A couple of weeks ago I was recovering from a lingering infection and had to spend days upon days at home, alone and uninspired. As soon as I felt better, I was itching to do something out-of-the-ordinary, however, I was still confined to staying at home and not exerting myself too much.
So I decided to give cooking a try.
Yes, I am one of those people who never really graduated beyond the Toast, Pot Noodle and Things-from-a-Packet category of cooking. Now, I am not completely useless in the kitchen: I can make a killer batch of frosted brownies, vanilla cupcakes, rainbow cakes and other assorted desserts, but that’s about it. Until now.
That first attempt at cooking was quite an ordeal though. I (nonsensically) refused to start small, and sourced a very complicated and intricately described recipe online for Ginger Chicken Curry. This cooking session took me from novice to executive chef in a few hours. I discovered that washing pieces of chicken is rather disgusting, that cucumbers are surprisingly juicy, and that chopping onions really does make your eyes sting. Unbearably so. (I later on discovered that if you chop them under running water, your eyes won’t sting. I tried it out, and it works!)
Throughout the process, I was constantly scared of injuring myself, but thankfully I emerged largely unscathed. My hands hurt an awful lot while “finely” dicing garlic cloves and pieces of ginger, and it did take me five whole minutes to figure out how to screw the lid onto the blender, but let’s just say that it was worth it in the end. I even made poppadoms, and I escaped (what I thought was) a near-death situation by putting on my sunglasses while handling hot oil because I was sure that the oil was going to leap up into my eyes and blind or scar me for eternity.
The end result was even more rewarding than I imagined. The guinea pigs who tested my meal gave very encouraging feedback, and even asked for second helpings.
So now I invite you to embrace this time of year and explore the endless list of exciting new things to do. Reflect on what you’ve always put off and grab this very moment in time to go for it! Getting out of your comfort-zone is the first step. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
– Find a creative outlet. We’ve all got an artistic, imaginative spark within us, and inspiration is everywhere. Write a short piece of prose about a couple sitting on a bench, make up a song about being stuck in a frustrating traffic jam, or redecorate your room/car/desk. Keep this up and life will never be dull.
– For a real test-of-self, why not give Nanowrimo a try? Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month, where people around the world spend their Novembers writing a 50,000-word novel. This is a project about quantity, not quality, and anyone can participate. I’ve given it a try before, and it is definitely tough but fascinating to do.
– Make the most of your weekends. It’s fine to stay in with a Chinese takeaway and a DVD, but weekends can, and should, be about spontaneity and adventure! Snap up a very cheap flight ticket to some far-off land, go to the theatre, take a long walk in the countryside with your camera, or take an old friend out for brunch by the sea. This way, you’ll always have something to look forward to.
– Start being the model student you’ve always promised yourself you’ll be. Go over your lecture notes, and try to remember the main concepts of each class. If you’re feeling particularly industrious, get a head start on some of those extra readings, and begin mulling over ideas for that 3,000 word assignment, the deadline of which seems light years away.
– Explore a new lifestyle you’ve always been curious about. Maybe you’d like to learn more about veganism or eating raw, or you could listen to different styles of music. Doing things which are out-of-the-ordinary for you can be as simple as wearing more colour, or as commendable as donating blood. Just go for it and enjoy the new you that will start shining through.
(This article originally appeared in the second edition of The Insiter, Vol. 11)