“But failing is universal. It’s a language almost everybody understands. Without slipups and mistakes and doing the wrong things because the right ones still seem so scary, we’d never figure out who we are. Plus, failure’s never permanent. It’s part of the process, not what defines it.”
A candid, funny, real, and relevant collection of essays by the very lovable Anne T. Donahue. Nobody Cares features essays about the messiness of being alive in your twenties and thirties in this day and age: anxiety, school, jobs, productivity, and failure, to name only a few topics. These essays are a salute to the “beautiful disasters” we can all be at times. Donahue is the voice inside your head, if that voice was incredibly witty, funny, and profound (a.k.a. the inner voice we should all aspire to have). The title of the book is a great reminder of something that we all often forget: nobody really cares what we are doing, whether we look good or bad, whether we go to this party or that, which can be a really freeing realization—especially when you’ve spent most of your life trying to convince people that you are a capable and functioning human being. Above all, Nobody Cares feels like a warm hug from someone who’s been there and is here to tell you it’s going to be fine.
Nobody Cares is also an ode to growing up and realizing you are the ringmaster of your own circus, your own life, your own narrative, and your own adulthood (it could honestly be considered a self-help book if it weren’t so damn funny and relatable about being a mess and trying to seem like you have your life together). Donahue opens up about her own history in the growing up process and not only teaches us what she has learned, but also reminds us that there is no one set way to grow up or one set path to follow: growing up is hard, being an adult is hard, and we are all just trying to do our best. A particular highlight is the chapter where she makes a list of things you should be doing if you’re feeling like an anxious mess: breathe, go for a walk, or drink water, but more importantly eat what you’re craving, watch something comforting, and try your best to get rid of the negativity in your life. They may seem like obvious self-care practices, but when you are feeling like an anxious mess, all logic goes out the window. That’s why Anne T. Donahue and Nobody Cares are here to let you know that you’re going to get through it.
Donahue also reminds us in an essay poignantly titled “Failing Upwards” that failure is natural and it’s an essential part to figuring out who we are. Many are brought up to fear failure and only crave perfection, but this is unrealistic. At a certain point, everyone grows up and realizes that trying to be perfect is a waste of time and energy, and it’s much more fulfilling to just be your messy self and everything that comes along with it. She also keeps it light, funny, and continuously relatable in other essays about her love of Titanic, the awkwardness of dating, how she learned to abandon her notion of “real music” and just love One Direction, and especially her conversation guide on how to “really make a splash at a party.” Another highlight is her essay about female anger and how only recently has there been a socially acceptable place for female anger in our culture and society (partly made possible by the Me Too movement) and lets us in on her own history of being a woman as well as letting go of problematic opinions she held in the past. Donahue always keeps it real and reminds us that saying no to things you really don’t want to do is perfectly fine, especially when dinner with one close friend is always more exciting than a party full of people. Overall, Nobody Cares is a collection of snapshots of growing up and trying to be an adult, a reminder that life isn’t perfect and doesn’t have to be, and a celebration of the oddly comforting feeling that we are all beautiful disasters in our own way, no matter what. Highly recommend. 5/5 stars.