APPLICATION PROMPT, JANUARY 2018: "What's one thing everyone knows you're obsessed with and why?"
My dad is a copywriter. As I was struggling with one of many non-fiction essays in college, he told me, “people write best about what they love and what they hate.” And I think it holds true – emboldened passion, especially for those of us trying to mold and sculpt our adult lives - is the easiest thing to work toward and understand. As an English major, I was never able to write much about literary theory in the 18th century, but pizza – well that’s another story.
No, pizza is not an “emboldened passion” of mine, but everyone seems to know that I’m obsessed. Not in the way that I eat it all the time, in fact, I don’t indulge often, but in the way that pizza is funny, it’s relatable, and frankly, it’s a universal means of connection. Pizza and beer is the easiest way to keep things casual on a first date. Pizza and a movie with friends is the first step in recovering from heartbreak. A slice of pizza from a friend on your birthday - it’s those small gestures that make the loudest sound. You know me, you care, you remembered. Thank you for making my twenty minute lunch break that much more enjoyable.
I’ve used pizza as a gauge for the good and the bad; in the way that a new crush in a small town elicits a palpable excitement similar to coming home at 2 AM to a slice of hot cheese placed on a velvet pillow. Or for the bad times, in the way that I’ve felt so down that the only thing keeping my head above water is a dark room, cold leftovers, and a movie where at least I’m doing a bit better than the main character.
I ate pizza with my conservative colleague as we watched the 2016 election unfold, our half eaten crusts keeping the peace through bouts of impassioned silence. I sat at a round table with conservative ranch owners and fortified young liberals and listened to the ever-present debate on public land conservation in the west; the shared pepperoni pie in the middle being our only common thread. I came home after one too many drinks, feeling sad about that thing he said that one time at that place, so I made a tortilla with red sauce and melted cheese, falling in and out of ambitious reveries he’ll never understand.
So perhaps it’s not pizza itself I’m obsessed with. It’s not the pools of grease in the little saucers of pepperoni or the familiar warmth of melted cheese on a tired throat. It’s the experience; the totality of what it means to be young and discovering how to be an adult. How we celebrate with a pie with friends after feats of physical and mental accomplishments, how we mourn the loss of a relationship with an emotional bandage of cheesy bread and bad TV, and how sometimes, a slice can turn an average day into something noteworthy, even something amazing.
Those emotionally integral moments are what I seek. They are the times that sculpt us, hone us, and define us. Those are the stories are I want to tell.