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Zoe Bennett

Grade: 11

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Scott Parsons

Letter of Recommendation

Personal Essay/Memoir

Letter of Recommendation

Why I was so Wrong to Think Self Care was Underrated

How society has tricked all of us into thinking that two hours of self-preservation is a bad thing, and the moment I realized I was being tricked.

I don't think it's in our nature to actually take two steps out of our life and actually do something for your mental health, as societal norms practically eliminated this crazy idea from our minds, including mine. Nowadays, the workplace and school are holding seminars and classes aimed at helping us busy people with self care, almost as if they can tell that almost nobody is doing it themselves, making the only time they do it is when they are awkwardly forced to sit on the floor and meditate, undoubtedly thinking, "I could be finishing my sales pitch," or, "Imagine how many of these spreadsheets I could be doing now instead of sitting here." And even though I'm only seventeen, my gears operate just like this.

Up until about two months ago, my life ran like clockwork. I woke up at seven in the morning, washed up, got dressed, kissed my sleeping mother good-bye with the customary, "I'll call you later," farewell that she mumbled through her half-sleeping body, made a makeshift breakfast that I would eat in my parked car sitting perfectly adjacent by the school's entrance, walk up to the doors at around 7:50 a.m., sat through each and every one of my classes like a mindless robot for most, unwinded carefully at lunch, powered through my remaining two classes and prepared for the evening hours; long story short, I wanted to tap out early, yet some of those days I forced myself to scream out my pains deadlifting almost two-hundred pounds at the gym, others I got caught up watching some episodes of Modern Family. The days melded into a single machine assembly, putting me together inevitably into the machine who productively ran through the day smoothly, without any hitches or bumps.

This not-so alarming fact, that life goes according to my clock, and doesn't often do anything out-of-the ordinary, had already circulated throughout my brain by that point. It's that way for all of us who follow a schedule in their lives; whether we recognize the fact that life is practically a schedule that, if tampered with, will completely upset the natural order of things and bring forth what we treat as "the apocalypse." And I thought, "Why don't I mix things up a little?" But the answer was already there: I had no time to mix things up. I work by a schedule that I spent probably a year and a half formulating, and I didn't wanna risk messing it up. Because do you know what would happen if I messed up? I'd forget an assignment, lose precious minutes doing that forgotten assignment where I could be doing something else, have to rearrange everything else in accordance with that error, and I would never get anywhere.

Both my mother and therapist said that if I kept this up, I'd burn out by thirty, and that would be a sad waste of effort. Even at my last checkup she asked me the fairly startling question: "Do I take part in self-care?" My first thought was, "Duh." Of course I did, but a subsequent conversation made me realize that I had absolutely no idea what self care actually was, but rather a twisted version of it: simply doing things you like. I mean, that's a minor aspect of it, but really, not the entire package. There was a whole seminar about it in school: how society as a whole rarely makes time for self care and then they ultimately enter a long, dark road of mental challenges一something I am no stranger to. So here I'm thinking in my ignorant mind, I do self-care all the time, I don't need to go out of my way to make time for it; I can function properly without it. Anyone who's been in the same boat as me probably believes the same thing, right? Well, you shouldn't. Because one day, I malfunctioned.

I badly malfunctioned: there were sparks, an inferno, destroyed gears and latches; I would say I was completely broken down into bits and parts and gears. It hit me days later: maybe I need to reevaluate myself just a little, or at least take a good critical look in the mirror and ask myself the question, "What am I not doing that would help me?" The answer, ironically, was on a Post-it note I'd stuck to the wall at some point or other time that was lost on my memory card. Positive post-its were a suggestion from my therapist, strangely, but I only did them for credit. I never really took them seriously; I just wrote positive things on the colorful squares of paper and taped them on either side of my mirror一which I almost never use. I actually groaned when the thought that self-care was a good idea became the dominating idea in my brain, because I'm thinking, "What part of it I am not doing right?" Turns out it was the "self" part, since I don't really do some of my hobbies to enjoy them for them, but for other, possibly malignant reasons I wouldn't impose on anyone else.

The whole purpose of this is to tell you NOT to wait until you have a full-on mental (or emotional) episode where you completely lose your **** and it hits you right in the head that you need to evaluate yourself and decide, "Do I need to work on my self-care?" High chances the answer is yes, but maybe you simply need to readjust your parameters. I'm still in the process of reprogramming myself to do all the activities I like for the right reasons. It isn't easy; nothing is ever easy at the start. Doing something that is supposed to be a source of relaxation and enjoyment should not be exploited for a purpose that only serves to harm you, whether it's with the monsters inside your brain or the demons staring right at you from across the room. I like to think this inclination is merely instinct or a crutch. Who knows, maybe you'll find great satisfaction in sweating out all your grievances while trying to bench-press a hundred and fifty pounds, instead of imagining yourself exerting that same amount of force to smack the face of someone who recently pushed you to your breaking point. Currently, my brain's malignant function remains in place, but every day I manage to make a small change to the code. How? Satisfying my needs positively, being positive; that's a censored version of my motto. The real one? Can't say it. But you can guess.