As I look at the food wrappers and Dr Pepper cans littered around me, running my tongue over my slightly furry teeth and trying to remember the last time I got myself a drink, I come to a stark realisation – I am terrible at taking care of myself.
These days, I’m trying really fucking hard to do better, to be better, to find happiness. It’s taking me a long time, but at least I’m trying.
Everyone talks about teenage years being hard – but where the fuck was the warning about our twenties?!? The past 5 years of my life have been the most difficult by far, but also the most awakening.
There’s a lot of talk about what it takes to succeed – hard work (undoubtedly), talent (most likely) and a certain spark (who can tell) – but what do I personally think the real thing is that sets apart those people who have their shit together? They know how to really, truly, look after themselves.
“Everyone talks about teenage years being hard – but where the fuck was the warning about our twenties?!”
Along with integral life skills like managing your money and nourishing your body, looking after yourself is something we just are not taught. Most of us are extremely lucky to be brought up by our parents from a place of love, which leads them to look after us and provide for us and give us what we need. They gradually try to introduce us to the adult world and we end up left to fend for ourselves, but it comes as a total shock to the system.
There’s a classic cultural joke about starving students fending their way through pot noodles, unwashed pots and grimy homes – but that doesn’t magically disappear when we throw those caps in the air. What if we move on from the confusion of student life and just go on as we were, eternally searching for how to get our lives together?
I never thought that looking after myself, in a core way, would be a problem for me. Ask me about correct punctuation or referencing an essay or making a fricking Excel spreadsheet and I might as well be Einstein – but the simple basic human act of taking care of my mind and body? I fail every time.
Is it my depression, my binge eating disorder, or simply a resistance to getting better?
Which of these is it that makes me scared to go outside, or put off going in the shower, or go the whole day without brushing my teeth?
Which is it that makes me keep the blinds shut all day so I don’t feel sunlight on my skin, or that can’t understand how other people physically force themselves to get up and feel human enough to leave the house every day?
What is it that makes me withdraw inside myself, and will time to pass by escaping into stories on screen or in my ears, instead of waking up wanting to be present in the day?
“Ask me about correct punctuation or making a fricking Excel spreadsheet and I might as well be Einstein – but the simple basic human act of taking care of my mind and body? I fail every time.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that happiness is a choice, not a thing or a person. You have to choose happiness, find it within yourself and decide to commit to it. You won’t find it in money, or a partner or a possession. But maybe the key for choosing that happiness is to first do it from a place of looking after yourself? The ‘hot mess’ paradigm might be trendier than the ‘cool girl’ one right now, but is that kind of mess really sustainable?
I know, I know – no one has it figured out. We’re all muddling through this thing called life and no one takes proper care of themselves 100% of the time. But right now, literally 7.2% would be progress for me.
And so, self-care. I’m realising that it starts at a much more basic level than the usual ‘light a candle’ or ‘put on a face mask’ that you might usually associate with the self-care movement – it starts with keeping yourself clean, and fed in a way that’s good for your soul as well as your body. It starts with moving your limbs, taking them outside and breathing in fresh air. With talking to people IRL, with being kind to yourself, with listening to what you and your body needs.
Maybe, just maybe, if I can get better at that kind of stuff, the rest of what I desire so much will start to come to me too. If I can increase the respect I have for myself, maybe the world will respect me more too.