I was a completely different person last year, insofar that I didn’t give myself permission to do things, hanging on the consent of others to validate my decisions. Anxious and hesitant I moved through my personal, social and working life always waiting for others to say ‘that’s a good idea, you should do it’ instead of asking myself what I want to do and then fucking doing it. Lockdown, therefore, has been a period of losing and gaining for me. A process of seeking, finding, unravelling and succeeding. I shed the coat of anxiety that I didn’t even realise was pinning me down and found new space for myself.
I’m currently sat on my balcony, in the new boujie apartment that I share with the most wonderful and caring friend, soaking up the rare March sunshine (wearing suncream of course) and revelling in my new found freedom. The five year plan I had to clung to at the start of 2020 went down the drain. And as all the chick lit books so obtusely imply, I should right now be wallowing in a spinsterdom of self pity. Oh hell no. Standing on the other side, I now realise that this ‘oh so important’ five year plan hinged its success on others, instead of placing the most important thing – me, at the epicentre of what I want from life.
When faced with the fact that my life as I knew it was changing rapidly, enforced by the pandemic, money, a man, I realised that I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live – I was compromising. Compromising on my career decisions, my food choices, my friends and family, my desire to travel, to write, to perform, to hell, even train for a marathon because I was told I wasn’t capable of it. I was compromising on nearly every aspect of my life and that wasn’t good enough.
So, now I give myself permission to cry when I want, and to open up and rely on others when I need it. I give myself permission to start new creative projects without top down institutional consent or funding bodies’ validation giving me the go ahead, because I have something to say, work to make, points to prove that can’t wait. I give myself permission to enjoy this body that I have, whether that’s by teaching myself how to twerk in the bathroom mirror late at night or in the company of another. I give myself permission to eat what I want, wear what I want and essentially be who I want, no apologies.
Over the last year, some of the most gratifying work I have done is volunteering – helping out at Slung Low’s foodbank and at Oxfam every week has been the soul nourishing, feel good work I need in my daily life. Creating Artychoke Zine and continuing to build ACCA with my dream colleague Anna have also been highlights of this year, as well as starting a book club because I wanted to, taking the plunge to finally shout about my side hustle Charlotte Arnold Home and finding a love for yoga I didn’t know I had, have all been successes. To others looking in at my rented apartment, over 50k of student loan debt, lack of dog, car, husband or baby and aiming to earn £15k a year despite having two degrees is not success. Only you can decide what’s success to you.
‘Okay’, I say.
‘That’s fine’ I say.
‘I don’t care’ I say.
Because you can have your success and I’ll take mine.
In essence, and emboldened by the #killthebill #saraheverard #sistersuncutleeds protest I attended yesterday, I’m quickly realising that you have to take what you want from life, don’t wait for it. Demand equal pay and an end to domestic violence, racism, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. Demand greater funding for the arts, education and social care and defund institutionally prejudiced services like the police. Demand better for yourself full stop.
I recognise that as a cisgender, heterosexual white female living in my native country I have privilege, but I am also listening and supporting and trying my best to aid others in their journey to demand better for themselves.
So, that’s it, the moral of my year in lockdown, the teachings of the pandemic:
Don’t wait, give yourself permission. Watch this space.
Oh, and I’ve started marathon training, because it’s something I want to do – so a big two fingers to the man who said I wasn’t capable of running 26.2 miles, I will do it.