Checking in: The many and varied forms of self care

No, really: selfies are a 100% necessary aspect of self care.
No, really: selfies are a 100% necessary aspect of self care.

“Self care” has become kind of a buzz term over the last several years. That isn’t a bad thing; in fact, I think self care is one of the most important commitments a person can make. Taking time to check in with yourself and do something that makes you feel good is really, really important, even if it’s just taking a ton of selfies because you feel good in what you’re wearing. For a long time, I’ve associated self care with the “treat yourself” mantra. I do think the two go hand-in-hand to a pretty significant extent, but I’ve also found over the last few months that for me, it’s also really important to pay attention to how I’m feeling at any given moment about any given thing. It’s important to know where my insecurities lie, and why, and how I can live my life without becoming paralyzed by those insecurities.

For me, self care isn’t just bubble baths and fancy pasta for dinner (though sometimes it is, at its core, a glass of wine in a hot tub after a hellish work week). It’s also taking risks to better myself, making terrifying phone calls, asking for advice on how to do adult things from people who make their living giving that kind of advice, and ultimately, taking care of things to seriously improve my situation. I don’t feel comfortable blasting specifics on the Internet about everything I’ve been doing over the last several weeks to get my life in order, but I will say this: in the last two months, I’ve changed full-time jobs, sold my primary form of transportation, moved into a new apartment, and sought out a second job to help with finances. I took a look at my life two months ago and said, “something has to change”. Then I opted to basically change it all.

To the casual observer, I appear to be a fairly impulsive, adventurous person. At the age of 18, I moved 3,000 miles across country to go to college after being born and raised in the same little tourist town, only traveling to neighboring states until jumping on a plane to visit my parents in New Hampshire right before my senior year in high school. My senior year in college, I traveled to the Philippines alone. Last year, I moved to Rhode Island to live with my partner. Last month, I turned my life upside-down once more.

These decisions are misleading. I’m not really an impulsive person at all. I’m very much a homebody with a deep commitment to commitment. I don’t like mass amounts of change. That being said, I’ve discovered that when I get too comfortable, I become paralyzed with fear of change. That’s not healthy. That’s not okay. So the question is, how do I accept change into my life in little pieces so that when the big changes come, they’re less scary? I think the key is going to be checking in with myself on a regular basis — if not daily (because I’ll be honest, I’m not that on top of things), then at the very least weekly.

Another key to this process of adjusting to change as it comes rather than refusing to acknowledge it until situations become super dire is going to be (you guessed it) self care. It’s going to be serious levels of self care in the form of doing things I love (reading books, baking, cooking, making blog posts, making mixtapes, listening to new music, occasionally binge-watching television shows, keeping up with friends). It’s going to be writing in a journal when I’m feeling overwhelmed and even just to chronicle experiences in my life. It’s going to be aggressively tackling debt so that I can someday go back to school and maybe, just maybe, open the business I’ve started to dream about. It’s going to be walking every day (partially because I have to, now that I don’t have a car, but partially because I’ve found that it makes me feel really good). It’s going to be cuddling with my cats when I’m not yet ready to get out of bed but also getting things done so that I don’t get stressed out about wasting time.

I’ve always been a very driven person, but some circumstances have caused me to drift a little bit for the last few years. I feel as if I’ve grown up significantly in the last two months, moreso than I have since before I graduated from college. I finally feel like I’m developing again, learning and growing and changing into someone I want to be (someone I’ve always been, maybe). I finally feel like I’m properly learning what adulthood means and how to navigate it. It’s a scary thing. Terrifying, actually. But I feel good about things in a way I haven’t for a very long time.

Today I’m attempting some new recipes and watching Netflix’s “Sense8” in my underwear. I’m snacking on a little chocolate and earlier I called my best friend of over a decade just to say hi, rather than to cry over the 3,000 miles separating us about how everything is falling apart. It isn’t falling apart, not anymore, and that feels… incredible. I don’t have it all figured out just yet. There is still a lot that I have to take care of. But I have a plan, and it’s a pretty solid one, and that’s better than I’ve had in a long while.

I wrote this post with the intention of talking about how self care, for me, has turned out to be more about being productive and taking care of business than soaking in a bathtub or indulging in extra calories for dinner on a bad day. I don’t know if I actually accomplished that, but… here I am, 25 years old and starting to properly integrate into the adult world, putting the past behind me and focusing on the present and the future. I guess that’s a decent thing to write a blog post about, too.

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Checking in: The many and varied forms of self care

The last two months

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The bike path near our apartment offers beautiful views. (My pasty legs ruin them, though.)

Today, I looked at The Verbal Thing for the first time in a while. I logged into WordPress, went to my dashboard, approved some Pingback comments and realized that I haven’t published a post since March (despite having plenty of drafts to work from). At first, I was irritated with myself. For a while, I was doing really well with publishing regular posts, fleshing out my content and making this space more of what I’ve wanted it to be since it was first conceived. But then, I realized that my two most recent posts were published the week that I packed up my belongings, left my parents’ house in New Hampshire and moved to Rhode Island.

It’s been just over two months since those last two posts were published, and in that time, I’ve learned a number of life lessons, both expected and really unexpected. Living on your own, post-grad, with actual bills is totally different than “living on your own”, in college, eating all of your meals at a dining hall and never having to worry about whether the dorm will have heat or Internet or cable access. Rather than bore you with all of the details of these Very Interesting Lessons (because as we’ve established, I’m kind of a drama queen and not always a very good storyteller), I’ve decided to just… make a list.

Things I Learned at Ages 23-24, After Leaving My Parents’ House, To Live in a Totally Different State with My Best Friend

  1. It is never a bad idea to check your tires for air pressure and wholeness before leaving somewhere (be it your apartment, your place of work, the gas station, the mechanic, the grocery store, anywhere).
  2. It is an especially good idea to pay attention to noises your car is making and take it to a mechanic if those noises are particularly worrisome.
  3. It is always going to be mind-numbingly expensive to fix your car, no matter how well it seems to drive, especially when you lived on a dirt road for two years and have now moved to a state where the potholes are numerous and wide enough to swallow your vehicle whole.
  4. Living away from your parents means that there is no one to yell at you for not doing the dishes.
  5. Despite how awesome #4 sounds in theory, the dishes still, in fact, have to get done. Eventually, you start yelling at yourself to do them, just so you don’t have to think about them anymore.
  6. Cleaning something really thoroughly makes you feel really, really good about your day.
  7. Baking soda is, in fact, an inexpensive but effective miracle cleaner.
  8. Some vacuums require assembly.
  9. Ikea furniture will cause arguments that seem silly, but are ultimately about things that are much bigger than The Fact That You Didn’t Put the Drawer Together Correctly and Now It Can’t Be Fixed.
  10. Communicating with your roommate is of the utmost importance, including (and especially) when you are both frustrated and don’t really want to communicate at all.
  11. You can subsist on nothing but grilled cheese and quesadillas for days at a time.
  12. You cannot do everything completely on your own. Asking for help does not equate with failure.
  13. Doing laundry at the local laundromat is disgustingly expensive.
  14. To amend #12, most things are disgustingly expensive. You still have to pay for them.
  15. There might not always be Enough Money, but in the end, you will always Figure It Out.
The last two months

Baby’s first fender bender

Previously, on Samantha’s Adventures in Car Owning, I learned that getting your car towed is a really expensive, exhausting, terrible experience. In the latest episode of this ongoing series, I learned that getting into a car accident is an even more expensive, exhausting, terrible experience. I will preface this story by saying that everyone involved in said accident is totally okay. That’s something I failed to do when I called my mom, bawling, from the accident scene, and it caused more panic than was probably necessary.

Ahem. On with the story, then.

Truly minor damage, but it still sent me into a tailspin.
Truly minor damage, but it still sent me into a tailspin.

On the last day of January (fun fact: my best friend of over a decade was born on this day; so was Justin Timberlake!), I rear-ended someone while driving home from doing some errands with a friend. I won’t go into details, because ultimately they aren’t that important, but Hazza (my car) suffered minor damages. Being that this was my first car accident while driving and I’m a bit of a drama queen sometimes, I cried a lot at the scene. I cried a lot when we got home. I cried a lot when I talked to my claims representative and I cried a lot when I showed my parents the damage. I’m really, deeply, emotionally attached to my car, and I’m also constantly stressed about money. These factors combined made the whole incident a pretty rough one.

Apparently, the damage inflicted upon poor Hazza wasn’t anything worth crying over. I drove back to New Hampshire a couple days after the accident (which happened in Rhode Island) and it was dark out when I arrived at my parents’ house, so I showed them pictures of the damage on my phone. To my absolute horror and awe, my mother seemed completely unmoved and my stepfather actually laughed. He then proceeded to go outside with a flashlight and look at the car, still laughing; this time, my mom laughed, too.

What the hell? I thought. MY CAR IS BROKEN AND EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE.

Then my stepdad showed me photographs of his first car accident. He featured prominently in several of the photos, a massive bandage wrapped around his head. Also featured prominently in the photos was a tree. The tree was inside the hood of the car parked next to my stepdad. The entire front of the car was crushed and the windshield was shattered. Seeing these pictures made me realize that my accident — a fender bender, by every definition of the term — wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. I drove my car away from the scene. I drove my car from Rhode Island to New Hampshire and continued to drive it to and from work (a 36-mile commute) for several weeks following, while I saved up the money to pay the deductible for my insurance. No one was hurt.

In the grand scheme of things, my first accident was nothing to write home about. I probably could have saved most of the tears.

For the last week, I’ve been without my car as he’s been getting fixed at a body shop that came highly recommended by several of my co-workers. In the interim, I’ve been driving a rental car that quite literally made me feel like I was in the Batmobile every time I got in it. I made a post on Instagram about the weird incognito feelings it inspired. Not only was the rental larger than Hazza, it was entirely automatic. It had Push to Start, an automatic transmission, automatic seat and rearview window adjustments, automatic windows, automatic locks and a fancy alarm remote. Even the trunk had automatic open. I’ve grown so used to having manual everything — even windows and locks — that driving something so fancy felt incredibly bizarre. I kept trying to put my foot on a clutch that didn’t exist and I kept forgetting that I didn’t have a proper key for the car, just a remote. It was very disorienting, to say the least.

20140303_144252I picked Hazza up today, and he’s as good as new. The repair bill made me sick to my stomach, but I’m very, very lucky to have really good insurance. My claims rep and everyone else involved in the process was incredibly kind and put up with answering all of my stupid, repetitive questions. I’ve learned a lot through this whole experience, most especially the value of having an excellent support system. Cars are expensive, but people and experiences are priceless (or something cheesy like that).

Also, when it’s all said and done, there’s incredible value in climbing into a familiar vehicle at the end of a long, stressful day. It’s kind of like a security blanket that just so happens to be motorized.

Baby’s first fender bender

It was a Thursday

fobtatSo I’ve been trying to find a “good day” to drive out to Portsmouth and get my new tattoo for weeks. I turned 23 last month and my birthday gift from my parents was money toward my new tattoo: a Fall Out Boy song lyric on my rib cage, “long live the car crash hearts”. I finally decided to just message my friend Chelsea on Wednesday and ask her to go with me yesterday (Thursday). Chelsea is the person who wrote out my tattoo in beautiful script, so of course I wanted her to be the one to go with me when I got it done.

We drove to Portsmouth yesterday afternoon, listening to music and catching up on each other’s lives. When we got there, we parked in the place I always park — in fact, we parked in a spot that I’ve parked in several times before. The exact same spot. (We’ll come back to this point later.)

While I usually go to Hobo’s Tattoo & Piercing to get my work done, I decided to try somewhere new for this tattoo. I’d heard a lot of really good things about Iron Works Tattoo and I was impressed with the friendliness of the staff and the linework I saw when I went in to have my design appraised last time I was on the Seacoast.

My artist at Iron Works, Jeremiah, was fantastic. He helped me clean up my design and worked with me until it was the exact size I wanted it. He was patient and friendly and made me feel super comfortable, even when I was laying on a table with my shirt half-off so that he could tattoo me.

The pain wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. From everything I’ve heard about tattoos that are on/near/around the rib cage, coupled with my pretty minimal pain tolerance, I expected to be bawling and cursing as I got this piece done. It still really fucking hurt. Like, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I definitely overprepared. The tattoo probably took about 20 minutes to complete and I cursed a lot and made some growling noises and clenched my teeth and kept wiggling my feet inside my ballet flats — but I didn’t cry or yell or do any of the things I thought I would. That means I can maintain my record of saying I’ve never cried while getting a tattoo. Perfect.

Chelsea
Chelsea, pre-piercings, texting about her decision at our favorite Portsmouth coffee shop.

Anyway, despite deciding not to go to Hobo’s to get my tattoo, I ended up there anyway. Chelsea, after much convincing and calming and serious discussion, decided to get her nipples pierced. As a late birthday gift, I paid for one — according to my best friend since childhood, that means Chelsea is obligated to name said nipple after me. I vote she just names it Betty instead, since that’s pretty babely.

(For anyone wondering, her boobs are great and her nipple piercings are great and she is a total babe. Wow, Chelsea. Wow.)

After Chelsea took the plunge and got her nips done, we headed down to Flatbread to share some pizza before going home. Chelsea’s adrenaline rush made her sleepy and not-hungry, while mine made me absolutely starving. I practically inhaled my portion of the pizza. (We ordered one that was half non-dairy, since Chelsea is vegan, and the first one we got was all non-dairy. Our server insisted that we get a new pizza for free, even though I said it was okay and not necessary. The people at that restaurant are so cool. Seriously.)

When we left Flatbread, we were pretty stoked to go home. It had been a good (and traumatic, in a sense) night and we were ready to leave Portsmouth and head back. Obviously, that means something had to go wrong, since the rest of the night had gone swimmingly. Obviously.

We got to the parking lot and my car, with its brand new Hazza vanity plates, was gone.

My first thought? He’d been towed. Obviously. There were signs everywhere about towing and parking is a pain in the ass. I immediately burst into tears, yelled about the cost of picking up a towed car, and called my mom sobbing uncontrollably. Apparently, my mom thought I’d said my car had been totalled — she was rather relieved when she figured out that I only said it had been towed. I couldn’t find a number on a sign anywhere to call, so she told me to call the police dispatch and figure everything out. She also told me that if they didn’t know where my car was, I needed to report it missing. My phone was dying (of course), so I quickly told my partner and my friend that I’d been texting all night, called the cops, called the towing company, and turned off my phone.

The guy at the company told me I needed to give them a half hour of notice before I went to pick up my car… So I did that. Then I pulled $200 out of my bank account (thank the goddess I got paid yesterday, and made a little extra commission on my last paycheck, or I would have been royally screwed), called a taxi, and Chelsea and I headed to the address the guy gave me. There was a CVS across the street, so we went inside to ask for a bathroom (Chelsea had to pee!) and to buy unscented, antibacterial soap (to clean my new tattoo!).

Apparently, no customers are allowed in that CVS’ bathroom after nightfall? Comforting.

The tow truck guy had made me believe my car was not at the actual garage, but elsewhere. So Chelsea and I sat on the sidewalk for a long time, bitching about everything. I started laughing hysterically at one point because I didn’t know what else to do and crying felt useless. We kept talking about how even though everything sucked, last night would make a great story some day. (Remember the time I got a tattoo and you got your nipples pierced and then Hazza got towed? Good times, dude.)

Finally, when it became apparent that the tow truck guy was taking his sweet fucking time to come give me my car, Chelsea wandered off to find a place to pee. Shortly after she left my side, she yelled, “Sam! I found your car!” Sure enough, Hazza was sitting right behind a massive truck that was blocking him in. So basically, we were waiting for this guy to show up and move the truck so that we could leave. Lovely.

We decided to sit in my car after that, and we both charged our phones and I called my mom and my partner and just felt a lot better about things overall. The guy showed up about two hours after I had called to give my half hour warning. He blamed it on some hockey player needing his car towed up to Canada, but. Really? Like I understand we’re at your mercy, but dude. We just wanted to fucking go home.

When I finally got home, my parents had made me comfort food and gave me hugs and told me it was okay and I started crying again because I was so relieved… Meanwhile, Chelsea went home and put on a sports bra and made her nipples very, very happy to not be rubbing against the material of her dress as she walked around parts of Portsmouth with her distraught friend who’d gotten the car towed.

It was a fucking terrible night in so many ways but it was also fucking fantastic. I will never park in that space again. But I’m also pretty pissed at the guy who reported my car being in that spot — apparently, it was reserved until 7 p.m. And he called the towing company at 6:20 p.m. Thanks.

At least I’m totally, totally in love with my tattoo, though. Spending an extra $200 to get it wasn’t really in the plan, but. Shit happens, I guess. I’m just glad Chelsea was there to bitch with me in the dark.

It was a Thursday