I believe in dramatic exits. Not long after my 30th birthday I made a promise to myself to live boldly. I no longer wanted to be held captive by the “what ifs” in life. I only wanted to know about the “what nexts.” Granted, this is a big deal for a girl who likes to know where her next paycheck is coming from. I’m not the type to hitchhike or play guitar for spare change in the subway terminal, but I’ve always had this sense of adventure stirring in my belly. So by the time that monumental year of my life rolled around, I knew I had to sate it. After some thought about how, exactly, I might do that, I did the most logical thing I could think of: I gave up my job, my friends and family and everything I owned and moved to London to become a pastry chef.
This meant quitting my job as an editor at a prestigious university, giving up my post as a food critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a position I’d tried for seven years to get, and leaving my job as dessert columnist (yes, that was my real title) for St. Louis Magazine. This was a big deal.
How this all came about is a bit of a Cinderella story. Like the fairytale, however, there were definite moments of sadness and despair along the way. Had my grandmother not died, I probably wouldn’t have done any of this. Not that she ever held me back. In fact, it was she who inspired me in the first place. Had she not involuntarily stepped down from her throne as baking queen, I might never have found the courage to try and fill her shoes.
I can remember, just days before she fell into the cancer-induced coma that would consume her life, I asked permission to go on this daring adventure. “If I promised to have financial backing, a firm plan and a vision for my future, would you support me?” I asked, nervously. She was a pragmatic sort – the type who, after surviving a war and all its horrors, did not take favorably to bohemian ideas or flights of fancy.
“You have my blessing,” she said. “I believe in your dreams.”
When I applied for a scholarship to the Cordon Bleu in London, up against thousands of international contenders, I never once imagined I’d be the recipient. But when I held the congratulatory letter in my hands, it felt as if I were getting clearance from the maker Himself: “Go ahead, kid. Take that giant leap and don’t you dare look back.”
I also felt a little like Charlie from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when he found that golden ticket. The swell of excitement was so large it felt as if the entire universe was quivering alongside me.
Now, as I sit in my room in London, just days from watching my new life unfold, I still believe in dramatic exits. But even more, I believe in dramatic beginnings. There is something great we owe ourselves that most of us never believe is ours to claim. There’s such power in feeling awake. Even if it means feeling terrified in the process. The jitters keep me grounded. Which is good, considering there’s someone above me, blowing me sugared kisses and whispering in my ear, “what took you so long?”
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