Why There Is No School of Life to Teach Us Better Living

I am an Engineering graduate. I and my mates know nothing about life. We have the most awkward social skills. I learned about complex theories of telecommunication and physics in 4 years. But never…


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First Day Food

It was the first week of my first year at college, and I had made the mistake of asking for an allergen plate at the cafeteria.

Later, I would learn how to balance on the precarious knife’s edge of choosing food I could eat without my stomach committing mutiny while still choosing food I could make myself swallow more than three bites of. My first week, however, I had no such plans to stray from the set path. I had a food allergy; I would request an allergen plate.

The plate was duly supplied. It was carefully covered in clear shrink-wrap that revealed its tentatively edible contents: baked chicken and steamed vegetables.

It didn’t look nearly as appetizing as the “normal” food that was being ladled out for the other students, but beggars can’t be choosers. I set forth with my meal, determined to overcome my shyness and start a conversation with someone.

I recognized an acquaintance from class sitting alone.

Target acquired. I made a beeline towards him and his much more appetizing looking food.

Unfortunately, his own meal was almost done. He politely allowed me to join him anyway, but our conversation was stilted and brief. He left quickly, and I was left alone with my chicken and vegetables.

My very overcooked and under-seasoned chicken and my steamed within an inch of their lives vegetables.

I forced myself to saw off another bite of chicken anyway. Not eating wasn’t an option. I would just to have to force down another bite. And another.

By the time I had gotten into my third bite, it was all I could do not to break down crying in the cafeteria.

I was homesick. I was upset that my attempt at reaching out had failed. And I was melodramatically certain that somehow it was all the fault of the food.

A high school assignment on symbols in literature had emphasized just how important sharing a meal can be, not only symbolically, but also culturally. Sharing a meal creates a bond between the people eating it.

And while I could eat at the same time as my classmates, I could not quite share a meal with them. My own food must remain separate and apart, and in those emotional first days, I was convinced that medical necessity was somehow foreshadowing my fate at college.

I did the only thing I could think of.

I abandoned my meal and retreated to find the closest piece of home.

My sister.

I was blessed to have ended up at the same university as my sister, and her dorm was only a two minute walk away. I had her room number memorized, but it turned out to be utterly unnecessary. My sister was clearly visible in the kitchen that was accessible just off the dorm’s lobby. Warm light spilled out the door, and I could see her through it, busy cooking the hamburger meat that she would soon by pouring over cheese-laden nachos.

The hamburger meat was hastily moved off the stove and forgotten as soon as she saw me hesitating in the door. She demanded to know what was wrong, and the whole story came spilling out, as silly as it seemed now in the warm light of a kitchen that almost felt like the one at home.

In true sisterly fashion, she didn’t care how silly it might be. She just fixed up another plate of nachos and told me to stay as long as I needed.

By the time I emerged into the wider world of campus once more, my fears had been thoroughly pushed aside.

I was ready to make a go of things once more.

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