A reflection on fear, risk, and jumping off cliffs, along with a big announcement for the future of Pinch Me, I’m Eating.
A few months ago my friend Marlee over at I Just Make Sandwiches asked me if I was attending the Everything Food Conference in Salt Lake City.
I hadn’t been planning on it. I had a full-time job, the blog filling in the spaces of what free time I could manage to devote to it.
While so many others went to the conference and were excited to attend again, for some reason I never considered it as a real possibility.
Maybe it was my comfortable routine of 40 hours a week, coffee shop on Saturdays, wonderful Charleston living.
Maybe it was the anxiety I get when traveling. The prior year when I booked my flight to go to a conference for my day job, I had a panic attack for the rest of the day. I was anxious in the following weeks leading up to the trip and drained of energy for months afterward. Not to mention the flight itself, which despite my knowledge of statistics and the science of it all makes me feel like death is imminent during every takeoff.
But when Marlee asked me if I was going, moving mountains herself to make it up there for her second year in a row, something inside me shifted.
I realized there was no real reason I couldn’t just take off a few days of work and hop on a plane. I checked the schedule and all the workshops looked amazing. Many of my blogger friends would be there. One even made the trip from Australia to come annually.
Prices went up that weekend so I had to decide fast.
I didn’t want my life to be dominated by fear. I didn’t want to close myself into an ever-increasingly smaller routine of the familiar and comfortable. And after a low point last winter, I had finally started taking something to help my anxiety. Hopefully future trips wouldn’t be as harrowing anymore.
I think you know by now what happened.
I registered myself and my husband, bought two plane tickets, and reserved a hotel room near the conference center.
An inspiring conference
I had gotten a terrible sore throat and a cough right before we left, but there was no way I was missing the conference at that point. Every day we were there was a day I would’ve taken off sick had I been home. I lost my voice at the end of the first day and managed to bring it back with a hot bowl of pho at a restaurant nearby.
Salt Lake City was beautiful, the snow-capped Rocky mountains visible in the distance as we walked each day to the conference center. There was live entertainment at breakfast, arial dancers and drum lines, and keynote speakers like Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen. The food was delicious and catered to all kinds of dietary needs, perfect for a meeting of hundreds of food bloggers.
I met friends face-to-face who I had known for years only through a computer. And the workshops were invaluable and inspiring.
They even had custom t-shirts printed as we waited, stamped with one of six different phrases. Goodbye Fear, Hello Future was one phrase that stood out to me. I had certainly overcome some fear to get here in the first place.
But I felt stupid for having been so anxious about traveling to a conference, so I chose the shirt that said Big Dreams, Small Steps instead.
Small, consistent, comfortable steps. An hour borrowed here and there to test or shoot a recipe. Progressing bit by bit towards a big dream that didn’t yet have a concrete goal.
But three months later, that other phrase, the one I didn’t choose, still sticks with me.
Because recently I took a big step. And it wasn’t without fear.
It’s still toward a big dream, toward the future of Pinch Me, I’m Eating. But to risk-averse me, it was not a small step.
I looked at all this website has given me in the last four years. I’m a person who doesn’t like to make choices, who wants to do it all. This blog has given me that opportunity. I am the recipe developer, the cook, the photographer, the writer, the webmaster, and the social media manager. It thrills and challenges me to develop my skills in all these areas and constantly improve, and is a wonderful creative outlet for me.
I looked at my time, and my energy. Both are more limited than I’d like. My list of ideas for the blog grows exponentially compared to the time I have to devote to making them a reality. For every recipe I test, shoot, and post, I have at least ten new ideas. I have half-finished dinner party menus and gift guides that have been sitting in my drafts folder for a year or more.
I looked at my fearless friend Anna, who didn’t renew her teaching contract this year, without another job lined up, so she could pursue other goals.
I looked at my numbers, at my blog income. And I realized it’s been doing really, really well.
And I told my boss, whom I love, that I wanted to go down to three days a week at my day job.
I’m not one of those bloggers who’s been itching to quit a job I hate. I love my job and find it very fulfilling. And giving up nearly half of my guaranteed income is scary.
I’ve been working this full time job for seven years, and before that I worked six days a week at three jobs just to pay the bills. The last time I had less than a 40 hour paycheck, it was not by choice and was a source of stress, not celebration.
I worry that I won’t have the discipline to fully utilize the time I’ve just given myself to work on the blog, or that the next Google algorithm update will cause my traffic to tank.
But the words of my college photography professor come back to me as well. I had been doing safe, impersonal projects in her class all year. When I proposed another safe idea for my final project to her she told me to “Jump off a f***ing cliff.” (her words, not mine).
Her words shocked me.
I cried a little.
And then I went on to create the most emotionally vulnerable and creative work I had done all year.
Now I’m jumping off another cliff into the future of Pinch Me, I’m Eating.
I’m scared, yes. But I am also so excited.
And I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings.