Trading Paycheck for Passion

Socrates claimed to have been pushed toward the arts and a life of philosophizing at the beckoning of a reoccurring dream, urging him to pursue his craft and perfect it. Pacifying these unrelenting dreams he paved the way for future philosophers and intellectuals alike. Being the moral and ethical powerhouse that he was, he opposed the popular, skewed ideologies in favor of his own which eventually got his ass tried for heresy and executed, but blame him for being passionless you cannot. I, too, have fallen into the hands of a relentless reoccurring dream which played out in such detailed, vivid sequence it’s hard to tell whether it was, in fact, a dream or if I’d slipped into some magnificent accidental acid trip.

Each night I’d find myself in the same place as the previous: working in a large industrial kitchen composing intricate recipes, orchestrating cutting-edge kitchen equipment to whip, mix and knead my concoctions to perfection and feverishly taking notes on each process. I would be in the middle of folding stiff, shimmery whipped egg whites into rich chocolate soufflés or writing a reminder to never, ever experiment with parsnips again before I was sucked back through the looking glass by a nefarious alarm clock that smugly spit me back out to reality where a monotonous workday awaited. I didn’t know what my exact job was in these dreams, but I was cooking and writing and was noticeably thrilled to be doing so.

I started to resent the me in my dreams. While he braised and sauteed, I was left returning to the same office to perform the same duties each day for the foreseeable future which seemed only marginally more appealing than consuming naga jolokia peppers rectally. Not that I disliked my job, but I felt a nagging pull in a direction opposite to which I was moving. Alas, there are bills to pay and people to appease and frivolous aspirations rarely have a place in the world where responsibilities reign supreme, it would seem. But these dreams would not let up, and if you dangle a treat in front of a hungry dog long enough, eventually he’ll lunge.

So in an act of calculated hedonism, I made the decision to give up the position I’d worked so hard for, my private office, my good pay and comfortable lifestyle I’ve come to know so well and gave my notice at work.  In less than a month I will be embarking on a three-month-long study of cookery through Europe in the culinary epicenter of three of the most arguably food-centric countries in the world: Madrid, Spain; Bologna, Italy; and Paris, France. For three years I’ve obsessed over the idea of running off to Europe and bathe in the techniques of authentic tapas, pastas and confit, and for three years I’ve renouncing these ideas as a largely selfish bougie aspiration and, above all else, irrefutably impossible. But the funny (if not devastatingly irritating) thing about a passionate interest is it’s a persistent beast and rational reasoning does little, if anything at all, to quell its hunger.

I began this blog less than a year ago as a way to focus my non-working hours on a growing interest for food and writing, escaping from the long hours spent at the office feeling robotic and indifferent. 10 hours a day would be executed on autopilot with each day having no real discernible difference from the previous, all of them blending into one another to form a mass of memory lacking any real sequential order or significance, and my light at the end would be my blog, my child. My poor neglected child. Because of the hours spent at the office, my zeal for cooking and writing was limited to an hour or two here and there, and stifling passion tends to make one prone to irritability and majestic bouts of melancholy I’ve found.

For the most part I actually really liked my job; it was challenging and I was lucky to have the position I did. I was also successful at it, but it’s important to note that there’s a glaring difference between being successful and being truly satisfied, and to substitute the latter for the former comes at much too great a cost.

With this major shift in trajectory comes with its own set of garden-variety anxieties, of course; a state I’ve become all too familiar with, those which have kept me from moving forward with this plan a long time ago: what if I fail, what if I’m not good enough, what if I’m wasting my time?  Chafing questions I’ve attempted to ease with my own soothing mantra: you won’t, you are, and you’re not. Anxiety is a malicious foe disguised as a well-meaning friend who will constantly confuse “what if” for “what will be” and nobody needs that kind of buzz-killing tool spoiling the party.

So there you have it. In turning my cheek to professional normalcy, I’m instead opting to listen to the beckoning of my own dreams and throwing all caution to the wind thanks to the simple reasoning of one minor question: what would Socrates do? Besides get poisoned, I mean. And even though I love to cook, I don’t really know if I want to work in food for the rest of my life, but sometimes you have to try on a few shoes before you find the right one. Jesus, did I really make a shoe metaphor? Who am I?

Anyway, I’m going to take the plunge, and you’d better believe I’ll be documenting each and every step along the way.

I know this doesn’t have anything to do with the post, but some people come here not for my blubbery prose, but for the food. This one’s for you, indifferent reader:

CAPRESE RAVIOLI

[print_this]Recipe: Caprese Ravioli

Preparation time: 25 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup bread flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 15-20 small to medium sized basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sun dried tomatoes stored in olive oil, drained and chopped
  • 5-6 basil leaves, chopped

Instructions

  1. To prepare the pasta dough, add bread flour, eggs, salt and tomato paste to a large food processor. Turn on and continue to process until the dough forms a ball.
  2. Place dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, adding dough as needed, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. If the dough becomes too dry from adding too much flour, wet your hands slightly and rework the dough.
  3. Split dough in half; wrap one half of the dough in plastic wrap while working with the other ball of dough.
  4. Roll one ball out onto a well-floured surface and place a small ball of mozzarella wrapped in a basil leaf (½ inch to 1 inch in size depending upon size of ravioli) about 2 inches apart from each other on the rolled out dough.
  5. Roll out other ball of dough to about the same size as the other rolled out dough, if not a bit larger, and place over the dough and mozzarella. Using your fingers, push gently around the dough covering the mozzarella being sure to remove as much air from the center as possible.
  6. Cut out shapes as desired, cover prepared ravioli lightly in flour and set aside.
  7. Heat a large pot of salted water over high until just boiling and add the ravioli. Reduce heat to medium, not allowing the water to boil, and cook until the ravioli rises to the surface. Remove with a slatted spoon and place into a large bowl, and immediately toss lightly with the olive oil.
  8. Sprinkle individual dishes with chopped basil and sun dried tomatoes and serve hot.

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33 thoughts on “Trading Paycheck for Passion

  1. I’m so so proud of you! This post made me tear up because I know how badly you’ve wanted to pursue this and it’s finally going to happen. I can’t wait to hear all about your travels, you’re like a much more interesting Julia Roberts, getting your eat on.

    I predict big things for your future…I’m totally flailing over here at this news. You continue to make me hungry and wish I was in some exotic city eating ravioli or even lamb testicles. Have the time of your life, and be sure to blog often! ❤

    • Thank you, Shannon! I was secretly hoping you and Pete were going to celebrate your honeymoon in Italy during the same time 😛

      I will be blogging as often as possible, never you worry! And anytime you want to eat some lamb testicles you just call this guy. I’ll hook you up with the good nuts.

  2. I’m so proud of you for taking this ginormous plunge. Of course you’ll feel some anxiety, but not as much as you would feel if you kept pushing this in the back of your mind and not acting upon it. You WILL be successful since this is your passion. I will be looking forward to reading your blog and keeping up with your progress. You are a very interesting, smart, funny, creative writer and cook. The is just the beginning of a tremendously successful and well deserved career for you. ❤

    • You’re very wise, and too kind! Here’s hoping it brings something to fruition. From your mouth to God’s ears, right?

  3. I came here as the “indifferent reader” looking for a recipe (which looks spectacular and will definitely get made soon) but after reading your “blubbery prose” I wanted to add a heartfelt bravo! Best of luck on your adventure and I look forward to virtually following you around Europe.

  4. Personally, I clicked this post through Foodgawker precisely FOR your “blubbery prose,” as you so lovingly call it.

    I am at that crossroads (again) in my life and am looking for the something-I-love-to-do that will also bring me a paycheck.

    This morning, I composed my undated resignation letter. I am researching and praying for a new place to call home so I may fill in the blanks in that letter and hand it to my supervisor.

    PS–Your ravioli looks amazing!

    • I think it’s a crossroads that a lot of us will face multiple times. It’s human nature to want change and as free-thinking animals with the capacity for changing our trajectories, it’s our right (and duty, even!) to pursue what will make us happiest. So good for you in taking that first step, I hope you reach the goal you’re seeking!

  5. Thank you for such an inspiring post about leaving to follow you’re culinary dreams. Hearing your write about the difference between success and satisfaction really hits home; I’m currently strategizing how to bow out of my job as I recently was accepted to culinary school. Good luck on you’re adventure. I’d love to know what program you are doing to travel around Europe!

    • How exciting! Culinary school is going to be a really exciting adventure for you, so good for you for pursuing your dream. I’m not going through any particular program; rather, I’ll be taking individual classes, behind-the-scenes food tours, exploring the culinary scene, meeting the professionals behind the practice, etc. It took a little planning on my part, but I’m hoping to achieve a well-rounded culinary education this way!

  6. I saw your caption on FoodGawker and had to stop by to read more. What an exciting adventure to embark on. I envy and admire people like you. All the best on this new journey.

  7. I too saw your recipe on FoodGawker and the caption made me stop and take a moment to read your “blubbery prose”. Good for you!! May you have a remarkable adventure on your culinary journey, and look forward to reading about your growth in mind, spirit and culinary experience!

  8. I saw your post on FoodGawker as well and came because of the gorgeous ravioli and because you piqued my interest. I’m finishing my BSc this June and as I’m contemplating different careers, the foodie in me is forcing me to face myself as you have.

    Congrats on making that first step and all the best!

    • The best thing you can do is to follow whatever your gut tells you. I ignored mine for so long, but you can’t underestimate its power. Where it wants to go, it will take you!

      Good luck on your next steps!

  9. I admire your courage … good luck in your new venture … can’t wait to see the pics of your journey … I am fortunate to love my job, but l miss time or I miss having more time at my disposal to pursue the other interests that make me who I am as a whole …

    • Thank you! It was the lack of time to pursue my interests that made me take a second look at what I was doing, where my time was going and what I needed to snip out of my life to lead a more fulfilling life. It’s all about organizing priorities and at times letting some go.

  10. I just wanted to say good for you! I think it’s awesome what you’re doing. Naturally it’s a risk but as long as you’re following your dreams I think it’s definitely a risk worth taking. In the end even if it doesn’t work out you’ll feel better for having tried it then never having taken a chance at all. I am currently in a similar situation. My boyfriend and I have decided to quit our office day jobs and go on a 2 year backpacking trip through Europe and Asia while documenting our food tastes on my food blog and our backpacking adventures on a travel site we are currently building (acoupletravelers.com) so I kind of understand how you’re feeling!

    • Vicky, that’s so exciting! Good for you! It’s a big step and a risk professionally, but the absolute worst that came come out of it is having gone on an amazing adventure with no marketability. But so what?

      Is it bad form for me to be jealous of your adventure when I haven’t even begun mine yet? 🙂 I’ll definitely follow your travels!

  11. Congrats! That is a big decision and I’m happy for you! Have a great time in Europe! I will be looking forward to following your adventures (living vicariously through you)!

  12. This is wonderful. As a senior about to graduate from college with a some-would-say useless degree in Acting, I face the same inner turmoil every day. I’m so glad to have read something as inspirational and simultaneously amusing as this. Someone once told me that every job should fulfill one of three things: The wallet, the resume, or the soul. But I can’t help but feel that the soul should come first. Enjoy your tour of Europe!

    • Thank you! And don’t listen to those people, no degree is useless! Every degree will develop your skill in one way or another, whether it be analytical skills, hard sciences, soft skills, organization and professionalism or provide straight-up marketability. I graduated with a philosophy degree but I still found successful, lucrative job in spite of having a “useless degree.” It unfortunately didn’t turn out to be my career, but that isn’t the point. The point is your degree is what you make of it and you take from it the skills you need to succeed in whatever field you are drawn to.

      I love that quote, and in a perfect world our jobs would fill all three. I’ll settle for the soul and wallet, however. 🙂

      • Haha, no way, I’m minoring in Philosophy. It’s the perfect combo for annoying your relatives, in my humble opinion.

  13. I think Socrates would ponder endlessly on this subject and ask everyone he would meet what is the meaning of food/passion and pay check. He was not an action man but you are! Congrats for your decision and I’ll be checking back here for updates on your adventure because it sounds like you’ll have a lot of interesting stories and food to share.

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