Edaein O’Connell has a gratitude journal on her bedside table. Dates of entry stopped on 8 May 2020. The first entry? Written on 1 May 2020…
There’s a girl on TikTok with perfect hair. Her jewellery is flawlessly stacked. Her nails are perfectly manicured. She wears Lululemon and her house is entirely beige.
She gets up at 5am and meditates for 15 minutes. Then she reads five pages of a self-help book, writes her manifestations, says she’s grateful for the world, does a workout, showers, applies her makeup and eats her porridge all before the clock strikes six.
She is known as ‘that girl.’ She is a source of inspiration for many. People share ‘how to’ videos to help you become her.
She haunts my dreams and my ‘for you’ page.
I struggle to wake most mornings at 8am and forget to take my contraceptive pill.
She is not me and I am not her – but oh, have I tried to be.
‘That girl’ has habits and she does them well. These habitual rituals have made her successful and at many various junctures in my life, I have strived for this process. Sadly, however, it always plays out like a short-lived Taylor Swift romance and ends. The year 2020 put my inability to commit front and centre. Like many others, I thought it a prime time to attempt and conquer. First, there was the guitar, then the bread. Next, it was a daily 10 kilometre walk which I swore I would continue to endure every day until death but then the first drop of rain promptly put a stop to my ramblings.
At one point in that restrictive summer, I attempted an online meditation and interpretive dance workshop. It was going well until I caught a look of myself in the mirror and realised my body was made for comfort, not contortion. Another woman in the class said she’d seen a vision of her younger self while she danced. At that, I promptly logged off.
A gratitude journal lies in state on my bedside table. Dates of entry stopped on May 8th 2020. The first was only written on May 1st. My reasons to be thankful varied from a generic ‘grateful for family’ to a specific ‘grateful that I don’t feel the need to watch Fair City.’
I tried meditation but just fell asleep. I tried sea swimming even though I can’t swim. I tried inspirational books, turning my phone off before bed and chewing my food 32 times before swallowing. In the aftermath of a failed attempt, I often felt defeated. For a long time, I thought there was something inherently wrong with me. A mental block, or maybe it was just plain laziness?
The girl that I was could never be ‘that girl.’
It took a long time for me to realise that these habits I desperately wanted to execute weren’t adding any goodness to my daily life. And wasn’t that the whole point? Some habits are integral to living a good life; brushing your teeth, keeping good hygiene, taking your medicine, wearing your retainer in bed, telling someone you love them.
But some are additions. They are choices. You perform them because they make you feel good. In the end, trying to be ‘that girl’ left me stressed and fatigued. I didn’t have the time nor the patience to complete a power hour in the mornings or make a cup of cacao from scratch.
To come to this realisation, I had to take a good look at my life as an outsider. To those around me, I was functioning. I got up, I worked, I communicated, I laughed and I didn’t cry. I was happy and could stop with the mindfulness experiments.
Social media is like a self-help podcast on steroids. The pressure to imitate is immense. Pictures of 7am sweat sessions, pre-work coffees, candles and manifestation notebooks look good, and obviously make people feel the same way, but it doesn’t work for everyone. The path you found to nirvana isn’t necessarily the road I should take.
While those girls get up at 6am, I angrily roll out of bed two hours later. If the mood is off or the weather is bad, I’ll choose to work from the mattress. I walk to the kitchen, make a cup of tea and check if the bread has gone off. If it hasn’t I’ll eat it. Afterwards, I make coffee and indulge in some Ireland AM and a scroll on my phone before starting work at 9. I exercise three times a week. I go to therapy. I enjoy a good book and a glass of wine every Friday night. I love Sundays and a walk on the beach.
These habits don’t overtly scream success but they work for me. I haven’t fallen off the edge yet. If I do, maybe I’ll meditate on a mat and burn some sage but until then, I’ll keep these choices up. These are small rituals that form part of my week. They built up over time and with effort. Most importantly, I enjoy them, I look forward to each and every one. So if you find yourself mid attempt at a new regime that doesn’t feel right, be ruthless and cut it. Life is too short to be practicing yoga if you hate stretching your legs.
Truthfully, I have made a habit out of failed habits but that’s ok, I still get up and get on with it.
So while I may not be ‘that girl’, I am ‘some girl.’
And her habits are good enough for me.