It occurs to me in this festive week of overindulgence and resolutions, that what people ultimately want is to matter. Every resolution can be traced back to that very verb, if you think about it.
This year I want to give back by volunteering my time. In other words, to matter to those less fortunate.
This year I want to exercise more. In other words, to matter to myself and my loved ones by improving my health so I can stick around longer.
This year I want to dust off the manuscript and finish the book. In other words, to matter to those who will read it.
This year I want to spend more time with my family. So I can matter to them.
This year I want to be nicer to people.
And so on and so forth, do you see where I’m going with this? Well I intend to sever the intermediary cloaking and get straight down to it, because as we all know, life is too fleeting not to cut straight to the marrow.
This year I want to matter.
I want to matter to myself and to my family, first and foremost. I’ve already started working on that part, and I found it meant a little less flirting with social media and her shiny, addictive charm. While I never measured my life in twitter followers, I did cascade down the slick slope of social media further than I should have. I placed inflated importance in how many times my blog posts got retweeted, which is clearly not all that important considering that ten years ago this very sentence would be utter gibberish to me, and probably still is to much of the world.
It’s true as a competitive writer in today’s market, social media is a valuable keystone of success, but the relationship should me more like that to fine wine. Worth indulging in the robust power, but not excessively or the experience is cheapened.
My three-year-old is becoming a miniature man. He rarely wants to be rocked in my arms like he did when he was wee, and if he did, I could hardly manage it anyway. Besides, the torch has been passed. Bentley Danger has officially christened my sourdough starter “baby” and insists on helping me “feed the baby” as many times a day as I’ll allow him. As a fairly certain member of the one-and-done club, if I fail to recognize these years as some of the most poignant of my life, I’ll have really done a disservice to the powers that brought me into existence on this planet, which is a privilege, not a right, and one that I intend to savor.
So I’m not going to worry so much about cranking out the opus of all cookbooks or inflating my CV with freelance writing gigs like a pair of flashy pumped up kicks. This goes back to mattering to myself. Yes, it’s important to me to write a book in my lifetime. But is the content really that which I’ve been having dalliances with literary agents about? One of my favorite food-driven books to come out of 2011 was IACP award-winning Fried Chicken and Champagne by Lisa Dupar. She is a highly-accomplished chef and writer who didn’t put out her first book until several decades into her career. And no one looked down on her for it. I’m asking myself, does the world really need another book filled with 500 recipes for pie or macaroni and cheese? The single-subject stuff that appears to be selling (and that I’ve been explicitly requested to write) just does not set my blood a brulee. Why can’t I wait until the book I want to write comes out of me? Short answer: I can.
This is not to say I won’t write in 2011, in fact I intent to write more. I just got to a point where I was doing it for someone besides myself. I padded my bra in high school. Now I’m incredibly happy with my perky little boobs and can’t believe I ever resorted to such hijinks. I intend to flash my ovoline tits with pride from here on out, and yes, that’s a metaphor for how I’m gonna write and who I’m gonna write for. Like me, for me.
I also want to matter to other people, but not in the way that I want them to think I’m some thorny diadem to be placed on the mantle and rubbed off with every new achievement. I want to matter in the sense that I can give back. So I’m going to give classes. I can’t presume to teach anyone anything about writing. That’s an exercise I feel comes from within and improves with repetition. But I’ve come to realize over the past few years of cooking with people of all skill levels in the kitchen that some things just aren’t second nature to people and they must be learned. I make pasta constantly, especially gooey, oozy variations on ravioli, as well as cheese, bread, and all sorts of wildly modernist things. Sous vide cooking is easy, but there is a little bit of a learning curve and some serious no-no’s. I can teach all of these things and I intend to. I also intend to learn, because when you teach, all the reasons behind why you do a particular technique a certain way become abundantly obvious.
In order to matter in the way I wish to, I need to be appreciative. I am one of the most fortunate people I know, which has been a curse in the past because I tend to wait for things to fall into my lap, knowing they will. Now I’m wondering how much further I might’ve gotten had I been born with a truffle pig’s passion for pursuit. So I hope to count my many blessings and give thanks for them when they come, rather than expecting them, or worse, feeling sorry for myself that I don’t have more. This is a ridiculous problem with the bourgeois- give just enough ribbon to make a bow and we’ll hang ourselves instead. But talent should not be lynched, it should be cultivated and fostered, and if I find myself in a position to do just that, I ought to, rather than over-analyze the details of why my plate’s not perfect.
So by the end of 2012, which, incidentally, is the year I’ve been most looking forward to for about ¾ of my life, I should matter. By being humble, working hard, caring about my family and friends, sharing what I can, and appreciating my lot. I’m sure I’ll stumble along the way, but I’ll use the comforting words of my favorite guru Yoda should I find myself faltering:
Try not, do or do not. There is no try.
What matters to you? How will you matter in 2012?