The 54th Deadline: Care Only about the Thoughts of Those Who Matter to You

The 54th Deadline: Care Only about the Thoughts of Those Who Matter to You


The 54th Deadline: Regardless of failure or success, you learn. Life grants people so many chances to get it right.


In ninth grade honors English class, I recall a random project where we had to write something and then briefly present it to class. Me, being a dork and all, chose to write a fictional, fantasy-like story. At the time, I was really into fantasy roleplaying games with swordsmen, wizards, dragons and all of that jazz. Yeah, I was one of those types of nerds. Sue me. No, I am kidding. There is a point to all of this.

So I liked to dabble in fictional writing as a side hobby during this time – as in, I spent the previous summer just writing random pieces of varying quality during the break. Yup, very nerdy of me.

I ended up writing a little more than 20 pages for this assignment, which was way more than required for this project. The beginning of my story started with a young swordsman training with his father. It was overly generic. Nothing to brag about, honestly.

Social anxiety and all, I stuttered through reading a few pages of my writing in front of the class. With my hands trembling and moist from sweat, a cracking voice and everything else associated with being a nervous wreck.

My classmates applauded me when I finished, but I later found out the “popular” girls thought I was such a loser for writing and presenting something so geeky to everyone. At the time, this shook my confidence. It was not like I was an aspiring fantasy novelist or anything, but my fortitude for this kind of crap was pathetic. I let a few snide remarks about my work, something in which I was proud of when I put it together, derail my motivation to continue with something I labeled as a hobby.

Just like that. This random hobby of mine ceased because of the opinion of a few people. Whether it was right or wrong of me to do so, I did the cowardly thing. Plain and simple.

Words Hurt (If You Let Them)
Many years later, I guess you can say I never really grew out of my insecure shell. Especially after college, I let others decide who I was.

You’re a loser, Nhan.

You’ll never get anywhere, Nhan.

You don’t deserve to succeed, Nhan.

At least, this is how my mind interpreted such banter coming my way. When you sat at rock-bottom as I was, every single comment that hits you stings. It hurts you in so many ways. I was weak. I took every blow because I did not know how to defend myself properly from such an onslaught.

There was no “being a man” about it. I just got the crap kicked out of me in all sorts of fronts. Emotionally, I thought everything in my life was in shambles. I thought my hopes and dreams were dying before my eyes. Heck, the world could have ended the day after the depression kicked into high gear, and I probably would not have cared because at least the suffering would finally end.

In other words, I was in my own personal hell. But here is the main caveat to all of this – I put myself there.

Don’t Care about What Others Think If They Don’t Matter to You
It took a few more years after that horrible span of feeling sorry for myself before I finally got it. What others say to me is moot in many regards. Their words only matter if you let them matter.

People can and will say whatever it takes to get under your skin. I let myself absorb their insults like poison. To succumb to such toxic thoughts is not healthy for any soul out there, let alone one as fragile as mine back then.

At my worst, I became a needy mess. I relied heavily on the comfort of those who wanted to offer words of encouragement and advice in my time of need. In this context, people like this should matter to you. They matter because they care and demonstrate it with actual action – the mere sacrifice of one’s precious time says a lot.

Someone who does not care about you will just brush you off. You are insignificant to them. You are not worth the time or the effort. Fine. Good riddance. It’s OK.

After everything has been said or done, after all of the crap I have put myself and everyone else in my life through, I have learned a lot. This is not about a blind pursuit for positive feelings versus the negative ones. The negative stuff will pop up sooner or later. Instead, finding allies for your personal journey toward self-improvement is the way to go. Enjoy the ride with good company. Don’t let your progress halt because someone who wants to hinder you tries to undermine your momentum.

No matter how old we get, people like the “popular” girls in my class will always exist in some shape or form. I could spend the rest of my life letting other types of people like them put me down. I really could be like that, assuming I want to accept mediocrity or worse.

I say screw that.

I do not want to let such opinions dictate my actions any further. I control my destiny. Not them. I care about those who care about my well-being. Ultimately, I want to make everyone who wants to be in my corner when everything is said and done to be proud of who I become in the end.

That’s the primary goal.

“Hope is my catalyst.” – Nhan Pham

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