I don’t subscribe to balance. I don’t believe in allocating 30 minutes a day to exercise, 20 minutes to meditation on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and a book a week (alternating between fiction and non-fiction). It’s not equilibrium maintenance to assign one night dancing til dawn a month, bi-weekly friend dates, and five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, all of which must be a different colour and preferably organic.
It’s fucking dull.
I’m full immersion: jumping in with both feet and swimming, inhaling, for as long as it feels right. Living and breathing the thing my brain wakes up with, the last thing on my mind before I drift off to sleep to dream it. I am that which excites me, Sylvan Tompkins said, and it is true. Single-minded obsession feels so painfully good. Prioritising, by definition, means focusing on only one thing, and so doing it well.
For two and a half months my priority has been applications to graduate school, consuming every thought, every choice, every day-on-day step, and I have adored it. Fixing on a goal – to assemble the best portfolio and statement and resume I possibly can – and pushing through the pain barrier to finish it, the bit that says this is so goddamn hard it might be easier to give up, results in a certain kind of pride: the kind that means lately I’ve had to fight my internal self from bursting forth as I enter rooms to announce, with a handful of glitter and a step-ball-change, MY NAME IS LAURA JANE WILLIAMS AND I COMPLETED SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO ME.
Because I’m done. Applications have been sent. That priority has been checked off the list and with it, my whole life has opened up. There’s nothing I can do but hope now, and in the meantime I can have another priority. Internet? I have chosen pleasure.
Stay with me on this one.
Honestly and truly, I believe the reason we’re here on this planet, what our true purpose is, is the pursuit of pleasure. The universe needs us to experience divine, heavenly pleasure through our earthly bodies because the universe herself cannot. And so, until the end of the year, I have sworn to myself that my only priority is to serve the universe in every conceivable way. My job as a human is to enjoy.
The day after I mailed my applications I took myself out on a date. I wore lipstick and a shirt that I had to iron, and I walked through the evening streets of central London taking photographs. I went on to the National Portrait Gallery where I looked at paintings, portraits, and ended up, in happy accident, in a talk by world-famous poet and novelist Ben Okri, discussing his work based on the portrayal of the first freed African slave. My mind did somersaults at the bends I was forcing it to master as I digested his words. I was the least-educated person in the room and I salivated at what he asked of me: to reconsider everything I know.
I realised that after so long chained to a laptop I was aching for nature. That weekend I took a sibling and a train outside of London, and walked in English countryside for 6 hours, finishing with fish finger sandwich and a large glass of red wine in the pub. I was numb cold when I got home, so had a bath that lasted an hour and a half, topping up with hot water as I soaked, all the while whist watching TED talks on Youtube. My body ached and my face was tired as I climbed into bed wearing socks at 9 p.m., and goddamit if that wasn’t heaven, too.
I’ve read. Oh how I’ve read! Long stretches of time where I have purposefully set an appointment with myself to drink up somebody else’s words. I’ve watched movies and movies and movies. Had lunch dates. Eaten vegetables. Lit scented candles for no reason. STRETCHED. Invited friends across seas to sit at my table with me as I’ve written pages of overdue letters. I’ve walked along the river and gotten lost on purpose. Sat with my notebook and written down what I am grateful for, because those who are most joyous are those who practise gratitude, and part of my service to the universe is thanking her, too.
I bought a new fluffy jumper and some ridiculous jewelry. Painted my nails mint green. I coloured my hair red, and when I looked in the mirror afterwards I thought to myself, ‘Oh! There you are!’
I deliberately lost myself in the process of putting together the components for a dream I’ve had for so long, and now, as reward, I get the slow, purposeful pleasure of rediscovering myself, too.