Spice Rack
[ college ]

After my parents finished helping me move boxes into my dorm room in my first semester of college, they offered to bring me shopping to do some last minute shopping for things I neglected. Among the first things I noticed about my new room was a mini-fridge, microwave, and small pantry shared between my roommate and me. Prior to arriving I was under the impression I would be dependent on the dining hall for food, so this came as a surprise. Ambitious to fill my half of the pantry, I picked up some food I could make with minimal effort, like store brand one-minute oatmeal, for which I got a small bottle of McCormick ground cinnamon.

I think I may have made oatmeal twice over the course of the year and brought my cinnamon to my new off-campus housing for sophomore year. Among other things like our own rooms, this came with the benefit of having our own cooking area - a full-size refrigerator and freezer, oven, and abundant pantry space for living independently of our dining hall, the travel time to which now triple what it used to be. I would still frequently go to there for dinner because the convenience of not having to address my dissatisfaction with easy dinners and inability to make my own food outweighed walking thirty minutes for a convenient enough meal. I was in the company of very few who still had a meal plan after freshman year, or those who had one and didn’t live on campus.

This isn’t to say I would never cook. One of my first purchases considering my new cooking area was, among easily prepared foods, some more spices. In the interest of consistency, I was sure to buy McCormick onion powder and McCormick ground black pepper. I had been craving tikka masala for months and was considering buying the ingredients to attempt making it myself, but stopped when I found that the only garam masala came in a fancier McCormick bottle with a green stripe and lid and made of glass, instead of my familiar red stripe and lid and plastic bottle. I opted for curry instead.

For how little I actually used any of these spices, or really any spices and herbs, until my third or fourth year in school, I gave way too much thought to this especially inconsequential thing and didn’t realize it for years. I can’t even be sure it would have changed if I didn’t ask my roommate to buy me chili powder while he was at the store one day and he didn’t come back with a cheap value brand bottle. I’m glad I was able to hide how upset it made me because it’s embarrassing enough to even think back to.

The more I thought about how upset it made me, the more it worried me about other things undeserving of my concern I had inadvertently conditioned myself to excessively care about. I now try to take a second to consider why something stresses me out or why I feel the need to correct something. I try to consider if, of the many things that stress me out for good reason, this deserves to be one of them. Often, I find the answer to be no.

Even now I feel that I worry about some things more than I should. I am confident in my ability to make my student loan payments every month, and am immensely fortunate to be in this position, so why do I continue to worry about them? I’m doing everything I can to avoid catching COVID, so what do I gain by losing sleep over it? Going forward, I hope I can continue to be mindful about being “responsibly” stressed. For now, I’ll consider these stressors over homemade tikka masala.