As I scrolled through my Facebook feed last week I saw pictures of painted nails, of beautiful designs, in pink, gold and grey. And I thought to myself, “when was the last time I painted my nails?”
I grew up in Bellevue, Washington. A total bubble focused largely on wealth and beauty. I rode in my friends BMW’s, range rovers, and mercedes. I spent my summers on Lake Washington on speed boats that didn’t belong to me. I walked the hallways of my high school in Seven Jeans from thrift shops and sale racks. And, going to the nail salon with babysitting money was a monthly occurrence — scratch that, necessity.
In college my love of painted nails continued. It made me feel beautiful, glamorous, “feminine” even — thank you social constructs of beauty. But I started to paint my own nails, rather than paying to have them done. There was a shift beginning to take place. A whispering of change in the way I viewed beauty, in the way I spent my money and valued different aspects of life. My focus was less on what was expected of me, and more about what made me feel good.
So, when I asked myself the question last week: “When was the last time I painted my nails?” I realized it was more than two years ago. It was right before I left for Europe in 2016.
Instead of manicures, I put my money into plane tickets (an equal monetary trade if you’re country hopping on Ryan Air). And I didn’t feel any less beautiful. Quite the opposite, I felt more alive. I felt less worried about chipping the shelac that laid atop my nails. Instead of paint, my nails were covered in dirt and clipped short for function. And I loved it.
So, I never went back. Painting my nails became a waste. A waste of time. A waste of money. An act that no longer called to me.
It’s so interesting to think about the ways my beauty routine has changed since high school. Wandering this wide and wild world was the precipice of this change for me.
The first time I traveled alone (Europe 2016), I not only gave up painting my nails, I also gave up stripping my body of the hair growing naturally upon it. I fell deeply in love with the my body in its’ natural state.
But my face, was another matter. It’s always been my biggest insecurity. From acne, to wrinkles, to my nose or my eyebrows.
All throughout my European three-month trek I woke up and painted my face, with concealer, blush and bronzer. The days that I hiked and traveled were rarely an exception.
When I moved back to Bellingham, this again shifted a bit (thanks Bham for being such a safe place to call home). Putting on makeup each day felt less essential. But still important.
It is not until I began this new wandering venture, that makeup has felt like an afterthought, an inconvenience, a waste of time.
Sure, I have my tools with me, but they sit untouched in my bag.
Each morning when I wake up and look in the mirror of my car I feel happy with the woman I see. I see my wrinkles, freckles re-emerging on my nose as I drive deeper into the desert, I see the scars from the pimples I’ve picked, and I see the circles beneath my eyes, less prominent than they’ve ever been.
And as I brush my (often greasy) hair aside and see my unpainted nails in the mirror I can’t help but smile as I realize, how much wandering has given me already.
Wandering this world, has taught me how to love myself, uncovered, stripped down and natural. It has taught me how to embrace and hold my beauty for what it is, not what I think it should be. And damn, what is more empowering than that?