The best thing about being unemployed is how much time I have-time to myself, time to sleep, time to read, time to exercise, time to cook. Since February, my schedule has largely been my own, and this freedom has been the great reward of sticking up for myself and quitting my job. For the first month of my unemployment, I went to yoga almost every morning and ran to, around, and back home from Prospect Park two or three times a week. It was amazing. But after the first month, I needed to conserve funds, and work more. I settled into a more manageable schedule of getting up, applying for jobs, doing some freelance work, having a meeting with an old colleague, going on job interviews. With only a few exceptions, the best part of my new routine was this incredible discovery that I made, around midday: Lunch.
I have worked in the arts for many years, and have witnessed every possible permutation of lunch abuse. Not eating lunch, or pretending to not get hungry during the day, is the number one offense. My previous office didn’t have a space to sit and eat lunch, so each person would head to the kitchen, heat leftovers, or a can of soup, and eat quietly at their desk, while working. A big treat would be to go out and stand in line in the hot New York summer to buy an overpriced salad at the deli, because it meant you could get away from your email for more than 10 minutes. I have worked for bosses that didn’t eat, had colleagues who wouldn’t take breaks, and I once stage managed a show that rehearsed from 7-10pm, the prime dinner hours, every night with a director who “hated the sound of food being chewed.” Lunch has never been a part of my schedule.
Until now. Since I am on my own, and I make the rules of this period in my life, I have made a rule. Let Lunch be the main meal of the day, let it be cooked by me, and let it be comprised of delicious, fresh foods that leave me feeling full and happy. I’m no saint, I eat white rice and white flour more than I should, and have started making jam at home, a process that requires me to buy and use white sugar by the pound. I make and consume vegetable stir fry, pasta with tomato sauce, homemade soups, beans and rice (no cans!), nachos, pies, BLTs, enormous salads topped with homemade croutons, apples with peanut butter, poached eggs with kale, baked potatoes with sour cream, and fresh baked bread with homemade jam. You have not lived (well) until you eat a PB&J made from bread and jelly you yourself have created.
Baked fresh daily!
I don’t execute this perfectly. There are
days when I need a treat, or forget to pack my lunch because I had to run out the door at 8am to temp in Midtown Manhattan.
I did this last week and ended up eating a quesadilla at an off-brand Mexican chain restaurant, a truly depressing waste of $12. But this period of transition and reflection has taught me the value of my money and the value of my time. I know that I will go back to work soon, and it will be stressful and tough, as working always is. But I will bring Lunch with me, and the time it takes will absolutely be worth it.
This essay appeared in late June in a newsletter on health and wellness created by a great friend, Elizabeth Sullivan.