My mind isn’t anything spectacular—just a large hallway, the light dimmed, and little green and red flecks frolicking about. I take a deep breath before walking onwards. There’s lots to explore, but an image suddenly appears in front of me, bringing me to a halt. It’s a glow-in-the-dark image of the burger and fries I ate for lunch.
Hmm, I wonder how many calories that was?
Initially, the thought is inquisitive, not really a big deal. But as usual, more intense thoughts emerge…
I bloody made a promise that I would eat healthy: salads, smoothies, vegetarian nachos, avocado toast. A pork-belly burger and fries from The Burger Shack definitely doesn’t count as ‘healthy’. And I’ve eaten badly for the past week pretty much, so my skin’s probably looking crap and I bet I’ve gained weight. GOD, I haven’t seen my friends for a while—what will they think when they see me next?
I should really get to studying, though. This new voice is quiet and feeble, barely cutting through my drilling thoughts.
Maybe I could skip my next meal?
Now, that’s just ridiculous. I’d be miserable and wouldn’t be able to focus on anything. Hmm, maybe a small egg salad could hold me over?
Just ignore the food thing—it doesn’t matter; it was just one junky meal. The thought pretends to be sturdy and determined but it’s a fraud, still weak and quiet.
I’m holding my smartphone, so I put the torch on, shining it around the hallway. There are all sorts of doors: family memories, friend memories, school, TV, movies, music, politics, and in the distance I see a door labelled ‘Study’. I take a couple of steps in that direction, but the hallway begins to tighten, making it harder for me to move.
The image of the burger and fries appears again. I squint at the meal, deciphering every aspect of it.
First, there’s the brioche bun. Maybe around 200 calories, considering the melted butter. Then there’s the pork belly bites—probably around 500 calories, give or take. And there’s the coleslaw, avocado and sweet chilli, most probably 250 calories all up. So, 950 calories for the burger.
Not too bad.
But there’s also the large container of fries, which is probably around 400 calories. So, 1350 calories for one meal.
Geez. I punch my arm in frustration, and the thoughts come in.
How the fuck can I ever burn that off. That’s just way too much of the wrong calories. For. Fuck. Sake. I hate this.
A reassuring notion comes to me: Just exercise—a home workout can sort this issue. I exhale in relief. Finally I can get rid of these compulsive thoughts.
My physical self starts a 60-minute Zumba class, but the hallway’s still too constricted. With each move I feel my limbs pressing against the walls, the pictures in the frames sneering at my efforts.
Do you really think one Zumba class will make a difference?
My body feels too big for the hallway, which fills with the upbeat Zumba music until I’m choking on it—walls tightening, breathing becoming harder.
I take another deep breath, ignoring the way it catches in my throat. I focus on the exercise and force the hallway to give me enough room. The walls reluctantly expand. My body has room to move. With the ache in my muscles proving that I’ve burned off at least some of my meal, the hallway finally opens.
I need to study; I need to work on my project. If I fail that then I might as well drop out of the paper. The thought is blunt and sobering and I’m reminded of my goal.
The study room is once again in view and I start to head towards it.
But I’ve barely taken a step forward, and there it is. Perfect and wholesome as could be: A Dog Meme. Glorious and so out of nowhere, framed on the wall as if it were a Picasso.
I grab my smart phone and go onto Facebook. I want to share it with one of my closest friends from college who used to always share cute Dog memes with me. But then I notice that she has deleted me as a friend. What?
At first I choose to look on the bright side.
She could have done it by accident.
Nonetheless, I still get hit by a plethora of frantic thoughts.
How can someone ‘accidentally’ delete a friend? Maybe she doesn’t like my posts. ᴚBut I don’t think I’ve posted in ages. Or maybe it’s because we don’t stay in touch as much? Though I don’t detect any problem when we talk on Messenger. Maybe she found out I talked badly about her that one time in year thirteen? Or what if she doesn’t really like me, and has just been nice cos she feels sorry for me?
I’ve been down this type of route before, and I’d rather not go down it again.I push forward, but once again the hallway’s become smaller.
I want to get away from this, but I can’t. I must stay here and sort the problem out.
I look through my profile to see if there’s anything ‘annoying’ that I’ve posted. Nothing. Haven’t posted since February. Then I look at our messages, checking if I’ve sent something upsetting. From the first read I don’t notice anything, so I analyse the messages I’ve sent, line by line.
Oh, damn. There is the fact that I forgot to message her back when she sent a Happy Birthday message in July. Maybe that’s it. But I messaged a couple of weeks later, saying sorry for the late response, and she didn’t seem to care.
There’s a familiar taste in my mouth – bitter, metallic. It’s the typical worry and self-punishment, as toxic as ever.
I DM my best friend, ranting about my problem. She responds with: Ohh don’t worry about it—she does stuff like that all the time. Pretty sure she’s doing one of those social media detox things. You’ve done nothing wrong, you’re always super nice. Just ignore it and live your best life—you’re over-thinking it.
She’s right. Just ignore it. I don’t need to get worked up.
I turn my phone off and let the taste in my mouth disappear.
The constricted hallway opens again, and I can finally move forward and focus on other things. I exhale deeply and jut my chin out, feeling determined and free.
I’m behind in my project schedule and if I don’t pass I’ll fail this paper.
The study door beckons me and I push myself to walk faster. Soon I can wrap my fingers around the golden handle, pull the door open. I’ve made it. I’m here. Finally, I can start what I came here for.
But… What does she mean by ‘live your best life’? Am I wasting my life?
Should I be doing more?
Am I behind in life?
The gust of self-doubt tugs the door out of my hand. It shuts with a click.
Self-doubt’s biting wind then wraps me in a familiar hug. Like a friend.
Until even that disappears, and I’m left alone.
So, yeah. This is it; this is my mind. This is my hallway. The hallway that I struggle down, my goal at the end, all the way battling the trials that my own mind sets to trip me up.