I remember, a decade or so ago, when the saying “whatever” became popular. I remember, actually, being quite offended by the saying “whatever”. To me, at that point in time, “whatever” expressed an apathy, a lack of caring, it expressed complacency and all that I stood against. “Whatever”, I feared, was the attitude of an entire generation, and I envisioned a whole segment of society that refused to participate in the political process, who wouldn’t vote or contribute to society in a meaningful manner.

As time passed, I found that my fears were, as usual, unfounded. One of the many reasons I’ve decided to just give up fear altogether. The “whatever” generation is actually quite astute and participatory, contribute wholly, and, in all truthfulness, are probably more serious and less apathetic than my own generation.

Of course, I think as I’ve aged chronologically, I’ve actually become younger in many respects. I find that I identify socially, politically, physically, emotionally, spiritually and attitudinally with the “whatever” generation more than my own. Most of the people I find I have the most in common with are about ten to fifteen years younger than me. This I cannot explain other than I am about ten or fifteen years behind my peers, career-wise, partially because I took a bit longer to graduate from college than most, and partially because I compromised my career for a number of years to work part time while my kids were in school (no regrets). But, most of my career peers are significantly younger than me. Between that, and my physical, mental and emotional activity level, energy and enthusiasm, I think I’ve found the fountain of youth and have digressed a bit age-wise.

For whatever reason, I totally identify with the “whatever” generation now. The person I was a decade ago is long gone and has been replaced with a much more spontaneous, wild, fun, active, outgoing, liberated and moderate, “whatever” kind of girl.

As a matter of fact, I’ve found, recently, in the past year or two, the phrase “whatever” has become a mainstay in my vocabulary. I would give my former self hives with the frequency of the use of the term “whatever”. “Whatever” has become my response to many, many, many things. Tonight, I was crossing a busy New York City street, at a crosswalk, with the appropriate green light. A town car came around the corner, right in front of me, causing me to have to stop and wait for him to cross my path so as not to be struck. Rather than becoming indignant or angry, I just shrugged and said “whatever”.  My daughter was with me; she is an English major and is intelligent in every imaginable respect, a delight to converse with. She and I discussed the use of the phrase “whatever”; did it still, in today’s common usage, represent apathy and complacency, or has it evolved, as a saying, into something else? Upon reflection we both agreed that the phrase has evolved to mean, “I agree to disagree”, that I don’t agree, but I am choosing my battles and choose not to pursue an argument on this particular point. I guess, in legal terms, it would mean to plead no contest. I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to debate the point, I am willing to let it go.

In further reflection, I think I apply the phrase “whatever” to scenarios and situations beyond my control. I will admit, I am a bit of a control freak, I always have been, but I am recovering. In my effort to evolve into a more grounded, peaceful, happy person, I am learning that control must be relinquished in many areas in order to more effectively focus on others. My verbal acknowledgement of this fact is expressed as “whatever”. It is my white flag, waving in the face of my submission, my choice to not have to control over every aspect of my life and my surroundings. It is liberating to finally realize that I don’t have to be in control of everything, that I can’t possibly be in control of everything, that I can “go with the flow”. And, when the flow is going where I think it shouldn’t, I need to just let it go and adapt. So, whatever.

We just simply cannot possibly control everything in life we would like to. We can either drive ourselves crazy with frustration and unhappiness by trying, in vain, to do so, or we can learn to choose, to prioritize which things in life we can and should control, and which we should just let go of. We need to periodically reevaluate which things in life we choose to control, master and work towards, and which things can be left to follow a course not under our management. These become the “whatever’s” in our life. Once we identify and acknowledge those things we cannot or will not seek to control and let go, we have more energy and more impact on those things we can influence, on those things we choose to attempt to establish or maintain control over. It is one of the most liberating things we can do.

In m experience, and based on everything I’ve learned over the past several years, we can most effectively control a limited number of things; our personal attitude, our individual happiness, our individual health and fitness, and our suitability for a successful relationship. Everything else, and in particular, the attitude, happiness, health and fitness and suitability for a successful relationship of those around us, our significant others, our children, our friends, our parents, our acquaintances, are well beyond our control. To learn to say “whatever” and focus on ourselves is really, not just the best we can do, but the only thing we can do. Realizing this and then focusing on only those things we can influence, is really the most individually empowering action ever.

And so, I invite you, to just simply throw your hands up, smile a little, roll your eyes and exclaim “whatever!” The more attitude, the better.

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