When I was 20 years old and living in Australia, my roommate persuaded me to go on a seven-day fast. I — someone who loves a buffet more than puppies on Christmas morning and who considers apple pie and Alison P., my best friend from elementary school, to be confidantes in equal measure — was skeptical. But my roommate assured me the fast would be a life-changing experience. They had been doing it in her native country, Germany, for years. Other roommates from around the world chimed in. Apparently, fasts had been standard throughout the world, and I, the lone American, was on the outs with my food-is-life philosophy.
For seven days, I was to consume nothing but water and tea. Fair enough. When I committed to the week-long fast, however, I didn’t realize I was committing to a full month of limited food. Two weeks were dedicated to slowly getting my body used to eating very little, until I was down to just an apple a day. After the fast, my roommates said I needed a week to slowly reintroduce foods.
Mind you, this was a fast recommended by and observed by a bunch of 20-somethings with zero education in nutrition or health. My roommate was going to school for marketing, so that does say something about her extreme persuasive skills, which got me into this whole mess.
During the week that led up to the fast and during the fast itself, all I could think about was food — more specifically, what would be the first thing I would eat when the fast was over. I decided on a Snickers bar, despite having never liked Snickers bars. My roommate suggested I start with an apple, but I was already on to thinking about other things. What eating activities would I engage in? Maybe a pie eating contest or a hot dog eating contest. Sure, I was a pescetarian, but did that matter anymore? Did anything matter anymore? Where was the food?! I felt rabid and feral and somewhat like a caged psychotic animal because of my self-imposed fast.
That feeling is the closest thing I can come up with to describe how I feel today as I wrap up the biggest work assignment I’ve ever had the pleasure of being hired for. The deadline is next week, and though my mind should be on final edits, all I can think about is life on the other side of the deadline. All I can think about is that first metaphorical Snickers bar.
What will I do when this assignment ends? Take up sailing? Maybe start my own cat grooming service. Yes, I’m terrified of cats, but YOLO, amiright? Who wants to buy a van and sell hemp bracelets and homemade cheese out of the back with me?! Anyone? Hello?
Admittedly, my brain has become a bit mushy throughout this three-month assignment. Though foodwise I’ve binged more than fasted over the past 90 days, I’ve become socially starved. Rarely leaving the house in order to hit what initially felt like an insurmountable amount of work, I’ve become insurmountably socially awkward.
While picking up my daughter from school last week, I noticed two moms laughing about something. What that something was about, I haven’t a clue. But that laughter sounded wonderful. The idea of talking to someone sounded wonderful. In fact, talking to people went on my post-assignment bucket list!
I went up to them and started laughing along. Good joke. They looked at me, confused. I didn’t know these women, but I had to grab the opportunity. “Who wants to buy a van and sell cheese?” I asked.
I thought it was a great joke. I laughed. They stared.
“Is this for Girl Scouts?” one mom asked.
I realized that mush-brain was talking, not a coherent human being, and I slunk away.
The closer I get to my deadline the longer my post-gig to-do list gets. And as you can see with my deciding to become a competitive hot dog eater during the fast, my list is becoming more and more obscure. Last night, while the stress kept me awake for the 84th day in a row, I decided to dedicate my life to collecting disformed gummy bears from their manufacturers.
I’m not well.
After my fast ended in Australia, the Snickers gave me a bellyache. Perhaps the lesson is that rather than invite strangers to sell cheese, I should re-enter civilization by having a coffee date with an old friend. And maybe a Snickers on the side.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book “Stop Farting in the Pyramids.”