First Housemanship took my butt, now my face too

After emerging from yet another prolonged pause, what do I finally resurface to talk about? The very surface through which the world sees me: my skin.

Never mind the two other lengthy drafts, one containing an obviously much anticipated update on how my second posting in internal medicine is treating me, another one going into excruciating detail on the agony that is the toxic work culture prevalent in Malaysia. No, let's instead draw attention to the part of my left (face) cheek that now resembles the moon, if it were a warm, toasty, caramel brown.

You'd think I'd have gained some deeper perspective right? Like, oh after all these months of health-enforcing slave labour, the insights she's gained must be skin deep, but here I am, to talk about the surface level problem I am currently facing.

The stress of the long and hard months have finally caught up to a place that I can no longer run from: my damn face. The irony is not lost on me.

I'm not even sure if what I want to share is about my disdain for skin care, or to showcase yet another facet of junior doctor life. Perhaps it is a combination of the two. Yes, I've never much cared for taking care of myself in the traditional sense, but I do shower daily, and groom. What I don't do is wear any make up, or use any soap except for my hands and feet. I only wash my hair after I've been on a long, sweaty hike, or have spent a considerable amount of time in the sea. The only product that ever even touches my skin now is sunblock. While I haven't always been like this, the trajectory of my self-care was always rather minimal, and anyone that claims to know me can attest to this.

Do I smell bad? Do I look frumpy? Do I give the impression that I am a homeless person? Does my skin look unwashed, my hair unruly, and my general appearance unkempt? You tell me.

It's hard for me to pinpoint when this "I don't care for stuff on my face" came about, but I know that minimalism took over me at a point of time in 2017, when I was in medical school, and really loathed the fact that I was in medical school. Then as the years went by, my routines become more minimal, and my hair became shorter. In a sense, I've always thought of this as a good thing because who doesn't crave the simplicity that justifies your inner lazy? I often return to this quote from an interview when Robert Redford was asked to share his thoughts on anti-aging:

"I don't want to look like who I used to be, I want to look like who I am."

I might have romanticized this a pinch too much, because now I have a conglomeration of hyperpigmented spots on my face that I am sure everyone who sees me without my mask on will perceive as: She is a horrible, dirty, irresponsible mongrel who does not wash her face. My sister always warned me that my youth wouldn't last forever, and here I am Googling what on Earth retinoids are and whether rubbing carrots on my face (because they contain high amounts of Vitamin A) will make this moon-patch go away faster.

But why is this happening now? And what is the significance of my crater face in the grand scheme of things? I hypothesize that it has something to do with the three pictures I posted on my Instagram account recounting the better days when I still had a rather fleshy bottom: I am not taking care of myself. Previously, that was minimal, "cool", and suited my at-the-time lifestyle. Yet I discounted the fact that then, I had the luxury of meal times, sleep, and nurturing activities as and when I pleased, a luxury that is beyond me now for a vast majority of my life.

Now, I don't eat well, get irregular hours of sleep, am laden with nonsensical amounts of stress, and far from a lack of ass, I don't have the rather perfect skin I seemed to have always been blessed with. This infuriates me because it's not something I can cover with a flowy wrap around skirt, and let's face it (pun not intended), at some point, masks are going to become obsolete unless Covid-20 comes around.

In deep conversation with one of my previous clients back when I was a freelance writing, I remember nonchalantly telling my client (who was launching her new line of skincare products for people of colour based in Asia) about my current skincare routine, which was basically nothing, and then sunblock. I remember she chuckled and said, "Wait till you're my age, and get the fright of your life when you look in the mirror to see that the years have finally caught up to you." Okay, she didn't phrase it quite so, but you get the gist. But I know what she means. Now when I see young people, I secretly hate them, and their perfectly hydrated, filled-with-collagen-epidermis.

Seriously, I'm saying "young people".

She also told me about how our skin is kind of like a currency in today's world, and that it represents far more than it once did. In that, clear, bright, shiny, unblemished skin carries a lot of weight as to what the world thinks of us. Mirrors, selfies, and caring what people think about you in a time where you can exist where your two feet are planted, and all over the globe via multiple online platforms plastered with pictures of your face... Yeah, it kind of makes sense how the skincare industry got to where it is today.

Anyway, I'm rambling, and the point I wanted to make is: My crap skin is an even bigger indication to me than my pancake butt that my self-care is at the bottom rung of the ladder of my priorities, and today, I pledge to make a change. I cannot promise regular sleep, meal times, and exercise although I certainly am trying (and making progress), but I have consulted with my most trusted skincare guide, and will start my new skincare routine tonight.

This is my face at present

The routine: PM: cleanse, moisturize/ AM: water wash, sunblock 

On a final note, a gentle reminder to everyone, and more importantly to myself, to take time to take care of yourself. I know it's easier said than done, but remember, it is ultimately your job, and if you fail, surround yourself with people that can take care of you until you can do it yourself.

See you in two weeks with some results, I hope.

As I write this, I know I will check in with my accountability partner with whom I have constructed this evening's plan to have dinner, do write/ film, study, and be in bed in time for a solid seven hours. Do you have an accountability partner?  

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