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Nobody Cares

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

"This is all terrible," I thought to myself. I was scrolling through a 94-page word document full of poems I've written since I published my last poetry book (called, I Like It Cuz It's Pink). I both loved and hated my last book of poems. Loved, because I worked and re-worked and edited and re-edited them to the best of my ability. Hated, because I rarely like anything I write, and my book was, in hindsight, not that good. But art is rarely good, and instead of ruminating on what I wrote and hated, I stubbornly keep writing, which is great, expect sometimes I hate everything new that I've written as well. "They read like songs without music," I told Mike one day. Not necessarily a bad thing, but have you ever just read song lyrics without knowing the song? Most read as slightly incoherent at best.

My poetry is best experienced out loud, and the conflict I now face is writing poems for the stage and also for the page. Some days, I hate everything I've ever created, and after staring at my computer for ages, I look up and realize that nobody cares. People are everywhere, noticing nothing. Thinking about themselves and barely, rarely thinking of me. The fact that nobody cares is sad, if you want it to be, or it's the most immaculate channel to creative freedom you could ever imagine. So you create something barbarically bad? Nobody cares anyway. So you made a mistake on whatever thing you're trying to perfect? Chances are, nobody cares anyway. So you're embarrassed that you're a bad dancer? Nobody cares and no one is watching, I promise.

People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think they do. It’s a fundamental law of human psychology, and it actually has a name, "The Spotlight Effect." You are your own primary focus and I am mine. We can't help but see the world with ourselves as the referent. We are each at the center of our own small universe, so it makes sense that we overestimate the extent to which others focus on us.

Cameron Hanes made famous the phrase, "Nobody cares, work harder." Nobody cares how great you think you are, or how talented. Nobody cares that you're frustrated or that you're full of yourself. Nobody cares that you did something embarrassing or said the wrong thing. Nobody cares that you reached a goal and nobody cares if everything you ever create is absolute trash. Nobody cares. Besides, the point of doing anything shouldn't be for the adoration of others, nor should it be to avoid embarrassment or escape judgement.

Some things can make you extra self-conscious, like being in a new environment like a new school, workplace, living situation, or even a new state/country. Trying a new skill and being bad at it can also make you extra self-conscious. But on the flip side of that coin is the confidence you'll gain by getting better at your new skill. The fear of being bad at things can be crippling, but it's infinitely better to try new things and fail than to never try anything at all.

The spotlight effect exists because it's human nature to live with a compounded focus on the self. One way to escape the endless loop of self-rumination and perceived embarrassment is to turn your focus and attention away from you. If other people aren't focusing on you, maybe you shouldn't focus so much on you, either.

Anyway, here's a poem I finished the other day that I don't really like, but that isn't terrible either.

Seasonal Depressive Decay

winter in a Northern town

can make you feel like drowning

make you jump at the sound

of your own goddamned voice

to stay is a choice

and I’ll be here tomorrow

the floorboards creak and echo

frost clings to the window

and when people walk by me, I look away

I told him I’d be here in spring if he stayed

he said not to bother with hope

it’s hard as the new frozen snow

bitter as yarrow

I’m addicted to sorrow

and the sky is the belly of a mourning dove

soft and dreary and frayed

the same color as the headstone

of my grandmother’s grave

there’s no sense in saving dead memories

in the summertime we were all strawberry tea

and long, quiet evenings

now when I look in the mirror

my blue eyes turn grey

when I walk to the river

I’m afraid of my inclination to jump

when I turn up the oven, I touch it

just in case I forgot how to feel heat

in the summertime

we were all laughter and sunflower fields

wide open mornings

picnicking meals

and thundering rain

it’s a shame he had to miss the season of decay

we could have suffocated in this room

tomorrow, at high noon

the cemetery men will deck the graves

and fences in holly stems, I guess

I’d rather be dying than dead

would rather pretend it’s okay

to rot from the inside, slowly decay

now the floorboards creak beneath the weight of my feet

but I can’t even feel them

fall asleep with the lights on and dream

of a life where I am not me

and we never happened

nobody believes in reminiscing

for the sake of heartache, but I do

write my name under his in frost on my window

the way I’m beneath him stings

I want to go back to last spring

before the corn ever tasseled

before he caught my heart between his teeth

and shook it like a dog shakes a rope

before I ever had hope

winter in a northern town

can make you feel like drowning

make you jump at the sound

of your own goddamned voice

to stay is a choice

and we were afraid

it’s a shame he had to miss

the season of decay

P.S. Read about how nobody is paying attention on conference calls here, find a new book of poetry to read here, or read more about the Spotlight Effect here.


Sarah Rose

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