My First Day of School

Whenever I see pictures of so-and-so’s first day of school, I think Great. Another high school acquaintance found me, friended me and has added me to their list of people who care about so-and-so getting on the school bus. Yes, yes. I love kids. I was a teacher. Someday Mark & I will have a brood of our own. But for today, it is my first day of school. Again.

I’ve had several “first days of school” before. The usual ones, a first day of art school, which was on purpose, and a first day of teaching school, which was for all intents and purposes, an accident. Thank you 9/11.

Ok, so there I was, a few months back, knowing I was a creative person, knowing that New York City schools are too fucked up for me to teach in. Knowing that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my professional career, and feeling like I could look around and see so many people who had figured out what they want to do with their lives. I was wrong, and I think most people are figuring it out as they go along, but I was just stuck. I couldn’t take the chance to exhale to admit that I’d made some pretty poor choices, and begin to figure it out. I felt like a failure because I hadn’t gotten “it” like everyone else.

In a past professional iteration, I commuted 3 hours in each direction, to have basically nothing to do. In another, I loved what I did but it was like the movie Groundhog’s Day. (Remember? With Bill Murray?) In another, I devoted my whole being to what I was doing to be told I was “completely replaceable.” Ouch. These were all in my grown-up years, post schooling and so I was trying to fit into the mold. 401k, dental, taxes, etc. The thing is, I never fit into any mold. Ever. I dyed my hair pink with Kool Aid because Manic Panic hadn’t been invented yet. But grown ups are supposed to fit into molds and build safe, stable lives for themselves. Right? Maybe you, but not me.

Now what? I started with books with titles like “The Anti 9-5 Girls Guide: Practical Career Advice For Women Who Think Outside the Cube,” Money & the Meaning of Life, and A New Earth, and websites like and lots of therapy. I’m not kidding. It really took (and takes) an hour with Evelyn every week to remind myself that its okay that I don’t fit into the mold I thought I was supposed to fit into. There are other molds out there.

A quick story. When I first started seeing Evelyn, I was crying and begging for her to tell me how people knew that they were doing the right thing with their lives. I was having an existential crisis. My beloved Grandfather had died two weeks before I got married and changed my name. Enough to send anyone to the couch. I was fixated on finding a career path like some friends of mine fixate on finding a husband. I found me one of them, but the idea of spending the rest of my life explaining what a PDF file meant sent me into whirls of anxiety and frightening depression. So on this particular day, I’m begging Evelyn to tell me the secret that everyone else knows but I must have gone to the ladies when it was announced. And you know, she said the most frustrating thing. She said that I already knew. And that when I cleared away all the anxiety and depression and accumulated garbage and failed expectations, it would be sitting in my mind like it was in the middle of an empty room.

And, in a nutshell, that’s exactly what happened. I came home for the nth night crying about “the sands of my life falling through the hourglass” and decided to make chicken stock. And as I was chopping this onion, all of a sudden, it was there. That’s it. That’s what I want to do. In all the dark, sad days with all the change and loss and gain and upheaval I return to my knives. And my onions. I love to cook. And unlike other professions, if I try and fail, at least I won’t go hungry.

Ok, so there it was sitting in the middle of the room just like Evelyn said. Now what? Culinary school?! Are you NUTS?! That’s like $35 grand! I know I’ll save it up. I’ll work, pay off my credit cards, then save up the money and then I’ll go. One more day of cubicle dwelling was all I needed to see for sure that that would never work. So I spent a few days, two, three tops, researching New York culinary schools, found two that looked promising, and chose one for a variety of very practical reasons. Money was not one of them. I came to the conclusion that what money I had would never be enough. That there will always be another debt, and that if Sallie Mae would lend me the money, it was an amount that, compared with what I had without the debt, was priceless. Then I was getting fitted for a chef’s jacket.

Anticipating that it would feel like camp was exactly right. There are big stoves and pots and a proofer and a salamander and other things I’ve never even seen before. Here’s a pic of my new tools:


And I’m so excited to keep you posted on techniques, recipes, learning experiences and et cetera. And here’s my new life, in the making.


3 responses to “My First Day of School

  1. I see myself in almost everything you just wrote! Except your in culinary school and I’m not. I’m almost done getting a degree I don’t even really want. I’m so jealous. I look forward to hearing more about school. Your culinary tools like so good, all nice and shiny and new. Have fun breaking them in.

  2. If only I could be so brave as you and follow my dreams. Good for you for going where your heart leads you.

  3. I will root for you, I loved it once I got past having to take more written test…then became the assistant to the director as part of my internship, made those days of college for teaching worth it too!

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