In my current state of limbo waiting for my new job to begin I have had the opportunity to do a lot of reading. Most recently I have read the two books from Julie Powell, initially made famous from writing the blog “Julie/Julia Project” which was made into the 2009 film Julie & Julia. I re-watched this a couple of weeks ago which is what has provoked me reading her books.
For those of you who don’t know the story, much like myself Julie Powell found herself approaching her thirtieth birthday and wanted to give her life some direction and purpose. So she took on the challenge of cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s recipe book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days. The film is quite an enjoyable watch and the book was also enjoyable. You find out more about Julie in the book, things like the fact her and her husband Eric are “High School Sweethearts” and have been together since they were about 18, and that she chased him until he would go out with her! Essentially, she is incredibly driven and goes after what she wants, however as you begin her second book “Cleaving” it appears she always wants more.
Now you’ll have to forgive me here as I usually read fiction, so to read a book that was heavily based on someone’s actual life was quite a new thing for me. By the end of the Julie & Julia project, Julie Powell has become “known” as it were in some circles and at times can even be recognised on the street. I found I related to her, however unfortunately not in the most positive of ways. She throws incredible hissy fits and her calm loving husband Eric is always there to talk her down off the ceiling. I do this, I’m aware that this is one of my not so attractive traits, however my point here is that she has the calm loving husband who doesn’t flinch when these fits happen….So you can imagine my surprise when the next book “Cleaving” begins by telling us that in the two years since “Julie & Julia” she has been having an affair with a man named “D”.
This is what I mean about the “wanting more”. I’m not innocent of this, especially when I was younger, I very much suffered from the “grass is greener” complex. In fact I would probably say I’ve only begun to grow out of it within the last year. That feeling of not being satisfied by what I’ve got. I think my first taste of contentment came sitting atop of a mountain at around 2500m, gazing out at mountains as far as I could see. Skiing by this point in the season (about mid-March) had become a bit tame, I’d got as far as I could with the skills I had and couldn’t go any further without (expensive) tuition for off-piste or park tricks so I had taken to spending a lot of my ski time contemplating beautiful views! So you see, even there I wasn’t completely satisfied!
In “Cleaving” Julie has given herself the challenge of being a butchers apprentice. She goes into great detail of her learnings (sometimes a little too much detail!) however her mind is always distracted by thoughts of the man who has actually just ended an affair with her. He stops contact and she continues to bombard him with texts, emails and calls. Its almost a case of wanting what you can’t have, somehow tinged with not being able to get what you want from what you do have.
I’ve spoken with friends and colleagues a lot recently about the feeling of not having achieved what we had expected to by this age, be that in jobs and or relationships. I remember when I was about 17 my dance teacher at the time turning 30 and one of the girls in the class saying, “Oh but Miss Louise aren’t you worried about being 30?” (all dance teachers are referred to as “Miss” this never seemed odd to me at the time!) Her response was “Not at all, I have achieved everything I wanted to by this age, I own a successful dance school, I’m engaged to a wonderful man, I have a beautiful baby daughter and I own my own house.” I can see why she felt accomplished, a few years later after having her second child she sold her dance school and as far as I know became a stay at home mum. Sadly, not something that many people can hope to do these days, or for that matter choose to. I know I don’t have the same contentment that “Miss Louise” had at this age.
Within “Cleaving” Julie visits the Ukraine. She talks to her tour guide about her affair and the girl responds quite simply “I think its more of a problem in America….. Infidelity. And confusion like this. In Ukraine, people get married, stay married. We don’t expect so much, maybe. Or we’re happier because we know what we want.” But is it that we don’t know what we want, or is that we know what we want, its just that we want more of it, or we want variety of what we have just to be sure we’re not missing something?
When you’re in a relationship what makes what you feel like you have enough? How high are your expectations? If all areas of your life are fulfilled I find it can make being content with the person you’re with a little easier, (as long as they are the right person for you) as you aren’t asking them to be the one to “complete” you.
In terms of career, how long will my new job which I expect to challenge me in so many ways keep me satisfied? I know I want to continue learning, this September I am starting The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Diploma in Marketing, a degree equivalent qualification which I can do alongside work. I am constantly striving to test myself creatively, this week I made my first pair of trousers, yesterday I made ice cream for the first time (DELICIOUS!) and today I am going to try using “Tylo Powder” to make models of a wind-breaker and a deck chair for my competition entry beach scene cupcakes!
I think my conclusion is that I can find contentment as long as I still challenge myself on a regular basis, if at the end of a day or week, I can look back and think “I did that well, what’s next?“.