Angst in my oatmeal: How making breakfast helped me evaluate my new life as a college student

Finding the perfect consistency for the perfect time in my life


I’m left with another soupy bowl of lukewarm, bland oats. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The ingredients of making oatmeal are really quite simple — oats, water and maybe a few additional toppings for flavor. However, with just these few components, a lot can occur.

Eating breakfast in the morning has always included a measurable amount of stress for me. From factoring in enough time to finish eating to making a healthy, yet tasty meal choice, the act of making breakfast, which was meant to be awakening and somewhat relaxing, was never quite the picturesque scene from the back of a cereal box for me. Stress itself is something I have carried with me since elementary school, where the biggest of my worries was whether I would make it to the swing set in time to reserve my seat. As I grew up, the stress seemed to pile up exponentially, and the smallest of things — like making morning oatmeal — became a strenuous event of angst.

My alarm sounds at 6:30 a.m., and it’s a new day to conquer. My roommate lovingly throws a pillow at me, and I stumble out of bed with my hair in a mess, muttering zombie-esque words that resemble, “I’m up — good morning.” 

I get out my pack of instant oatmeal, place it on the micro fridge and stare at it in bitter remorse — determined to get the consistency just right on this morning that seems more fit than others to accomplish a small feat such as oatmeal mastery. My roommate kindly offers to fix breakfast for me, as she has done countless mornings prior when I failed to do so successfully, and I gently decline her offer so as to prove my vast maturity and independence. Precisely following the directions on the packet leads me to no success, and I’m left with another soupy bowl of lukewarm, bland oats. 

I can feel the stress of this miniscule, yet continuous failure begins to weigh heavier on my overall morale, and it becomes easier to identify with the defeated oats, floating hopelessly around the murky water. Frustrated, I slurp down the slop and continue with the rest of my morning activities. Similar scenes as this one fill up most of my mornings, and I can’t help but dissect why I can’t master this seemingly simple act. Days go by and sub-par bowls of oats are choked down.

As first semester draws to a close and I settle in to life at the University, I begin to notice that my oats taste surprisingly good — not perfect, but not my usual prison slop either. This bowl gets intermittent with less satisfying bowls, but still I am able to pleasantly surprise myself every now and then with a recreation of this delicious bowl. I realize that it wasn’t an oatmeal-making disability that was preventing me from producing a magical bowl of oats, but rather myself. I allowed a notion to form within me that this one instance of failure foreshadowed a cycle of similar failures. 

Fortunately, time and experience have helped me understand that failure does not signify an endless descent. I’ve taken this near-mastery of morning events as an analogy for more important scenarios. Furthermore, everyone has their own idea of what perfection looks like which can change as we go through life, yet success will not be obtained without confidence in oneself. I believe the advancements made in my breakfast preparations occurred in part due to these crucial epiphanies of not letting failures or lack of confidence hold you back.

Achieving oatmeal perfection signified a shift towards independence and maturity that rebuilt my confidence in my ability to succeed. I had lost sight of this in the whirlwind of emotions, late nights and forced independence that is the first semester of my first year of college. This culinary accomplishment has prepared me for the future through lessons of perseverance and tenacity. The consistency of my oats is just right for me at this time in my life. It may be different as I enter my second year, a new job or even a nursing home. Right now, I am proud of my momentary mastery, and I look forward to how the oatmeal will taste in the future.

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