I've made my fair share of bad decisions. None have been truly awful, nothing that could leave me racked out on the floor of an opium den or at the bottom of a cement mixer in New Jersey. Often, my worst decisions are rooted in acts of omission or the dull addictive safety of logic. So perhaps it follows that my best decisions are usually based on impulse and gut feeling. When I take action for inexplicable or foolish reason, I am immensely proud I overcame my own "don't s" and "shouldn't s".
One memorably thoughtless good decision I made was senior year of college at three am, an hour typically reserved for booty calls and future life regrets. I was at my parents' house for winter break, wandering the hallways with the soul-searching insomnia of a 21 year old one week too long in suburbia. As with all good soul searches, I ended up looking for answers in the fridge.
Pawing through its contents, I took one judicious bite of everything: pickle spear, spoonful of whipped cream, smidge of spinach quiche, nibble of gruyere, rice pliaf topped with homemade blueberry jam... (gross, I know, but if you've never done this you're either lying or missing out). And then I found an unexpected prize: a cornish game hen, the whole oven roasted bird nestled in golden glory inside a tupperware box.
I had been a vegetarian for six years, with only the occasional fish crossing my plate. My reasons were ecological, but it was pretty easy holding the moral high ground when I never really missed eating meat. Or if I did, the profusion of vegetarian potlucks endemic to a liberal arts campus were there to shore me up. Avoiding temptation had been relatively easy...until I saw that cornish game hen, sitting in the soft glow of the fridge light, promising all the comfort of home cooking, the savory bouquet of rosemary and thyme.
Suddenly, every cell of my body was screaming for meat, throwing a hormonal fit like a bratty kid in a candy shop. I was dizzy, I was weak with lack of protein, I would not make it back upstairs to my bed without at least one small bite of that roasted meat perfection.
I didn't microwave it, I didn't grab a plate, knife, or fork; I went Viking on that hen. Sitting in the cold pale pool of light cast by the open fridge door, I barely took breaths between bites. Drumsticks, wings, dark meat, light meat. Blood roared in my ears. Molten greasy roasted gold coursed through my veins. Feathers fogged my vision. When I was done my savage attack all that remained was a tiny pile of bones, perfectly white and picked clean.
Six years of moral decisiveness came to a close, six years of health problems were soon to be behind me. I was out of body, floating, full of energy. This was way beyond booze or pot, this was meat. I felt amazing, human, omnivorous.
De-vegetarianizing was a slow process and I'm still a proponent of limited, sustainable meat consumption and respect those who keep vegetarian, whatever their reasons. But letting myself dig into that hen set the stage for a basic truth I have come to learn in life after college, after the scripted to-do list ended: there is a beauty and a freedom in cutting lose and following your gut. Even if it wants to eat a whole hen at 3 am.