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Plus ça change: A Fable and a Fresh Start

cupcakes 002

I have been writing this blog since June of 2006, which, by my calculations, is more than three years.  For a very long time, it was about food. Lately, not so much. When it was good, I think it was pretty darned good, and when it was bad, it was…a middle of the pack food blog that contributed little to the universe, but kept me off the streets for an hour or so most days.

Staring down the possibility of a commitment to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) which requires a post every day during the month of November, I have come to one of those wrenching realizations that I imagine I share with pre-altar-jilters, and Sophie, before making her choice. I cannot write about food for thirty days straight. I’m not sure I can write about food for fifteen days, or even a good seven. I might want to, but I might not.

This is not, however, the end. Here is the fable:

cello-cello[1]

A Girl and her Cello: A Fable

[This is of course not a fable, but a straight-up autobiographical story; I just liked the alliteration of “fable” and “fresh start.” ].

Starting in the fifth grade, I played the cello. I started with “Fifth Grade Strings” at Wardcliff Elementary School, added private lessons on Saturdays, and after one major glitch the first year (it took me while to understand the “practicing” thing after years of faking my way through piano lessons because I could play by ear), I was totally obsessed. I practiced hours every day, I listened to classical music almost exclusively, I played in orchestras, quartets, duets, performed at recitals,  attended summer music camp, competed with other string players statewide, and fought to win chair challenges from 6th grade through 12th.

I played a Senior Recital in high school, and a solo with the orchestra, and was generally functioning at a fairly high level in a very tough music program that set national standards.  I auditioned for conservatories my senior year in high school, got into all three, entered the New England Conservatory in the fall of 1980 and…was back home by January of 1982, a complete wreck of a human being.

It had finally occurred to me that I was good, but not really good, not good like my friends who headed to places like Curtis, Eastman, Indiana and Julliard after High School, most of whom are now professional musicians. I loved music, and  I loved playing in an orchestra, but I also got so nervous that I threw up before lessons, and once dropped my bow on stage because I was shaking so hard.  It’s a tough business being a professional musician. There are very few jobs to go around, and while I had some technical proficiency and a lot of discipline, I was not driven to play music the way a professional musician must be to survive. You must either be so talented that you can get work performing solo or in an ensemble, or so passionate that you don’t care what you do, as long as you get to make music.

As a practical matter, I lacked the talent and drive to be anything more than a public school music teacher (and public school music teachers who are failed musicians rather than passionate teachers are a curse upon children everywhere), which that was not what I had in mind. As a spiritual matter, I had simply lost my heart for the whole endeavour. It wasn’t a matter of failing (although at the time I was completely demoralized) it was a matter of my whole being seeing what my pragmatic, plan-driven brain refused to accept. While most Westerners will tell you that their “self” is between their ears, people in many other cultures will point to the center of their bodies as the seat of their being; I’m pretty sure my soul got the memo and began resisting while I was still in high school, when the terrible nerves and anxiety began, but my brain wouldn’t let me admit that I’d chosen wrong, that I’d made a bad plan, that I had devoted every atom of my being for seven years to something that might be a wonderful hobby for me, but could not the central feature of a peaceful, useful existence.

-Finis-

I am seeing in myself, these days, the same process: a mental compulsion to stick to the program, and honor my original promise, coupled with a real, deep-seated resistance to continuing. As part of my day job, I often read the heavy-hitters in the food blog world, the equivalent of the Julliard grads who get a chair in a symphony orchestra after graduation. Blogs like Orangette, Chez Pim, David Liebovitz and Smitten Kitchen have it all:  the pictures that take your breath away, the willingness (and cash) to experiment, and mad writing skills. Additionally, although there are certainly some fine “niche” food blogs out there, most members of the Food Blogger Pantheon are not cooking for children and following a diabetic diet. I do not want to write about low-carb recipes all the time, because a) it often bores me to tears, and b) that particular niche is already beautifully filled by blogs like Kalyn’s Kitchen.

Having finally understood the lesson I learned somewhat brutally 25 years ago, I know that I do not have the cooking or photography talent necessary for the A-List, and that I do not have the passion to keep writing about cooking, knowing that it is being done so much better in so many other places in the interworld. I will always cook, and love food, and read about food; I may even write about a particularly juicy recipe or cookbook. It is just not my soul. Writing is my soul. [Note to self: figuring that out in high school would have saved everybody, particularly your parents, a lot of time and money].

So, we have a Fresh Start. I probably need to turn myself in to Foodbuzz and let them know that this is no longer really a “food blog,” for starters. Although I’m willing to turn in my badge and gun, I won’t change the name of the blog because I still, always, imagine that I am talking to all of you at my kitchen table. (Not all at once, please; I can really only fit two or three chairs in there).  I will just take a leap into the void of being a Blog Without a Theme, which, according to some people, is the very kiss of blog death. And I’m sure as hell no “Dooce.” That niche is filled, too. You’ll just get me, and maybe I will have something to say that interests you, and maybe you’ll shake your head sadly and go back to reading “The Huffington Post,” or” Salon.”

As a callow youth-ette, the opening of a poem by John Keats gave me goosebumps (still does) :

“When I have fears that I may cease to be/Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain…”.

I know that feeling; I know it every time I feel that I have to write something no matter what I’m supposed to be doing, no matter who will read it, or if anybody will read it. I’ve been writing since I was in the fourth grade, and no matter what else comes and goes, it appears to be the grand and sustaining passion of my life. Keats barely had time to write everything that filled his “teeming brain,” but I have the rest of my life ahead of me.  Seems like a pity to waste it.

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

23 responses »

  1. I would sit in one of those two or three chairs any day of the week to listen to you talk about what’s on your mind. And writing IS your passion…that is the obvious. And reading what you write is always entertaining and, for me at least, thought-provoking. Don’t ever let that passion go.

    I look forward to the next time we are in the same city for more glorious food and drink…

    Reply
    • Well I would like you to be in my kitchen (or even my hemisphere) much more often BUT you can’t come now because I still can’t bend over to clean the floor, and it’s looking a little grotty.

      You are always an example to me of taking some risks to pursue work that you love. Thank you. ❤

      Reply
  2. Annie, I so relate to this post. As a child I was considered a “talented artist” but as an adult I must acknowledge that I am , at best, only decent. or maybe “good”. But that is not what one aspires to , especially when one is told, as a young person, that they have a gift.

    I think we still ahev a gift and one that deserves to be shared. You keep playing that cello and I will continue to paint canvasses. That’s all we can do: what we MUST do.

    What a brave post. I salute you and your honesty.

    Reply
    • Thanks, trisha! As my husband pointed out, it isn’t like I haven’t been sending up flares for a while that I was heading out of the food blogging business, but recently the feeling that I was just treading water in the “decent-good” department depressed the hell out of me.

      We will keep playing and painting (although that means I’d best cut my nails) for the joy of doing those things; I’ve always thought any artistic endeavor was improved when it was done out of joy and not some grim, competitive compulsion…..

      I may regret my honesty one of these days, but not this time. 🙂

      Reply
  3. You have a myriad of talents, talents that are not just that but gifts, for you to share them with all of us, thank you, we are all better for that…I would sit on the floor to share in your brain anyday of the week.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Monique – and it was great to see you last night and meet your husband-to-be! I do have to tell you that sometimes it’s pretty dark in my brain…:)

      Reply
  4. SIlly girl,

    It never was about the food. Still isnt. Maple laced Virginia, uneaten Bottarga, buying Oysters, raising Sam, finding the middle with Rob.

    I’m sure it means many more differant things to each of us ‘out here’. Go where you will with this, you wont shake us easily………

    Reply
    • You, dear Robert, are probably about done with me asking over and over again for “permission” to make this change. I think I am now all done with that.

      How do you know I didn’t eat it?

      Reply
  5. “It never was about the food”. Well said, Robert.

    Reply
  6. You really think Smitten Kitchen is a good food blog? It’s not well written and the recipes are totally lame. And Orangette has been fired from my reader list for years. It used to be better, but now lacks anything worth reading or cooking. Both of these blogs were early into the food blog world, but are well past their prime. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I think you should blog about food.

    Reply
    • Thanks MK, for the encouragement – the major issue here isn’t really that I’m not “the best,” it’s that I just really don’t want to do it any more. I guess my point about the blogs I cited was that if I were working at a level where I was offered book deals and published in magazines (in other words, helping to support my family) with food blogging, I’d make myself keep going, but I’m not, and I don’t have to do it any more. I still read food blogs, though – including yours.

      Reply
  7. I don’t care where or what you call it I just enjoy reading it! Please don’t stop-it is a gift. Your words flow like a great malt whiskey. Complex and interesting going down and they leave you with a warm thoughtful glow.

    Reply
    • Diane, that means a lot. Kind of exactly wat I most want to hear from a reader.

      Maybe, though, we should try reading my blog while drinking a good single malt…just saying…:) Or we could just drink.

      Reply
  8. You know why I read your blog? Because I like your voice. You see the beauty in the mundane. You’re not afraid to admit your vices. You love your community, your family and your friends and you’re not ashamed to admit it.

    Write on.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, JPowers. I’m still feeling a little like I jumped off a cliff – never again can I say to myself “well, if I don’t think of anything, I’ll just take a picture of dinner…”. I so hope I live up to what you see!

      Reply
  9. Esther Spaeth Kelly

    Ann,
    I hope you keep writing, as your spirit is called to the keyboard, and not as your guilty conscience, blog rulers, or peer pressure order you to write. I get a huge kick out of visiting your kitchen. Your perceptions are fresh, witty, and touching. You will never know how many a dragging morning here in Illinois is brightened by your words.

    I don’t know what it was about our excellent school. So many of you have wonderful talents, but have the sinking feeling that if not number one or top of the class or otherwise overachieving that there is a lack. Just keep enjoying your gifts, and hopefully sharing with those of us who also enjoy them.

    Reply
    • Oh Esther, it may be a hormonal thing, but I’m all teary-eyed now. I wish you could come sit in my kitchen. I’d make you a delicious low-carb snack. 🙂

      We were, at Okemos, under enormous pressure. To some extent it made us into “diamonds,” which is great, but a lot of us are VERY neurotic diamonds. I’m working up the nerve to post about “popularity” as I perceived it in Okemos and I see it now (that I don’t care). Writing that one may require Freudian analytical intervention.

      Reply
  10. Copy and paste this in your browser. Can’t wait for the Okemos Popular post.

    Reply
    • It’s perfect. Just perfect. I’m going to imbed it in the post, and you get full credit. (Was that Idina Menzel as Elphaba?)

      Reply
  11. I know I don’t comment often. And…I am one of those quiet readers who’s Google Reader piles up and then I read several posts at once some times. But I have been a subscriber for quite some time now.

    May I suggest that while food may have been the subject you spoke of for awhile, it was never your message.

    You are in a catagory of heart and soul blogs. I never see that listed anywhere. But we exist never the less. Inspiration blogs, blogs that speak from the heart about matters that connect to our souls.

    Food does that.

    So do a lot of other things.

    And I can’t think of a better place to sit and chat about matters of the heart then the Kitchen Table. Isn’t that where most of the important things in our lives have always been decided?

    Good luck with this growth. I think it will be amazing.

    Reply
    • Aw, thanks – I checked out your blog today, and I think I could use a little more…inspiration. 🙂 I am loving this change, although it sometimes throws other people for a loop.

      You are welcome at my kitchen table any time. I’ll even clean it before you come.

      Reply

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