One year ago, I was a sophomore in college struggling with an anxiety diagnoses and general unhappiness that felt unjustified. I was doing all of the “right” things: volunteering, turning in assignments early, exercising daily, and eating healthy meals. I consumed myself in work and school, studying 24/7, partially fueled by intense anxiety about grades and the other half to avoid thinking about not having made the friends or built the life I had hoped to in school. I didn’t even listen to music anymore. I told myself I didn’t have time. I removed all avenues of beauty. Most people, professors and friends, patted me on the back. What a good student. Sarah’s such a hard worker.
To be fair, I paved this path to burnout myself. It was easier to feel like I was doing well when I was doing more than everyone else. I was deeply entrenched in the American ideology that my worth was only in my production. I treated myself like a machine.
I was not a machine.
Self-care is a hot topic right now, not just because bubble baths are nice, but, because we live in a culture that so desperately needs it. We and our parents and probably their parents work overtime and weekends. It’s what we are used to. It’s how we’ve all grown up. It took a season of panic attacks, of spending more time crying than not, of secluding myself from others to push me to ask myself what was wrong. I write a lot about sustainability on this blog. Here is something I know is unsustainable: measuring your worth by output. How much can I do? How high can I score? How far can I stretch?
So, one year ago, I challenged myself in a different way. I asked my friend Ryan to show me how to set up a blog. I wanted to keep myself accountable to do something that wasn’t measurably productive. I wanted to bring creativity back into my life but I knew that if I didn’t set myself up to be accountable I’d eventually shirk it off for things that felt more “valuable”.
Creativity is life-giving. There is something vital to human wellness in the act of creating that we can’t get anywhere else. I believe that the need to create is present inside of all humans, but it’s a part of our identity that we often ignore. It cannot be done quickly. It is not a formula. It does not make sense with conventional values of success. And yet it’s the very slowness of creativity that, in many ways, saves us from ruin.
I am not saying that blogging cured my anxiety and workaholism. (Surprise! It doesn’t work that way. I saw a professional and went on medication as well. I do not advocate ANYTHING as a substitute for that.) But weaving creativity back into my daily life, the act of writing, allowing myself to put together colorful outfits again, helped me reshape what I saw as meaningful. Slowly, it brought balance and beauty back into my life. Even though I still have hard days, I am overwhelmingly happier with my life now than I was a year ago.
Sometimes I feel completely hopeless and stuck and I can’t do anything about it. I can journal and talk my friends’ ears off and pray until I exhaust myself. I just have to live until it passes. But sometimes, I can sit down and brain storm ideas for blog posts, or come up with a photo shoot idea, or sit in my closet for hours creating new pairings. I can feel my heart jolt back to life a little bit.
Blogging is an expression of my need to create. And maybe it isn’t yours. But I hope you find the thing that you love, something that probably isn’t useful on your resume, and I hope you do it. You deserve to enjoy your life. Maybe it is too simple a thing to say, but I sure need to hear it sometimes. If no one has told you today, you are vast. There is a whole world inside of you that is not meant to stay there. The things inside of you are worth being expressed and shared.
Thank you for this past year, for being a part of my little victories. I hope to be a part of yours too.