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Monday, March 15, 2010 04:35 pm

Guilty Conscience

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(Look at this guy! How can you not feel bad for him? He's all sad and factory-ridden. Is it just me? Anyone ... anyone? Fine.)

If you're like me, you probably have a lot of Catholic friends/family, and so you know that we're in the middle of Lent. (Or maybe you are Catholic. In which case, I hope you have a good sense of humor regarding the things I'm about to say.) If you know Catholics and/or you are one, then you know it's the time to sacrifice something you love in order to gain favor from God or something. I don't really know, because I'm not religious, and my idea of self-sacrifice is getting up really early in the morning. Or not eating a piece of chocolate/waffle fries/an entire buffalo chicken horseshoe all by myself. Either way, I have terrible impulse control, thus I don't give up anything. I'm the least patient person alive and things would get really ugly, really fast if I tried to restrain myself.

A lot of my friends have been talking about their Catholic/religious-related guilt re: this time of year. No matter what you believe in, I'm sure you probably feel guilty about not doing something your parents would've wanted. Whether it's following Fish Friday or picking up your litter, I'm sure your parents/parent/guardian/adult figure of some sort probably gave you some sort of complex about following their rules.

For me, I'm free to sin my little heart out. But I can't, for the life of me, litter, throw away an aluminum can, shop at mega-stores or get fast food without feeling super guilty. The environment I'm from frowns upon these things in a pretty epic way. Take for example, my secret Wendy's binges at home over winter break. I'd buy the food, transfer it to an unidentifiable plastic bag, eat it in my room with the windows cracked, spray air freshener to hide the french fry smell and then wash my hands just in case. My sister and her husband are strict vegans, so let me tell you that I've heard every corporate food horror story there is. Bless her heart for trying, since I've known she was headed in that direction for years -- she wouldn't eat our Thanksgiving turkey after finding out it was the same brightly-colored bird as illustrated on our autumnal-themed napkins.

I often resort to ridiculous ends to hide my secret shame. I feel like an addict on Intervention, except I don't need professional help - just someone to tell me to get over myself. (I have constant and only semi-irrational fear that I'll end up on either Hoarders or Intervention, depending on whether I'm hungover or just spent $40 on terrible 70s unicorn art at the thrift store. Like I said, no impulse control. I worry.)

Mostly, what stands in my way are my love for carbs and general lack of money. I am working on these things. But yeah, sometimes I slip up. It's not that I don't mean well, it's just that our society has made it easier to make the wrong choices. (I can't believe I just typed that sentence. How 11th grade literary magazine of me. I feel like I should be wearing a crumpled fedora and a skull necklace and making vague references to the government.) Stupid as that sounds, it's true. It's so much easier for me to forget canvas grocery bags or get McDonald's or swing by Wal-Mart for fruit.

When I worked in Ann Arbor last summer, I felt awful every time I went to Starbucks instead of a local coffee place. I was sure my coworkers were judging me for not buying local. I would've gladly bought local if I weren't a chronically late person who's just trying to get her coffee from the closest source. Like sinners who hope their angst will win them some points from the Powers That Be, I hope that my guilt will gain me favor with my friends/coworkers/family.

Every time I commit an environmental sin, I look up at the sky/ceiling and think, sorry, Mom. I hope that this somehow makes my irresponsible choices less abhorrent. When I'm not scheming to eat french fries, I am walking way out of my way to recycle a soda can (I still can't believe you don't have a bottle deposit program in this state) or turning off my roommate's lamp when she leaves the apartment or buying local sandwiches instead of Subway.

I also get unreasonably distressed by the Coal River Wind Project commercial they've been showing on Hulu.com. It keeps coming up when I'm watching something frivolous like Millionaire Matchmaker and then I get super bummed out/sad/stressed about our clean energy future. It's like they know pictures of deforestation upset me. Stop making me want to cry, Hulu, I just want to watch terrible things!

I hope that, at the end of the day, I've made more positive changes than negative choices. Until I can know for sure, I just have to say, in advance: I'm sorry, Earth.

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