Imagine a college student who’s told in her Freshman orientation by a kindly professor with a corduroy jacket and elbow patches that if she studies hard, she will succeed. We’re not talking Harvard here, just a state university like University of Arkansas, a place that reliably rewards the effort. The student does as the professor advised, more, in fact. She even makes sacrifices. Good for her. Four years later, the student walks the aisle and takes her diploma. Did she make magna cum laude? As she’s guided offstage, she opens her diploma. No Latin, or her accomplishments. Only the words, “Sorry. You’re dead.”
Is that a confusing example? Well, civilization is to blame.
I was similarly told by wellness writers and fitness instructors and the Institute for Liberal White People that, if I took care of myself, I would be fine. Just eat quinoa, exercise regularly, drink almond milk, do yoga, embibe in moderation. Go Paleo and all your darkest fears are magically erased by ground beef and tree nuts. I can see their plastic faces and tight abs now, assuring me that running is the process through which all of life falls into order. “Just keep it tight, and nothing on earth will harm you.” Look at the celebrities and their form fitting pant suits. They eat vegan pizzas, steam their vaginas. They will never die. Or get cancer or struggle to make it through a day or fail.
Part of what aggravates my health fixations is that I’ve spent so long working for good grades. As Adam of 50/50 said in reaction to his diagnosis for cancer, “that doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I…I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I…you know? I recycle.”
I’m 5’7″ and have weighed 140 pounds for ten years and dark chocolate is my indulgence and igotobedearlyand idrinkkombuchaand iplaytennis andimeditate andiwriteablogaboutanxietytohelpmedealwithit
because that’s what they fucking told me to do!
You done fucked up.
The most it was all supposed to afford me was a healthy body, which, supposedly, I have. At the very least, I should be able to enjoy said healthy body by feeling like I can breathe normally and circulate and run miles and do whatever the fuck I want because I’m 29-years-old. Instead, I tiptoe around like a stroke survivor. I watch my vitals closer than a pregnant woman, and what do I get for it, Civilization? All those times I practiced moderation for fear of future consequences, I should have just been satiating my base desires for all the good wellness has done me, Civilizatttiiiiooonnnnn.
I shouldn’t go so hard on you. After all, you gave me the free time to write a blog about mental illness. And clinical psychology and acceptance-commitment based therapy.
I’m just saying. Reach back in time to that six-year-old with his Playmobile in his room alone shooting his nervous eyes at his closet door and tell him,
“Sam, don’t worry about the cheese.”