“How we spend our days, is of course how we spend our lives”
– Annie Dillard
Almost a year ago, I spent an entire afternoon walking down the streets, without any destination in mind.
I was chasing pavements to vent my anger and the bitterness that had just sprung up from an argument with someone earlier in the morning, and I was like a bull charging head on, not aware of anything in sight but the red, horrid anger.
I walked step after step, putting one foot in front of the other, for as long as I could without tiring out. I was behaving like a small little kid, throwing a tantrum because I couldn’t contain my emotions, unwilling to settle somewhere and calm myself down.
Eventually my exhaustion got the better of me.
My body was physically tired and had run out of energy, my feet were begging for me to please stop walking, and my mind had starting zoning out from all the anger and bad thoughts and emotions. I was sick of feeling angry. And I just wanted to sit down, somewhere, anywhere.
Thankfully, before I had the chance to decide that I was going to sit on the very pavement I was chasing, my eyes spotted one of the many Starbucks branches that had started to sprout up all around Buenos Aires. (In almost 2 to 3 years, Argentines seem to have forgotten that their local cafes serve up as good a coffee, if not better and more traditional, than franchises like Starbucks, and almost every Starbucks outlet is packed with queues of locals and foreigners alike.)
Dragging my tired body into Starbucks, I ordered an ice peach tea cooler (for the obvious reason of cooling down my heart and emotions), took a long refreshing sip, and started staring out of the clear glass window. Even then, the mere act of drinking a cold, sweet drink was not enough to dissipate the bad feelings that were still lingering around.
So I took to the old fashion way of releasing my vent-up emotions – I pulled out a pretty notebook and a blue ballpoint pen, and let my thoughts flow through written words.
I started describing everything I was thinking at that point, why I was feeling that way, what I missed about being in Singapore, why I was experiencing the feeling of frustration that I had, the little details, the whole picture, I left no rock unturned. After half an hour or more of furious scribbling, I finally managed to calm down and no longer felt angry, just a strange sort of peace.
It dawned on me in that moment that since it was January, it wouldn’t do me any harm in putting some goals on paper.
Some sort of resolution for the year, to start the year well, and to take advantage of the fact that I was writing for the first time in months, and my creative juices were flowing.
It wasn’t hard really. I believe that when you’ve always wanted something, it’s a kind of desire or goal that lurks around your mind for a long time, nagging at you to actually get down to doing it, but sometimes gets pushed away and procrastinated because we always have some work project that is way more important or our lifestyle just doesn’t happen to be able to fit that in. But trust me, eventually these desires will surface and you will find yourself wanting to work on them, and one day you will.
My goals for 2012 were very simple, and maybe even a little vague, but I wrote them down anyway.
Here were my 3 little goals.
1) I wanted to write a whole lot more
2) I hoped to read as much as I can
3) I aimed to love more (people, things, etc)
Satisfied with the fact that I had actually managed to harness the bad energy I was sick of into some productive writing and resolution decisions, I closed my book, walked out of Starbucks and headed home.
OK, if you’re wondering what the story has to do with the title.. Hang in there. I’ll explain in a little while.
Fast forward 11 months later, and we’re now in November.
I’m about to turn 27 on the 27th (I know! It’s my lucky year!), and the streets are filled with festive cheer as the year comes to a stunning close. I usually feel sentimental and think a lot more during the last two months of each year.
As my birthday draws nearer, and I’ll be another year older (and wiser I hope!), I look back upon 2012 and think, What did I do this year to make it worth it?
Then I realize with huge grin on my face, that those three little goals I had written down in January had such a huge part in making this year a fulfilling one.Somehow, without actually consciously paying attention to the resolutions I had made on that afternoon I spent chasing endless pavements, this year turned out to be extremely well-spent.
One of the most invaluable things that took place this year for me was the creation of Dish by Dish.
As I always tell people, this blog came about because I just wanted to keep and have a space to store the recipes that I had tried and tested, especially after being inspired by Pelusa Molina’s cooking class. It started out with simple posts, nothing spectacular, to prove that I had really cooked what I claimed to have cooked. It was more of a “hey mum look how domesticated I am” thing than an “I want to be a food blogger” decision.
But life always manages to surprise us with her unexpected twists and turns, and what started out as an unintentional blog later started to define my year, and nudged me into the direction of my goals.
I started writing again..
The blog started with short, rough posts, with a few bare photos, but I later expanded my posts by describing the foods I was cooking, sneaking in a little bit of history and culture, so that readers would have a more profound understanding of how foods evolved as a result of changes in cultures, or simply where foods or ingredients originated from. Then I tried adding a deeper, more in-depth view of my thoughts and my emotions, and later pinning my memories to the page, reflecting on how different foods left their imprints in my heart, and my mind.
During this process, I realized that my blog had become a large motivation for me to practice and better my writing. It was a place where I could channel years’ of desire to write, and where I could learn with each post how to bring a story beyond the obvious. And that any food can be used as a starting point to introduce someone’s history, culture and lifestyle.
And then I started reading again..
Blogging also ignited in me a strong necessity to read a lot, and read I did. Since my mum had given me the Kindle Touch for my Christmas present last year, I keep it in my handbag all the time. I love the idea that at any point of time, I have an entire library of books, literally at my fingertips. Plus, since I started blogging, I’ve felt the need to read and research as much as I can, particularly on the subjects of food and blogging. I’ve read “A Thousand Days in Tuscany”, “Blogging for Dummies”, “Tasty Food Photography” by Lindsay from Pinch of Yum, and even bought the book “Will Write For Food”, a fantastic little manual by Dianne Jacob teaching you the nooks and crannies of the food writing world.
I never knew I could become so wrapped up in reading about food blogging and how to be a better blogger, but that’s precisely what happened. I also find myself drawn to beautiful food blogs such as Cannelle et Vanille, Food Loves Writing, and Pinch of Yum, all of which are references and guidances that I admire very deeply.
In writing posts about particular foods, I also realize that I have to do specific research on the history and background, their significance to a particular culture, such as the importance of Dulce de Leche in not just Argentina but also other parts of Latin America. I’ve spoken to my Croatian colleague Jorge who told me the story of Andean potatoes, and how the cooking of pilaf was previously reserved mainly for the men. I find myself becoming more alert, more open, and certainly more curious about the preparation of foods which previously never even held my attention. I also turn often times to the Internet to look up the definition or history of some strange sounding foods such as the Levantine-Arab Tabbouleh salad, or the Greek appetizer Dolmadakia, or the Armenian salad Ensalada Belen. A whole world of Middle Eastern, Armenian and other exotic cultures suddenly unraveled themselves to me because I was interested in food.
And I fell in love once more..
During this entire natural process (which is still ongoing), I have rediscovered my love for writing, reading, and most of all, experiencing different cultures. I have developed friendships in my cooking class which arose because we all have the same interests and curiosity. An unexpected love for cooking, which previously scared the crap out of me, suddenly evolved, transforming and enveloping me in a totally indescribable manner. I no longer think that cooking is a waste of time, nor do my kitchen fears bind me anymore. The best part of it is that when I cook for the people I love, I realize over and over again, that cooking and sharing food, really is a way to demonstrate your love, care and concern.
My resolutions came to pass!
This is the power of putting your goals on paper, of concretely visualizing your dreams and hopes.
As the quote with which I started this post states, “How we spend our days, is of course how we spend our lives”.
Each life is a sum of years, which are then made of fabrics of interwoven days, which we can use to either live rich, fulfilling lives, or watch our time languish away, and fall into the rut of routine and normal mediocrity.
Don’t let your days and years slip away like water in our hands. Make something out of your life, and every year you live. Write down your goals. Make your dreams come true.