I believe in lunch breaks.
As a twenty-seven-year-old dreamer, I’ve already surpassed the average number of jobs an American has in a lifetime. I’m convinced that lunch breaks are the best way to maintain a sense of privacy, adventure, and self-worth in our work-obsessed culture. So I vow to always have lunch.
A history of my lunches: at school in a Jersey suburb, my friends discussed what to study, who to fall in love with, where to go to college, how to scramble to finish a theorem. For thirteen years, much of my joy and comfort and sorrow came from those measly twenty minutes. As I grew up and explored the world, lunch only became more essential. In Ghana, I gossiped with hairdressers; in China, I copied new words from menus; in Manhattan, before selling expensive clothes around Christmas, I bent over cups of cheap coffee to tell myself I was still humble.
For one year, I wrote a letter to a boy I loved in London and mailed it at the end of the meal. Those letters—a reckoning of who I was and what I wanted, where I was, and where I wanted to go—are a better record of my life than any journal. I have only lunch to thank.
Many unhappy people I know tend to say: “I just eat at my desk. I don’t have time to do anything but work.” I believe that I should never be too busy or overwhelmed to devote one hour of the day to trying something new. Do not mourn lunches lost: if you were nearby I’d take you exploring, for new friends are a great use of an hour.
Lunch evens the scales: it balances the working self with other identities. When I was a community college tutor I used lunch breaks to study. When I was a waitress, I snuck home to my apartment to lie down in silence. Because of this time alone I always believed that life was much larger than 9 to 5, and any hour of the day could be the best hour.
This year I’m a marketing assistant for the Mark Twain House in Connecticut. I still take a lunch break. Always. I have used many lunches to tame and foster feral kittens. I’ve read comics. I’ve wandered the dilapidated neighborhood.
Once, the director of my museum ran into me while I was sampling unusual varieties of iced tea. We sat together, telling jokes. I’ve found that by establishing a precedent for lunch, my bosses always treat me more like a human being. They know I love work, but I love lunch more.
I believe that breakfast is too optimistic and dinner is too pretentious. Lunch is who you really are.