On eating your feelings
Dear readers, thanks for your patience while I’ve been writing less frequently. After spending almost a year on the application process, I was lucky enough to get into a few MFA programs, and have been spending my time either driving across the state to visit programs or wallowing in anxiety about visiting programs. I realize this is very much a First World problem, but oh my stars the anxiety. The past few weeks have been all about saying no and making decisions — two things I’m very bad at — so it’s been like an obstacle course designed specifically for my mental well-being. Apparently my future is in my hands and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH IT. I know. My diamond shoes are too tight.
Meanwhile, any sort of normal eating was out of the question. Most of the classes I visited were at night, and after giving myself an extra travel hour to fight traffic and/or get lost, I was on the road between 4 and 9. For a week, my dinners were a pathetic picnic of Lara Bars, miniature clementines, and raw almonds. It may not be coincidence that the last two schools I was deciding on were the ones that offered me chocolate during class.
The rest of the time, my entire brainspace was devoted to agonizing over what decisions I was going to make, how much money I’m going to spend, and whether all of it was going to be THE WRONG CHOICE. I walked around like I was half asleep, doing things like forgetting to shower and going to the sink to brush my teeth only to wash my hands instead and end up back at my desk thinking there was something I’d forgotten to do.
My parts of my brain that are normally used to organize when and what I eat were taken over by an army of anxiety. I’d forget to eat breakfast until noon, eat lunch at five, and my stomach didn’t want anything but tea and toast for dinner. I’ve never been much of an emotional eater — for me, eating is tied to joy, and not sadness. If I’m going to eat a huge block of chocolate, I want to be fucking aware and delighted that I’m eating it.
The week before I had to make a decision, my mom came to visit, bringing with her a bit of relief and an excuse to cook dinner again. She also brought me a dark chocolate bar for Easter. Then my father shipped me a chocolate bunny and three bags of chocolate eggs. Then, as an early birthday present, my mom brought home a chocolate cake so rich it was like eating fudge. Instead of anxiety-eating all of it, all the treats were a little wake-up to stop being so introspective, to get out of my own head and remember that life is okay because there is still plenty of chocolate to be eaten.
On my twenty-fifth birthday, I planned to go and visit my last school. The fact that this agonizing limbo of life decisions was almost over made me feel more human than I had in weeks. Charlie took me out to lunch and I ate a burger, a massive plate of sweet potato fries, and a chocolate malt. I was suddenly 25 and making choices and wanted to feed myself, instead of just eating to keep going.
After much angst and maybe a little crying, I chose a school. After that, I could actually celebrate my birthday by eating an obscene amount of food and getting good and drunk. We met up with four of our friends at a Chinese restaurant famous for (of all things) its chicken wings. I have never been a fan of the gross, coyote-like way you have to eat wings, but these are an exception because their breading is perfection and the sauce is sweet and spicy and so wonderful I would gladly drink it. There were six of us. We ordered six plates of chicken wings.
This was not sadness-eating a bowl of ice cream so fast you forget you ate it at all. This was not tearing through a bag of tortilla chips while you watch TV and surprising yourself by finishing the bag and then berating yourself with guilt. This was a time when things were resolved and I was happy and moving forward and wanted to enjoy the hell out of some food again. I am a grownup and I will joyfully decimate as many chickens as I want.