“You’re not creative.”

Has anyone ever said something that caused you to question the very essence of who you are and your place in the world?

I experienced one such time last week, when I was told by someone, “You’re not creative.” It stung. More than I would have liked it to. The next few days involved this line as a soundtrack to my daily tasks. Adding extra salt to the cookies before they went in the oven: You’re not creative. Maybe I should start writing again: But you’re not creative. Watching makeup artistry on YouTube, thinking I should pull out my shadows and have a crack: You’re not creative, etc. etc. 

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Insecurities and Turning 30

CW: Weight gain, mental health.

I’m writing this on the eve of my thirtieth birthday, filled with dread and trepidation.

I’m not one of those people who had a ‘To Do’ list for their life – married at 28, kids by 31, house purchased by 35. Not only because the housing market has completely tanked any chance my generation had of owning their own home, but because I never thought those sorts of deadlines were very constructive. But now, I’m discovering that these deadlines must have existed in some invisible, secret form, else why do I feel so anxious?

I still have no direction in life. I don’t feel particularly driven. I don’t even know if I want kids. I work a casual job. I’ve had to retrain and start my career again after being forced back to square one thanks to my mental health. I’m living in a city I’ve barely gotten to experience, thanks to the pandemic. I’ve completed a degree in a field that is just as competitive as my Plan A. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been, the result of baking my way through the first, second, third, and fourth lockdowns. I still barely have enough money to scrape together to pay rent. The voice in my head is screaming: WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!?!?!?!?!?!

Perhaps I’m frustrated that I still find myself here. That at 30, it feels like I don’t have any more of a handle on things than I did when I was 20. My therapist has told me she thinks I’ll probably be in therapy my whole life. How’s that for a prognosis?

There’s no direction, no drive. Just uncertainty. And all the while, time keeps keeping on. My eggs are dying. The wrinkles are forming. The grey hairs are sprouting.

Assaulted by these feelings, I’ve decided not to have a birthday this year. I will acknowledge the passing of time, but I will not be celebrating. “Nothing will be open, anyway,” I tell my friends. “There’s really no need to get me anything,” I tell my family. I hope that if I can let the day pass unnoticed by others, then maybe I’ll forget, too.

I’m angry that the pandemic has stolen the last years of my 20s. And I feel guilty for feeling angry because I know others have given up so much more. And what have I lost, anyway? I’ve not ever really been one to go out partying until the sun rises, but I think birthdays have a habit of making you nostalgic for memories that never happened. It would have been nice to have a last hurrah.

Julianne Moore summed it up in Crazy, Stupid, Love: I’m so much older than I thought I’d be.

Of course, I know nothing bad will happen. The day will pass without consequence, just like all the others. It’s not like 30 is a death sentence, and I hate that I’ve internalised this misogynistic ageism from the world around me. Women exist after 30. Women have long, happy, dramatic, purpose-filled lives at 40, 50, 60, 70, 80…

But there is nothing like the passing of time to bite you on your arse and force you to confront the fact that you’re not where you thought you’d be, however invisible those plans were. It’s like those ‘Trace the Letter’ workbooks we did as kids, little dotted lines mapping out the As and Bs and Cs. I want something concrete – a thick ink to stain the page in certainty.

I don’t know what I want in life. I don’t know where I’m headed. But perhaps these feelings that are plaguing me can be satiated with acknowledgement: Thank you, brain, for telling me that I’m not where I thought I would be. I appreciate you taking the time to tell me what an utter disappointment I am – duly noted.

I know no one knows what they’re doing, and I anticipate family members reaching out after reading this telling me they felt the same way when they were 30. Maybe in a few days I’ll have a little perspective. But right now, alone, I’m not really feeling it.

I don’t have a rallying cry that will give this piece a cathartic resolution. That also wouldn’t be truthful. All I know is that I will wake up tomorrow morning, another Tuesday, and try my best to get through the day. That’s all I can manage right now.

All Dressed Up with No Place to Go

At the height of lockdown, I was an unkempt mess. With hairdressers and clothing stores shut, and university transitioning to online learning, there hardly seemed any point in getting ready. I slumped around in tracksuit bottoms and with unwashed hair as my mood plummeted. I stroked my patterned dresses with a sigh, lamenting that I couldn’t wear them anymore. Then I saw something on Twitter.

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Buying the Milk: Working with Mental Health Problems

Content Warning: Depression, anxiety, suicide, abuse.

I went to a job interview not too long ago, for a job I thought I wanted at the time, but I now view not getting it as a blessing. I was so anxious throughout the interview that my social anxiety of not wanting to drink the water they gave me for fear of being ‘too much trouble’ gave through to drinking the whole thing and asking for more. My throat closed up, my brain was foggy. I didn’t notice until I got back in the car that I had completely sweated through my dress. One question in particular threw me: “So these gaps on your resume, what happened there?”

There’s no easy way to answer this question. Saying, “Oh, I think that about covers two suicide attempts, three emotional breakdowns, and a general sense of futility about life” wouldn’t lead to them offering me the job. “That’s when I went back to study,” I replied, only partially lying (there was time spent studying, dispersed with depressive episodes).

If the panel knew that my mental health had caused me to abruptly leave a job, that my anxiety about answering the phone meant I wouldn’t be able to be very good at the job they were interviewing me for, that my depression could flare up at any moment and would put me at serious risk of abruptly leaving the position, they wouldn’t have hired me. Well, they didn’t end up hiring me anyway, most likely due to the excessive sweating.

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A little while ago, a term circulated on Twitter, favourited and retweeted by an abundant amount of millennials. The thing we all had in common? That we were “Laptop-Poor”. This is a specific kind of being broke, where we have a place to live, and access to all the benefits a middle-class upbringing affords us, such as having a laptop. Many of us even had university degrees. But we don’t have much else. And you can’t exactly use your laptop to pay for groceries each week, unless we’re heading in the direction of a weird bartering dystopian society, which could well be possible. 

I am aware that I am in a position of privilege. I’m not homeless. I can afford rent. But I can’t afford much else. 

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✨ 2018 New Year’s Resolutions ✨

I’ve never been one to make resolutions. When someone would ask me what my resolutions were, I would stick my nose in the air and reply indignantly that if you wanted to make a change in your life, you shouldn’t wait until the new year to implement it, but you should change things right then and there.

While great advice in theory (albeit arrogant), the problem is, I don’t do that. It’s not like I get halfway through June and want to make a major change in my life.

There is also a certain mental shift that occurs when it comes to a new year. It provides an opportunity for reflection (a task that I believe wholeheartedly in), as we consider everything that’s happened in the year past, while imagining what the year ahead will look like. While the date is arbitrary, it does provide a solid starting point to make some change.

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