My roommate is the most compulsively organized person I’ve ever met. She writes down everything she does – and I do mean everything – the night before, if not sooner, in her gigantic, perfectly parceled out planner with a section for every activity you could think of. It even has matching sticker sets, like a little latte cup to put on days you get coffee. She makes special bath scrubs and essential oil sprays for every part of your body, she’s always taking artsy photos of her tea when she goes to do homework at Starbucks, and she has a designated time for every chore from laundry to cleaning the bathroom sink. It’s dizzying to watch her exercise control over every aspect of her chaotic life and mold everything into a perfect checklist of things to do by the hour. In her world, nothing goes unaccounted for.
My life, on the other hand, is hectic on a good day. It’s not that I’m not organized, just not compulsively so, and in a student’s life that can make all the difference. If I have the foresight to write down my homework in my planner, I consider it a success; usually when I finally carve out a time to study I have to spend the first few minutes rifling through my syllabus to find what work is actually due for the next class. I couldn’t make it to one yoga class a week, let alone five. My idea of self-care is binge-watching The Office in my sweatpants for fourteen hours and eating lunch at 4 pm when the sun is halfway set.
If I was forced to write down and plan every aspect of my life, I would break under the pressure within a week. I thrive on being able to be spontaneous and use my free time however I decide, even if it’s not what I had originally planned. If my meticulous roommate was forced to live the way I do, she would constantly be too anxious to work, not knowing what she’s supposed to be doing. She needs the control over her life to practice good self-care, like the positive yoga blogs that are all the rage nowadays. On the contrary, the need to control my life makes me too stressed to enjoy it.
My self-care is not picture perfect. I don’t sit and color in an adult coloring book while making tea and preparing meals for the next week. Self-care, to me, means that I give myself the freedom to do what I want and to enjoy doing something meaningless or doing nothing at all. Unfortunately, my life is not what all those positivity blogs want it to look like; it’s much more similar to the thinkpieces by baby boomers about why millennials are “lazy” and “selfish” for never doing anything productive. I’ve struggled with the guilt of knowing that my life is not what other people say it should be. But self-care can’t be dictated by other people. It’s right in the name: self-care means doing what is best for you, not what’s best for some anonymous blogger with big ideas. If yoga makes you feel better, great! If it just makes you cranky because you’re not flexible enough to do the poses, maybe you should look for other ways to relieve stress. It was a struggle to accept, but I’m working on treating myself in a way that makes me happy in relaxed, not more stressed because of all the expectations placed on me. There are always options, and it’s ultimately up to you to decide what is going to make you feel better, not worse.