Five Life Lessons Learned From Nail Polish

I can count on one hand, the things I loved doing when I was seven that I still love doing — because they are my nails. Pretty much everything has changed since I copied my second grade bestie and bought “Barnacle” (the Body Shop sea-foam green, destined to be my first ever bottle of nail polish), but through proms, graduations, more besties (who I also copied shamelessly), break-ups, job interviews and moves, one thing has always been there: nail polish. Here are some tips I gleaned from my tips.

1. The Sparkly Ones Always Fade the Fastest and Do The Most Damage: Every year, my favorite brands find new ways to combine glitter into their blends, and every year (usually in winter when I’m feeling my palest and most vampire-like), I take the plunge and go for the sparkly choice. Of course, I regret it a day later when the sparkles are no longer pink, but bleached, scraggy and chromed-out from a wild night with the dishes. Like nail polish, I’ve found that with friends, fads, teen idols, and crushes, the shiny, sparkly, glittery, oh-so-attractive, must-have, instantly gratifying, fun, impulsive choices often don’t last half as long as the damage they do.

2. When In Doubt Give It An Extra 5 Minutes: Don’t you hate it when you’ve done your nails and you’ve gone like 8 or 9 minutes without moving, decide you’ll probably okay, and tempt fate by doing something innocuous, like checking your phone…only to find that your phone is wearing your nail polish instead? Unless you’re McGuiver or a pastry chef, there are very few situations that would not benefit from an extra five minutes — when in doubt, take them.

3. Bold Choices Don’t Always Work Out, But Sometimes They Do: I usually get nail polish inspiration in stand-around places like the elevator, subway, or checkout line. There I’ll be, zoning out, when it suddenly hits me that black is back, or that I might just totally rock neon orange. Of course, this doesn’t always work out quite like I’d envisioned (gold just makes some people look jaundiced, I guess). Like so many ideas that seem good in theory, the real test of a dramatic nail polish is how it works for you. As with nail polish, when going for it doesn’t work out, it can really blow…but when you trust your gut and it does work out, there’s nothing like it.

4. If It Doesn’t Want To Open Up, Trying to Force It Will Backfire: It’s always your favorite, that pearly, jewely, glowing but not too girly pink that throws a tantrum and refuses to unscrew—we’ve all been there and tried to run it under hot water only to have the handle melt off in our hands, or tapped it against the floor only to create a vague outline of Milwaukee in our carpet as an ongoing reminder of how we don’t know our own strength. I have found that in life, anything you try to force will ultimately end up forcing you to ruin it — whether jobs, schools, relationships, or art. In the end, it’s ultimately in your best interest to move on to a more willing option.

5. You Can Always Start Over: The state of your life, like the state of your nails, is by in large, affected by the choices you make, but not entirely. Sometimes things will come along and ruin your nails without you having the least bit of say in the matter…and sometimes you’ll choose to do sharpie-art and ruin them yourself. And sometimes they’ll just start to look like crap because that’s what time does to nail polish. Like a bad manicure, very few things in life are irrevocable if you’re willing to undergo the momentary discomfort of letting them go (or deal with the stench of acetone); and sometimes, the best solution really is to give yourself a fresh start.

You can read more from Emma Brodie here.

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