Fast means more than just going without

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “Lent is when I determine which addictions I may still have some control over.”

Addiction might be an exaggeration, but there are certainly things I’d have trouble living without. That’s why I knew the 40-day fast from consumption would be a challenge. I’ve never been good at giving things up. My New Year’s resolution lasted two weeks tops, only long enough to realize that working out at 6:30 a.m. doesn’t work so well when I go to bed at 2 a.m.

Given my history for broken resolutions and lack of willpower, I questioned how successful I would be at the fast, but I wanted to do it for two reasons. First, like most college students, I’m short on money. What better way to save than to avoid shopping and eating out? Second, I wanted to prove to myself that with a little self-discipline and determination I could stick with it.

The rules for the fast were pretty simple. Don’t buy anything considered a non-necessity. No new clothes, movies or iTunes purchases. Don’t spend money eating out, including bottled water, alcohol and coffee. And finally, take a break from distracting technology.

Of course, the first weekend of Lent was my birthday. Is it still cheating if someone else buys your dinner? I decided to give myself a free pass anyway, just for the day.

The fast was most difficult when I had to work. I work at a restaurant with good food everywhere. Still, I brought my own lunch, determined to keep my pledge of not eating out. I found that telling my friends I work with about the fast actually helped. If I even picked up a menu, they would bother me until I promised to eat my peanut butter sandwich instead.

There were some tough habits I had to break. I used to go to Caribou Coffee every morning I worked without fail. I need caffeine to get through my day. I’d also gotten into the habit of going to the mall between shifts. As most girls can tell you, it’s hard to go to the mall and not buy anything.

For the past month, I’ve been drinking tea from home, packing my lunch and avoiding the mall. I slipped up more than once. There was the Friday when a Subway sandwich just sounded better than fish sticks. The Caribou beckoned a couple times, too, but I tried to make it not as bad by simplifying to regular coffee instead of a latte.

I’m disappointed I didn’t follow the fast 100 percent, but I’ve also realized that depriving myself wasn’t the entire purpose of the project. I was a lot more conscientious of how I spent my time. When I have to make a point of not checking my Facebook account or turning off the television, I see how much of a waste it is. There are a lot of better things I could be doing than checking my friend’s latest photo album. I had more time to focus on homework. I spent more time just talking with friends, and not on my cell phone.

Americans charged $2.2 trillion worth of credit card debt last year. Why? So we could have the latest fashions and newest electronics?

I’ve discovered that, despite what I used to think, I can live without that new pair of jeans and there probably is something to eat in my fridge at home. In a capitalistic society so driven by consumerism, it feels good to avoid it all for awhile. My debit card is thanking me, too.