POCKET: Self-Care

Holly Platt-Higgins considers the importance of the occasional ‘treat’, despite our tight student budgets

Holly Platt-Higgins

Flowers can add life and colour to a uni roomeleanor swinburne

OK, so this is exactly the type of thing my Grandpa would have a total field day with, ‘self-care’, to be defined as: just another hocus-pocus ridiculousness, dreamt up by a bunch of spoiled snowflake-millennials. But, for those of us actually capable of functioning in the twenty-first century, we know that self-care is a really beautiful and often essential aspect of our lives.

Especially in Cambridge, when the weeks sort of just become a blur of essay deadlines, hangovers, coffee and regret, it is sometimes necessary to take a minute, to: exfoliate your face, whack on some moisturiser and watch an episode of Geordie Shore or Dance Moms, to remind yourself that you are in fact a human being and that the social changes which marked the movement from the Enlightenment, to the Romantic period, are fundamentally not as pressing as your supervisor made you feel they might be.

"For those of us actually capable of functioning in the twenty-first century, we know that self-care is a really beautiful and often essential aspect of our lives"

Now, while your evening appointment with a crappy television series isn’t costing you anything, because, let’s face it, pretty much everyone these days is logging onto Netflix from their ex’s cousin’s girlfriend’s account, it also isn’t an enjoyable enough activity to sustain your sense of well-being in the depth of a crisis. When the going gets tough, it also gets expensive.

I have this on good authority considering my bank account has taken many hits after unsuccessful supervisions and disappointing dissertation meetings. Recently, after my supervisor presented me with the harsh truth that my essay was, “at best, descriptive, not analytical” and, when reading through her notes, I found the word ‘dire’ aggressively scribbled in red pen next to what I honestly thought had been an astute observation, I had a rather expensive recuperation period.

While I’m usually a woman who operates on a pretty strict budget and a loyal follower of the ‘own-brand’, having suffered such an assault on my academic ego, I dedicated myself to frivolity as I dejectedly wandered the Sainsbury’s aisles. Before even having crossed the threshold and only just having just escaped The Big Issue Guy, I picked up a £6.50 bunch of roses, whose price tag seemed thoroughly reasonable after the voice inside my head suggested ‘I deserved them.’ A candle, which I can’t actually use in my accommodation block, an almost offensively twee mug from the home section and a bottle of Taste the Difference Sauvignon Blanc later, which we all know I couldn’t taste the difference in, I was ready to leave the shop, with my bank account now almost more damaged than my enthusiasm for my degree.

As much as I wanted it to, my frivolous expenditure didn’t really help much. Once the flowers died, I’d finished the wine and almost set the fire alarm off chancing my new candle, I was back to square one, only with a slightly larger overdraft to contemplate alongside my academic failing. So, I learned the valuable lesson that there is a line to be drawn between self-care and retail therapy and that disregard of the weekly budget isn’t going to improve the weekly essay.

Although a spree in Sainsburys has never really helped anybody, effective self-care is often as expensive as retail therapy. Self-care in Cambridge is often starts with remembering that ‘working’, ‘socialising’ and ‘going out’ are not the only modes of being. You’re allowed to wander into town and take yourself out for dinner, rather than eat in hall just because it’s more time effect. You can go to the pub and have a drink even though you hadn’t planned on going out. It is legitimate to take time out of your day to go to Zara and see if you can find a new dress for formal because you’ve worn all your others a load of times and you fancy a change.

And most importantly, it’s ok to do these things without the intention of being seen doing them. So much of the pressure of any university experience is the intimacy of the environment you’re in: you’re always running into people in town, you live with your closest friends, Sidge is a midfield of bad Tinder dates and people you’ve drunkly interacted with and then never spoken to again. So, there is always this consciousness, this observational pressure, which means people are often going to things just to be seen there.


Mountain View

Brunch your Week 5 blues away!

Last week I randomly took myself out for dinner and then to went see The Post. Now I know, it seems weird. It also begs some questions: Why wouldn’t you go with a friend? Do you not have any friends? Or, in the words of my little sister, ‘that’s officially the most loserish thing I’ve ever heard, what’s wrong with you?’ But the thing is, it was easily some of the best money I’ve spent this whole term. Not having to socialise with anyone, surrendering to the evening rather than stressing about the looming essay deadlines, watching something that was genuinely enriching and then walking home, through the streetlights and spires, really enjoying having taken time out of a Cambridge schedule to do something nice, rather than having allotted time within it.

So, although retail therapy is something neither myself nor my overdraft agrees with, I do fully condone the expense of self-care. Not in an excessive Kardashian way, it’s not really ok to spend three hours taking a selfie with perfect lighting, when you should be writing a Keats essay. But, while you’ll never remember the £10 you spent on Jagerbombs in Life or the £8 on a taxi ride to the station, you might one day think back in fondness to a film you saw, or a Chelsea bun you ate in Fitzbillies as you read your book and watched people pass through your university town in the sunshine.