Where We Are vs. Where We Thought We Would Be
Posted by Paulette Beete
Text and images by Meaghan Mountford
Hello Paulette’s world,
Thank you for letting me visit today! Paulette is a dear friend, so I’m honored to share space with her here. I’m selfishly relishing the opportunity of Paulette’s convalescence to delve deeper than my sugar bowl. Usually I’m over at my own blog decorating cookies and drawing on marshmallows.
It stumps me when people ask what I do. How do I concisely sum up my day without trivializing what I do, or without making it more important than it is? I say I’m “sort of a food writer.” Maintaining a blog, let alone building it, takes a heckuvalot more than just throwing cupcakes in the oven and painting on marshmallows. Then again, I’m not curing anything. I make money blogging, which lets me say it’s a real job. But it’s not much, so it’s not really a real job. But I wrote two cookbooks, so that’s something, right? Oh yeah, I’m home with a newborn and a five-year old. That sucks most of my day right there.
Why over-explain? Because no matter how good a place I may occupy, I’m not exactly where I envisioned with my work. It’s more than simply not being there yet (though given the unrealistic perfection I demand of myself, I never will be, but that’s a discussion for Paulette’s next surgery). It’s about where I’ve ended up at age 40 and the need to convey to others (and by “others,” I mean “myself,” of course) that it’s big enough.
I reached this current moment as most reach their current moments: Through a course of events that happen so organically, you don’t even notice. One day, I took a job decorating cookies in a shop that had just opened, even though I had never picked up a bag of icing. I expected to stay a few weeks. I stayed for almost ten years. During my time at the store, I earned two masters degrees, still on the hunt for my career. When I left the store in 2007 to have my daughter, I started the blog, landed a gig for another blog writing about food, and I was then this “expert” in edible crafts. I’ve had the writer’s itch for years, and so I merged this compulsion with my food “expertise” (note I still need to put that word in quotes) to write the cookbooks. This should be enough, I suppose. I love creating fun food. Fun food has been good to me, if not to my bank account. Then why do I feel I’m not quite where I should be? If Oprah sanctions me and I roll around in a Bentley caressing diamonds, maybe I’d feel it then?
I wanted to do other things, too. I wanted to write memoir. I suffer from auto-immune disease, and I had five major surgeries before my twenties were over. I’ve had organs removed, reconstructed, my insides pulled through the outside of my body. I’m marked by over two feet of scars. How am I not exploiting that?!? No, seriously, how?!? Wouldn’t you? I wanted to write children’s books. To live in England. To get my phD in Children’s Literature. When I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then an architect. Somewhere in my old bedroom at my mom’s house, my 7th grade self stuffed hundreds, maybe thousands, of floor plan drawings in a green Trapper Keeper. Now, I create cute cookies and get excited when I come up with an idea for decorating marshmallows that hasn’t been done. Yet I can’t help but miss those things I wanted and didn’t go after, just a little.
We end up places seemingly unexpectedly, but we are guided there by our own choices. Sure, these choices may be informed by experiences beyond our control, such as my illness. But don’t we trust our earlier selves to have made the right decisions no matter what the circumstances? To have gotten us where we are not by being devious to our future selves, but by being as wise as we could be at that time? Perhaps I need to rephrase that as we should trust our earlier selves.
There will always be at least some disconnect between where we are versus where we thought we’d be. With each choice and passing year, our options dwindle. This isn’t meant to be a depressing notion, it’s just a fact of time and physics. There is simply no way we can do everything. We have to make choices. When we are five, we might still be an Olympic gymnast if we wanted. There’s time to train. But at age 40, it’s not likely I’ll be a gymnast, especially since I’ve never even been able to do a cartwheel. And I can forget American Idol, I’m way too old.
And on top of missing what I chose not to do, I rue, a bit, those things outside my control. Sure, I wish I was given a better singing voice, gymnastic ability. I wish I wrote better. Every day I grieve at least once over living in a body compromised by illness. Given all this moaning over what we don’t have and didn’t do, how can we possibly age gracefully? Because to be happy, we have no choice. Regret is a tricky thing. We can’t change what already is. It’s no stunning revelation that fixating on what was lost risks tearing down what wasn’t. So I may linger on thoughts of that other life I might have led in the English countryside writing picture books, all my organs intact. I may still strive for what I haven’t yet achieved. And I should probably celebrate more often what I have gotten. My family. My friends. Those cookbooks I mentioned.
I think my goal for the next forty years is to bid farewell to what didn’t happen, enjoy what has happened, and be excited for what is yet to happen. And I’m leaving a message to my 80-year old self right now: Trust me. Appreciate me. I’m making the best decisions I know how for us.
Be well, Paulette!
Posted on February 9, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged aging, being 40, cookie decorating, edible crafts, food decorating, inspiration, life choices, Meaghan Moutnford, The Decorated Cookie. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.