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  • Jay Lee-Guard

Self Care and Baked Beans In The Face Of Armageddon

Words by Jay Lee-Guard (he/they)

As a child, I was obsessed—perhaps too obsessed—with the idea of an apocalypse. Where would I go? What would I do? Who would I team up with, and why were my parents—or any adults, for that matter—somehow never present in any of these imaginary scenarios? I even roped some of my friends into making plans, meeting their giggles with all the seriousness that my 11 year old self could muster. We figured out whose house was the most secluded, and thus the most safe. We decided who we could trust. Most importantly we decided that, in the event of total societal collapse, our best bet for food would be to steal as many tins of Heinz Baked Beans from the supermarket as possible.

In the midst of all this I made the mistake of mentioning this to my mum; she rightly called out my weird fascination as unhealthy, even a little disturbing. I’m well past it now, and my new plan for if (when) everything goes to shit involves baking as many cakes as I can, and eating maybe half of them, before dying in a suitably tragic manner. Maybe I’ll see if I can’t finish knitting a blanket, if I’m really lost for things to do. But interestingly enough, my younger self’s fascination with how to survive societal ruin seems almost sensible these days. While New Zealand didn’t undergo any extreme crises during my childhood, now that I’m older it seems like there are miniature apocalypses happening wherever I look. There are situations so awful it seems almost impossible to comprehend them fully, such as in Gaza, Congo, and Ukraine. There are more insidious issues which it feels like we consistently don’t notice until it’s too late—climate change, human rights issues, and the healthcare crisis spring to mind. There are many more things specific to New Zealand, perhaps not quite as deadly but important all the same: inflation, housing, our economy as a whole. I mean, sure, they’re arguably not what I was picturing as a kid, but aren’t they still apocalypses of a kind? 

Existing, even on its own, is a stressful thing. Even when you’re doing nothing else, your own life is more than capable of providing enough stress to last a lifetime (literally). You don’t need to have an apocalypse on your hands for life to be tough, and at times it can feel like engaging with any of these issues is an unnecessary source of concern and premature grey hair. But many people do anyway—and they’re not wrong for it! Engaging in politics and political action can be incredibly empowering, and believing in a cause enough to fight for it is a very noble pursuit. This doesn’t negate the fact that any cause can easily take all the energy you have to give, and then some. 

Making sure that you survive the apocalypse, especially the one(s) you choose to engage with, is important. While my own survival plans for disasters, natural or otherwise, tended to involve far more time spent being on the lookout for zombies than what might be realistic right now, it definitely doesn’t hurt to have your own plan to keep yourself sane, well, and alive. Even if it doesn’t involve stealing baked beans (though if it does, more power to you). 

To drop the metaphor and state the obvious, looking after yourself, especially if you’re championing something you’re passionate about, is important. Regardless of what that might look like for you, whether it’s time spent alone, or with friends, making time for your hobbies and interests, or even simply making sure you have enough money to pay rent, it absolutely, unconditionally needs to come first if you want to have any chance of holding on to your sanity and wellbeing. That’s just the way it is. But if you think you’ve found a way to keep going without stopping for self care please do let me know. It would be a world first.


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