How a Peach and Strawberry Cream Cobbler is like Quitting My Job.

by Irvin on September 15, 2010 · 32 comments

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Two weeks ago I wrote a letter that I have never written in my entire life. It was a letter of resignation to the owner of the company that I worked at. Worked at, as in past tense, because I was giving my two weeks notice and today is my last day at my job. I wrote the letter the day before I was to give notice, panicked a little when I saw the stark black type on the extremely white screen, and was talked down from the ledge of insecurity by my wonderful partner AJ who has been telling me all along that I had to quit my job because I was so unhappy. And then, after taking a few deep breathes, I went and baked a peach and strawberry cream cobbler. Because that’s what I do to calm myself down. I bake.

The situation behind quitting my job was complex and varied and I won’t go into all the details, as it could probably fill an entire book. A long, tiresome, not very fun book. But in short, I found that I was being saddled with more and more responsibility, at times becoming a copywriter, strategic information architect, art director, project manager, client relations manager, graphic designer, and production artist, often all of them in the same day, and though I enjoyed wearing different hats, there comes a time when you realize you want to start concentrating on one or two things instead of six or seven things because you’ve stopped growing. It’s time to move on, knowing that if you don’t, you increasingly becoming bitter at the job that you used to enjoy.And I never wanted to be the bitter person at the job.

You know that person I’m talking about. He or she’s the one that complains about the company, complains about the work, complains about how their treated, complains about pretty much everything that has to do with the office and in the end, sucks the life out of every room he or she enters. They are the person that you wonder in private “If they hate the job so much, why don’t they just quit already!” And then you quietly and slowly become that person.

It eats you up inside, becoming bitter. When you meet people and they ask what you do, and you tell them, and they exclaim “That sounds so much fun!” and then you explain to them how much you’ve grown weary of it, the answer, in this day and age, is often. “Well, at least you have a job!”

And for awhile, that was enough to stick around. But it becomes a rather thin excuse as time goes by. I’ve always said that this job was something I wanted to do for two or three years and move on. And it’s been two and half years since I started there.

So I methodically thought about when I should quit. What I should do. Where I should go. I needed a plan. A strategy. I need to know what I was going to do, what I wanted to do. What I wanted to be.

And in the end I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t come up with an alternative plan because all my adult life I’ve been a graphic designer and art director. But this time I wanted to make a transition. I wanted to do something different. Something that I have more of a passion for. Something that I think about when I’m at work, staring at the computer, or first thing in the morning when I wake up. Something that I daydream about on my commute to work on the bus, and something I ponder as I go to bed.

And more and more, that something is the act of baking. What I want to bake. How to bake a specific dessert. How to improve the thing I just baked. How to take that baked good to the next level. And how to share that baking with my friends, family and loved ones. Maybe even with people I don’t know.

I wanted to do something with food. But something closer to the food I eat and make at home, not the food that people buy that comes in a foil wrapper or flimsy cardboard box.

Photo courtesy of Debs (ò‿ó)♪ from flickr. Yes, I designed that box. It looked MUCH better in my original concept. Trust me.

So I quit my job. And though it’s scary, having no plan, no grand strategy, no concrete idea of what my next steps are, it’s also kind of exhilarating. Free falling, hoping and praying that something comes up to catch me. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time. But it something I have to do.

My coworker was thinking of having a dinner party while this was all brewing in the back of my mind. When I let him know the date and time I was going to resign, he immediately told me “That’s the perfect day to have my potluck dinner!” So it was.

And so I found myself baking something that I normally don’t bake. I had a pile of peaches from the farmer’s market and the first thought I had was to bake a pie. But I’ve made so many pies this summer that I was getting a bored with it. Matt Armendariz had recently posted his peach cobbler that he had made, and I realized that I hadn’t actually made a cobbler all season long, heck I hadn’t made a cobbler in years. So I decided to rectify that immediately.

I decided I wanted to do something a little different than the traditional cobbler. I had some strawberries that needed using up, and a couple bricks of cream cheese that were getting long in the tooth. A cream cheese custard based filling and a traditional biscuit topping was exactly what the doctor ordered to soothe my ragged nerves.

The cobbler came out pretty tasty. It wasn’t perfect. The custard probably needed to cook a little longer to thicken, and the peaches were ripe, almost too ripe, exuding more moisture than I had accommodated for. But the biscuits were tender and soft, fluffy and light with the crystallized sugar on top adding just the right amount of crunch. My coworker, a boy from the south, told me the biscuits were perfect. I couldn’t have gotten better praise.

And it’s funny. I think the cobbler came out the way I feel my resignation from my job turned out. The perfection that I tried to seek, whether it’s the ultimate exit strategy out of my job into a new career path or the exact filling constancy of custard for my cobbler didn’t ever materialized.

But that’s ok. Every person who bakes or cooks will tell you that great things comes from failures; lesson learned, lessons understood. It’s how you grow, how you develop as a cook and ultimately it’s how you develop as a person. And though the cobbler wasn’t perfect, the dinner party was awesome, with amazing people, hilarious conversation, mouthwatering food (a global hodgepodge of Indian, Cuban, Japanese and American) and fantastic desserts (including a rum cake and my slightly soupy peach cobbler).

I may not know where I am going next, but I know that the journey on whatever road I take will be full of stumbles, thin custards and more bad jobs. But the journey is what makes life interesting and where it takes me will ultimately be more fulfilling than the road I was last on.

And I realize that I’ve abused and stretched and mixed metaphors this entire blog post, and I can feel every single one of my former English teachers quietly cowering and wimpering as I write them. But I’ll tell you this: I’m OK with that. Because I just quit my job. I just dove off the solid land of “At least you have a job!” into the vague insubstantial cloud of “I don’t know where this is going, or what I am doing…” and there’s no safety net in sight.

Let the free fall begin.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa's Yummy Yums September 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm

My boyfriend feels the same about his job. He is undepaid gets handled more responsabilities and nobody cares about the employees well-being…. You were very courageous to quit your job!

That is one splendid cobbler!

Cheers,

Rosa

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Lorna Yee September 15, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Looks lovely and congrats on the next phase of your life!

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SteamyKitchen September 15, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Congratulations — I can't wait to see what kind of adventure you'll create next!

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Jo September 15, 2010 at 10:20 pm

I give you props for being brave and quitting with no real, as you put it, safety net. I wish you much luck! You should really get into the baking biz. Your stuff is so good.

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S. B. Hadley Wilson September 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm

To follow-up on Jo's comment above, your courage and entrepreneurial spirit are your safety net, Irvin. And to what you said earlier about "every person who bakes or cooks will tell you that great things comes from failures; lesson learned, lessons understood," that applies to all. Congrats on opening the door to your next chapter. Love you lots!

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mark September 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I am excited for you, and I wish you the best. Thanks for all you do here- in your blog- and I look forward to watching your future exploits unfold, as you document them, here. I can only hope all your adventures find parallels in recipes, -> lucky us! ;-)

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the_redheaded_1 September 15, 2010 at 10:43 pm

WOW, what a great posting! i know quite a few people who feel the same as you do, but lack the necessary passion which to help them focus.

I am sure that your next project will have a warm filling of passion with a flaky crust of bravado and a light covering of sweetness

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Carrie Oliver September 16, 2010 at 2:34 am

Good for you and I bet you're having fun looking at the beautiful flowers! I've done this once and probably should have done it more than once. You will do great things with your new-found energy and freedom to explore. If you hit a bump or two in the road, reach out, we'll be there (and that includes me).

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Angie September 16, 2010 at 3:02 am

Irvin, I love love love reading your blog. I love reading your stories as much as your recipes, and I know others would too.

You've made a brave bold move, and I'm inspired and impressed!

xox
Ange

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Jen @ Brilliant Wellbeing September 16, 2010 at 9:25 am

Congratulations! I am very inspired. May your wildest dreams come true!

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Jessamyn September 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I did the exact same thing this summer (down to the "wow, what a great job!" "…but I really hate it" conversations), and it is incredibly scary yet liberating. Best of luck!

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Stephanie September 17, 2010 at 3:22 am

Beautiful cobbler! I must try this one!

I'm excited to see what is in store for you in the future! Best of luck :)

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hima September 17, 2010 at 7:27 am

Yay for you! We've all been there and it's so amazing that you've taken the leap.

It can only get better from here.

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Tara Barker September 18, 2010 at 1:41 am

Oh Irvin, I'm so excited for you! This is such a good thing to do. I did something similar once, about 9 years ago. I was working in academia, doing the type of research I had gotten my degree in, following the career path that I'd worked so hard to lay out in front of myself. And the work got harder and harder to do, because 1) my passion laid elsewhere, and 2) that passion was food and baking, and I was so distracted by food thoughts every moment of the day that I literally could not concentrate on the tasks at hand at work. So I quit my job and moved away (not quite as courageously as you, since I waited until I positioned my culinary school safety net under me, but perhaps a bit more foolishly, since I impulsively invited my very-new-but-very-promising boyfriend to move to NYC with me! Thank god he stuck it out and is now my husband!) Anyway, my life, which had up to that moment followed a fairly predictable path, has since then gone in a million directions I never would have imagined. Crazy-gigantic ups and downs (life really IS a roller-coaster!), major decisions, and new opportunities have come my way, often all within several months of each other. And so, so much joy has been mine. All because I finally gave in and followed my true passion and opened myself up to everything it had to offer me. And I know I'm not done yet. And you've just begun!!!! Many, many happy thoughts are coming your way, and I can't WAIT to see where your freedom and inspiration take you! Congrats!

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sara @ CaffeIna September 18, 2010 at 4:37 am

I join Tara in congratulating. I also quit the academia, on my fourth year of PhD to drastically change my life. It's hard. It's very hard to take such a heavy decision. Sometimes being unhappy is much easier than being happy. But less rewarding. So congratulations and all the best in finding your way. Btw, the fact that you baked an amazing cake is already a great sign :)

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Rita September 18, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I love how your last line "Let the free fall begin" leads us into a picture of cobbler, and its recipe! We are free falling into dessert!! What could be better, or more perfect!

You, Irvin, are creating a recipe for success, and every person who knows you knows you are the person to do it. YAHHH!!!

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Allison September 22, 2010 at 3:28 am

This post is very inspiring and it clearly resonates with many readers of your blog, including myself. I am going on year three of my 'quarter life crisis' but it no longer feels like such a crisis but instead a well defined path that I would not have found had I not had some of the same thoughts and feelings you have shared. Baking, and sharing with a community like this, is my passion and knowing that there are others like yourself out there who are fighting just as hard to live their passion encourages me to keep chugging along. Cause in the end, its all totally worth it. :)

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Mr. Jackhonky September 22, 2010 at 5:02 am

Thank you everyone for your comments. It means SO much to me that you all bothered to even read my long LONG blog posts, and to take the time to comment as well is just so overwhelming.

I can't wait to see what the future holds for me too! I have hopes and dreams and fears and anxiety. But in the end, I know it was the right decisions. I can't wait to see what the universe throws my way…

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Cookin' Canuck September 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm

It sounds as though you made the right decision for yourself. Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith, as terrifying as it can be. I wish you all the best as you figure out the next step in your life. In the meantime, I love the cobbler with crystallized ginger!

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Merri September 29, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Ooh yes, every time I say my job is boring, people say how lucky I am to have a job at all. And I am, definitely. And lucky to have nice bosses too. My job is not a bad job at all. It's just not the type of job that I feel would be right for me (cubicle work). I really wish I could do what you did! I would, if I could figure out what I could do instead. It's pointless to leave this job, with its nice people, for another similar job with possible bad people. So it has to be something totally different. You're really brave.

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Alejandra February 18, 2011 at 6:06 am

I found your blog through Saveur and am so happy I did. This post is fantastic as its EXACTLY what I’m going through right now so I can definitely relate…right down to the “oh your job sounds so cool!” and the “well at least you have a job.” It does sound cool on paper, but in real life I’m just not happy and am ready to move on. I already put my plan in motion to get out on my own and hope to do so by April 1st. I’m excited and a bit nervous, but I know it’s the right move. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I can’t wait until I’m able to do the same on my own blog.

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Irvin February 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Thanks for stopping by and I can’t wait to read all about your new adventure! It totally scary and exhilarating at the same time, quitting something that you know isn’t right, knowing you could stay because it offers a familiar sense of comfort and stability.

Good luck with April 1st. It’s scary, but you’ll land on your feet and it’ll be all the better!

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Nicola Perry March 3, 2011 at 1:15 am

6 months ago my boyfriend phoned me from work one day and said i really hate my job so i flippantly said ‘Just quit then’ so right there and then he did. It was the best decision he has ever made. Even though he gave up a big salary it was worth it, he is happier therfore i am happier… now i just need to pluck up the courage to quit mine!

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Irvin March 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

I’m poorer than I’ve been in awhile, but richer in ways that I never thought I could be. Quitting was the best thing I could have done. Congrats to your boyfriend! I hope you can do it as well, sometime soon…

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Karla March 14, 2011 at 6:46 am

Great post…..good job for taking that step. Maybe when my husband is done with computer animation school–we’ll have the financial stability I need to quit mine!

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Irvin March 14, 2011 at 11:08 am

I’m lucky that my partner has a full time stable job. It was definitely a factor in my quitting. I hope that someday you’ll be able to do the same as well! Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

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Rachelino March 16, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Irvin-
I knew you quit your job, but I never read this post describing it before. Don’t ever feel bad about writing a long post. This one just made me feel a whole lot better. And made me feel a whole braver, too. You are brave, man. I am worried about the free fall but thinking it won’t be as bad as I fear.
Thanks for sharing this.
R

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Bill May 7, 2011 at 8:13 am

I can’t decide if you’re an awesome cook or an amazing writer so I’m awarding you both prizes. I especially love how you always credit your partner in all you do. Hats off to both of you as I know it takes two to make one great blog.

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Laura July 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I made this just now. HEAVEN! What a wonderful recipe!

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Kulsum at JourneyKitchen August 7, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Wish I had read this 2 months ago. I was just a step away from the decision for exactly the same reasons but I chickened out. You are brave Irvin!

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Allison September 27, 2012 at 8:27 am

This post is very inspiring. I came across this back in the beginning of August when I was completely hating my job, meeting with recruiters and scheduling interviews, and I felt as if this whole post was about me and my situation. I recently handed in my letter of resignation and my last day is this coming Monday. I don’t have anything concrete set up, which kind of terrifies me, but at the same time exhilarates me as well. With my last few days at my job, I wanted to re-read this post to reinforce in me the notion that this is the right thing for me to do because I’m already so much happier knowing I’m leaving this job. Thank you for this wonderful post (and awesomely delicious pictures of that cobbler!)

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Alex Z September 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Hey,
If I don’t have a food processor, how would you recommend mixing in the butter?

Thanks,
Alex Z. :)

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