In one of my recent “incontri,” our weekly Italian conversational practice shifted to the topic of coffee. We discussed the merits of Starbucks’ simple sugar syrup (I contend that there are none), the alleged inferiority of all American coffee, and our own personal preferences. When it comes to coffee, I’m a purist. A large cup of strong, plain, coffee, to which I can add milk and sugar if I would like, is about as good as it gets. Plus, the wait time for anything fancy at Pi or Starbucks or wherever during peak coffee-drinking hours is just not conducive to my needs. In expressing this to our group of maybe five people, my friend burst out laughing, claiming that “of course” that’s what I would say and do.
The idea that I would do anything but the least economical option was funny, perhaps, because I’m perceived as one who takes everything seriously, who has no patience for excess or frivolity. Normally, when confronted with this opinion of myself, I get defensive and list examples of how much fun I can be. However, that only a) makes me seem like even less fun and b) makes me a liar. So this time, I agreed. Keeping with the coffee example, I do think that it’s excessive and expensive to put whipped cream and extra sugar or flavored syrups into a drink we specifically abuse for the caffeine.
I had always wanted to be easygoing, to be known as someone who goes with the flow. With the development of the “cool girl” persona, the pressure to display this amalgamation of socially constructed traits—down to earth, feminine, worldly, stable, and, my personal favorite, like “a guy in a girl’s body”—has only mounted. Jennifer Lawrence, cool girl extraordinaire, is great, but she’s not me. She might not be her, either. I have a suspicion that we’re all a lot more serious about ourselves than we let on. It’s hard to be honest with ourselves and others that we actually have ambitions and want to show how hard we work for what we have. Instead, we’re expected to make it look effortless and pain-free.
As has been pointed out to me on many occasions, I cannot play the part of the cool girl. And, honestly, I don’t want to. One friend once told me that when we met she thought I was cool, but was then relieved to find out that I was, in fact, not. I found this partially funny and partially offensive, but mostly I just found it true. I take everything seriously. Schoolwork, actual work, plans, trips to the mall, and time to watch “Grey’s Anatomy” are pre-scheduled, thought out, talked about, and anticipated long before they actually happen. Leaving things up to chance is just not in my DNA. And what’s wrong with that? There’s merit to exerting control over your life: ensuring outcomes that are favorable to you. When I was in high school, effort devoted to anything other than athletics was taboo, and I spent a lot of time trying to downplay how much I cared about important things to fit the apathetic profile of the small-town teenager.
When I got to Wes almost a year and a half ago, I decided that things would be different. One of the first things I said to a new friend and current Argus editor was that I’m not a Rory Gilmore (every student journalist’s goal) but rather a Paris Geller. At the time, she didn’t believe me, but in due time she came around to the idea. Paris is great; she might annoy you, but you can’t hate her. The fast-talking, uptight, takes-herself-way-too-seriously foil to Rory has her fair share of fun and drama, all while getting into medical and law school. Frequent public breakdowns aside, why wouldn’t I want to be Paris Geller?
Giving a shit about everything has its perks. Treating every assignment like it’s the final exam generally ensures a high-quality product. Choosing the right place for go to dinner can greatly affect how your night’s going to go. I don’t consider it overthinking things; I prefer to call it thoroughly weighing all options to ensure maximum success.
Though my attempts to reply “I don’t care” to a question are immediately found disingenuous, it is nice to know that my opinions are going to be taken into account in a decision-making process. It’s not about always having your way—that would be nice, though not conducive to maintaining friendships, jobs, etc.—but rather about unabashedly expressing your concern whenever you have one.
In many areas of my life, I have loosened up significantly. This might lead some of you to ask “What were you like before, then?” and others to sigh in relief. I’m not fun, but that’s not a problem. It is not problematic to care. Would it be fun to let things just happen sometimes? Sure. But I think I’d rather make sure they happen the way I want them to.
Schiff is a member of the Class of 2018.