Practice makes perfect!
Make up an illness; sore throats and headaches work pretty well. Waiting to see a nurse and getting checked up take just enough time for it to be pointless for you to go back to class.
In case you really screw up, thinking you have more time for an assignment than you actually do, and aren’t able to pull something out of the air and finish it in time, just go to the health center. Make up an illness; sore throats and headaches work pretty well. Waiting to see a nurse and getting checked up take just enough time for it to be pointless for you to go back to class. More importantly, you receive a legitimate “medical pass” to give to your teacher when you finally turn in your assignment a couple days late.
This health center tactic also works well when you just don’t feel like going to class. You won’t learn much anyway, or you’ll be able to make up the missed material very easily, so what’s the point of going? This is especially true when you’ve been dropped off at seven in the morning because you don’t have your own car, so you have to leave the house at six-thirty because your dad has a meeting at eight. You fall asleep on the couch in the day students’ lounge and set your alarm for seven-fifty since you have class at eight… but when you wake up, you’re so groggy and sleep-deprived from staying up late talking to your friends that going to class is the last thing you feel like doing. There’s a simple solution: just walk to the health center! It’s super-close to the day students’ locker room, and you can sleep there if you just pretend to tear up a little and explain how “stressed-out” and “tired” you’ve been lately. The nurses will take pity on you, shaking their heads as they mutter about the difficulty of private school classes and the drama of boarding school life, and let you sleep peacefully for a solid hour. Don’t pull this trick too often, though. You could probably go to the health center once a month, at most, before the nurses get suspicious, so choose when you want to go with care. If you go too often, say once a week, the nurses will know that you’re just trying to cut class—they’re not that stupid—and you could get into loads of trouble if they decide to report you to the deans.
Let’s move on, though. School is one of the least important things to you; you’re a teenager and your relationships with your peers affect you so much more. Of course, you’re still indifferent to everything, so don’t become too attached to any one person. Since you don’t care about your social status or what group you belong in, this ironically makes it all the more difficult to classify you. You could just be in the day student group, but you don’t hang out with them enough to be considered one of them; in fact, many people confuse you for a boarder. You could be part of the Asian group, but you honestly don’t connect that well with them as a whole. They are too obsessed with being Asian, and their cliquey-ness annoys you.
Whatever, you’re just one of those independent people without a real friend group. Perhaps you are close with a handful of people, but you never truly open up to anyone. It’s probably a habit gleaned from years of moving around with your family. You’ve become desensitized to your peers, because if you hadn’t, your heart would have broken every time you moved. You get along with everyone well enough; indeed, lots of people consider you their friend. But all of your relationships remain superficial. You do enjoy spending time with certain people, but you realize that you could just as easily live without their company. Wherever you go, you adapt and make new friends, but never wind up keeping in touch with those you’ve left. It’s a good thing, not being attached, because if you don’t have your emotions invested in something or someone, then you will never have your emotions crushed when that something or someone leaves.
You can take your indifference to an even higher level when it comes to intimate, couple-type relationships, although be warned that it is harder to maintain apathy in these situations. Despite your best efforts, you do care a little bit about getting a boyfriend. After all, for many people, a key goal in life is to find someone to marry and have a family with, so it’s natural that you would want to attempt to find love. Don’t think too much about it, though; it’s not like high school relationships usually end in marriage. Just go about your life as usual, not caring about anything except for those few things that you can’t manage to be indifferent toward, namely your family, a few of your closest friends, and this nagging notion of finding a boyfriend.
Perhaps a random day will come, a day seemingly as bland and uneventful as the rest, when you’ll be matched up in the ping-pong tournament with a guy you’ve heard is cute, nice, and eligible. You’re curious to see if he’s as cute as everyone says, not that you really care all that much. It is a little surprising to see that he actually is pretty nice, but you’re definitely not one of those girls who will fall for the guy that all the girls like. You’ve also learned from years of flirting that… well, that flirting doesn’t really amount to anything, because boys are too stupid to take a hint and too scared to make a move.
Ok, sure!" you'll manage to squeak, but hang up before he thinks you're a crazy idiot who's never gone on a date before (which is the truth).
Since you don’t care what people think or what the outcome of this will be, you might as well make the first move. Ask him to come to your friend’s room to watch a movie with you (after your friend forces you to call him… it’s still pretty nerve-racking after all), but be prepared for him to apologize and say that he has too much work that night. You, for the first time in a long time, might feel a little bit crushed, but just brush it off. Don’t let stupid guys get to you; they don’t deserve you, anyway. It is just as you’re consoling yourself with these justifications, however, when he asks, “Are you free next week? We should get coffee together.” A smile spreads across your face as quickly as it disappeared four seconds ago. “Ok, sure!” you’ll manage to squeak, but hang up before he thinks you’re a crazy idiot who’s never gone on a date before (which is the truth).
The day of the date comes and you’ll feel incredibly nervous. You’re probably angry at yourself for being so nervous, because you don’t even know the guy and he’s affecting you this much, breaking down your hard, painstakingly formed shell of indifference. Whatever, tell yourself you’re just jittery because you’re afraid you won’t be able to pull off this date like you can pull off essays-written-in-an-hour and debates-prepared-in-five-minutes. It’s not like you have any experience with this. Your friend (the same friend who made you call him) does your makeup, and you, for once, realize that perhaps you do at times need friends for support. Without her, you would have been too chicken to call him in the first place, and you wouldn’t even be going on this date right now. Despite your attempts to keep yourself completely detached, some people will always wind up getting to you a little.
Once your makeup is done and you are wearing the cute outfit your friend picked out, walk to his dorm, where he’ll greet you with a smile. Surprisingly, the conversation flows quite smoothly; you’re a lot better at this than you thought you would be. Perhaps those bullshitting skills really have prepared you. This date isn’t awkward at all, and inside, you’re congratulating yourself on how calm you appear. You still maintain your air of indifference, even though inside, he may be--against your will--gradually melting your unbreakable walls away.
From his dorm, walk to the café down the street that everyone at school goes to and order a vanilla chai. The tea will burn your tongue as usual (you’re so sensitive!), but otherwise the date is a success. When you get back to his dorm, he’ll give you a hug and say, “We have to do this again sometime.” He really seems to mean it, too.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll see each other more and more often, leading people to speculate about your relationship. People are so nosy! Then, after he shyly asks you to be his girlfriend—and you respond “yes!” because it has been your goal this whole time—it seems like the entire school suddenly collectively knows that you two are a couple. At first, it’s sort of exciting that everyone is talking about you guys. Over time, though, the excitement wears off, turning into annoyance. You feel annoyed that you’re being paid more attention to now just because you’re in a relationship. You’re annoyed at all the girls who are being nice to you just because they’ve been crushing on your boyfriend. On top of all this, you still barely know the guy, and being under such scrutiny from everyone else doesn’t help you stay calm and normal, no matter how hard you try.
All in all, it’s not the ideal situation, so naturally, you have two options: 1) Try harder to get to know your boyfriend, to maintain the relationship, to make a legitimate attempt at love (but this means you must break your shell of indifference); or 2) Give up because it takes too much effort and makes you too vulnerable, and think of ways to end it with the least amount of mess possible. There could potentially be a third option as well: Don’t do anything about the situation and just see where it leads. You rationalize to yourself that it’ll work out if it’s meant to be, and if the relationship doesn’t pull through, it must not be a good one anyway. You shouldn’t have to work at a relationship!
Now that you have had these various options for your relationship running through your head, though, it’s difficult to continue acting normally, the same way as before. You aren’t supposed to be thinking these things about your relationship. You aren’t supposed to be figuring out the best way to deal with this relationship as if it were some kind of class project. Eventually, even though you want to act like everything is fine, you will wind up avoiding your boyfriend. Every time you see him, you hide somewhere until he’s gone. You feel bad about how you’re treating him and this relationship, but it’s too awkward to do anything else. Time goes on and after a week or two, your boyfriend knows that something is wrong.
This strategy is good because you’re not the one who has to end things. Your boyfriend will explain in a slow, sad voice that he can feel you two drifting apart, and that neither of you has been “looking” for the other anymore. You sigh half-heartedly in agreement, and you two will part ways. Now you feel relieved, free to interact with whomever you want to again. You have maintained your indifference; you have kept yourself invulnerable; you have protected yourself from potentially getting hurt. Perhaps you have wussed out, but at least you never got attached enough to experience any pain.
Now you are free to be indifferent again, to not seize opportunities, to not get involved, to keep your distance from those around you. At times, some emotion will leak through--like when you become angry at your parents because they are trying way too hard to get you into a good college (your grades are probably good enough on their own, so why are they worrying anyway? You’ll manage to pull through), or when you let one player-type guy get to you with his constant flirting. But for the most part, you are skilled at shutting yourself off from the world. So what if you get a C on that paper? It’s not like you were trying anyway. So what if you sometimes get lonely? At least people can never disappoint you if you never let anyone get close to you. So what if you fail a class? It’s not like you put in any effort. So what if you hook up with any guy who pays attention to you? At least none of them will be special and you won’t have to worry about having any meaningful relationships or making yourself vulnerable again. You keep your doors shut and your efforts minimal so that you never, ever get hurt when things go wrong; you have become a master of indifference.