In an irreverent move I have decided that this year's Lenten penance will be giving up giving a fuck. As soon as I write that, it seems coarse and vulgar and not how it felt in my head. Seeing the word "fuck" isolates it, and makes me think of its literal meaning, whereas the phrase hung as a unit in my mind. I was waiting to respond to the next person who asked me "What are you giving up for Lent?"
"Giving a fuck."
What do I mean anyway? Worrying? Caring? Caring what other people think? It's hard to pin down. Caring so much about non-existent or potential observers maybe. Or calculating the knock-on effects of my actions, or more usually inaction, to the nth degree. Maybe.
Yesterday I was asked, by you can guess who, what advice would I give to myself at the age of eighteen, or nineteen, or twenty. I normally skip over these ages as a time where little would've helped, preferring to castigate my sixteen year old and twenty-five year old selves. So what would I say to my twenty year old self? Twenty is harder than eighteen or nineteen.
Give yourself a chance. You are worth more than this miserable existence you're enduring. I think the latter is harder to say; you can't say it, you can only make people feel it. I go back to give yourself a chance.
Take a chance on yourself. Take a chance that if you work hard it'll work out. I was an awful slacker, almost the definition of a self-saboteur. I can see myself in Kristen Neff's book "Self-Compassion" in the character who leaves buying black shoes until the morning of his wedding. I've always been a Last Minute Lucy, hoping for a miracle or accident to save the day. Neff writes "Failure of some sort is inevitable when we only make a half-hearted effort." I would say to myself: I know you hate the pastoral section of the 16th century poetry course, but don't bank on mutability coming up. Remember Leaving Cert Irish when you left out "Fill Aris" and that was the poem on the paper? All the work you did (at least 90% of the course) was a waste because you didn't cover all the bases.
Give yourself a chance, as much as you give others a chance. So what if none of your friends are doing French and the classes are on at awkward times in awkward locations? All that matter is that you are doing French.
Focus on you. This is your time to focus on you. Stop being hung up on the parents/the family/ your mental health/ Sylvia Plath. In fact if there is one piece of advice that would benefit not just myself at half the age I am now, but millions of other post-adolescent young women it is this: You Are Not Sylvia Plath. Focus on you now, and as a result you'll eventually have more interesting things than yourself to focus on.
Take a chance. Go out with that nice boy who likes you. Take a chance. Eat those dinners and stop propping that exit door ajar. There's an awful draught.