Day 16: Food

I mean, it is the month of Thanksgiving. Leaving this one out would be a crime.

Despite my strained relationship with food, it’s something I am still grateful for, some times more than others. None of us would be here, breathing and heart beating and heads thinking, without some of sustenance.

But as I’ve spent a semester in an honors class focused on food, I am reminded of how much more food can mean to us besides the nourishment. It’s the center of culture and community, it can transport us to certain places and memories, it’s affecting our impact on the environment, ourselves, and each other.

There are certain foods I can think of that remind of growing up and comfort and home. Every Sunday, we went to my grandparents’ house for supper with plenty of German food around. At home, we loved trying out every new mac and cheese recipe we could find. And I could never forget to mention the joy that is puppy chow.

It’s no secret that my relationship with food has not been easy, constantly cycling through feelings of contentment into distaste. Rather than the role that it should play, it has been a physical manifestation of my mental illness, an area of life I can pretend to establish control when I feel things are falling apart. In reality, I become obsessed with food and let it rule over basically every part of my life.

Since this mentality toward food is so innate, it has messed with any sense of normalcy. I can’t eat intuitively without wondering how much I’m eating, if it’s enough or too much. It can still be uncomfortable to eat in unfamiliar situations with different people. I have to force myself to eat when I’m physically hungry even if others aren’t eating. Honestly, sometimes I get so lost in my own head and have dealt with these anxieties and emotions for so long, I don’t realize how foreign my thoughts can seem to others.

Especially entering this honors class focused on food-related topics, I came in with a much different attitude toward food than all of my classmates. Food was never a form of self-harm for them. They automatically empathize with the uncomfortable feeling when anybody mentions eating disorders.

With all of this said, I am so grateful for the progress I’ve made. Many factors have gone into this point, but when thinking of food specifically, I am beyond grateful for my transition to veganism. This month marks eight months since first becoming vegan, and I have found a new relationship with food I never thought possible. Veganism helps me feel more comfortable with food knowing that what I eat serves a purpose beyond myself. Not that it isn’t healthy because it’s food that makes me feel great, but I know that the choices I make are the most ethical for other living beings and the environment, too. I love feeling like I can be some form of an advocate at every meal, all while eating awesome food.

It’s not that my hesitations and anxieties have disappeared; they’re certainly still always there. I’ve just gotten better at pushing it aside so I can actually enjoy life and appreciate food for what it is: food. Not some scary, foreign substance out to ruin me. Food is a part of living.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into this topic, but in Western culture, food turns into something far beyond health and sustenance. We are bombarded with messages of dieting and detox foods and everything in between. We yo-yo among different fads in hopes of reaching a certain goal. The real goal should be nutrition and maintaining balance long-term.

And I know I am extremely fortunate to say that I’ve always had food accessible to me. I have never wondered where and when my next meal would come. Something so simple that those without that stressor in life don’t even think about. Hunger certainly isn’t a problem going away any time soon, but the fact that we have people mindlessly wasting food or throwing it away makes me cringe. Probably the same level of disgust as seeing billboards along the interstate toting the “American way” of hunting and eating steak. No, thank you.

I’m getting distracted. I am grateful for food. I am grateful for how eating nutritious food feels and the energy I receive from it. I am grateful for the sense of comfort I receive from eating the not-so-nutritious foods, too. I am grateful for dessert. I am grateful for the warm feeling in my stomach from a great meal. I am grateful for the warmth from wrapping my hands around a cup of coffee in the morning. I am grateful for the traditions I can always rely on and the memories from them involving food, even if I can’t necessarily eat it anymore or have to modify. It’s less about the food itself and more about the people you get to share it with. Finding gratitude and remembering the positives helps me overlook the doubts.

Especially with Thanksgiving tomorrow, the food is the center of attention. More importantly, however, is the people behind it all, sitting around the table. But food certainly helps. And I hope others can also enjoy a day full of good food and people.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Day 15: Technology

Ah, the double-edged sword that is technology. Although it’s quite difficult to not be grateful for everything that technology provides for us. I’m lumping in basically everything that makes life convenient. Hello, microwave.

No matter how old I feel on the inside, I know it would be an interesting transition to not live without those devices we might forget about or take for granted. Only when I don’t have a Keurig by my side do I miss it so much. Or even thinking about not having an iPhone and spending years with a slide-out keyboard. Even mentioning these things feels almost silly to admit, but I can’t deny that I enjoy little things that make life so much easier.

But not always easier. Too often it can feel like technology overcomplicates things, especially when it comes to how we live our lives and communicate with others. While I’m so grateful to have text messaging and websites and apps that allow me to easily keep in touch with people, it can make me very lazy in actually trying to see people face-to-face. It’s practically a crutch, getting the satisfaction of talking with others but forgetting to appreciate how nice it is to spend time with others without technology.

The thing with technology is that once you have a new gadget in your life, you can’t imagine existing without it. We attach ourselves to these conveniences to the point where it can sometimes be unhealthy. Drawing the fine line of where that point is can be the trickiest part.

We’re in an age where technology is booming, everything advancing too fast to even keep up with. I’m in a class reading science fiction right now, and we can’t help but notice how soon those stories of futuristic technology may soon, or already have, come into fruition. And it’s certainly not slowing down any time. I can’t even imagine what a few years from now will look like.

Yes, technology is a double-edged sword, but I am grateful for the edge that does good. We’re now connected to each other and the world now more than ever. We have endless information at our disposal, always learning and finding new things. It doesn’t help to look backward, unless it’s to see how far we’ve come. I wouldn’t even be here writing this post if it wasn’t for having my own laptop or place to type or where to share it with the world effectively.

When I see technology advancing, I see it as the world getting smarter. That we’ve found a medium where our minds can continue to expand and create new products and make new discoveries. We have the potential to do so much; how we use it, however, is even more difficult to predict.

Living in the first-world country that we do, we are beyond lucky. I believe that if we have the technology that can do every little thing for us, it’s only fair that we also use technology to help others. Especially when it comes to the technology that is basic or can save lives. Maybe adding resources to schools or providing ways to purify water sources.

When everything moves so fast, sometimes we just need to slow down and really evaluate what we’re doing and who it is affecting. Who is making your technology? How are their lives? How are their working conditions? Chances are, they aren’t as fortunate as you. What products and materials are going into our technology? What consequences does making and using technology have on our world, the environment and the people in it?

Of course gratitude is time to give thanks, but it’s also a time to think of how others can also express gratitude. I want to be grateful for the fact that what I do in my life doesn’t harm others in the process. While some areas of technology step up to that plate, others certainly do not. I ultimately want to be grateful for things that I can truly stand behind and know I’m doing the best I can for myself and the world.

And if I do have the technology, I want to appreciate it for what it is and not overstep the reality. I thank technology for making tasks simpler. But I don’t want to lose my mindfulness in the process knowing certain things will always be done for me without much work on my end. Maybe to appreciate technology more, we go time without it. We see the other side of the equation. We understand the role technology plays in life.

Technically, I and many other people wouldn’t have much of a future career-wise without technology. We can never go back to how it once was. I mean, think of having to dial-up internet again. No, thanks. But we can still turn our eyes away from the screen, our fingers away from the button, and appreciate the things that technology cannot make easier. That people cannot design and build. When it comes to a consumer capitalist society always looking for more, maybe the only software update we need is a change in attitude.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 14: Home

I ended last week talking about how much I enjoy traveling to any destination beyond my own familiar surroundings. I talked about how much I loathe thinking of living in one exact spot for the rest of my days, not taking every moment I could to leave for somewhere new.

With all of that said, I do find value in calling somewhere or something my own. Having a place of peace and solitude to fall back on, where I can be completely myself unapologetically.

Tomorrow I will be going home for Thanksgiving. Usually I just call my hometown’s name by the name itself because it’s never been somewhere I really felt like staying. That’s not an uncommon thing during those younger years when all you know is a single place to just want to start somewhere completely different and never look back. That’s still an urge I get. To go where I know nobody and nobody knows me. I can just live.

See, I’ve always lived in the same town up until college. I had always hoped my family and I would move at some point, but we never did. It’s not the smallest town ever, but small enough that basically everyone knows each other and their business. If something happened out of the ordinary, be prepared to have everybody asking questions. Almost like this unpenetrable bubble surrounding the place.

I also just have lots of negative energy whenever I come back to visit. It feels like a switch goes off and my time spent growing up floods back to the forefront. Some of it was awful. I really didn’t like who I was when I lived there. Obviously I can’t blame one factor entirely, and I’m some special case, but I can’t help but admit that rather than a sense of belonging as I drive back on those city streets, I feel indifferent. Usually with a lot of road rage.

The only reason I ever go back to that town is because my family is there. I spent this entire past summer away from the place, confirming my thoughts about the place. But that first experience on my own helped me see things from a new perspective.

Despite my distaste for my hometown, it wasn’t a bad place to grow up. It was safe. There’s comfort in knowing that whatever you’re doing, you won’t be alone or won’t know anybody. It’s a town people raise their kids in, and I can respect that.

But I also realized that the least important part of my hometown is the town itself. The environment is not to my liking and most of the population loves their steak and guns. That doesn’t mean I’ve met some wonderful people growing up that I still like to stay updated on. Or that I didn’t make some wonderful memories. Or that I didn’t learn anything significant while living there. Or that I didn’t have the wonderful resource of my family always by my side. Home is so much more than a place. It’s even necessarily a place at all. It’s whatever brings you that warm fuzzy feeling, from the people you love and the things you love to do. The times where you don’t want to be anywhere else but in that very moment.

I can relate to those people who maybe doubt whether they have a home or not, whether they belong anywhere, if a home actually exists for them. It’s scary. Out of place and out of touch with yourself and the world. That’s why it’s so important to cherish everything you consider home in the present moment. Homes are evolving, plans change and people come and go. But it’s those things that remain stagnant, where you can always find support and relief, that deserve gratitude.

Besides my metaphors, I am grateful for a secure shelter to stay in whenever I need it and people to fall back on. Thinking of people on the streets without that security, my heart goes out to them. I have always had this luxury and wouldn’t know what I would do without it. Especially in this time of giving and good will, expressing gratitude is also a reminder of those in need. Everybody deserves a place, people, something to call home.

Thank you for the people in my home, real and theoretical. For giving me strength and providing shelter from the storm inside my head. The gifts you give might not always feed my stomach when I’m hungry, but they feed my soul when I need it most.

As I prepare for my several hours on the interstate tomorrow, I won’t be thinking about the setting of my destination. I won’t focus my energy on my distaste, no matter how strong I feel it. I’m driving all of that way to come home. Walk through that door knowing I’ll receive the best hugs in the world. And that brings me peace.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie