Having It All

Máiréad Leen asks is it possible to really have it all? Or does it just come at the cost of something much more serious…

‘YOU LOST SO MUCH WEIGHT!!’ I hear in the background.

‘God, I absolutely LOVE your shoes!!’

‘That lippie is fab, where did you get it?! Mac?’

‘The essay? Done it already’.

‘Me? Just back from a run and ten hours in the library. Whilst there, I also found the cure for cancer and saved a whole building full of people from a fire. You?’.

These are mere snippets of the conversations I hear around our campus every day. Of course I’m joking. She only saved half the building.

So, as the title suggests, can you ‘have it all?’

The catchphrase comes from a 1982 book, where women are advised to sleep with men in power to make their way up the echelons of the work ladder and to have just ‘a touch’ of anorexia to maintain the perfect body.

Thirty years later and it seems like things have slightly changed. But you could also argue that they haven’t in some cases.

One of the biggest phenomenons of our time is perhaps that of the 21st century mother and her infamous balancing act. But for us, it’s all about balance too, is it not? Girls, is it just me? Are men affected by this terrible affliction too or is this all just in my head? Getting the 1.1, being ‘strong, not skinny’, having a perfectly contoured face of make-up?

It’s time to start talking. In UCC, there is most certainly a pressure to ‘have it all’ to seem ‘perfect’. One in three women and one in five men will be afflicted in Ireland by anxiety. So is this a case of girls being unfair to each other? Do we expect these high standards of ourselves or is it because this is what society expects from us? And are we not society? Should we not choose what we deem to be acceptable?

Our media. Magazines scream at us and Instagram shouts- ‘Beyoncé loses HALF her body weight on the AIR diet in JUST six day!!!!’ *did she cut off her legs*. You snort at me; exaggerating much? But is this not what we are all inundated with on a daily basis? It seems like they want us to have it all.

The beautiful pictures of women with the perfect, the absolute IDEAL body. Blogs taunt us with *breathes in* ‘simple paleo wheat free dairy free sugar free fat free everything free organic recipes’. That girl who ‘was absolutely fuuucked’ last night, but got 80% in that exam ‘hungover’ by ‘fluke’. Or the person who is class rep and captain of the football team and everything else under the sun. That person who works part-time and volunteers and runs marathons and studies fifty hours a week and and and.

Let’s talk body image – is this newest health craze just that, a passing trend? Clean eating, cheat meals and legs day. The 40 year old lycra clad man (we all know one in our neighbourhood) at mid-life crisis phase, he’s about to compete in the Tour de France, balding with a slight paunch and has worked in an office for, maybe a lifetime? He wants it all.

Or the newest fad where you cut out gluten (it’s a silent killer), dairy (simply sinful), meat (vegetarian is for wimps, vegan is the only real way), ‘animal’ protein, starchy vegetables (carbs means fat) sugar and… hang on.. are there any food groups left? But you feel SO MUCH DIFFERENT AFTER THE DETOX. Maybe that’s simply… delusions from low blood sugar levels? The girl that starts that diet though? She most definitely wants it all.

And what about the rest of us? I cycle by western road as I observe limber, fake tanned limbs, hair that is backcombed to the last and the latest Hollister clothes. Night out, you wonder? Nope. A Monday evening. Gym time. We all want it all.

I know I’m ranting and I don’t even know what exactly about. Are we the infamous Celtic Tiger cubs, the ones who were satirised in the newspapers, who expect to get whatever we want? Is everyone judgmental, or is it only in our own minds? Are we all striving for our own personal image of perfection, of ‘having it all’, when really, we’re simply trying to keep up with the Joneses?

For some reason, I think with the social media age that we live in, we’ve made things a lot more complicated for ourselves. How many Facebook likes did your profiler get- is that how we now value our worth? Is our worth now what we consider popularity? How many Friends do you have? Do you have the latest designer gear? Do you look UNREAL every Thursday night out? Do you have a Starbucks soy skinny latte macchiato espresso in hand as you read this? Do you have a boyfriend whom you constantly have ‘date nights’ with that are constantly shared on some form of a social media platform? Are your Snapchats ABSOLUTELY HILAIRIOUS? Can you count your abs? Do you HAVE IT ALL?

It is most definitely a positive thing that Ireland is moving toward a healthier lifestyle- hell, we were on our way to being the fattest nation in Europe. And we should be ambitious- we should aim for the moon and the stars and everything. This writer has returned to UCC after a year away and I can safely say that I am really happy to be back. But am I feeling the pressure to fit in, to be on top of my workload (continuous assessment WHAT ARE YOU), to figure out what I’m doing after college (horror), to go to the gym, to, repeat the phrase, HAVE IT ALL? I do. I want it all. But not at the cost of my sanity.

Life is a balancing act people. And we’re all just trying to stay on the tightrope.

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