My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!
First Fig, Edna St Vincent Millay
Eight years ago I became I tightrope walker. I inched high on fine wires that lasted from dawn ‘til sundown. In roaring winds I walked above a wailing sea, home to my own Scylla and Charybdis of despair and loathing – their sharp toothed offspring floating on the waves. They were the only audience in this damned circus. Open mouthed and ready for the drop, salivating a glitter into the black water.
Only twice has the rope snapped; emergency rowboats were called. Their flashing lights licked the ever present line I would walk again after recovery.
But it was a profession for the very young, fine swimmers with bones that bounce. Years went by as tattered slippers fell from calloused feet, the waves grew calm, the string wider. It was easy to cross from one side to the other. No danger or fear of falling. Naturally, stability does not make for good entertainment. The show was only billed once a year, if that.
Soon after, I bought a pair of giant silver scissors and sliced the rope in two.
We live in an age where everything is instantaneous. The ability to receive news alerts, share our innermost thoughts, book tables, flights, dental appointments and shop is all contained within the screens at our fingertips.
Because of this, we want everything done yesterday. The 18 to early 30-somethings populate the millennial generation rife with millennial disappointment. The cause of which varies from the impact of current government, high expectations at a young age and other external/internal pressures, meaning this age bracket is currently suffering a harsh reality kick, i.e. we may not get exactly what we had hoped for.
Social phenomenons like the ongoing battle of YOLO (you only live once) vs FOMO (fear of missing out) mean I, like many people, want to do everything at once. I over commit when I’m in a good mood, say yes to three plans on the same day and end up cancelling them all because I can’t face leaving my bed.
Occasional days like this are fine, normal and completely acceptable. But when it creeps into the everyday, pushing through and doing even tiny things will make you feel better. Like showering, working out, calling a friend, taking a walk in the park, being nice to a stranger, reading a book, buying yourself a slice of pizza. Anything. Embroidery artist Hannah Hill makes badges, with a feminist edge, to remind us of the importance of self care. Gemma Correll also produces rewarding stickers for adulting.
Because when you grow up, not many people say well done for doing minor things. Sometimes it’s only if you’ve really screwed up that you’ll get recognition. Not always, but it happens.
In a time when magazines prey on the void of confidence present in both genders, it’s near impossible to get on the property ladder, or do your dream job without ten months of unpaid interning, don’t worry. Among the adverts beckoning you to lose six lbs in 60 minutes, how to make a marriage work, finally get the <insert desirable thing> you’ve always wanted, the best advice you can remember is:
You are doing okay.
Always remember the importance of cutting yourself some slack. Of being yourself or sometimes saying no without explanation. Taking time for you. Going at your own pace and taking stock of what you have going on.
Despite the omniscient screens glued to our collective hand, you are not the sum of your likes on Instagram or how many followers you have on Twitter. Imagine if all of those people were following you in real life? That would be terrifying. Artists like Amalia Ulman are investigating the inherent social worth in being a successful online personality. The idea of going from a no one to a someone. This is hardly a new concept but the platform is, due to how readily accessible the internet has made image sharing and lifestyle #goals. Unsurprisingly, a lot of How to be Happier articles encourage the removal of screen time in favour of doing things that reconnect us to those in the physical world.
You may not be able to change the whole world but you can change your portion of it. Impossibility is a mostly mental construct. I used to worry so much about all the things I want to do and haven’t yet, about the gap year I’ve never taken, the instrument I haven’t learned to play, the long term relationship and accompanying partner and children I don’t have. But I do have time.
I am planning continually with a healthy dose of realism or slack cutting. I want to do the MA in Gender and Law that’s always on my mind, I want to travel around South America, live by a lake in Canada for a while, write a book of short stories, and more.
It’s never too late to do something you really want to do. Plan. Map it out. Achieve it bit by bit. Because, although the odds can feel stacked against you in Western societal terms, you have a choice to change things for yourself. I choose not to squander my options, I choose the opposite of the rut, I choose to do something.*
*Except on days where I’m really into a series on Netflix.
Image credit: Wonderful image stumbled upon from this guy’s blog.