I Will Never Be An Almond Eater: And I Am Learning to be Okay with That
Almond Eater: A variant of the Type A personality type
Characterized by highly effective habits including:
academic and/or professional success
a fulfilling social life and amazing personal partner.
Have amazing impulse control and self-discipline.
Are thus named because they have a penchant to snack on raw almonds and or sunflower seeds when they are hungry.
My roommate in high school, yes, high school, graduated from Oxford with a Ph.D in neuropsychology when she was still in her twenties. A former coworker of mine now works in the UN. She specializes in Environmental Law. My former co-representative for the student council from my 6th grade class, now is president of the school. I never went to a single meeting.
I could go on, but you get the point. My entire life I have been surrounded by Almond Eaters. People who now in their very early thirties are vice presidents, small business owners, television writers or they run non-profits—which they started themselves. Masters degrees are a given and usually come in multiples. And if I ever dared to enter a reunion or alum networking event, I would be surrounded by people who by any measure would be considered successful.
I assume, but I can’t actually say because I’ve never gone. This is mostly due to the fact that I am now in Istanbul. But, honestly, if I were back in the States, I still wouldn’t have showed up.
Why? Well, mostly because of the anxiety I feel in large crowds and also because of a sense of failure that I have carried with me since the end of my first year of college.
And since then every setback, minor misstep, and empty bag of potato chips have only intensified that feeling. And like many others in the modern world, clips of other people “doing well” on social media, coupled with the real life success of the people that I actually knew, just made me want to run and hide.
Years ago, when I was in my early 20s I read a book called Undoing Depression. I was not, nor have a even depressed, but I realized after reading that book that I had been conditioned to take on many of the behaviors that depressed people often have. In that book, Dr. Richard O’Connor mentions that “depressives” as he calls them, feel so behind that they want to leap out of their depression. Literally. He gives the example that depressed people want to run 5 miles after not running for years. In other words, they set the bar so high for themselves that it feels impossible to ever begin. Failure becomes a given—expected, even. And after a while something that should be fleeting becomes integrated into our identities.
In my case, this feeling of failure seemed to be compounded by everyone else’s success. Again, I am not unique in this. Unfortunately this seems to be par for the course in this modern era of social media. But instead of suffering in silence, I’ve decided to shift my perspective.
Our society often defines “success” in a very narrow way. And undoubtedly, in order to be efficient and effective in life, consistency is key. However, not everyone is the type that can wake up at 5am every morning and workout. And not every student can spend innumerable hours in the library studying. However, that doesn’t mean that one is destined to live a life filled with unrealized potential. There are many different ways to be and become successful and perhaps you need to carve out a path that is perfectly suited to you.
For example, at my first job one of the higher-ups would go running around the building during his lunch break. To be clear, this wasn’t necessarily an easy task. The company was located in an industrial area that was just off one of the main highways in my state. For all I know, he could have just run back and forth in the parking lot, but the point is that he did something. While he was undoubtedly an Almond Eater, he found away to integrate exercise in his life that was realistic.
And realism, I believe, is the key to being successful. Back when I was still in the States, I would go running almost daily. Even though I wasn’t working at the time, I would tell myself that I needed to wake up at dawn to go running. But the fact is that for me, it wasn’t realistic. I always ended up going running at dusk or even after nightfall. I always felt guilty for this, but the reality was that I was doing what I needed to do, so why did it matter when I did it?
Further still, I realized that I enjoyed the night air and quiet. I also lived in a very safe neighborhood, so there was little to no harm in what I was doing. So, why wasn’t that enough? Why was I judging myself so harshly?
The answer again was in my conditioning. During my teenage years, it was impressed upon me that there was one way to study, one way to be physically fit, one road that led to success. So, whenever I veered away from that I was shamed. Over time, I began to internalize that shame and became paralyzed in this toxic stew.
And in the following years, it has become difficult to make any sort of move that didn’t fall into the strict rules of what is “correct.” Sometimes, these rules of been set by me. Other times, they’ve been pressed upon me by the almond eater segment of society and their flackies. But I’ve realized recently that I don’t need to be an Almond Eater to be efficient or successful.
There are many different paths to success. Whatever works, works. Whatever I need to get done just needs to be so, the how or even how long doesn’t necessarily matter. And over time, my best practices will be sharpened and efficiency will eventually take hold. That may not mean that I’ll ever be the type to wake up at 5am or implement any of the habits of highly effective people, but that is okay.
I need to be what works for me. And if you are not an Almond Eater, you need to do what works for you. That may mean snacking on popcorn or pomegranates. Maybe, you are still eating chips, but you’ll switch to a slightly healthier snack. Whatever works for you works. Because the fact is, you don’t need to be an almond eater to have the life you want. You just need to get the job done.