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Life after High School: The fine art of mastering fine dining alone

July 27, 2013

Sarah Cawthon

At some point, every college student must face a time when he or she is forced to eat alone.
By graduation, you will have inevitably experienced an awkward moment when someone asks if they can use the unoccupied chair across from you, your will face turn red with embarrassment and an intense urge to announce that you do, indeed, have friends will come over you.
When I first arrived at Indiana University in Bloomington, the thought of having to eat alone had never crossed my mind.
Being fairly introverted, I had dealt with the occasional solo-trip to the mall or cafe for a quick cup of coffee, but I had never thought I would really ever have to eat alone.
I had anticipated that I would join strangers in the dining halls or make friends quickly and never have to suffer through the table-for-one meals.
I was sadly mistaken (and, apparently, it’s only acceptable to join random people in the dining hall for meals during the first month of school. After that, it’s considered just plain weird.).
However, I quickly realized that eating alone can actually be pretty enjoyable.
In the university world, some time to sit and gather your thoughts can actually be a blessing in disguise.
When you’re running from one side of campus to study, work on a group project and finally tackle a tough exam, some time to just let yourself unwind during that busy day will soon be a very treasured and important part of your day.
During my first semester at IU, I was majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology, which is a huge change from my original (and now current) major of journalism.
My creative juices were forced to stop abruptly and my nose was stuck in textbooks rather than my usual novels.
With my artistic outlets put to the side, I found myself feeling almost empty at the end of every day.
When my meals fell at odd times and I could not dine with friends or classmates, I decided to put away my laptop, textbooks and anything else I used to make myself look busy (and less lonely) and just enjoyed my meal.
It was incredibly relaxing to just put everything aside for a few minutes and enjoy the plate of food in front of me.
It was amazing!
I could feel my stress melting away for those few minutes and I began to feel imaginatively full again.
I was allowing myself to just be with myself.
I began to really think about how I felt about certain aspects of my life and my studies.
It was during one of my ‘table for one’ lunches that I decided suffering through a major I was not happy with was not the best idea for me and that I should go back to my first true love – journalism.
While dining alone is something that every university student will be forced to endure at some point during his or her college life, it has become a very important part of my weekly routine.
It keeps me in touch with my own thoughts, wants and beliefs while dealing with professors’ – and other students’ – ideas coming at me from every direction.
It helps me keep my sanity and I always get to eat exactly what I’m in the mood for.
Plymouth native Sarah Cawthon is a junior at Indiana University Bloomington.
Plymouth native Sarah Cawthon is a junior at Indiana University Bloomington.

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