Robert Heinlein said you never truly own any more than you can carry in two hands at a dead run. In my book club we just read two books in succession about people being controlled by an outside force via threats to what they love.
Growing up, I learned that caring about things is dangerous. If you care about something and other people know this, it can be used to control you. “Do what I demand or this thing will be taken from you. Or destroyed.” There are no limits to this, there is no true security. As such, I’ve tried to limit what I own, and what I care about. I drive the most bland, boring car I can, so I don’t overly care if it’s damaged. Until recently I didn’t own a home – I loved renting. Renting is great because not only can you move whenever you need to change locations, you aren’t invested in a conspicuous immobile thing. If you have to abandon it to flee the city, or if an enemy burns it to the ground, it doesn’t matter. It’s deliciously liberating.
Not caring about people is harder in some ways, easier in others. Easier in that it comes somewhat naturally to me now. I had a lot of experience earlier in life in having my feelings for other people used by those people as weapons. (Surprisingly, it was never an outside force that threatened my loved ones, it was the loved ones themselves who threatened to withdraw. That didn’t occur to me until as I was typing this.) As such I’ve already developed a reflex for not caring too deeply about anyone without even meaning to. It’s important to be able to walk away from any relationship if it comes to that point. It’s harder in that we’re instinctively social animals, and too much isolation becomes painful. This used to be an extreme problem for me, but I managed to get over it a couple years ago, which will have to wait for a future post.
Stereotypically, not long after I finally became comfortable with myself – fulfilled and happy living alone – I met my girlfriend (now fiancé), so I didn’t have very long to enjoy it. I’ve heard that’s a common thing – once you finally stop wanting a relationship you somehow fall into one soon after. Perhaps relationships are like guns or positions of power – you aren’t responsible enough to have one until you don’t want it, and there’s only one (long and painful) way to get to not wanting it.
There are still things I care about deeply. My girlfriend. Eliminating death. Creating things. But I’ve come to accept that letting go is a vital skill, and not knowing how to let go of people/things is as bad as not knowing how to read*. You aren’t fully human without it.
*by “read” I mean “be able to communicate an idea to people who aren’t present via durable symbols”.
**the pic accompanying this post comes from the CyberPunk 2020 RPG soucebook, from the chapter on equipment. It comes with a caption of “Your Outfit – your worldly possessions stuffed in a 2×4 carry bag.” It was my pre-teen self’s first exposure to the concept of a life unencumbered by stuff.