The Cosmic Checklist

The Cosmic Checklist

A few months ago I started yet another new job and as many employers do, I was asked to write about myself for the company newsletter.   As I stare at the blank word document page before me, I found myself at a total loss to answer the simple question:  “Who am I? “

Who am I?  That is a very good question nowadays.   Sure, I could write about my personal metadata: woman, middle-aged, American, married, kids, yadda, yadda.  But that all just seems doesn’t seem to answer the question. It’s just the information that seems to dance around me but not who I am.  The same thing with my work.  I could spend several paragraphs quoting my resume.  Any of this stuff can be read off of any number of social networks.  Besides, my work does not define me.  It simply keeps the roof over our heads.   To tell you the truth, I have no passion for my profession in IT, so I can’t possibly bore people with that information. 

 Who am I?  The question frightened me.  You’d think at 45 years old, I’d at least be able to answer THAT question.  As I think more closely about it, I’m just not the same person I was 20, 10, 5 years ago.  But who am I now?   

You see, I’m sitting at a cross point in my life.   I’ve already accomplished everything that society asked me to.  My ‘Cosmic Checklist’ is nearly complete. 

“What is this Cosmic Checklist?” you ask.  Well,   as a member of this society, we are expected to get educated, get a career, get married and have our 2.5  kids.    We do it because society says it’s what we should do to be ‘successful’.  Yes, sir, society has it all figured out for us.  However, at a certain point, usually around the age of 40, our cosmic checklist is nearly complete.  The only things  remaining won’t happen until much later in life:  grandchildren, retirement and we all know how it’s going to end.  At this point in our lives,  we stare into the gaping abyss of the next 20-30 years of our working life and ask universally:  “Now What?”

I’m sure there are many out there that can sympathize with me but I just don’t understand why is it that I find myself even more confused about life than I was 25 years ago?  I’m 45 years old!  I have kids!  I did everything  asked of me!  I should be on top of the world right now.  Why do I feel like I am constantly  fighting between the ideals I had when I was younger and apathy from the fact that I’ve strayed so far from them. Why do I feel that like I ‘lost’ myself along the way? 

“You’re in Mid-Life Crisis, my dear”,  said one good friend to me.  “What?  Me??!!  Mid Life-Crisis??!!”,  I shrilled at her with an embarrassed chuckle.  Suddenly, I visualized myself on a Harley riding through the Swiss Alps. (Ahhh, lets pause here for a minute and savor this thought)  Then I realized she was absolutely right.  Hmmm, I have been doing things to try to find myself again.  I spend crazy amounts of time in my kitchen.  I blog.  I’m desperately trying to change my career.  I even take electric guitar lessons.  Still something just doesn’t sit right.  There!  I have my diagnosis:  A raging state of Mid-Life Crisis.

 Hmmm, I find this phenomenon quite perplexing.  Why is it that  the mere mention of the term  ‘Mid-Life Crisis’ conjures up clichéd images of middle-aged husbands running off with their children’s babysitters, buying a Harley Davidson and getting hair plugs? Why does it have to be looked  at something weak, clichéd or scandalous?   Why can’t it be something that we embrace and celebrate? 

Think about it. When we are young, we go through all kinds of ‘Rights of Passage’.  We go to school. We survive puberty. We learn to drive.  We can drink alcohol legally. We choose a career.  We get married, have kids.  All of this happens at a relatively young age and at every one of these points we are rewarded by accolades from our family and friends .  How can we possibly expect that the choices we made when we were  mere  teenagers to be valid for the rest of our lives?   After all, people are living well into their 80’s these days. 

 For me, the biggest source of my discontent comes from a career choice that I have absolutely no passion for.  Twenty-five years in information technology has left me feeling like my soul was ripped out and given to charity.  After changing jobs 6 times in the last 5 years, I realize that I have taken this as far as I can go.  Apathy is no option. I simply must change.   But how?  

So now…the plan.  I have a feeling that the next year is going to be a wild ride for me and my family.  It’ll be painful, wonderful, frightening and I hope so worth it.  Mid-life crisis or not; I am going to enjoy this time.  It’s the chance that I get to re-define myself on my own terms with the people that I love!   What’s not to celebrate??!!

Today’s recipe is one that is a big hit with my wine certification class. Try it on a warm or room temperature brie and a slice of the baguette from my previous post. Add a good glass of wine and it’ll be pure mid-life heaven. 

Fig Jam with cognac and pine nuts

1 pound of fresh figs  (or dried figs steeped in hot water)

1 Cup sugar

½ Cup cognac

3 tablespoons pine nuts.

3 hot sterilized canning jars and lids

Put fresh figs  and sugar in a food processor and pulverize until a puree.  Place the puree in medium saucepan and bring to a boil, adding a bit of water if needed.  When boiling, add cognac and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about 30 minutes,  stirring often.  Test jam by stirring the jam with a metal spoon.  Run your finger across the hot jam (careful not to burn yourself).  If the mark you left with your fingers stays, then it’s done.  Give a taste.  It should be balanced sweet and acidic.  If it tastes overly sweet, add more cognac.  If not sweet enough, add more sugar.  Cook for another 5 minutes to incorporate.  Add pine nuts  and pour into prepared jars, leaving a small bit of headroom.  Wipe rims clean and lid.  Boil 10 minutes in a water bath.  Store in a cool dark place.

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