In the past few months, I’ve heard the word ‘care’ used quite often:
- My teacher doesn’t care if I learn.
- My boss doesn’t care that I work hard.
- My friend doesn’t care that she hurt my feelings.
I am not judging. I certainly have used the ‘care’ word enough times in my life. And certainly life is pleasant when the people we work and live with care about our feelings. But recently I was revisiting Jane Eyre and came upon the section where Rochester tries to convince Jane to stay with him although (spoiler alert) he’s already married. Jane loves him, and she is almost taken in by his despair and misery. She asks herself, “Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?”
But Jane has an answer: “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” These are my favorite lines in the novel, where Jane takes a stand for herself. She knows that she can’t stay at Thornfield and leaves Rochester to face the uncertainties of a world unfriendly to the poor and the plain.
Yes, it is wonderful to be cared for and helped. But if that caring is not forthcoming, we can still make our way in the world by caring for ourselves. We learn because education is important to us. We do a good job because we have a good work ethic. If a friend doesn’t care that she hurt our feelings, we forgive or we move on. But we don’t wallow.
Don’t let others’ concern or lack of ever decide what your goals should be. Be like Jane: Care for yourself.