There are so many self-care or self-help books out there that operate under the guise of improving us. Of elevating our identity and crystallising into something more ideologically secure, consistent, and productive. There are so many means of approaching ways to improve our emotional wellbeing, mental health, physical fitness, and overall social prospects. It can get super overwhelming. You aren't alone in thinking that. Particularly when entering the office of your guidance counsellor in high school when the walls were pasted top to bottom with naff inspirational posters and placards. 'It's not about the destination, it's about the journey'. Or 'things that are hard are worth fighting for'.
The old faithful: 'Life isn't a competition'
Honestly, I'm sure all of these epithets are true, but that's not to say that there isn't more informative, helpful advice out there. Like, there's a reason the clichés exist – because they're solid – but I can do better.
So I ask you, my implied audience, a question. What's gold dust?
The art of not caring.
Just get that tattoo you keep thinking about!
Yes, 'permanent' is the buzzword that tends to get thrown around in tandem with 'tattoo'. It is paired generally with the well-meaning but patronizing: 'are you sure?', and the disapproving: 'you'll be stuck with it, you know'. But also, permanence is something that we are instructed to crave; all social endeavours are pursued with the anticipation of achieving long-term goals. Promotions at work, relationships, fitness regimes, and self-improvement. These are all movements that correspond with commitment and intentionality, and getting a tattoo is no different. Certainly, it requires thought and consideration and doesn't necessarily benefit from rushing into it. However, society has a difficulty in reconciling the positive tenants of permanence in this context.
Also, I'm not going to lie, I love my tattoo and it has a personal meaning for me, but I forget it's there half the time. I probably look at my ankle around three times a month, tops.
By getting my tattoo, I'm not signing my soul away
But yes, permanent is a big word, one that you would think is synonymous with 'eternal', but is in reality just another word for 'constant' – after all, for all this talk of the hypothetical future, we only ever live in the present. Put that on a poster. In twenty years I may hate it. But, in twenty years I'm just as liable to hating any arbitrary part of my body, thanks society.
In terms of how it affects other people, this is like cutting my hair or wearing a skirt, which is to say, none of anyone's business.
Anxiety will always be there to put a stopper on how we behave
We can adapt and move with it, but hoping to be totally 'cured' is futile and misguided. We're not broken to be fixed. We do, however, sometimes need to be ushered out of our comfort zone in order to expand our horizons.
Everyone gets it slightly differently, and it jars differently with each person's individual personality. It's difficult to diagnose young, particularly in girls as it manifests in much less typical ways than people generally know to look for. It's limited attention span, inability to focus, constant need to fidget – you can't sleep, you spiral, basic tasks become impossible. The feeling as though you have constantly forgotten something. Or like you have a To-Do list as long as your arm and no way of making an inroad to it. It can be ultimately summed up as the feeling of your stomach drop on a rollercoaster. Except you aren't convinced that you will ever reach the bottom and level out again.
That's the terrifying thing
It's not just mental, emotional, or psychological, either. It manifests physically in a big way. Twisted stomach, indigestion, vomiting, and all manner of bladder-related complications. These are things that we learn to live with as part of life – we never stop to think of them as symptoms that manifest as part of anxiety – something that might be treatable. Something that the everyday person doesn't have to think about – it can consume us. As with all forms of mental health, it deteriorates, often without reason or cause, and that can be the most frustrating. When you look around yourself and on paper, life is good.
You have a job, a partner, a selection of hobbies that you're pretty sure satisfy you. And yet.
And there will always be an 'and yet' in the distance