Years ago, as I was attempting to finish an American Studies degree at UCSC at the age of 28, had a 3 year old at home and a baby on the way (I was young and in love, yes I probably should’ve waited until I was done with school to have kids) my husband said to me to just keep inching along and eventually I’d graduate. I lost sight of why I was even there, which can happen when you wake up with the magic of a toddler at home. I could’ve lost sight of the world around me, to be honest. He then said, “Be a turtle. Just keep going and don’t give up.”
Eventually I took a leave from UCSC because my big belly couldn’t fit into the small classroom desks. I remember asking if I could have a new desk, as I had to sit sideways just to get my bottom on the seat, and the young teacher just looked at me kinda horrified. Somehow everyone around me in class had succeeded at ignoring the fact that I was pregnant. No one in my class was like me, a transfer student in her 20’s pregnant with a toddler at home. Everyone was fresh out of high school and clearly on a different plane. No one in my family had ever gone to college. I came from a poor hard working farming family lineage that never moved away from small ideas and hopes. I’d moved away to Santa Cruz, enrolled in jr. college all on my one, worked and had met a sweet stable guy (all out of the norm for my rural clan).
After my little guy was born I returned to UCSC to finish. I had a few classes left, including my senior thesis. I jumped in excited to finish, but quickly realized going to class with two children at home, married and working as a Montessori teacher wasn’t going to be easy. I thought again of my husbands suggestion, “just be the turtle,” and it became my mantra. I inched and hiked my way along, all over UCSC, and slowly finished my degree in American Studies with a minor in Education (including my 37-page thesis paper). Instructions on graduation started to come in and I ordered my cap and gown. I was 31 years old. I was the first person on both sides of my family to ever graduate from college. I was in awe.
I write this story because I feel it parallels my same inching/hiking/crawling/trudge with finally allowing myself to become a chef. No one had ever taught me to do what you love, “making do” was life. I’d never even thought of what it would be like to ask my heart what she wanted for herself alone and then do it, with regards to my life’s work. I became a teacher because I thought that’s what I should do. I went to college because I thought that’s what I should do. When I finally admitted, in a whisper, my truest hearts desire for my life’s work the oceans didn’t parted and reveal the path for me to take. I had to make really hard decisions that affected my family. Our income was reduced dramatically because I was no longer teaching, I was gone a lot at culinary school and since culinary school the trudge of starting a personal chef and catering business has been an extreme hardship on my family as well. Choosing my hearts desire was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I just keep inching my way along and will continue to go at my turtles pace.
What I know now is that the turtle metaphor was perfect for me. They are enduring, solid, fragile, protected and a gentle force that trudges on. I love what I do and only hope that my knowledge, experience, excitement and endurance grow with every turtle inch I go.
May we all find the courage to ask our hearts their truest desire. Happy Valentines ❤