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Why I Don’t Count My Calories, My White Hairs And My Belongings, But My Blessings

Watercolor by Sofia Bonati, print available for sale  here

Watercolor by Sofia Bonati, print available for sale here

I am flawed. I have uneasy cheekbones, almost invisible breasts, and crooked teeth. My nose looks larger than when I was a teenager and my hips have widened. My neck is not very long and my hands are veiny. I have dermographism so each scratch or bump I take will show up like braille or like liquorice on my skin. My legs are not so long and my naturally waving hair never seemed to manage to resist the weather. My history with white hair is long and it would become painstaking to go through it all the way down history lane. Let’s just say that if you end up looking like Santa Claus’ wife at 30 because a) family genes and b) stress you have more important reasons to worry about than why grey hair is not chic.

Same goes for food.

I used to be the kind of child who didn’t care what they eat because I grew up in a time when McDonald’s did not replace lunch and dinner, and playing  in the park with other kids was the only thing you could do – since iPad, tablets and Candy Crush where not invented. We didn’t have time to get bored, and if we did, we’d just open a book. There was not internet back then, while television was really something only adults did.

Illustration by Jenny Liz Rome, print available for purchase  here

Illustration by Jenny Liz Rome, print available for purchase here

But then, in my early twenties, I became anorexic. My war against food ended up in the hospital after I’d only eat an apple a day for two months. Turns out, it didn’t keep the doctor away. This resulted in a very small stomach. Which is why, even now, years after my war with beauty is over, and I am a declared gourmand, I can only eat very little.

I don’t particularly like making New Year’s Resolutions – or any type of resolutions – because I’m much more of a fan of counting things I already achieved. And I think it’s a healthy habit. Projections can be tricky. Sure, we can make lists of our hopes, goals and dreams, but it’s good not to beat yourself up if you didn’t achieve everything on that list.

I grew up with a very fluid self esteem and, in retrospective, I learned only close to my soon to come thirties that I no longer have time to judge myself, be mean to myself, punish and blame myself or procrastinate.

If you’re 30, like me, you probably understand you have a mere 40 years to live from now on. Scary, right? Maybe you’re still living with your parents. Maybe you have an alright job, but it’s not a career. Maybe you’ve been really unlucky in your love life and have stayed single for years, hoping the next best thing is yet to come, or given up hope completely. Maybe, like me, you still get anxiety attacks when you enter a bus, or you don’t feel adult enough because you’re scared to answer an important email. Maybe you also feel like you haven’t achieved anything, that paying taxes from your father’s couch is overwhelming, that you don’t know how to take care of your own children – or worse, that you don’t know if you want children, you don’t have whom to have children with, or you don’t have much time or chances to have children. Maybe you’re worried you are fat, unattractive, different from what people, magazines and internet says you should BE. Maybe, like me, you have a lot of white hair and think that’s a horror show. On top of all, you are probably terrified that one day your parents are going to die. Yes, that sounds harsh and unfair, but it’s also a fact, and you can’t get away with it – but I’m gonna get into the whole subject in a separate article.

Where am I getting with this? Well, first, let me ask you what do you want to do with your next 40 years? The pressure seems enormous, not to mention there’s a pressure in today’s life to get rid of the pressure. But the reality is this: you can’t control what happens to the things in your life (and your body, and your environment) that are prone and even meant to change. You can continue to hate your body or try to modify it, but have you tried accepting it? I spent 15 years of my life thinking I will never get married because men don’t like women with small breasts and I was even planning to save for a boob job. Or, because I was too fat. Or too thin. Then I faced reality and became very comfortable with the fact that I have my own beauty, like everyone else, and that, guess what, men and women I dated loved it the way it was. You can also continue to feel hopeless about: not working the work you dream of, not living in the house of your dreams (and of ELLE Magazine’s decoration editor’s dreams), not having found your soulmate or not having achieved anything spectacular (because social media does make some of us act like we need celebrity and fandom in order to thrive). Or, you can discontinue these beliefs and try to comprehend that life is, indeed, very short, and, at most, pointless, so it’s only up to us to do whatever it takes to feel good with it for a change.

All palaces are temporary palaces, and so, all grievances are temporary grievances too.

When I left my parents’ home for good I was 27. That’s extremely late for the generations our parents and forefathers where raised in, but let’s agree to disagree that the fast paced culture we currently live in has actually slowed down the whole adulting process for us. For many years I did what many people in my generation do. Passed on responsibilities to my family, ran away from people who tried to change me, stayed too long in friendships or relationships that had to die, googled my problems, Instagrammed my food and my shoes, spent my first post-teen paychecks on beer, dresses and weekend breaks, and acted wrecklessly for more than I can recall. But being away from home has taught me that you don’t have a home unless you make one, inside oneself. Being away from home hasn’t filled me with desires, dreams and hopes like in the songs we listen to because they give us serotonin uplifts but it rather put me in a bubble where – between a mishap tourist and a work seeker – I lost touch with who I was in some points. The things I still miss are unrelated to geography, people and places but rather to moments. I miss drinking Texel’s beers in Leiden, sun bathing in Katwijk and smoking on my terrace above the city as much as I miss waking up at 7 am, working for the fine print and having a club where to dance myself out to exhaustion. I miss my friends, who are now scattered all over the world but when you walk alone, eat alone, take trains and planes alone, you just learn to believe that the kindness of strangers is sometimes more valuable than the insecurity of long relationships in your life. I suppose what distance does, as the wind, is bring people, and places together, and like running makes you kick back into you, travelling is returning, and offers the understanding that broken phones, lost money and missed connections are truly nothing compared to gained friendships, linked points and the dissolution of the ego.

Portrait by Zach Nagle, print available for purchase  here

Portrait by Zach Nagle, print available for purchase here

I beg to differ on Charles Bukowski, who says nothing can save you, except writing. Sometimes, absolutely nothing will save you, not the nights you end up wasting waiting for something grand to happen, not the mornings where coffee has no taste and you wake up knowing the day will not be a blast, not the plans and schemes you write down on your imaginary flipchart to make the world go round. You end up stuck, alone and in the disparate points of chaos that drag you down, you have to come up with something to save yourself. Then you make six impossible wishes before breakfast, start walking and working and learn to seize what you call paranormal activity when it comes true.

I don’t know if adulting is about taking the bull by the horns and actually feeling different, better, stronger or like an actual grown-up. I used to be very attached to things, material possessions and people, and ignored the things that actually made me happy. Walking away from my former lifestyle taught me that I’m okay with losing personal belongings, giving away things I didn’t need anymore and refusing jobs if they didn’t fulfil me in any way, as long as I didn’t lose my integrity, my health, my passions and my passport. Lately I feel like I’ve been sucking all the lower love vibration in people around. I keep bumping into different human beings that keep telling me they are ultimately just looking for love. I dont know whether something unlocked in the universe or I helped that happen. It just happens.

A friend told me that after 30, she understood she no longer has time to do things she doesn’t like. I taught about this while I was boarding in a flight towards a place where I had to make a new life.

– Is this the life you’ve always wanted?, my friend asked me that day.
– I’ve just always wanted to feel alive, I replied.

I closed my eyes. I’m always scared of flying, so I close my eyes when I’m in an aeroplane.
But I can’t sleep at all.
So I count my blessings.
And if the plane falls, then I know, I always know I did feel alive.

Ioana Cristina Casapu is the Managing Director of Art Parasites Magazine. She likes Brian Eno, airports and never says no to a good old Gin&Tonic. 

Read all her stories and poetry here.