I had a table last night, filled with government workers, who were discussing stress. One of the girls at the table (who was younger than me) was having a lot of health problems which her doctor told her were stress related. I happened to be at the table at this point, and the girl looked at me, sighed, and said "everything is related to stress, isn't it?" Because I had been down the exact road she had been down, I knew exactly what she was talking about.
"Yes," I said, "You have to work really hard to keep stress out of your life."
Another lady at the table looked at me and said "You don't look stressed at all. In fact, you have this really happy glow about you. You look happy." At this point, all the women at the table turned and inspected me and concurred. "You're right. She has a happy glow." The continued to stare for a beat, their faces growing wistful. They can't remember being happy, they all work for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. I was blushing, but I think I should spread the word about happiness. And exfoliation, the only way to explain the glow: exfoliate every day.
"I used to be stressed. I used to have a desk job, at a good company and then I retired to waitressing." Why did I do it? Why did I flush my good corporate job and my 401K down the toilette?
My entire life, I have dreamed of being many things - concert pianist, marine biologist, actress, model (what little girl hasn't), lawyer (frequently), nurse (my mom was a nurse - as a child, I thought naturally this meant I would also become a nurse), teacher, professor (in college, it was always assumed by myself and my professors that I would continue on to the PhD level and become another professor: this kept me from becoming better prepared to do anything else upon graduation except consider ghostwriting critical theory papers.), zoo keeper, artist, etc., but the one thing I have always wanted to be above all else was a writer. From my very first days of book-loving (birthed from my earlier days of flat-out refusing to learn to read), I have wanted to be a writer. I have an overactive imagination which can occasionally be a detriment to normal life. Anyone with a similar problem probably knows what I'm talking about. Get the imagination working and who knows what sort of new fear you might concoct out of thin air.
I got an English degree and began life. Like many of us with English degrees - Chef included, I started life in a restaurant. I thought about going back to school after college but was so traumatized by it and relieved to be finished that I put it off. On a whim, I went with a friend to a Clothing Retail Giant (you've heard of them) to fill out an application. I landed an entry-level position. A few months later, I got a promotion. Within a year and a half, I was a corporate trainer. I wrote training materials and taught people about fabric and clothing and how to give good service. I loved my job. I had benefits and a retirement plan and I was barely beyond drinking age. And then our department downsized. I was moved from my nice big desk to a cubicle. I was suddenly in charge of 15 people. I had to stay awake and alert all day, every day. I had a new boss I hated so much I woke up every day and thought about how much I hated her. Every day before I went in to work I would sit in the car and say the things I wanted to say to my boss, using words which would probably make my mother cry.
On the first week day of every month, we would have cake day. Our HR department printed a list of all the birthdays for said month and put giant sheet cakes in the break room all day which read "Happy Birthday, X Inc. Employees!!. Cake day became the highlight of my job. If I missed cake day, I was actually disappointed the next day. I was sad about missing grocery store cake. I was driving 1/2 hour each way to work every day, and on the weekends I would pick up a bartending shift here and there and, in 2 days, make almost a week's pay. I wasn't healthy, I had all sorts of tummy issues, I couldn't eat, I was an anxious wreck, and I felt I could not survive another minute under the florescent lights in our office, I applied for a promotion and I didn't get it. It was time for a change.
I had a moment of crisis - I started studying for the LSAT, I looked into going back to school for my teaching certification, and then it hit me. I was trying to do all these things to make other people happy, so I could quit my job in a frenzy and say "see? I'm am smart! I'm going to law school!" (I never said I was mature.) I was purposefully delaying my writing career out of fear. I retired to my first job, restaurant work. For about the same amount of money. Of course, there's no 401K, but there is a 30 hour work week. And good food. And witty banter. And the only stress melts away the moment I leave the building.
It took awhile to get around to writing, and I'm still not where I want to be, of course. I don't send out inquiries for freelance work like I should, and I've never made a book proposal, but those things will come when they're ready. I'm nowhere near read to write a cookbook yet, and if I don't do it until I'm 45 then that's okay.
Why did I tell you all of this? Because in my last year at Giant Clothing Retailer, I made a New Year's resolution to start writing. Some people decry resolutions, but I think they're great. People have celebrated their various New Years by ritualizing regrowth, renewal, etc. for thousands of years, and there must be a reason. It's a good time to take stock and analyze our paths. In the past I have made resolutions to not eat fast food for a year, to quit smoking, and to have some writing published. I have kept all of those, even if some of them took longer than a year to accomplish. I'm just saying if you have a dream you've been putting off, it might be the right time to re-investigate it.