For some, finding their passion is easy. They are seemingly born knowing exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives. The brave bunch follow their passions and the favorable few become highly successful. Unfortunately, knowing my passion has never been my strong point.
I have always been a Jill of All Trades and, not to be immodest, a master of most. At first thought, that would seem like an ideal position to be in. You would think that I would feel empowered to do everything all at once and become Super Aleya, right? Wrong. For the longest time, my multiple strengths just confused me, and I didn’t know which path to follow. Mix that with an unhealthy fear of failure and you get…well, a very driven person with nowhere to go.
So, what do you do when ya got something good, but don’t know what to do with it? You follow along with what everyone else is doing and hope for the best (duh!). For me, that meant majoring in Business with an emphasis in Global Marketing and a minor in Spanish at the University of Southern California. It was a sure bet. No matter what happened in the world, I could always count on getting a good Marketing job and climbing the ranks until retirement (this was a pre-recession thought, obviously). It didn’t matter that my main interests prior to school were all in the creative areas (music, dance, art). It didn’t matter that I took my business classes like doctor-recommended prescriptions and bounced in early to G.E.s like “The Exploration of Latin America through Magical Realism.” I was going to be a kick-butt business woman with a stable life, a picket fence, a hot and financially responsible husband and 1.5 children. My degree was going to make sure of that. I just had to not make too many waves and I was good.
After graduation, I set my master plan into motion. I experienced a successful start, was promoted early and earned a better than average salary. Slight catch: I came to loathe Corporate. Cubicles made me itch. The “yessa massa” environment was getting on my last nerve. I dreaded Monday and could not wait until Friday came so that I could be free. I felt like I was selling my soul every time I completed an Excel spreadsheet that counted someone else’s money. But none of that mattered because, being a goal-driven person, I was determined to see my well-laid plans come to fruition. I probably would have stayed the course if God hadn’t blessed me.
On January 25, 2011 I lost my job. At the time “blessing” was the furthest word from my mind. I went into a panicked tailspin that was laced with fear, shame, confusion and disappointment. Me? The best employee ever? FIRED!?!?! I started visiting Indeed and Monster like we were long lost lovers. I think I applied for every job in the area…twice! One day, when I had managed to work myself into an impressive state of depression (I swear sad violins were playing in the background), my mentor, Barbara, gave me a wonderful piece of advice. “God has a plan for you,” she said, “just pray that He closes the doors he wants closed and opens the doors He wants open and you will be able to walk in His will.”
Its as easy as that, eh? So I prayed. A lot. Don’t get me wrong, I am a faith-filled Christian believer, so prayer wasn’t a new concept for me, but this was different. I mean, this was like…hard. It wasn’t “Lord, please bless this food” or “Lord, can you please send me those new Louboutins.” This wasn’t even “Lord, you are worthy and awesome and wonderful.” This was my first real crossroads when all I could do was pray, because everything was out of my hands.
Thank God for answering prayers. The stronger my relationship with God grew, the less fearful I became. I started listening to the thoughts hovering in the corners of my heart. I paid attention to the passions I had shoved out of my master plan because I didn’t think that I could use them to become successful. I spent months sitting still and listening, waiting for direction.
Finally, the pieces started coming together. Cooking entered into the conversation as a viable career option, not just as a side-kick to my other skills. I figured that if I was really going to be about this whole “do what makes me happy” thing, I might as well face the fact that I cook to cheer myself up when I am sad. I cook to express my love for others. I cook to challenge myself. I cook to experience manifestations of my feelings, thoughts and desires. Bottom line: when I cook, I feel good.
One day, after hypothetical conversations with my sorority sister and my mom about culinary school, I decided on a whim to go and visit. What did I have to lose? I mean, it was just a campus tour, no obligation required. On Wednesday, April 27, 2011, not only did I visit Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts for the first time, but I enrolled. I saw the open door and I walked through it. You may not know me yet, so let me tell ya that this was NOT like me. I am a measure 10 times and cut once kind of gal. Where was my research? My competitive analysis of the varying schools? My estimated financial earnings after graduation projection? Once again, Barbara (she is so wise) said, “That is what Aleya would normally do. God doesn’t need to research.” I love it when she is right.
But what about my B.S. from USC? I shouldn’t just throw away that knowledge. I am on a path to discover my passions, but I haven’t gone crazy. That degree was expensive! Then, the idea flowed through me. I had an Eat Pray Love bathroom floor moment, but instead of telling me to go back to bed, the still small voice said, “open your own catering business, Aleya.” Yes! Finally, I had a clear direction to go in, so I started running! Now fearless, I got out a notebook and began to write. Classes have not even started yet and I have already written an outline for my business plan and have developed a cohesive and integrated marketing strategy. Nothing in life happens by accident and my journey up until this point has led me to exactly where I should be. I can’t wait until 21 months from now when I graduate!
Now, I am not stuck living a passion-less life. I get to cook, eat, build, grow and thrive. I can live on my own terms, count my own money on Excel spreadsheets and vow to stay as far away from cubicles as possible. I relish the opportunity to make a change now instead of waiting until I retire, when I will regret how I spent most of my solid working years in complacency and fear. Now is the time for bold action! Changing careers into the culinary field is not an easy transition and is not one that I take lightly. Failure is not an option. God made me extraordinary for a reason and I plan to see what that reason is.
Join me as I begin my new, passion-filled adventure…