Last week was weirdly busy – I say “weirdly”, because I didn’t have any jobs last week, but I had enough appointments and volunteer projects that I still somehow had a hard time getting everything done. I would look at the clock, thinking it was maybe 11 a.m., and would be shocked to see it was closer to 3:30. I think I ate lunch maybe twice last week, because by the time I noticed how late it was, it was too close to dinner to squeeze it in.
It got me thinking about when I worked in offices, and how hungry I was all the time. I would start watching the clock for lunch starting around 10 a.m., while I was eating a midmorning snack – I always had candy, nuts, dried fruit, and energy bars stashed in my desk drawer. By noon, I was noticeably irritable and faint with hunger. I’d scarf down whatever I bought or brought for lunch that day, and then by 3pm I’d eat another snack. As I drove to rehearsal at 5pm I’d snack again in the car, since dinner was often not until 10pm or later. And none of this is counting the multiple trips I’d make during the day to the candy bowl at the front desk, or to the office break room if someone had brought in treats – always shaving off only a small sliver of cake, or breaking off a small piece of a cookie or donut, but going back so many times that I’d consume more than if I’d just taken a decent sized portion the first time around.
That’s actually a lot of regular and small meals. And yet, I was STARVING. My stomach would growl loudly in meetings. If I was in a meeting that ran over into my lunch hour, my listening would totally shut down and I would fix a hateful glare at whoever was droning on about useless crap while I was clearly dying of malnutrition in an ergonomic chair. My eyes would glaze over while I stared blankly at dull powerpoint presentations and daydreamed about food, even if I had just eaten. I actually remember being in the middle of some “important” meeting in a conference room once, and I must have had a really concerned expression on my face because my friend Aubrey leaned over and whispered, “What are you thinking about?” And before my rational mind could come up with a good lie I admitted, “I’m trying to remember my recipe for veggie burritos.”
I was nervous when I started working freelance that I would sit home and eat like a maniac all day. Look at the damage I could do in an office where I was mostly limited to what I brought to eat that day – what would happen if I were left unsupervised in a fully stocked kitchen with a limitless lunch hour?
The weird thing is, I’m not as hungry as I used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I still love food with a passion, but it doesn’t occupy my brain as obsessively as it used to. I started thinking about some of the reasons why this is the case:
- I don’t get up as early as I did when I was working full time. Getting up at 5 or 6 a.m. will definitely make you ready to eat by 10 a.m., especially if you skip breakfast. (However, even when I DID eat breakfast, at my desk, at 8:30 a.m., I was still ravenous two hours later, so…go figure.)
- I have the luxury of eating much slower than I did when I was trying to get to work on time, or back from my lunch hour on time. I remember standing in my kitchen one morning, late for work, trying to eat a banana as fast as I could while watching the clock, and then bursting into despondent tears because I couldn’t chew it as fast as I needed to, but I also couldn’t swallow the chunks without choking. In many ways, it was a very representative snapshot of my life at that point. Sad.
- Sometimes my inherent laziness will win over hunger – if there is no readily available option for lunch or a snack, I’ll open a few cupboards and stare intensely at the contents as though I can will them into combining to create something good. Then, when nothing happens, I’ll wander back to my desk and think, “Ron will be home in a few hours to cook for me.”
But I think the main reason my hunger pains have subsided is this: I’m not chronically bored anymore. I like what I do, and even though there are tedious parts to my job, for the most part I find it all very interesting and entertaining. No one brings me spreadsheets full of numbers that might as well be hieroglyphics and expects me to make sense of them. I don’t have a staff, so there are no mind-numbing staff meeting to attend. In fact, it is very rare that I have to attend meetings at all anymore, and when I do, it’s usually a one on one conversation with someone I like about a project we’re working on, or a group of people sitting around talking passionately about theatre, and there is not a powerpoint in sight. If someone is droning on, I can always count on a stage manager to look at his or her watch and say, “Okay, that’s enough, we’re moving on.”
It seems like I spent so much of my professional life feeling so hungry, and yet never being able to fill the void. I wish I’d figured out earlier that it had nothing to do with food.