Vegetable Stew

And the Need To Do Everything

I returned from Winter Break as I always do: bored, half brain-dead, and somehow simultaneously avoidant of any work and ready to jump fully into any project that comes my way. Essentially, three weeks spent depending on my family for nearly everything makes me stir crazy and the only remedy I know is getting back into my school schedule.

So it was that I returned to Athens and to the spring 2016 semester of classes at UGA. I had signed up for an interesting slew of classes, a mix-mosh of subjects that weren’t necessarily completing any requirements but were fulfilling a desire I’d always had. This was the semester I intended to learn about research principles, photo editing software, screenplay-writing, and typography all at the same time.

I started off very well. The classes were interesting, I liked my teachers, and it looked like the semester had the potential of turning out four As to boost my GPA. I threw myself into projects — hesitantly at first, then full-force. My school life was making me feel like a real person again after those weeks of slouching around Covington. I may have been neglecting other responsibilities like friendships, but there was always time for those when my work was finished.

The sniffles were the first sign that something was wrong. Maybe just allergies, I thought. Maybe just allergies in the middle of Georgia’s January winter. Then came the throat tickle. Then the fatigue. The throat scratch. The ache. Suddenly, just as the semester was really beginning, I was bedridden with strep throat.

I’d like to say I handled it like the strong individual I had been trying to prove myself to be through my nose-to-the-grindstone attitude about school. I’d like to say I didn’t call my parents and tell them I felt like death. I’d like to say that I moved more than the three times required to go to the bathroom on the Saturday that it first hit me. My parents arrived with antibiotics and advice to complement the piddly soup packets they brought me. They left just as quickly as they came, leaving me to try and care for myself in the apartment where it seemed that all my roommates were able to run productive circles around my dopey sick body.

The antibiotics made me feel a little better, but the soup packets really just made me feel worse. I decided that I would do soup right: a brothy vegetable kind. Throughout the day, I tried a few times to get up and chop carrots, only once succeeding in getting to the kitchen and putting my hands on the knife. As soon as I touched it, I had a vision of partially cut carrots and gore, so I moped my way back through the empty apartment and back to my home on the couch.

When my roommate got home, she asked me about the carrots that I had left on the counter. As a pathetic response, I croaked out “soup.” I knew she would be angry that I had left a mess for someone else to clean up. It may have been alright if I had been around recently, storing up friend points with favors and unexpected nice deeds, but my work obsession had kept me distant. Fatigue got the better of me and I passed out for a small hibernation session with these thoughts in my mind.

I awoke to a warm, familiar smell. The kitchen faucet was running and my roommate was humming off-key to whatever song was pumping through her headphones. These little naps of mine made me stronger by small degrees, so I was able to rise off the couch and mosey my way to the source of the smell. Sitting on the counter, bubbling away in my Crock Pot, was a rich brown-yellow liquid dotted through with the greens, oranges, whites and reds of beans, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. My roommate, still unaware that I was behind her, stood next to the sink, washing the cutting board that I had left out with the carrots that were now in the stew.

My inability to do things on my own hit me like a block of ice turned into a gentle wall of water. It splashed over me and I felt refreshed by the knowledge that I didn’t have to be the one, the lone warrior, the independent soldier wading through my life with slow, sloshy steps.

I gave her a hug from behind and real water splashed all over the both of us. The cutting board acted as a director and water spilled on our clothes, on the counter, on the floor. We were both messes. And we were both okay.

After I apologized and she forgave me, I sat and ate the soup she made while she cleaned up the mess I had made. I knew I needed her help in that moment. I felt dependent, and I was happy.

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