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.
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.