Hunger and Thirst

All the health and fitness blogs I read (while binge-eating my husband’s Wheat Thins) say that if you suddenly get hungry, you might actually just be thirsty, so you should drink a bunch of water before indulging in snacks you’ll regret later on. In other words, satisfy your thirst before you get a better idea of what you’re actually hungry for.

I know hungry people. And I’m not talking about the little gypsy girls in my Albanian town that my sitemate and I would buy bananas for. I’m talking about people that wanted something so badly that they wanted it like their body wanted food. They needed it. And whether it was a body perfectly sculpted by day after day of Crossfit or yoga, or a medical degree, or a published novel, or a prestigious career protecting the country or catching bad guys or saving the world, that hunger they felt resulted in those accomplishments.

I’ve had to admit something to myself recently: I don’t know what I’m hungry for anymore. Overall, I’m extremely happy with my life, but because of the person I am or the culture I live in (or most likely both) I can’t help but wonder, “What’s next?” What have I done that is notable lately? What am I working toward? Why am I not hungry for things–competitive swimming, writing fiction, reading philosophy, graduating from college, joining the Peace Corps–like I used to be?

Part of the answer, I think, lies in the inherent frustrations of adult life. It’s college admission season, and while everyone who got accepted to the programs they wanted is wearing rose-colored glasses, mine are significantly grayer. Because I work in college admissions and see how misled students can be, myself included. There’s a perpetual narrative of: “get good grades in high school -> go to college -> SUCCEED beyond your wildest dreams!!!” And few people are willing to admit that it’s more complicated than that. There is no narrative to follow once you reach adulthood.

I feel an immense amount of pressure to SUCCEED in the way I am expected to as a college graduate. (Hence my constant, unrelenting anxiety.) But that desire is not hunger. That’s just thirst. Wanting to succeed for the sake of success is petty and even morally wrong. What I forget isΒ that people who truly succeed aren’t thirsty for success. They’re hungry for what they really want to get out of life.

Sometimes I think I know what I want to do, but it’s scary. Writers don’t earn a lot of money or have a lot of job stability or get awesome public employee benefits. (All of which are things I very, very much appreciate about adult life.) But those very things are what get in the way of allowing myself the time and energy by which to pursue what I might actually be hungryΒ for. You can call that an excuse, and that’s fine. But it is an explanation–and a big one–for why I and many other adults I talk to are so thirsty. Your day job, even if you enjoy it as I do mine, takes a lot out of you.

I need a tall, cool glass of water to flush out all these insecurities. Maybe I will find it by watching “This Is Water” over and over again until I finally understand that the world does not revolve around me. Maybe I will one day be in a position where I can satisfy my thirst and find out what I’m truly hungry for.

In the mean time, I need to avoid snacking.

(Seriously, though. I eat way too many Wheat Thins.)

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