the power of food

I’ve spent the last week in Portland learning about, and eating, very good food. I was attending a training for my new job teaching gardening, nutrition education, and food systems to elementary school kids in Oakland. (The name of the organization is not important. Or so they would like me to say. Basically, if I express any political beliefs I’m not allowed to associate with them. And I have and will continue to express beliefs the organization will think are political and will continue to do so, so we’ll just call the organization I’ll be with for the next year Carrotz4Dayz. )

And the training was great. sort of. For about 9 hours a day I had a steady stream of useful information delivered to me via powerpoints, hands-on lessons, stories, assemblies, videos. It was was an onslaught I was neither ready nor necessarily retained; but that’s what notes are for.

If I took home anything, it was this: food is powerful.

And I believe that, right? I mean, I’m working in food justice for chrissakes. I know that. I know that.

But.

Sometimes I feel we are subconsciously raised to devalue food in developed capitalist countries. I feel this in the way we skip breakfast before work or class. I feel this in how we lunch eat at our desks, staring at a screen. I feel this in how we only allot minimal time to eat, or consider grocery shopping a chore.

I feel this in how, if you’re a poor college student or a poor college graduate who has gone out to eat more than you are financially able because of exhaustion or limited time or lack of adequate cooking facilities, your friends are probably familiar with the lament that you “wasted money on food.”

This was not a mentality I was raised with. I think back on being possessive over a special snack or hiding a piece of chocolate from my father, who was notorious for taking what he wanted from the fridge, even if you told him you were saving it, even if you wrote your name on it. I’d shake the empty wrapper furiously at my dad and my mom would tell me, “It’s food. We don’t need to hoard it. We can always get more food.” Even when money was tight, food was top priority, even foods that fell outside the realm of necessity.

To this day, food is something I consistently try not to skimp on in my limited budget. It’s such easy happiness. And I thinking budgeting down to only repetitive essentials on food is the quickest way to feel the misery of paycheck-to-paycheck.

I’ll be living that way regardless, but if I can make myself happy with some ice cream, or mangoes, or avocados, I’m probably gonna.

Anyway, even knowing all of that, even going into my preferred profession, even while I am considering continuing my education in food justice, a little voice in the back of my mind was still like really though? How much impact can food actually have on your well-being? As long as you’re getting enough, and a have a balanced diet, does liking what you eat really make that much of a difference? I mean, it does to me, but does it matter that much people in general?

At the end of the week, I was dropped off at the airport by a family friend I’d visited. We’d gone to Pip’s Donuts, and I grabbed a dozen fresh mini-donuts to bring home to my boyfriend, as he’d been pestering me all week to at least try that donut shop. In classic Portland fashion, flavors included things like blackberry lavender and sea salt chocolate and raw honey.

I went to check-in for my flight at the automated kiosk and realized I’d misread my ticket. The connecting flight I’d completely forgotten about, despite checking my ticket multiple times, boarded in 30 minutes. I was too late to check-in.*

Wide-eyed, I made my way over to the Alaska assistance desk. I told them I misread my ticket. One of the attendants kind of laughed at me because I was so pathetically close to making my flight. A flight Carrotz4Dayz was paying for, a flight I had little flexibility with. I asked what my alternatives were. The attendants checked. The flights to San Jose were full. The flights to Oakland were full. The flights to SFO were full.

If I wanted, I could upgrade to first class for another $200 and pay close to another $200 for the last minute upgrade. Or I could try another airline, where I was unsure my organization would cover any of my flight. I’d just gotten paid after over a month of no income and my funds were already pretty earmarked. Please, I said. Were there any other options?

One of the attendants walked over to another computer and started rapid fire typing in possible flights.  The other tried to walk me through viable options so I wouldn’t be out $200 – $400 for my mistake. I stood, bracing myself for another two weeks of self-inflicted financial discomfort.

Finally, the first flight attendant returned with a flight to SFO that afternoon with one seat left, in price range my organization would cover. I had to pay a small flight change fee, but would otherwise be set.

I almost cried. Instead, I set my box of donuts on the table and opened them. Please take one, I said.

DonutsA

Look how pretty they looked before I squished them when I had to shove them under the seat with my carry-on. Also, a couple fell out of the box and onto the floor of the plane. Addison was made aware of this fact and ate them anyway, because that’s how frickin good Pip’s Donuts are. 

We’re ok, they insisted. They’re fresh, I said. I just bought them. This was enough for the first flight attendant to select a blackberry lavendar. The other hesitated. I’m ok, he repeated.

Are you sure, I asked, holding the box a bit closer.

No, he said.

I convinced him to take a bacon-covered one since I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it in my vegetarianness anyway. The donuts were grade-A and they asked me to write down the name of the shop. I thanked them profusely for the inexpensive flight change and made my way to the gate. I thought about gratitude. And food’s power to convey it, among so many other things I haven’t been giving it enough credit for. And how fresh donuts could say more than a “thank you,” or even a blog post ever could.

*Part of me wants to blame the 5 consecutive days of informational onslaught for putting my brain at capacity and crowding out the important information of when I needed to check-in for my damn flight. Part of me knows that me forgetting this critical detail is perfectly in character.

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Big Mood

A line from David Sedaris keeps running round in my head: I can work a mood better than anyone I know.

But have you met me, Mr. Sedaris?

Trick question. You have, indeed, met me, at a book signing. You signed my copy of Naked with a topless portrait of me with my arms bitten off by a zombie. I do believe you can work a mood better me, if only because my generation likes to believe we’re exceptional at any given thing. In many things, all of us are average. Our friends tell us what our parents don’t, what our teachers don’t, what our employers don’t: You’re unique. You have value. You’re worth it.

Can you blame us?

Can you blame us for telling each other and working to belief ourselves, that we are radiant, that we are important, that we are exceptional?

Do you know how many voices I have to beat back in my head every day telling me that I’m not?

Voices saying This doesn’t matter in the long run and You don’t deserve to have that and Why are you so lazy? You couldn’t even take care of that one little thing and You’re not doing enough. You’re never doing enough.

Do you know how important it is to have friends saying you deserve the occasional happy hour, or to travel on a shoestring, or to take the job that pays shitall because you love it.

Because if you’re not chasing after something silly and difficult now, when will you? And how are you supposed to go after it without some sort of bolstered confidence?

We don’t have the same college nights anymore. We don’t have to drink as much to puke, and it’s hard to stay up late when you have work early. There’s fewer chances of bumping into the casual acquaintances you wanted to get to know better and fewer of running into the people you miss growing up with. Your work friends have kids coming up on your age. You pull away from the extremes of late nights and fast food and wild times and settle in the middle. The rut. Not because these things have stopped appealing to you, but because now you’re the person that you have to fall back on. You need to make sure you can eat for the week. You need to make sure you can get up in the morning. You are the person you have to wake up with.

Lately in this couple weeks in between jobs, I’ve been running up against myself. I can’t sleep at night. The morning mocks me with its unearned cheeriness and promise of a day spent feeling inadequate. The summer heat creeps in around noon, boiling me with the methodical steadiness of a slow cooker. Lazy. Useless. Broke. Incompetent. On the couch. Off the couch. Start a project. Get sidetracked by another. Get anxious over emails. Put on running clothes only to fall asleep on the couch and wake up in the dark. Endless phone scrolls. Seeing the world fall apart in countless ways and feeling particularly powerless. Apathetic. Privileged. Trapped.

Sometimes, in my head I give myself a pep talk from a frenemy who’s long drifted out of my life. She wasn’t much for keeping secrets but she was good at pulling you out of the doldrums. Babe, you need a change of pace. You have a job lined up. You’re clearly not worthless. So tomorrow, we’re going to go for a quick run, shower, and head to the nearest coffee shop. And we’re gonna be sooo productive, babe. It’ll make up for this whole week. If we can just get our shit together for one day, we can focus on tomorrow when tomorrow comes.

And on the better days, I believe her.

PMS, post-grad food stamps and other bullshit

So I’ve got about a million other things to do that would probably rank higher in importance than this but I’m writing because I’m struggling to do much else right now.

I got off work early because of a schedule fluke and while I wanted to go to the beach or go for a hike or go see a movie or something spontaneous…I have no one to do that with. My boyfriend is sick and my housemate is absorbed in video games and my friends are scattered or working or what have you. I have a hard time justifying these activities by myself.

Plus the PMS has been setting in all day. Mind you, this doesn’t mean I’ll actually get my period.

PMS

Source: http://wifflegif.com/

For those of you more skittish about this kind of stuff, I’d first-of-all advise you to get over it, and secondly let you know I’m not about to describe anything graphic.

Basically, for the past few year, off and on, I haven’t been getting my period. Which wouldn’t be particularly concerning if this were closer to my normal cycle but I’m on the pill, which basically forces you into having it. And no, I haven’t gotten pregnant or become anemic. I’ve tested for both of these things and they’re always negative. So my theory is, my lack of a period is due to stress.

Since senior year was the year my anxiety ran wild circles in the streets, hyperventilating at every corner and looking for bathrooms to post-crash cry in, its alteration of my physical, in addition to my emotional capabilities wouldn’t surprise me. The fact that I was uncomfortable in my living situation and unsure about where I would work/ live in the future didn’t help.

My unscientifically formed opinion is that PMS just makes symptoms of depression and anxiety worse. And since I wasn’t getting my period, the PMS did not have a determined endpoint, but rather a swing cycle of not-that-bad to embarrassingly overwhelming over the course of a month.

In between bouts of feeling like I could cry today for no goddam reason, I tried to research this. Apparently the relationship between stress and the menstrual cycle hasn’t been that well researched.

So I guess the question this post has been leading up to is: why FUCKING not?

I’d love for someone to verify my theory, or at least tell me what’s wrong with me. (Besides the unsolicited stuff my anxiety constantly reminds me of, that is.) Can we please make this a little higher on our list of research priorities? Maybe I’ll make this a grad school topic of interest provided I can dig myself out from under my student loans and apply to a program that ignores the fact I’m largely unqualified to pursue this matter.

detective

Source: http://reddit.com/r/reactiongifs/comments/2y3rhu/mrw_i_match_with_a_girl_on_tinder_but_all_her/

The second half of this post was gonna be a longer rant about food stamps. The gist is I’m considering applying and have several friends that already have. I think the thought just makes me sad. If we’re college-educated “adults” and have done everything the system has asked of us, and we live in large groups and work multiple jobs, shouldn’t we have a chance at making a real living wage? And I guess I know the system is broken but if even those with relative privilege (me) are struggling what does that mean for everyone else?

Science Fair

My mom is an elementary teacher that teaches fourth grade, and this year all her students had to make science projects for open house. I came to see her and spent a couple hours watching goldfish being overfed, Mentos exploding out of coke bottles, and the classic vinegar and baking soda volcano eruption. One girl even brought her pet chameleon, and showed how he didn’t change color to camouflage, but rather based on mood and temperature.

Volcano

A few of her students proudly demoed their experiments for me and their beaming parents. They all became very professional when I asked them what they had done, and I was reminded of having to present my capstone poster to group after group after group last week.

Hearing them speak was engaging, but seeing what they’d actually written was perhaps even more entertaining. One boy used his little brother as a guinea pig, testing if video games improved hand-eye coordination by having him play video games then making him shoot baskets. Apparently his brother “just got worse over time,” after the 4 trial runs his brother forced him into, and video games did nothing to help him. Shocker.

Another boy measured pulse before and after dancing. His methods were to measure your pulse, “dance until you don’t feel like it anymore,” and then measure your pulse again. His conclusion was that dancing leads to a happier life.

My favorite, though, was a little girl who tried to create electricity using a lemon and some wires. Her conclusion was one, comma-less sentence: “My hypothesis was wrong this did not work.” She covered her board with drawings of lemons and rainbows.

All the bitterness and disappointment of a failed experiment summed up in a single sentence. I wish all the scientific articles I’ve been forced to read in college could imitate her resigned succinctness. Yet, despite her disappointment, her board was as lovingly decorated as anyone’s. Unfortunately, lemon-girl didn’t make an appearance so I didn’t get to hear her deliver that line in person.

I don’t know if science has turned her off yet but I desperately hope she becomes a writer.

Lemon

Love, Hate, and Running

It occurred to me recently that I don’t do a lot of the things I do because they are “fun.”

I’m pretty happy with my life, and would say it’s a good one, but I wouldn’t say most of my time is too preoccupied with “fun.”

Is school fun?

Yes, in part, but it’s also hard and time-consuming.

Is work fun?

Yes, in part, but at times it can be draining or repetitive.

What about going out? That’s gotta be the most fun right?

Sometimes. And sometimes you’re the most sober one there, and your friend sits on your lap, and some drunk guy you’ve never met before bumps you in the head with his pool cue, then tries to apologize by kissing you on the head since you’re pinned by your friend and can’t get away.

So mostly, but sometimes it’s annoying.

And then there’s running.

Running can be very fun, but mostly it’s tiring and challenging. The real fun is feeling “in shape.” Feeling in shape is coming in lap after lap a couple seconds faster than your coaches expected, and not struggling. Feeling in shape is not even realizing you made it to the top of the hill already, because for once you didn’t feel awful when you did. Feeling in shape is doing circuit after circuit in the weight room, and only feeling more energetic afterward.

And these feelings are fun, but I haven’t felt anywhere close to them in the 4 months our training has been going, until very recently.

So what kept me going in the meantime?

It’s that I don’t find running fun. I find running compelling.

[And to level with you, I did not come up with the word “compelling” in regards to running, on my own. This post is partly inspired by a comic from The Oatmeal, entitled “How to Be Perfectly Unhappy,” which you can read here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/unhappy.]

Compelling, I think, would be the best way to describe 8 years spent pursuing a sport I had no interest in competing in professionally. A good portion of training involves me, covered in sweat and mud, legs burning, daydreaming about when I can put my spikes away for good.

But running, even at its ugliest and most painful, has taught me what I really value. I work for running, and all the things I care about, not in spite of their difficulty, but because of it. Because I know something good lies ahead. And I know I can get there. Some days, running is the absolute worst and I think about never going back. But usually I can’t imagine my life without it.

Running Picture

Me, simultaneously enjoying and hating running (AKA racing the 5k at SF State)

Conversations in my boyfriend’s apartment

Me: Can we watch a Disney movie?

W: So American Horror Story.

Me: No.

W: Dumbo?

Me: You would like that movie.

W:What, cuz of my ears?

Me: No, cuz it’s sad. You like sad things.

W: True, masochist.

Me: Masochists like pain; sadness is different.

W: I could be emo.

J: Or an enthusiastic nihilist

(In kitchen)

T: All the cupboards are open and I hate it!

*Slams cupboard doors*

T: This is probably my fault.

Me: Why is your window closed?

W: I don’t know. T must have closed it.

T (from other room): Cuz ladybugs keep crawling into my bed!

W: THEY LOVE YOU.

T: NO!

Me: Don’t you have a screen?

W: Yes, but my theory is they come through the door just to be with him.

J: Did someone pee on the bathroom floor?

T: I took a shower.

J: On the floor?

T: no-

J: I thought we agreed you would stop doing this.

Thank the lord capstone presentations are finished

CapstonePosterPic

Left to right: Sammie Yamashita, Margee McDonnell, a poster that absorbed countless hours of my life (but that I forgave because it looked beautiful printed), me, Elia Kazemi. Photo credit to the lovely Sabrina Tu, my freshman year roommate.

Today was a good vibes day. Which I’m grateful for because I could not have handled anything but after staying up last night working on a Week 10 work till 4 in the morning.

Today I learned about writing novels. I went to office hours with my favorite professor for the last time. I went to a BBQ in my argumentation class. And I finished the day by standing in a room with a bunch of Environmental Studies and Sciences seniors, as we talked excitedly about our capstone projects to each other. Everyone had learned something cool to contribute to the greater good. Everyone had something to present. Everyone was enthusiastic and answered question after question.

And for the first time, I felt like I’d be okay in the real world.

Today I realized I will miss this community. I will miss being able to hang out with people who have the same interests and passions as me, all in the same place. But I also feel ready.  I may have stayed up way too late to work on this project, but ENVS professors toasted us with champagne and beer (your choice), and commended our efforts. And this end is only fun because it’s the end, the pinnacle, the result of all our hard work. I am happy to be reminded that it was all worth it.

Schemes overheard in my boyfriend’s apartment

So my boyfriend and his housemates have a scheme wall where they post business ideas. the following are copyright of IDon’tNeedOne Ltd. (Partner agencies with IDon’tKnowWhatI’mDoing Ltd.):

An autonomous car that automatically avoids ghosts

IOT Ketchup Packets

Create a market place for usernames, then start killing people with in-demand usernames for profit

Acquire Illuminati logo stamp and stamp intoxicated freshmen on the forehead with it

A door that tells only you when you’re walking through it

Get babies addicted to vaping by law

“Freebies” = Free bees!

Note: These aren’t all the ideas. I was asked to leave the especially good ones in R&D.

 

Busyness won’t save (all of) us

Sure, I’m 20-something and I think I know everything, like most 20-somethings. I’m not in the real world yet and I don’t have a real job and I don’t know what I’m seriously interested in. My years of “professional experience” are in scholarship and running in circles around a track till I can’t anymore.

But. I’m over busyness. And I’ve been immersed in busyness all my 20-something years.

I run track and cross country, where to be in any kind of shape you have to run a lot. Everyday, sometimes twice. I’ve always been a full-time student, and until recently worked two on-campus jobs as well. (Down to one now, so don’t think I’ve completely given up.) I keep my grades up and focus on running, but don’t de-prioritize my family and friends. For the most part, I’d say I take after my parents, who haven’t taken off work for anything other than a major family event in 6 years, and work constantly to pursue their interests.

And I’m not against that.

But I’ve noticed that for years, I, and some of my peers, thrived on constantly being busy. It wasn’t enough to take 20 units, you had to be in 6 clubs as well. It wasn’t enough to get up at 6:00 AM for practice, you needed to get in your maximum work hours too, ending anywhere between 10PM and midnight, sometimes before you started homework.

This is a trait I personally carried over from high school, where I have multiple memories of coming home from school Friday night, and, being the thriving social butterfly I was, falling asleep through dinner. I’d wake up at 9:30PM in a daze, starving, and still ready to return to bed at any moment. I worked myself into a state of exhaustion no amount of weekend sleep could make up for. It was similar, coming to college, and having less class and more work. Except now I went out on weekends, which meant even less sleep than I got at home, if possible. This went on for 2 and a half years.

Beesy schedule.

Recently, however, I’ve been avoiding busyness at all costs. I have one less job because they couldn’t find the hours to accommodate my schedule (which is completely fine with me) and am avoiding classes with labs or experiential learning components that require extra time outside of class. I am doing the bare minimum of work and am desperately trying to pursue more creative outlets when I’m not curled up on my bed, relishing doing nothing.

Sometimes, in a culture riddled with short-attention  spans and equating your most “successful” self with your most productive self, I feel I am not meant to be here. Sometimes I feel judgment when my roommate enters the room multiple times to find I’m STILL taking a nap. Sometimes I wonder if my housemates think I’m lazy for using anything microwaveable. Sometimes it’s all I can do to attend the meetings I’ve set out for the day, and then come home to color mindlessly in a coloring book. None of these activities seem related to success or business. My god. What am I doing.

But I think for me, being the most efficient isn’t the most efficient.

I just don’t think I can be constantly doing something productive anymore. I think I used up the best of my willpower before I turned 18. And I think, for self-preservation’s sake, that is important.

So now I get more sleep. I take more time to prepare meals and take care of myself. I try to do something for myself even on days where a little more work would go a long way. I prioritize my happiness over my productivity, and take the lay days extra slow.

I am no longer a low-level of busy all the time. Instead, I toddle between two speeds: engaged and disengaged. And the irony of my newfound embrace of doing nothing is, I actually get more done.