Reading Poetry is Self Care: An Analysis of “Self Care” by Mac Miller

August 3rd, 2018 – About a month before Mac Miller died of an accidental drug overdose, he released his fifth album entitled Swimming. This album is full of poetic songs, one of which is the song “Self Care.” In this song, Mac Miller uses multidimensional language to convey his conflicting emotions and fight to overcome his personal struggles. Mac Miller often sings about obstacles in his life. In this particular song, he focuses on finding his path to happiness, and like the title states, caring for himself. He starts with the chorus:

“I switched the time zone, but what do I know?

Spendin’ nights hitchhikin’, where will I go?

I could fly home, with my eyes closed

But it’d get kinda hard to see, that’s no surprise though

Self Care is simultaneously hopeful and sorrowful. He ends the first two lines with fairly open-ended questions, asking about the direction his future may take. The “time zone” and “nights” refer to his current state of fame in the music industry. This can be interpreted both literally and metaphorically. He is now able to travel and has the money to do whatever he wants. Furthermore, he talks about how he spends his time and how he changes his mentality. In the last two lines of this quote he is talking about returning to his true self. He knows himself well, as exemplified by the image that he doesn’t need to see in order to “fly home.” However, Mac Miller also acknowledges that it is becoming harder to do so as he sinks deeper into addiction and strays further from his roots in Pittsburgh. He keeps with this theme as he continues:

“When it’s feelin’ like you hot enough to melt, yeah (melt, yeah)

Can’t trust no one, can’t even trust yourself, yeah (self, yeah)

And I love you, I don’t love nobody else, yeah (else, yeah)”

The first line presents the image of the immense amount of pressure Mac Miller felt from fans, his music production and record label company, and himself. During these times of stress, he shares that he feels like he can’t rely on himself or others. Additionally, he shows that despite this, he loves one woman. He speaks directly to her, strengthening the impact of how central she is to Mac Miller’s songs. Another verse that is repeated is:

“Tell them they can take that bullshit elsewhere (yeah)

Self-care, I’m treatin’ me right, yeah

Hell yeah, we gonna be alright (we gon’ be alright)”

In this section, Mac Miller is reassuring himself that he will come out of the darkest times. He is prioritizing himself, instead of listening to the criticism that others have for him. He doesn’t define self-care traditionally, instead conveying the message that he is on a journey to become a better person. He wants to improve himself, and do things that are good for him instead of the self-destructive path he used to be, or still is, on.

Finally, the tone and speed of the song changes as Mac Miller ends the song with the word “oblivion.” Oblivion is defined as the state of being unaware or unconscious of one’s surroundings. He raps that it is both a “beautiful feeling,” and “didn’t know what I was missin’,” implying that while he may be happier when he is not present, he actually regrets not fully being there. Addiction played such a big role in his life and consequently his music, emphasized through the repetition of the word “oblivion.” It illustrates that although he wants to change, it is difficult due to the nature of addiction. Overall, Mac Miller beautifully portrays his struggles with fame, addiction, and putting himself first in the song “Self Care.” He is deliberate in the way he uses language and sound to make the listener feel his emotions while writing. This song truly deserves to be called poetry.

The Secret Woman: Dutiful, Dainty, and Dependent

Published in 1924, “The Secret Woman” by Colette is a critique on the societal expectations of women to be subservient to men. Colette reveals the issues with the gender hierarchy in a beautifully-written short story set at an opera ball. At the beginning of the story, Irene and her husband both lie to each other, saying that they are not going to the ball. Irene acts disgusted by even the thought of attending. Her husband recognizes her at the ball and sees her dancing and kissing other men, while keeping his own presence hidden.

Irene’s actions are in stark contrast to the idea of traditional femininity. Behind her disguise, she is unknown. She can be her true self and have power that she otherwise does not have. Although she is physically wearing a mask and costume at the ball, her true disguise is being innocent and weak at home with her husband. At the opera ball, Irene takes control of her decisions. She feels the absence of gendered norms due to her anonymity, giving her confidence.

Colette leaves the reader wondering about the true intentions of the husband. There is no clear answer as to why the husband lied to his wife about attending the opera ball, but the reader can guess. Perhaps he intended to cheat himself? Maybe this was his first time going, maybe he had been many times before. Either way, two things are clear. Firstly, his entire demeanor changed when he discovered Irene at the opera ball. He initially went to the ball expecting to enjoy himself, but when he discovers Irene, he becomes obsessed with following her. He watches her interact with different men without saying a word, but the language he uses to describe her completely switches. Before the ball, he calls her hands “delicate,” and after he sees her cheating, he says “her little satanic hands, which were entirely black.” To him, she is no longer his wife. Secondly, the husband buys into the double standards that are placed upon women and the gender binary. He believes that it is acceptable for him to push the boundaries of their marriage, but when he discovers that she does too, she is immediately outcast. To him, he is allowed to lie about going to the ball, but she is not. This extends into larger society as well; men usually have power over women.

Irene chose the men she interacted with, spent a moment with each, then moved on. If she had one secret lover instead of meeting with strangers, she would still be seen as an object to that man. Her husband feels the loss of control over his wife. She was able to be liberated from societal expectations, even if just for a night. However, when she takes off the mask and costume, like so many other women, she will be forced to return to being dutiful, dainty, and dependent.