she's fried

hard cooking, eating and living a life well-done

Jan 16

Graduation Day: a look back, and ahead

I’m not a typically sentimental person, but there are times when a moment demands a bit of mush and heartstring tugging. Not to mention a strong self-pat on the back.

Yesterday I graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education and I feel proud.

As noted many times and in many different ways in this blog, I have had conflicted feelings about attending culinary school. On the one hand, I never planned to become a restaurant chef which is what culinary school best prepares one to do. If anything, I have never felt clearer that my deepest pleasure comes from cooking at home, for my loved ones. Besides that, as food educations goes, I would have in many ways preferred to have embarked on some grand culinary experience overseas or even an intensive program somewhere closer to home. These are adventures I may yet take when my children are older.

I’m still not sure a culinary diploma will have a tremendous effect on my professional life either, though it certainly does make for a nice mark on a food editor’s CV. Wondering about my externship? While there were things I would have enjoying doing (and may yet), like working for an school food-focused organization like Wellness in the Schools or trying my hand at recipe development and testing, I just couldn’t find an opportunity I could manage along with the (increasingly heavy) demands of my job. Luckily, the time I already clock as a food editor managing digital content strategy on the Kraft Foods account for media big Meredith Corporation is able to count towards this 210-hour time commitment. 

But as I look back at what the past 9 months and tens of thousands of dollars have borne, I am reminded of something my father said to me when I was about 11, something that—in its negative association at the time—may have been the most positively affecting words I have ever taken to heart. 

My father, who was in his late 30s at the time, told me that he was too old to change. I don’t recall what made him say that but I do very clearly remember feeling that this was the most deeply sad and untrue thing for a person to ever think about their life. If you couldn’t change, then you couldn’t grow and be a better, happier, more fulfilled and, as such, more fulfilling, person. 

With each year a deeper sense of pride, gratitude and settled, self-satisfaction wins the day over those natural and expected and undoubtedly to-be-repeated bummer days (or weeks/months). Life challenges produce rewards that are sometimes, maybe often, unexpected. 

A few key takeaways: 

  1. It is good for a mom to do something big for herself. There is no question that my relationship with my children was better this year than any other of my 14-1/2 years of motherhood. It’s quite simple: kids want to be proud of their parents, just like parents want to be proud of their children. Plus, when everything else in life is swirling crazily around you, there’s something lovely about coming home to children for a little grounding and a reminder that, while it’s essential for a parent to have independent interests and engagements, at the end of the day there are two (not so) little people who need you. 
  2. I don’t mind being single, thank you very much. Don’t get me wrong, it would be really nice to have companionship from time to time, maybe all in a row. Maybe for a little while, maybe for a lifetime. But this deeply committed (and monogamous!) relationship I’ve had with myself for the past 9 months reassures me that whatever comes to bear regarding my love life, it will not color the fact that if I have to live with someone, it could be a lot worse than coming home to me every night for the rest of my life. I am fairly awesome, after all.   
  3. It is not good to not exercise regularly for 9 months. Listen, I’m not kicking myself. Like dating, some things had to give. But you can be sure that one of my primary post-graduation goals is to get back into decent shape. I miss my regular runs around Prospect Park. Me and my favorite place on earth have some catching up to do.
  4. My most creative culinary school accomplishment has been this blog. I feel a bit guilty that I haven’t had the energy to push through on regular posts for the past month or so, but still it has served to document most of the compelling moments of this experience. I have a few posts left to write yet (I know, I know, you want an update about what happened to some of the bigger class characters), which you’ll see as quickly as I can get to them. After that, though, She’s Fried will likely become a finished chapter of an ongoing tale.

My friend Teresa, a marathon runner, wondered if there would be a let-down period for me post-graduation like what she experiences post-race. Will I still have something impressive to talk about at dinner parties or around the proverbial water cooler? Will I actually “do something” with or as a result of the diploma? Too early to answer these questions.

For now, though, I feel good.

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