Self-care wrapped in a bow

15 September 2020 | Columns

Justicia Shipena



I thought shooting stars were a myth. They may be astronomically proven, and relentlessly depicted in popular culture, but one had never streaked across my eye. This scepticism held true until I was laying on the grass at midnight in the middle of last week.

I was awarded the coveted magic of two shooting stars. I do not know whether my wishes counted - it took a second for my shock to wear off to formulate the hopes I wanted to send out into the universe.

I realised shooting stars are real. I had just never taken the time to stop, look and wait for them to find me.

I’m so used to writing about what I love about others; maybe it is the Gemini in me, but fierce loyalty is etched into my personhood. In short, the people who are in my heart are protected by unwavering friendship and hands to always lift them up. I am so used to showing up for people and things, for work, school, coffee and comfort, compilations of colourful scheduled blocks within my calendar. Funnelling my energy into obligations towards others is easy. Showing up for myself is not.

I have spent most of my time thinking that if I were not working so hard to the point where I could fall asleep doing a certain thing, then I was not working hard enough. If an opportunity presented itself to me, I would take it, regardless of my limited bandwidth. Part of why I have worked this way is because I am me. I was determined to say ‘yes’ to as many things as I could because I never wanted to miss out on the opportunities presented to me. However, everything comes with stress, pressure and sometimes warped views on what it means to be successful.

I have come to realise that never wanting to miss out made me miss out on a lot of life. It took me a while to find the time to stare at the sky until I saw shooting stars. Maybe I had not seen one before not because they are in any way extremely rare or unreal, but because I had only been glancing and I had never been watching.

Another reason for my constant stream of ‘yes’ is that my career was shorter than most. I am a sophomore, thus I felt like I was catching up and that I had to make up for the lost time. Admittedly, the transition was not supposed to be an easy one, pulling my roots from the comfortable to the uncomfortable. Loneliness hung heavy over me as I attempted to navigate new surroundings and social structures.

There is no sugar-coating it under poetic language - it really, really sucked. There was no magical shift in this story; there was no one moment that changed the lens through which I saw things. There was no wand waved over my head bringing contentment as it drained the anxiety from my body.

I was walking up a hill, legs burning, trying to keep the momentum going because I knew if I stopped, I might not start again. There was no time to watch the stars.

There is always going to be something else, something bigger, better, more prestigious, more impressive, more… something. I was so tired from my trek up the hill that I had little time or mental capacity to think about how I wanted to be living. I realised that living anxiously in the moment is not living. I stopped letting unnecessary guilt slip into the joyous moments spent with people I care about. I did not let it disrupt the peaceful scenes spent with myself and a palette of glitter watercolours. I chose fun and I chose to show up for myself.

Again, this shift is not a conclusive change wrapped up in a bow, but rather a daily act of self-care that goes beyond Netflix and reading - though I enjoy both of those things very much.

I learnt that self-care is not always simple and fun. Pursuing it can be tough because sometimes it is easier not to think about how your mindset needs to shift. It costs a substantial amount of energy and emotional capacity, but it pays off with further clarity. I am still walking up the hill, but I think I am beginning to enjoy the view.

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