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Biting off more than I can chew

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I walked into the kitchen in my dorm, and I smelled the glorious aroma of noodles being cooked on the stove. I was starving and wanted to eat all of the ramen. A group of freshmen and sophomores informed me that they were in the midst of the spicy ramen challenge. They were sweating and the plates and bowls in front of them were dark red. Nonetheless, I was not dissuaded. My friends finished boiling the noodles and then cooked them in a light red, thin, soup-like mixture. 

I scooped some noodles and practically inhaled them, and only suffered a runny nose. Everyone seemed impressed at my lack of reaction, and someone joked that the only white person in the room was handling things much better than expected. As I waited for  the final round, my chef-friends asked the group if we wanted the noodles to be extra spicy. We all said yes. I spied an entire shaker of pepper flakes being put into the ramen, and when it was done cooking in the sauce, the ramen was a deep and dark red, like the color of dried blood.

Since I hadn’t had much trouble (and made fun of all of the negative reactions to the mildly spicy noodles), I took the noodles at the bottom of the pot, which were the darkest and had the most sauce. We could all tell that these noodles were a force to be reckoned with, and a gigantic helping remained at the bottom of the pot after we all took some. Someone asked if anyone wanted a bit more.I said yes, and one of my friends scraped the entire rest of the noodles onto my plate. I had twice as many noodles as everyone else, but I wasn’t that worried. After all, the second round wasn’t too bad. I had done it before.

Mere seconds after we all dug in to our plates, we all realized why these noodles had been deemed “The World’s Spiciest Instant Ramen.” They were ridiculously hot, and immediately my mouth was on fire. My cheeks were tingling. My stomach started rumbling. And to make matters worse, the sauce was extremely thick and oily - it stuck to my tongue, it stained my lips, and it made me realize how seriously I underestimated these noodles. A few people finished their plates, and took turns chugging the jug of chocolate milk as if they were drinking from the fountain of youth. I still had a mountain of noodles piled on my plate, and my eyes started to tear up - whether in anticipation of the fight to come or because the sauce was starting to aerosolize into the air, I’m not quite sure. 

Part of the challenge was no water or chocolate milk until we finished the third plate of noodles, and I was determined to get relief from the burning that was spreading throughout my entire body. After most people had either finished their noodles or had given up entirely and thrown in the chocolate-milk-colored flag, I sat at the table, determined to finish this steaming plate of noodles. 

I devoured the huge plate of noodles in about two minutes, downed a few mouthfuls of chocolate milk, and ran to the bathroom to try to spit out the remainder of the hot sauce in my mouth. My senses had never been so overwhelmed; it’s difficult to describe how powerful that ramen really was.  

As my gastrointestinal system has struggled to recover from this crime against my own body, I’ve been participating in recruitment or “rush” events for my SLG, frantically finishing homework and readings, emailing professors, spending time in a tent, and trying to figure out why I’ve had sinus infection symptoms for more than five weeks. It’s been hard to juggle it all and I have to say I’m doing worse than I normally do in staying on top of my commitments. 

Like many Duke students, I have been too stubborn to put reasonable limits on the things I do. As much as we joke about always being busy, it’s part of the culture here to try to fill up our time with a billion activities and to always have a full schedule, while at the same time expecting each other to have time for spontaneous activities. I’m guilty of saying yes a little too easily and am constantly overbooked. And despite always having too much to do, I try not to miss many opportunities for unique and memorable experiences with my friends. It certainly isn’t the healthiest way to go about things, but at the same time there is so much to take part in here at Duke that I feel guilty if I don’t take advantage of all that I can.

There are many people that preach that the most powerful word to take control of your time is “no”, and that people should guard their time very carefully so as to preserve their priorities. But as I reflect on the ways that I spend my time at Duke and the things that I do, I don’t regret much. Instead, I find myself growing more and more attracted to the idea that being busy is good—at least as long as I am doing things that I enjoy. 

But every once in awhile, I think it’s healthy (and not just for my stomach) to be reminded to not bite off more than I can chew. Or not to get lost in the sauce. 

Luke Sallmen is a Trinity sophomore and is still feeling a little queasy. His columns normally run on alternate Wednesdays.  

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