Food and Me–there goes THAT identity!

I am an inveterate fretter. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell me that worrying doesn’t do any good, and there might not be any thing to worry about, and even if there is, there won’t be anything to do about it until it happens–it doesn’t matter. I’ll still worry about it. (Incidentally, I also pick at scabs.)

But blogging helps, so here are a few of the mental scabs I’ve been picking, with regards to my fast-approaching departure for the Philippines.

I’m worried about the food. I’m not exactly worried about liking it–I tend to be an adventurous eater, and I feel like a month in Vietnam with a friend who makes a game of feeding me bizarre things was probably a good warm up. I’m worried about the food because somehow, in the past few months, my shifting identity has become inextricably tied up with food.

For one thing, I’m worried about gaining weight. I put on a load of weight while I was in college (eating poorly and not moving will do that), and it wasn’t until a few months ago, when I started working a job that required physical activity and eliminated meat and processed foods from my diet that I even began to shed some of that weight. I was only just starting to feel good about my body, and it was a GREAT feeling. I don’t want to lose that.

I mean, I know that my confidence in myself shouldn’t be so reliant upon my appearance, but, c’mon guys, I’m American. Plus, I’ve been to Southeast Asia–I know firsthand what a beating self-esteem can take in the face of heat, humidity, and crowds of people half my size. (It’s hard to feel beautiful when you’re beet-red, sweating like a pig, and standing next to a perfectly made-up woman who would wear your shirt like a dress.)

And that’s actually the LESS important of my food issues–that’s just the physical side. The problem is, my eating habits arise out of a desire to eat ethically–local food, no factory-farmed meat, etc. I honestly believe it’s better for EVERYONE (me, the farmers, the planet, everyone).

I guess I should probably wait until I get there to worry about this–I have a hunch local food will be easy to come by, even if meat will be hard to avoid. But I’m still worried about giving up control over where my food comes from.

Maybe I’m feeling a little down over the whole issue because I’ve been traveling, and at times it’s been almost impossible to eat ethically. The last place I stayed, with my Vietnamese family, I just threw in the towel entirely. I ate meat AND processed crap, and I felt disgusting. I still do feel disgusting, actually. (I didn’t feel like I had a choice; I couldn’t really ask them to buy a whole new set of groceries for me. And they really didn’t make much of an effort to compromise.)

I guess what it comes down to is this: while I was in the application process, I would think, from time to time, how not having a religion would make things simpler for me abroad–you know, no worrying about finding a place to worship, or trying to find a compromise between my beliefs and my environment.

Heh. So much for that.

Basically, what I’m worried about is kind of the flip side of what was concerning me a few months ago. I finally happened upon an identity that really suits me, that makes me feel good about myself–this sort of conscientious hippie persona. And I only just got to try that persona on and discover that I like it before it was time to assume my new identity: Peace Corps Volunteer.

But I have reached one very important conclusion: I’m not going to be able to succeed at this unless I purge myself as much as possible of self-righteousness and judgment. So, it’s possible that this is exactly what a brand-new hippie and baby vegetarian needs–a healthy dose of humility.

Anyway, unless the rest of you succeed at massively overhauling the food industry while I’m gone, the food issue will still be here when I get back. Right?