A sandwich, apple, yogurt, bag of carrots and maybe a granola bar could be found in a slightly crumpled brown paper bag in the bottom of my blue backpack every single day of high school. Sometimes I’d bring turkey and sometimes PB&J. Occasionally, if the apples were looking exceptionally bruised, I’d pack a banana or, in the fall, maybe some grapes. Carrots, however, never fluctuated.
Breakfast was also pretty standard. Cereal Monday through Saturday. Pancakes on Sunday.
Dinner was probably the most variable meal, and definitely the most challenging, but once the pot of spaghetti water was started or the chicken was in the skillet, there was really only one option, unless I felt like repeating breakfast again. Cereal was always an option.
But in college that is far from the truth (not the cereal part – that still stands.)
Instead of the stress of finding nothing in the refrigerator and then the pressure of making time to prepare what random ingredients you found, the problem is quite the opposite. The options can actually be a little overwhelming.
First class problem, I know, but the struggle is real.
Where? When? And with whom? Must be asked every single time the idea to eat comes up.
Is it a sit down dining hall meal with a rarely seen friend? Is it a mad dash to grab & go after waking up in a panic just 15 minutes before it closes? Is it one of those 5 p.m. dinners with your roommate when you’ve both been studying for too long and aren’t really hungry but just need a break? Isn’t it hard that the toughest part of dinner is physically getting yourself there?
No foraging, no preparation – just transportation in the direction of food.
Even once that’s settled, however, the decisions aren’t over at all.
You can arrive at the correct dining hall or café at the appointed time and even locate your friend or find your own corner to sit in, but that doesn’t put food on the table.
For some people (and we all know who they are) a routine as I had in high school never goes away. They’re the friend that is always back to the table and finished eating before you’ve even located a plate. They walk in and they know what they want, they don’t even need to look at the various line options, the salad bar or the soups of the day. They make a beeline for the sandwich station or the grill or the mashed potatoes that for some reason are always available.
For people like that, maybe the options aren’t overwhelming, and maybe eating in college is no less hectic and stressful than eating at home. But if you’re like me, you live a slightly different life.
Tacos? No, that line’s too long. Salad? Wait, I had that for lunch, let me try something different. Steamed broccoli? If it wasn’t mixed in with the comfort foods maybe I could risk being seen over there. Cereal...always way too tempting.
I’ve spent upwards of 30 minutes simply circling the dining hall like a squirrel who can’t remember where she buried that acorn last fall. I get excited, I start speed walking towards it, I hesitate, I move toward it – I awkwardly make eye contact with someone in line and stutter again – I turn around and head in a totally opposite direction.
Maybe I complained about monotony and having nothing to eat in high school and maybe I’ll complain about it again when I’m living in an apartment next year. But for now, in my present lucky-to-have-to-many-options-that-I-get-overwhelmed state, I’m going to continue to complain that I have nothing to eat, even with an abundance right in front of me.
Sometimes what we do in college just seems silly.
Julia Werth is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.