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April 6, 2010

A few years ago, back when I was living at home with my dad, I discovered the first hard piece of evidence for my stupidity.  The following anecdote is true:

When I was 25 or 26, I would stay out all night at a diner, either doing work alone, or drinking coffee with my friends.  By this point, the number of friends had dwindled considerably.  P. had put down roots in DC long before – S. was up in Central Jersey, living with C.  My girlfriend at the time wasn't much for sitting up all night, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.  And so I would often head out alone, typing out my final manuscript for my MA program in the same booth of the same cheesy diner I'd haunted back in high school, pausing occasionally to converse with the other spooky nightowls who twiched and roosted while everyone else was asleep.  I had become a regular – I had my usual booth – the waitstaff knew what I wanted before I even asked for it.  Some might see the tradition of this as refreshing.  Not many, probably… but some.  Most, I'd assume, probably see it as a fair shade of depressing.  But still – I was working on a Master's program.  The first of two.  So eat it.

Like I said, I'd stay up all night drinking coffee.  Rarely did I eat, as the food at this diner was both overpriced and repulsive.  And so when I'd return home at around 2 or 3 in the morning… I'd pad around in the dark and the dozy quiet – all jerks and jitters from the caffeine – with a terrible pang for some form of sustenance. 

At this point in my life… I was still rather svelte.  Or, if not svelte, I was at least not pudgy like I am now.  I'm not overweight – hardly – but now that I'm nearly 29 (dear God), I'm fully capable of growing a might… fluffy… should I not watch what I eat.  I tend to gain and lose weight in my face… which is terribly disconcerting, as I've wanted my face to be gaunt and horselike ever since I saw Michael Wincott as the Guy of Gisborne in the crappy, 90s Robin Hood movie.  You know… the one where Kevin Costner attempts a British accent for all of three seconds, before he just throws in the gauntlet and returns to his typical yogurty drawl?  Yeah, that one.  I wanted to be the gravel-voiced guy who gets a sword in the belly from his prissy albeit wonderfully charming cousin (Alan Rickman is really wonderful in any role, isn't he?).

Sometimes I'd heat up some soup… or chop myself a salad.  But that level of preparation is downright torturous at 3 in the morning – to say nothing of the inherent danger of handling a blade or flame when your body chemistry is awash with enough caffeine to power a Christmas tree.  More often than not, after all those cups of bitter, burnt coffee… I'd want something a little sweet.  So I'd head into my father's cupboard and pull out the Nutella.  I'd scoop out a healthy dollop, spread it atop a slice of white bread (yup – bleached, processed flour), and roll the concoction up into a creamy, cancerous tube.

I ate this every night, more or less, for a year.  That's how long it took me to realize that I was able to gain weight.

Call me stupid – because, admittedly, I am stupid – but I didn't realize that Nutella was unhealthy for you.  "Nuts!" I'd say, "nuts are nutritious!  It's not chocolate… it's hazelnut.  I'm fine."

And then I expanded.

Like I said, I never really got fat.  Just plump.  A little round.  Doughy.  Which would be fine if my frame could handle it… but since my skeletal structure is more feminine than masculine (narrow, slight, dainty), and so I wound up looking like a wad of chewed gum in jeans.

Eventually it dawned on me that I was getting chubby.  I couldn't ignore it any longer.  I jumped from the standard 150b. I'd been since college to 180.  My max was 190… but not for that long.  I've since melted that down to the unstable 165-175 spectrum in which I currently reside.  I can gain and lose five to ten pounds in a day.

I eat a lot of salt, you see.

So why am I telling you this?  Well… because I've been thinking about the choice I made to stop eating Nutella.  I haven't had it in years.  Once I realized that my chubbiness was a direct result of my nightly butter tube… I swore off the stuff, and haven't looked back.  I still love Nutella – or, rather, I think I do… as I can't really remember the taste anymore – but I refuse to eat it.  I made a decision to stop eating something so bad for me (honestly, how I ever could have thought that it wouldn't make me fat is entirely beyond me), and have stuck to it… despite my notoriously terrible will power.

I chose to abstain.  And I haven't gone back on it.

How I wish I could bring that level of will to the other things in my life I so desperately need to address.

I am lazy.  I am terribly lazy.  Evilly, cruelly, diabolically lazy.

Tonight, J. informed me that if I would only focus on achieving something… I would topple the whole world.  "You'd overthrow the government!" she said – or something to that effect.  I've heard this speech my whole life.  "Andrew, if you'd only focus!" was the mantra I'd heard from parents, teachers, a girlfriend (as opposed to the other, who routinely reminded me of how pedestrian my abilities were… a charming lady, she).  It got so that I had actually grown to be proud of my unrealized potential.  I managed to perfect a languorous swagger – a pride in nonaccomplishment.  I was Casey on the couch.  That job's too high.  That test's too low.

A few years ago, I realized that this isn't charming.  It's… in a word… annoying.  In a few more: immature, entitled, decadent… pathetic.

I'm nearly 30 years old, and I haven't really accomplished anything.  Not because I've failed… but because I've never even bothered to try.  I'm sure that if I psychoanalyzed myself – something I'm actually very good at… though due more to my self-obsession, rather than my intellect – I could assign some convenient excuse to it all.  I don't try because I'm afraid of failure.  Or I don't try because I grew up having things handed to me, rather than ever having to work for what I wanted.  I'm sure that all of these things are true.  But I'm too much of a Republican (only a little bit – don't worry everyone – I'm not an asshole) to not accept personal responsibility here.

It's about choice.  I've chosen not to.  At least… I think so.

But then I think of the Nutella… and the problem seems all the more terrifying.  My laziness is a problem – it's a slow, glomming uselessness that I clearly need to shake.  But I solved my Nutella problem by abstaining.  I chose not to do something – not to roll up a palm-sized wad of pure fat in a sheet of toxic carbohydrates.  To try for something is a different effort all together.  I'm forced to abstain from abstaining. 

I have to try to try.  And I'm not sure I know how.

How does one animate themselves when their life has been spent personifying inertia?  Science tells me that I must be acted upon by an opposing force.  I need to fail, maybe.  Or I need to go broke.

I think of this… and I go back to the Nutella again.  I didn't have to grow obese to stop eating it.  I just needed to wake up and make a choice.  I had to look in the mirror and see my b
elly… the furry beach ball it was… and decide that I wanted to look different.  And that was enough for me.

Choice is a force from within.  And that's what I need.  I need to choose. 

I need to look in the mirror now, I think.  I need to challenge myself to be.  To be anything.  To try.

And so I will.  I'm going to try.

But before I do… I need a snack.

I'm going to go make myself a salad.

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