August 8, 2009
It's a weird experience when you feel like you have discovered what you're passionate about in regard to a career. Contrary to what you might think, for me it was a short-lived high when an impressive fall. The downward sink can be attributed to the fact that although I know what I want to do i.e. be involved in the food industry, the act of translating this goal into a real way of life is vexing. Similar to most things in life, this has been another lesson that the general population (i.e. probably everyone but about three people) doesn't care about your goals. To my dismay, the world did not stop turning on its axis the day I discovered I wanted to work in the food industry, most likely as a food writer.
In high school, I wanted to be a music journalist. I obsessively read Rolling Stone and Spin with the hopes of someday appearing in their masthead. I'm sure I was harboring dreams of making out with Beck or Dicky from the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones too, but it was the writing that really mattered. Actually, it was probably more of a 60/40 split - 60% writing, 40% making out with rock stars.
When I enrolled at the University of Kansas, I declared Journalism as my major. I'm not quite sure how I ended up concentrating on public relations and marketing, but I did. Maybe I didn't read the course catalog as thoroughly as I should have. Maybe someone told me I'd make more money in "strategic communications." Who knows.
It was during my Sophomore year of college, that I decided that public relations was obviously a business form created in the bastions of Hell and told my parents that I was switching my major to English. I had come to realize that I was stimulated by my English courses. I enjoyed researching, writing papers, reading greats texts, and partaking in the discussions held daily in my English classes. It was only when I stepped inside the Journalism building that my soul flat-lined and I couldn't sort out why I was sitting in a room listening to people talk about how the cigarette industry used PR tactics to convince generations of smokers to continue or take up the habit in the first place. At this point, my dreams of being a music journalist were replaced with a giant question mark and me constantly wondering what exactly I wanted to do regarding a career. Today, I believe all universities should offer a course called "Why Your Life Will Suck After College as you Traipse Across the Career Landscape 101."
In the end, I double majored in Journalism and English. Funnily enough, since graduating and drowning in the world of PR, I've only been asked about my English degree in job interviews.
I bring all this up because last night I saw the new film Julie & Julia. Being a fan of Julia Child, I was excited about this movie. I can't seem to consume enough information regarding this gastronomic icon, and I caught myself baring a somewhat creepy grin during the sections of the film featuring her character.
The other part of the film focused on Julie Powell, the woman who rose to fame after chronicling her adventure of cooking every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of a single year and blogging about her experience. I had recently read Powell's book, the namesake of the film, and curiously enough, I found myself with the same aching pain in my stomach after seeing her story played out on the big screen as I did when finishing her book.
There is a scene in the film where, after appearing in a New York Times' Food Section article, Powell essentially hits the jackpot. Upon returning home from work the day the article hit, she had 65 answering machine messages from literary agents, film producers, magazine editors - the foodie elite had invaded her answering machine tape. And I couldn't have been more envious. What does it take to get a call from someone at Bon Appetit? Do I need to come up with a crazy scheme and cook an obscene amount of recipes, all the while suffering a mental break down to hit career gold? I'm not sure if the answering machine scene was true to life, but I found myself digging my nails into the cushions of the theater seat. Real or not, I wanted my voicemail to be filled to capacity when i walked out of that theater, but I'm not crazy enough to believe that Ruth Reichl or Barbara Fairchild would have suddenly decided to look up an unknown food blogger with no surrounding media frenzy on a random August evening.
After the movie, my sister and Laurel walked with me to the subway station. I made the comment that I had drooled at the scene involving the answering machine. Laurel, being the good friend that she is, said that she had thought of me during that scene too. "You're a great writer - it's going to happen one day," she said. Remind me to bake her a decadent cake for her encouragement. Even if I never land a career that allows me to do what I love, I'll always have good people surrounding me that I can bake great cakes for.