Sunday, July 17, 2011

Care...But Not That Much

The great Herb Cohen quote, "Care, but not that much," was often reiterated by my previous coworker and friend Val. When I would become over-involved in a client's problems (as was often the case), she would remind me that I have to care...but not that much. It didn't sink in well as a 24-year-old. Now, I am trying to make it a life mantra.

For example, if I had completed this master's degree at age 24, I would have been striving to finish with Honors (though it's essentially meaningless and doesn't even show up on your transcript). I would have attended more conferences, tried to publish more papers, been involved in more groups. I have been known to have perfectionist tendencies, and nowhere do these show up more than in my schoolwork.

But now, I am older, more worn-down, and a mother of a toddler. At this point, I just need to finish the degree. I need the stamp on my resume and to move on. I need to care - enough to live up to my professors' expectations and keep my reputation in tact at this university - but not so much as to work myself to the bone.

But you see...it's hard not to care. It's hard not to be the stellar student I once was. It's hard to not get involved, to not go beyond the requirements, to not strive for another gold star on my record, whether it really matters or not. Turns out perfectionist tendencies are very hard to break. So while I hem and haw, telling those around me that I just need to muddle through, just need to pass, just need to squeak by...I find myself caring, perhaps too much.

In writing this, I realized I could write many more posts applying this gem of a quote to parenting, to being crunchy, to helping my family, to being involved in my friends' lives. It is a good life mantra. But I have no time for such contemplating now, as I need to go study more so I can ace -- er, I mean pass -- this upcoming test.

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