[Flickr: Carly & Art]

It's midnight in Cambridge. You are a graduate student. You are:

A. Tucked into bed, getting some much-needed shut-eye before you have to make a grueling seminar presentation the following morning.
B. Burning the midnight oil, working on a paper full of searing insights.
C. Sitting in a café, engaged in soul-searching philosophical debate with a fellow student.
D. Standing in Store 24 with a rare, out-of-print volume of 19th century poetry in your backpack, debating what flavor of Ben and Jerry's ice cream will be your dinner.

I know some people in grad school learn how to cook well, and cheaply. But young adulthood is often a time to test your limits: I'm not a drinker, so as a graduate student I chose to test the limits of a human being's ability to live on Pop Tarts. Toasted for breakfast, raw for lunch, microwaved for dinner...

Other weeks I lived on Minute Rice and teriyaki sauce. Or Stonyfield cherry yogurt, cupcakes and licorice whips. I had a long love affair that I no longer understand with Starbucks Mocha Frappucinos and maple oat nut scopes. I think it was because I was studying Moby Dick at the time. My schedule was chaotic, and so were my eating and spending habits.

I'm an introvert by nature—I love people, but always feel most myself when I'm alone. Graduate school was an introvert's paradise. I spent a lot of time wandering about when I should have been doing research. I felt depressed and inadequate. I thought studying semiotics was rotting my brain. Now I realize it was all the processed sugar.

I ate some good food while in graduate school, at university functions where vegetarian sushi and decadent muffins were heaped upon trays. But to say that the twenty-something "me" didn't avail herself of all of the food, and other, opportunities afforded by university life would be an understatement.

Today I'm self-employed, but I've learned enough about my weaknesses to keep to a tight, deadline-bound life of working out, working, budgeting, and cooking. However, every now and then I do have dessert for dinner. Still, I'm convinced that if I top my ice cream with some healthy toasted oatmeal, nuts and raisins, it does count as a proper meal—so long as it doesn't become a habit.

About the author: Mary Pagones (known as HeartofGlass) eats food, mostly plants, but still worries far too much what she is eating in New Jersey.


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