Thursday, November 21

On Happiness & Doing What You Like

Preface: This is a long and wordy post, so if you're not up for a novel reading session then I totally won't hold it against you if you decide to just skip this post. But those of you who are interested, read on!

I don't often talk about work here, and when I do it's usually fairly positive stuff. But the truth is, what I do is a pretty big part of my life because it's how I spend 85% of my time when I'm not sleeping. (That percentage is a rough estimate, but you get the picture... I work a lot.) For those of you who are newer to this blog, let me give you a little background on what it is, exactly, that I do.


I'm a baker. At least that's what I've been responding for the past five years whenever someone asks me "What do you do for a living?". My passion for baking developed in college and in 2008 I was given an opportunity to be a pastry apprentice at a fine dining restaurant in New Jersey, so I took it. That position led to a pastry cook position (that's a fancy way of saying that I prepped ingredients and components and plated desserts for the restaurant) which after about a year and half led to me deciding that the restaurant industry just was not for me. What I realized was that I loved the production and I loved being in the kitchen, but I missed the customer interactions I had grown accustomed to with my previous jobs.

So in 2010 Shawn and I moved to Philadelphia and I worked as a barista at a specialty coffee shop; I also did all the baking for the shop part-time. That was awesome because I got to create my own recipes and make things I loved, along with being able to talk to customers and make things that they loved! In 2012 Shawn and I moved back to New Jersey to live in my parents' house after my dad accepted a temporary position abroad, and I got a job working in a local bakery. That was awesome too because I got to make things I was used to like cookies and muffins, but I also learned how to make all kinds of tarts and cakes and decorate them too.

It was really interesting for me to see the inner workings of a bakery compared to a restaurant, and it helped cement that faith in me that baking in a setting like that was more my speed. But there was only so far for me to move up in such a small company, so earlier this year when my old boss from the Philadelphia coffee shop offered me a full-time baking position, I jumped at the opportunity. So Shawn and I moved back to Philadelphia... and that's when the universe started testing me...

The job I moved back to Philly for unfortunately ended up not being financially sustainable for me (that's the best way I can phrase it without going into detail), and I had to look for other forms of income. So after applying to a multitude of different positions, I ended up with a part-time job at a nearby wholesale bakery working the front-end (helping customers, taking money, and making coffee - not baking in the kitchen like I was hoping), and a part-time job at Anthropologie as a sales associate. I would open the bakery at 6:30am six days a week and then work until about 10pm at Anthropologie five days a week. As you can imagine, this was not an easy schedule to keep, and I honestly applaud those of you who are able to work multiple jobs without falling asleep on the job. It took about two months before I finally decided to throw in the towel and do what's best for my sanity, though not necessarily for my wallet.

That finally brings me to the present situation at hand. Last week I gave my two weeks notice at the bakery. After making sure that I'd be able to pick up a full-time load of hours at Anthropologie, I made the decision to choose one over the other. My last day at the bakery is this Sunday and then I start a new period in my life, a period that contains absolutely no working with food whatsoever for the first time in well over five years. Actually, we'll say ten years, considering that I've been working in some sort of food establishment since I was 16 years old.

And I feel refreshed. I feel calm. I feel peaceful. How so, you ask? Because for the past four years, I've been telling myself "This is the last time I'm going to bake for someone else; when I leave here it's going to be to bake for myself and on my own terms." And yet, I've worked three different baking jobs in the past four years, moving on from each one to another. And while each experience has been worthwhile and educational, and I've cherished the people I've met and worked with, I can only go against my word so many times. I can only fight my heart for so long.

Baking used to make me so happy. I used to cherish coming home at the end of my workday and whipping something up, trying new recipes, experimenting in the kitchen. Then I started baking for a living, and I gradually stopped baking at home. The enjoyment wasn't gone, but the feeling of peace was. How could baking soothe my tired soul when I'd already spent all day baking at work? I just didn't have it in me to spend more time in the kitchen after having been in a kitchen for 8+ hours. I can't honestly remember the last time I came up with a new recipe. I can't remember the last time I had a day off and said "Hm, let me bake something new today! In fact, let me spend the afternoon baking all sorts of things!". Instead my days off are spent falling asleep on the couch while watching various episodes of whatever new show happens to be on Netflix.

So I chose Anthropologie. I chose positive energy over negative; you may not realize this, but there is so much negative energy in the world of food. Don't believe me? Read Anthony Bourdain's book. I simply could not be a part of that system any longer. It eventually wears you out and burns you down, and for the sake of my passion and my love for food, I chose to jump the ship before it started to sink. And you know what? It was certainly not a decision I made lightly, but I feel like I made the right decision.

Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness. It felt amazing to be able to do something I enjoy so passionately, and to be able to share it with people so that they could appreciate it too. But at the end of the day I was always worn out. It took a lot out of me to share so much of myself with everyone, and to put so much of myself into what I was doing. I'm exhausted. I'm looking forward to working nine hour days instead of fourteen. I'm looking forward to sleeping in past 6am. And I'm looking forward to being able to come home and step into the kitchen after a long day at work, to create something, for myself, on my own terms.

There is so much more I want to say about all of this. This is by no means an end of an era for me. I still intend to pursue food with a passion; but I need a break, a breather... some time to gather my thoughts. And I wanted to share this with you, so that you understand where I'm at right now. And so that you know that it's ok to take a break sometimes. It's ok to say "You know what? I'm fucking exhausted, and I can't do this right now." And that taking a step back from something you're familiar with allows you to reflect upon its familiarity. And that ultimately, your happiness is in your hands.

- image source -

6 comments so far

  1. Sounds like a good decision. It sucks when something you love to do, a passion, turns into a chore. I can understand how baking jobs without your own creative input would be hard. 14 hour days are too long. Glad to hear that you are feeling good about your decision. Here's to some time for you! :)

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  2. I did similar things, where I was going to a sales job and then working at a nightclub till four in the morning a few nights a week, and it's exhausting. You've gotta do what's right for you. Glad you're a step closer to finding balance :)

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  3. That sounds rough, and exhausting. Balance is a good thing :)

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  4. Yeah I'm glad I got out of it before I lost my passion entirely; now I get to ignite the fire again!

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  5. Good for you!!! Sometimes you gotta hold your passions close to your heart, or you'll lose them!

    I'm a baker too. Years ago I worked in a few restaurant's, then a coffee shop or 2, then I moved on to other things. My husbands family and our newish friends always say that I should open up a bakery, and every time I laugh. Are you kidding me? Don't you like it when I bake you a birthday cake and bring dessert to every function? If I had a bakery, you wouldn't get anything. I'm the type of person that pours 110% of my heart into my work, and if I have a certain sort of job, then it drains me completely and I have nothing left for myself or anyone else. Being creative makes me happy, so I try not to "waste" it on people that don't appreciate it.

    I applaud you! I bet you feel a million times better!

    BTW I found you through The Dainty Squid cause I love Lloyd, and have been missing him. It's so awesome he has such an amazing home now! And he gives kisses? That boy. Love him!

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