FROM THE ARCHIVES: It Doesn't Have to be Forever to be Good
We've published hundreds of stories from 100+ writers in the last three years, so we're highlighting some of these timeless posts in our new From the Archives series. Enjoy!
Have you ever done that thing, where you see someone cute from across a room and before you’ve so much as exchanged names, you’ve pictured all the ways they’ll make you fall in love with them before they eventually break your heart, and then all of a sudden they’ve picked up their coffee and left the building before you even said hi? I am a master of that game. I’ve even played it with salads, finding myself intrigued by the combination of kale, butternut squash, and goat cheese—before reminding myself that the likelihood of me becoming an Instagram fitness celebrity is quite small, so I should probably just stick to the sandwich and apple that I know.
Millennials get a bad rap for having issues with long-term commitment, but I think that what we actually struggle with is not knowing how to pledge ourselves to something (or someone) when we have no contract that says it has to be forever. We are the generation of side hustles and hobbies that become empires. Where others see a broken sandal, we see the opening for a sustainable company that will promote the welfare of vulnerable women in developing countries.
We have this idea that our parents and grandparents were all work and no play (while they, in turn, often view us as the generation of wouldn’t-know-hard-work-if-it-hit-us-in-the-face), but I know plenty of women my mother’s age who just knit...for fun. I grew up down the street from a woman known around the neighborhood for her beautiful yard full of tulips, but she never turned that passion into a show on HGTV, and I think she’s okay with that.
We’ve created a culture built on being the best, at everything. We’re supposed to win so much, that we’ll get tired of winning. Which is a lot to ask of doing your laundry or taking out the trash. “Cooking at home more” has been on every iteration of a goals list I’ve ever had since I graduated high school. I’ll make the grocery lists. I’ll look up the recipes. I’ll set aside the time to bulk cook and meal prep for the week. And then I’ll find myself listening to the fear loop inside my head saying that this is a waste of time because my ambition isn’t to become a world class chef, and I should be spending my resources on growing in my profession—or, at the very least, on maintaining my friendships.
I am by no means suggesting that we stop Instagramming our meals and celebrating fitness milestones with our online social circles. Especially if you struggle with mental health, sometimes those achievements feel like winning a Nobel Prize, and I think anytime we get better at loving and taking care of ourselves, we should be allowed the joy of a stigma-free selfie.
But what if we gave ourselves the permission to be just good enough at cooking that we’re nourished enough to take on the day? What if we fought for 7.5 hours of sleep each night without the added pressure of becoming the next Arianna Huffington? What if “adulting” was just something we did, a series of activities that work together to give us the opportunity to be our best selves—instead of another Olympics we have to break records in, lest we bring dishonor on our families, ourselves, and our cows?
Choosing a salad now might not lead to turning down the ice cream later, and that’s okay. Maybe turning off the shame spiral that usually underscores the ice cream will leave enough space to allow yourself to notice how good that kale made your body feel, and how good the ice cream makes your soul feel. Maybe all these good, realized todays will become worth more than a lifetime of skipped-out-on almost-forevers.
[This post was originally published on March 26, 2017.]
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