I Care "Too Much" — and That Is a Good Thing

When I was 17, my mom came to my room and found me sobbing openly on my bed. She immediately jumped to the worst conclusion and frantically asked me who had died. "DUMBLEDORE," I choked out before bursting into a fresh round of tears. She sighed heavily, turned on her heel, and left.

I care. About everything. All the time and a lot. I have very strong opinions no matter what the subject is. Things are either black or white; I love something or I hate it; it's amazing or it's the worst thing on the planet — no in-betweens. My favorite show of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My favorite color is blue — not regular blue but azure, because it reminds me of the ocean (which happens to be my favorite place in the world). I get to work early and stay late if something isn't absolutely perfect. I lose sleep at night worrying about the state of the world, places far away, things I can't control. And when I really let someone into my life (which doesn't happen that often), I love them so hard it hurts.

You'd be surprised how much sh*t people like me get for, well, giving a sh*t.

You'd be surprised how much sh*t people like me get for, well, giving a sh*t. Caring so much about things can be perceived as being overdramatic when dealing with relationships; overly anxious when dealing with work, school, or general life stress; and silly or trivial when it pertains to a topic you're passionate about — for me, characters in my favorite books and TV shows. I've never played it cool, for better and for worse. My whole life, I've clung to my social convictions, to my fandoms, and to my overall unyielding passion for everyone and everything on this planet, but along with the fun parts of being so passionate about nearly everything comes a pretty significant downside. My issues with anxiety — which have varied in levels of severity throughout my life — are reflective of my inability to chill for the sake of both my mental and physical health. Despite this, and after years of working to better understand myself and how I function, I can honestly say that I'd take caring too much over anything else, especially apathy, despite it often meaning a more emotional, and even more painful, path in life.

We who care "too much" are the ones who immediately break down at the first chord of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" before images of wounded puppies and kittens fill the TV screen, our hearts physically hurt when we read the news pretty much every day, and as my Dumbledore anecdote can attest, our emotional attachments definitely include — but are not limited necessarily to — real things. We shriek with excitement over the smallest stuff and unabashedly defend ourselves and our passions, no matter how personal they are to us or how pertinent they are to the rest of the world.

People who care this way often elicit bewildered stares or eye-rolls because of what can sometimes be perceived as dramatics or an overreaction. Others wonder why we can't calm down, even just a little. Some can separate themselves from their feelings, because realistically sometimes there's not much to be done — whether it's a pitch at work that fell flat, a plot line in our favorite show that's gone south, a real relationship that just simply isn't working and never will, or a homeless person on the street you can't help. Sometimes people who care so much find themselves alone in the magnitude of emotions about issues — big and small — pertaining to our own lives, or immobilized by the sheer vastness of problems so much bigger than themselves. Sometimes I think about how much easier it would be to be able to turn off my feelings, even if just for a minute of relief. How it may be nice to objectively care about important things, but not ache so deeply about things I both can and can't control. Yet . . . yet, here's the thing about caring.

There's bravery in being vulnerable, in allowing yourself to love and care so much.

Whether it's caring because something terrible happens to a fictional character you love fiercely, whether it's having your heart broken by someone who doesn't seem half as touched by what has happened as you, whether it's laughing uncontrollably at something so small and silly, whether it's being hard on yourself for not living up to what you think is your best, or whether it's shedding tears over a person in pain whom you've never met . . . it matters.

There's bravery in being vulnerable, in allowing yourself to love and care so much, knowing the risk, knowing that it may be to your own detriment, knowing that it may hurt so badly that for a time it leaves you utterly broken. There's strength in allowing yourself to feel weak. Where there is passion, there is pain, but there is also action, progress, and a bold sort of beauty. Passion moves us to make change; it reminds us why we are alive. So, yes, maybe I care "too much," but I've learned that there are worse things than the pain that comes along with caring — and that's not caring at all.