Writing as Self-Care

Lately I’ve been pretty into self-care. Recently, I’ve been doing more yoga, and it’s definitely always made a positive impact on my life, especially when I can stop and just let myself breathe for a little bit, instead of letting myself get overwhelmed by circling my head around the infinite number of things I need to do before the end of the month. And I’ve been telling myself that I need to buy some actual yoga classes from a studio instead of just going around doing the free classes (thank you yoga studios for free classes though, they are the absolute best), although my wallet definitely does not agree.

But because of this increase in going to yoga, I’ve also just been thinking about self-care in general, in that it seems like in college I’ve always been stressed. It’s like I operate constantly on a small level of stress, and it always rises, and sometimes deflates, but never actually goes all the way down. And then the best way to deal with it is to read all the click-bait: “13 gifs of The Office that is College Life” or “15 tweets that completely explain how you’re doing in the semester right now.” We constantly circulate these posts of self-pity because we know that everyone else is doing as poorly as we are, and somehow twist it into entertainment.

But I remember a time before all this, in high school. I think it’s easy to think about high school as “the easy days” but also never wanting to go back (because let’s face it, high school sucks). But to me, high school wasn’t easy. It was honestly probably just as rough as college is now, just in a different, more naive way. I went to a college prep school where I was one of the top students, and even though I failed AP Calculus and only passed AP Chem because our teacher pitied our class, I still maintained just being shy of the top-ten percent my senior year (I was ranked seventh out of sixty-nine, so if you round up, I was). But I’d be lying if I said that was easy. I was stressing about getting into college, doing as many clubs as possible my senior year, as well as trying to take as many AP Classes without killing myself. I was crazy busy, even if now it seems like I barely remember it.

But the difference between me then and me now is that I wrote. I have multiple journals, both handwritten and typed, starting from middle school all the way until senior year. I documented much of my life, often because it was a lot harder to talk to my friends, and I grew up as an only child. I used my journal as a way of keeping my stress levels low – once I poured my heart out to my journal, I always felt a whole lot better.

Not only did I keep a journal, though, I was constantly writing. I have about a million different documents, some with bits and pieces of long forgotten projects, some filled with pages dedicated to one idea. I was always thinking of ideas, always writing them down, always staying inspired. I constantly looked up new artists, new music, looked for new books to read, bought more books to read. In some ways, high school was my most fertile time for creative exploration. I wrote poems, I wrote song lyrics, I wrote short stories, I wrote essays – but I never wrote because I had to. It was always just for the pure enjoyment of writing.

But now, in college, it feels selfish to want to sit down and write just for fun when I could be working on the next three papers I have due, or the discussion posts, or even my pieces for this blog. The weekend I cranked out over 20 pages of a story for the Hopwoods, my roommate told me how proud of me she was – not just because she liked the story (which made me so happy because part of me wondered if a lot of it was sleep deprived nonsense) but also because I sat down and wrote this entire story that still has places to go in a little over 48 hours, ignoring all my school work in order to focus on this mini passion project in the middle of the semester. She saw how happy it made me to work on it and to talk on it, and how inspired it made me.

But writing like that can’t always happen – I still have those papers to write. Sure, maybe if I want to go to graduate school and join a creative writing cohort, that’s what my life would be like. That’s not reality, though, and the truth is I have to graduate and find a job.

In some ways, I think that writing, reading, and staying creatively engaged was part of my self-care in high school. I may not have done yoga to calm my mind, but once I wrote a short story where the characters were probably too close to real life for comfort, I felt like I had gotten the problem off my chest. Maybe it wasn’t resolved, but it calmed my mind. And I miss that, I miss using my anger, my sadness, my happiness as fuel for writing, if only to keep me writing. Because although I feel like I’m constantly writing something in college, I still haven’t gotten to stretch my creative muscles out as much as I would like.

But the good news is I’m graduating, and even with job searching and part-timing and every other crazy thing that life throws at me, I know that I can always fall back on writing. Even if my self-care methods change, that love that I have will never change.

Jeannie Marie

A Venn Diagram of hipster music, sappy romantic comedies, nerd culture, adorable puppies, film trivia, totally not rigged awards shows, random illustritive quotes with a dash of not-quite-there-yet charm.

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