How My Definition of Self-Care Changed In My 30s
I used to define my self-care by healthy diet and exercise - practices that helped me maintain a certain appearance that said to the world I was “well”. However, age has had a humbling way of revealing it takes more than green juices and spin classes to achieve an overall sense of well-being. Growing up I spent a lot of time seeking validation from others and very little time wondering what I believed to be true and who I thought I was. My wellness up to that point had more to do with how I thought I was being perceived and less about how I actually felt about myself.
When I graduated from college I moved to Hawaii, a decision my parents weren’t particularly enthusiastic about. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue what I would do when I got there, but I wanted to be as far as possible from New England and everything familiar. I was anonymous for the first time in my life. I drove a shitty car, and slept on a porch and cleaned toilets, and I couldn’t care less about what anyone thought about it.
I lived with three girls and a dog, all of whom lived inside (as I resided outside under a mosquito net) and I split my time between bartending at a dive bar and cleaning beach rentals. One of my roommates was very into “energies” and “vibrations” and frankly a lot of stuff I considered to be complete bullshit until she gave me a book called, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, that kind of changed my life. It’s a story about a guy traveling through Peru on a mission to find an ancient manuscript, while along the way he’s thrown off course due to a series of coincidences that later reveal themselves to be an intentional path to the manuscript. This story probably sounds like a big yawn and TBH I’ve reread the book since and found it to be a bit lackluster, but to a recent graduate, lost and living on a hammock, working seemingly pointless jobs you may be able to understand why the message felt reassuring.
Since my Hawaii excursion, I’ve made a lot of decisions that haven’t made much sense to the people whose opinions I respect most. For example, moving to Australia, going on a blind date to Nicaragua, moving to Los Angeles, and then to Illinois, leaving jobs, taking jobs, guys I’ve dated (and re-dated), peculiar living situations like a floor bed in an attic or an 80-year-old roommate I found on Craigslist. Each decision has been a lesson in trusting myself and taking responsibility for my life, which is a kind of self-care often overlooked but in my opinion most important.