Monday, October 26, 2009

Julie and Julia: The Road Not Taken

My only real exposure to Julia Child growing up was on PBS. It wasn't the groundbreaking television show produced in the early 1960's entitled, The French Chef. It was her later work, after she had firmly entrenched herself into the consciousness of the American culinary psyche. While I knew that she had written many books, I didn't even know that she wasn't the only author of her seminal work, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

So it was with great enthusiasm that I learned that a movie was to be made about Julia Child. Well, sort of. The movie would also feature the real-life story of Julie Powell, a post 9/11 government worker who was convinced that she lacked direction in her life. The hype amongst my foodie friends and colleagues had been strong for quite some time. Even before going to see the movie, I had already been invited to a dinner party where all the guests were asked to bring a version of their favorite Julia Child recipe from one of her cookbooks. I was reluctant to admit that I don't even own a single Julia Child cookbook. I had to go down to the public library in order to conduct my research on the recipe I would be using.

Deciding that it would serve my best interest to inspire me for the dinner party, I chose to catch a matinee of Julie & Julia the other day. At a little over two hours, the film wasn't short by any stretch of the imagination. But once the story got moving, I never once had the need to look at my watch again. In fact, when the movie ended, I was almost disappointed that it was over. I had connected with the movie so powerfully and enjoyed the ride so thoroughly that I entertained the idea of returning to the ticket booth and buying another ticket for the next showing just to relive the experience.

Having had a couple of days to sit on my feelings, I began to realize that what connected me so completely to both the Julia and Julie characters was the sense of a kindred spirit. While I've spent nearly a decade and a half in my current career, I began growing apart from my love of working as a computer programmers over the last couple of years. I also have known for some time now what makes me happy. Food. Talking about it, making it, creating it, sharing it, writing about it, and of course most importantly, eating it. But I've not found a way to transform one career into another. As I stated in another blog entry I wrote prior to leaving for the Kansas City trip I took several weeks ago, the process of writing, creating something from nothing, has allowed me to tap into parts of my brain that I wasn't entirely sure were still functioning all that well.

When I saw Julia and Julie succeed, I was re-energized to succeed even more. I wanted what they now had, the security of knowing you could pay the bills while at the same time pursuing their respective endeavors. Part of me realized that perhaps the reason I haven't decided to jump in with both feet and change careers so completely was that I am not ready to choose what that next career will be. Do I want to be a cook? Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to run a restaurant? Ironically, these are all questions that others have asked me over the years and quite frankly, I've asked myself repeatedly. I just don't know that I have a good answer yet.

Along the way I've met some remarkable people who have recognized merit in my work. While I know that these individuals don't dole out gold stars to just anyone, I still feel cautious when accepting their compliments. Not because I doubt their sincerity or credibility, but because I doubt my own sense of growth and accomplishment. Whether I'm making a loaf of fresh bread or writing about it, how do I know that what I am producing is laudable?

As Julia said so many years ago in one of her television broadcasts, one must have "courage of conviction." I suppose that part of that courage is knowing that you aren't going to please everyone. No matter what your life's endeavor is, there will always be lovers and haters. To me, conviction seems to truly be the heart of the issue. Being self-aware that what you decide to do is true to who you are and that it can always be improved upon. The courage to not be afraid of waiting for my next failure to happen; or worse, that the failure is such a catastrophic event that one can't recover from it. That fear has always paralyzed me to some degree. Successful people are primarily successful because they are able to keep this fear in check and not let it derail their efforts.

Unlike most Hollywood films with overly saccharin endings, Julie & Julia ended as it did in real life for both women: a successful start in a new career that they felt passionate about. To be honest, in the end that is really all I am after, too. While I am passionate about technology and how it can better our lives, I seem to have lost my passion for all of the little nitty gritty details on which I built my initial career.

I realize that everyone who goes to see Julie & Julia will come away with their own interpretation of the story and how it relates to the journey that they have taken so far, but for me it has only reinforced the notion that what I am doing here, writing, even if deemed unimportant by all others, is important to me. As I've come to discover, passion isn't something that you can will into existence. You either have it or you don't. So I think now is a good time for me to live up to my courage of conviction and be passionate about the very thing that makes me the happiest.


BONNIE K said...

I enjoyed this post. I never see movies at the theater - I'm a library borrower, but I made an exception for this one, and I just thoroughly enjoyed everything about it, and now I'm reading the book Julie and Julia. Everything you say here is true; but I think it is so rare to end up happily making a living out of something you truly love and are passionate about. Not impossible, but it just doesn't happen too much.

Tino said...

@Bonnie K: Thanks so much for the words of encouragement! I wasn't sure what to expect of Julie & Julia, but I was very happy with the results. You're right, not very many people get to do what they love and make a decent living at it. However, as Julia is my witness, I'm going to try my darnedest (is that even a word?) to give it a go. I'll let you know if I succeed.

DianeS said...

I am eager to see where it all takes you!

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