Beautiful chaos

19 January 2021 | Opinion

Mariselle Stofberg

I’ve always loved the idea of control. I loved knowing how my day would play out. Sticky notes and planning and to-do lists excited me, and a schedule would get me absolutely giddy.

I thrive on order and consistency.

However, 2020 was everything but orderly. It took my structured world and, like a game of Jenga, kept pulling out the blocks from my perfectly-built tower until everything come tumbling down.

And it terrified me. It shook me to my very core.

Suddenly I wasn’t in control any more. Suddenly I couldn’t plan, and my schedule meant nothing.

I was scared. For someone who loves control, the idea of losing it is more than just an inconvenience. It feels like you can’t breathe.

But funnily enough, this was the best thing for me. For once, I couldn’t plan. For once, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and forced to change my view on the world, myself and life.

Since I was young, I’ve tried to be perfect. I’ve tried to live in this perfect bubble. I’ve tried to do the right things, say the right things and be the perfect person.

I cared about how people would perceive my actions and I cared about their opinions.

And one day, I realised that I just don’t care about those things any more. I started doing things that made me happy. I stuck with people who felt like sunshine, and if people started stealing my sunshine and my joy, I had the courage to let them go. I started realising that you can say no without being selfish. You can start caring about yourself without being narcissistic.

Being forced to lose control was the best thing for me, because losing control meant I lost the structure and routine and schedules that I let define me in the past. I started realising just how short life is, and how much of it I wasted trying to plan everything.

Losing control actually set me free. I stopped doing what I thought I should, and started doing things that make me happy.

I had to go back to square one and discover who I am again, because within all the structure, I lost myself.

I started doing the things that make my soul happy. Dancing in the rain, drinking coffee out of a ridiculous mug, re-watching Friends for the umpteenth time, watching sappy romantic comedies, greeting strangers and seeing their faces light up, petting other people’s dogs and cuddling with my own, reading and reading and then reading some more. I started giving myself time alone where I can be a mess, cry my eyes out, think about life and just be quiet.

I became spontaneous and vulnerable and I said what was in my heart, even when that scared me to death. I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve also been happier than ever.

I’ve realised that it is okay not to be okay. It’s okay to be stressed and confused. It’s okay not to know what your next move is. It’s okay to not have a plan at the moment.

I think January scares us all, because it feels like the whole world is watching you to see what you will be doing this year. We feel the need to be amazing, to achieve the impossible, and we all strive towards the ‘new year, new me’.

We put incredible pressure on ourselves to suddenly change the world. We want to excel in our work, travel the world, save a life, lose 30kg, volunteer, pursue a new degree and be the best and happiest versions of ourselves - all because it’s a new year.

Dreams and goals are beautiful, because they keep us going and push us to be more. But we are all just human. Just because it’s a new year it doesn’t mean you should suddenly become superhuman.

I’m not saying you should live without goals and dreams, I’m saying that you need to give yourself a break. Waking up, despite being tired, is an accomplishment in itself. Doing your laundry, putting on clothes and getting your butt to work or school or university, even though you are tired, sad and scared, is an accomplishment.

You are incredible, and you don’t need to do impossible things to change the world. If you have big dreams, then pursue them. Just keep in mind that control and structure and schedules are fickle things, and they can be taken away in an instant.

If life throws a curveball at you, grab it and make the most of it. If you need a moment to crawl under your blankets or desk and cry because life has yet again pulled the rug from under your feet, it’s okay. Cry your beautiful heart out.

And when you are done crying, get up, stand tall and wear your crown. Chaos is scary, but sometimes the most beautiful things are born out of it.