People frequently ask me why I do things.
“Why are you cutting off all your hair?”
“Why are you moving to California?”
“Why are you biting my leg?”
And quite frequently my response is “I don’t know. It just seemed like the thing to do.”
As a survivor of multiple suicide attempts, I’ve come to fully appreciate my time on earth and to understand on a personal and physical level that life is finite. I don’t want to waste one precious second of it doubting myself or my decisions.
Which is why when people asked “Why are you trying to eat a giant doughnut in under three minutes?” I just smiled and said “I don’t know. It seems like the thing to do.”
It started on a late-night doughnut run to Bob’s Donuts, a paradise of fried dough and simple carbohydrates. Staring at me from the window was a gorgeous behemoth, sugary, quiet, waiting.
“There’s a contest,” my friend told me. “If you can eat one of those in under two minutes, you get your name on the wall of fame, plus a free doughnut.”
I was hooked.
I won’t lie and tell you that I dreamt of the doughnut, but it was a close thing. The day I had decided to make the attempt, I woke up with a pit in my stomach. No good. I needed that thing empty. I spent the morning doing quiet breathing exercises to calm my nerves.
Then there was the matter of stomach-stretching. I did a quick Google-search for food competitions and discovered that I was already behind schedule. But so it goes. To make up for it, I spent the day eating bags of goldfish followed by cups and cups of water to expand the belly. For clothing, I wore a loose-fitting dress with plenty of room in the gut-region.
And so the day passed.
At last, accompanied by two brave compatriots, I wound my way through the streets of San Francisco under the growing darkness to Bob’s Donuts. The sign glowed red against the setting sun, the door yawning like the maw to hell. Or maybe I was hallucinating.
We entered. A quiet shop. A few commoners purchasing their daily dozen. Family Feud playing on the television.
I approached the counter with as much moxie and vigor as I could.
“Um, hi. Do you, uh, still have those really big doughnuts?”
“We’re just cooking a fresh batch now,” the woman said. “You can wait here if you want.”
So we did, that tantalizing and aching fifteen minutes. During that time, I was able to reflect on just about everything. Including how goddamn big that doughnut was.
Nine inches by nine inches to be exact.
I’ve done a lot of crazy things in my life. Flown to Peru on a whim. Jumped in some bodies of water. Written a novel in a month. Ate a stick of butter in ten minutes. Moved across the country without a job. Trapped voles in a tall-grass prairie. All sorts of things.
I like doing crazy things. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel that I’m doing something worthwhile, one leap at a time. But eating this doughnut might be the final doughy straw.
Before I had time to second-guess myself, though, the doughnut had appeared in a pretty pink box. It was larger than my head.
The helpful fellow behind the counter explained the rules, got out his phone, and said, “Okay you can start.”
And I was off. That first bite was incredible. The doughnut still warm, delicious, and way chewier than I imagined. The second bite was like gnawing into wet sand. The next few minutes flew by in a whirl of nervous giggling and furious chomping and, at last, when the dust had settled and the three minutes were up, the doughnut was still sitting there.
Or half of it anyway.
I had failed.
In addition to attempting a lot of crazy things, I also am accustomed to succeeding at crazy things. I got into my first-choice college, the only one I applied to. I was accepted on the study abroad program of my dreams.
Yes, mostly because I’m incredibly privileged. But also because I’m too stubborn to quit before I’ve even tried.
So, here I was, staring my failure in the face.
It was incredibly freeing.
For so long I’ve tried to be the best. The best partner back when I was dating people. The best ex after I wasn’t. The best friend. The best student. The best barista. The best writer. The best activist.
But you know what? I’m not any of those things. I never will be. I am a human being, and that means I am incredibly flawed. I make mistakes. I send drunk emails. I think mean thoughts. Some days I’m tired and I don’t even leave my house, never mind showing up to that protest or calling my senators for the umpteenth time.
Some days I don’t eat the whole doughnut.
And that’s okay.
I am human. I like to do crazy things. And sometimes I’m going to fail.
It is okay, sometimes, between those bites of doughy goodness, to take a breath.
I don’t know. It just seems like the thing to do.