Spinach, cabbage, onion, grape tomatoes, quinoa, apple, and radish swish around our wooden salad bowl waiting for their glistening attire. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and honey gather into a sparkling dress. It’s Friday evening; I’ve spent most of the day at the pool and it’s my turn to make dinner. I mix together the vegetables and my dressing admiring the sudden shimmer. It seems just yesterday, I never made a salad at home or ordered one at a restaurant. They never filled me and I didn’t know how to make them matter in my life. This was before, before I met the person who would allow me to gently change.
Three November’s ago, I met a colleague who ate mostly salads for lunch and another colleague who ate hummus and veggies. I would look at both lunches and think, I could never do that. I am not a salad eater. I like food and warm, comfort food at that. I can spend so much time labeling myself as what I can’t do or don’t do. Just the other day I declined a tennis match because the rest of the players were “athletes” and I don’t consider myself one. It’s so easy to tell others I’m not an athlete; I don’t eat salads. I live immersed in a label-filled world; a world filled with “I don’t do that’s”.
What would happen if we didn’t allow our fears of not being good enough and other people’s opinions of us decide who we are and what we do? I would like to say there few things in this world that I am not up for. I will try most things, so why was it that I was limiting myself from playing tennis or eating delicious salads?
The thing about labels is they stick to you even as you grow up. Till today my grandpa asks me if I like daal like I used to when I was a toddler. Although I get frustrated at him, I do hold that sticker with pride–a foodie from birth! I’ve become so accustomed to needing others approval in all that I do. From where I work and what I do for a living to how I wear my hair, it’s all crap. Getting attention for who you are, as much as I don’t like to admit it, makes me feel good. But how important is it? How important is it that others think I’m a beautiful, kind, talented person? What about my opinion of myself? What happens when you rip off a label? Will I still be me without labels? Are all labels bad? Do all labels limit you?
Perhaps it’s not the labels themselves, but the source that are bad. For example, if I believe that I am an extrovert and love that about myself or that I am a super cheesy romantic at heart and find it endearing, then these beliefs can gift me confidence. However, if I write labels about me that come from fears (False Evidence Appearing Real), then they can turn into little cancers that eat away at my ego and sanity. Saying I don’t do something because I am afraid is saying to myself that I value others’ opinions above mine. It’s saying to myself I’m not willing to grow and become a better person. Small changes can make large impacts.
I used to believe salads were bland, gross, flavorless. I used to believe they were the last American food that I would not succumb to. Until early spring, this year, when I received an obscene quantity of greens through my CSA and finally decided it was time to attempt a salad or two. So, I asked the same colleague how she makes her salads and dressings. Although it seems like one day I just chose to make the change, it took years of watching her eat these salads enviously and then finally tasting one at a potluck lunch. M shared her salad recipes or rather her salad dressing formula with me because her advice was find the veggies you love and use those. Her dressing formula: Acid (Lemon, orange, or vinegar) + Oil (Flavored Oils work best) + Seasoning mixes that you use to cook with (Orange ginger seasoning, etc.)= Dressing Additionally, you could add water to cut the fat.
When we received so many salad greens and radishes and onions and beets in our CSA one Thursday, I set out to attempt my first salad and forced my palate to grow. My salad was simple. It included the above ingredients, but my dressing was phenomenal (Freshly squeezed orange juice, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, basil olive oil, 2 tablespoons of honey, and a tablespoons of orange ginger seasoning mix). It was the first time I created a salad that I couldn’t wait to eat at lunch. I remember envisioning my lunch during 3rd period the next day and salivating over it. (Side note: teachers normally get 30 minutes of contracted lunches; however, by the time students leave the room and you get your lunch and heat it up and go to the bathroom, it’s actually a 15-20 minute lunch.) Having a salad meant, I didn’t have to spend my lunch time waiting for it to get warm or fighting over the microwave. Thus, this small change that I was so resistant towards for over 20 years allowed me a more relaxed lunch that day.
I live my life so easily sticking to the labels that others and myself have placed on me. I do this without considering the freedom I would uncover by ripping even one-off. My fear of not being good enough is a limitation that I learned early in life and it served me well as a kid; it kept me safe from embarrassment. It does not serve me any longer. This small change–eating and making salads–shows me that all it takes is one small change.
Friday night, I tossed a simple salad together and sat down label free for one night marinating in the bliss of a limitless me.