Fasting for Lent – and Class

I can always count on ice cream for comfort in times of despair.

By: Leah Li

February 13th was Ash Wednesday. I decided to give up chocolate for Lent.

I am not a Christian, nor have I ever joined in on this religious-turned-viral 40-day fasting craze that millions of people around the world celebrate year after year. But I am always up for new challenges and finding new excuses to get the weight loss ball rolling – and I knew chocolate was one of my greatest vices.

I was feeling a strength of mind that often comes to me when I am presenting myself with a challenge, especially if it involves a new fad diet that I have decided to try. I always start off strong, and that first day, I feel like I can conquer anything in the world. That mentality was certainly the extra push I needed to decide to give up technology for a day, too.

We had received our Wednesday schedule from our supervisors the night before, so I knew that our day would be solidly packed with three meals, rehearsals in between, and an excursion to the hotel’s fitness room if time permitted. One thing I’ve learned from other aspects of my life – including previous fasts – is that challenges become much easier to overcome if your mind is kept busy and occupied, and your body is kept active. I comforted myself with the idea that a technology fast was going to be just like any other of my fasts: restrictive and difficult, but ultimately, it would be freeing and spiritually and physically cleansing. I was grateful that we had a full schedule, and felt it would be a great opportunity to go without technology, since I would be so busy I wouldn’t even miss it – or chocolate! It was all very romanticized in my mind.

My day began terribly. Without a phone, I didn’t have an alarm either. My roommate and I overslept, skipped breakfast, and nearly missed the bus to take us to rehearsals. I don’t know why I decided to bring my phone along with me. Perhaps it was because of habit, or because I feel insecure without it, or even because I convinced myself I needed it just in case of an emergency. I regretted having my phone with me, however, because its physical presence and proximity was a huge distraction for me throughout the day.

On the bus ride, I kept thinking to myself all the things I wouldn’t be able to do that day. “I can’t listen to music. I can’t go on Facebook. I can’t take pictures. I can’t check my email. I can’t text.” And so on. It wasn’t my first time without a phone – I had lost my phone before, forgotten to bring it, etc. – but those times weren’t the same as voluntarily preventing myself from using an item that was only inches away from me.

My frustrated mantra continued for part of the day, intensifying when I saw others with their phones, diminishing when we were on our feet rehearsing for the show. Finally, at some point after lunch, I took a mental step back and really took a long, hard look at my frustration, and that dependence on technology I was feeling. There was so much going on around me: was it possible for me to just stop for a moment, and really appreciate everything, instead of pining after an obsession that could only offer fleeting and digitalized comfort?

Thoughts clear, and without the distractions of technology, I was able to focus on my life. I had the time and focus to have deeper conversations with the unforgettable people around me. I was more productive when practicing my dance when my mind wasn’t caught up on thoughts of picking up my phone. During the breaks we had throughout rehearsals, I worked on my Handedness assignment, which was due that evening. Handwriting an assignment is much slower than typing it out on a laptop, or jotting down notes on a tablet or a phone. But that day, I realized I have always enjoyed working with pencil and paper: no matter how advanced technology becomes, it will never offer me the same feeling I get when I am simply holding a pencil and letting my hand free to write in whichever direction my thoughts go.

My day got progressively better, especially when we found ourselves heading to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. The courses we enjoyed were so exquisitely beautiful that the main reason I wanted my phone was to take pictures of the food. But thankfully, every other person in our group had the same thought, so I was able to just concentrate on enjoying myself and savoring my memories of that moment.

I thought I could make it through to the end of the day without much more trouble, but something important had slipped my mind. The Handedness assignment I had been working on earlier? I needed to submit it that evening – which meant I needed not only the Internet, but also technology…

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