Breakfast of champions. Wheaties. When I was growing up, a noteworthy achievement was acknowledged by: “You must have eaten your Wheaties today!” It seemed to mean that success could be attributable to the breakfast cereal I ate. The good people at General Foods were savvy marketers so the breakfast of champions was well-ingrained in my psyche.
As time went on, however, I realized that the meal that mattered was lunch. The lunch period could be a make-or-break time of day of which I do not have fond memories. Eating alone at a high school cafeteria lunch table was and still is the hallmark of a social outcast. There were days that noon was the worst time of day, because of what I experienced as well as witnessed. In looking back, I wish I had done more to help my fellow students who were eating alone, hunched over stale peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Furtive glances assured that they met no eye contact with the perpetrators of their misery. Why didn’t the teachers step in? In retrospect I believe that we were all complicit in contributing to the misery of those who didn’t meet whatever ridiculous standards there were for inclusion. Old behaviors, if not challenged and replaced, can remain throughout life.
When I entered the work force many years later, the concept of Power Lunch had reared its ugly head. It was high school all over again. Lunch time wasn’t just a meal, a respite from the work day or a time to relax. Once again, it was important to eat with the “right people.” Where you ate and what were insignificant. Networking. Face time. Everyone scrambled to maximize their networking capability by lunching with those who mattered. And never be caught eating alone.
As an introvert, I have pretty much always preferred my lunch time to be my quiet time. My psychological batteries need charging after a morning of meetings, teaching, talking and just being in the company of people. Reading or exercising are still my preferred activities as a lunch-eater.
Lucky for me I finally figured out that I can spend my lunch hour the way I want, not how someone else prefers it. And, it probably took more years than it should have. Sure, I enjoy an occasional midday meal with friends or coworkers. But, it’s of my choosing whether to be alone or with others. As in so many realizations over the course of time, I have discovered that choice is the perfect seasoning for my meal.
Lunch. Another opportunity to get it right.