By Melissa Lee
Around the beginning of December, as the new year approached, I have started to hear “New Year’s resolution,” “New Year, new start,” and “New Year, new you.” According to Science Alert, “It’s that time of year when people make their New Year’s resolutions – indeed, 93 percent of people set them, according to the American Psychological Association… However, research shows that 45 percent of people fail to keep their resolutions by February, and only 19 percent keep them for two years.”
I am not writing this blog post to encourage you to set a New Year’s resolution and stick to it. On the contrary, I want to challenge the concept of “New Year, new you.” Even though I always want to be a better me, I don’t think the “old me” is that bad either. After all, I’ve spent thirty-seven years molding the old me. Why do I suddenly have to say goodbye to the old me just because it’s another new year? And let’s say the old me is that bad—shouldn’t I have started to change that old me much earlier? Maybe in mid-summer? Why did I wait until a new year to do all the work? Instead of abandoning the old you and creating a new you, I want to encourage you to be reflective, to embrace the old you, and to discover the potential of the old you.
Would you believe that six years ago, I was a housewife and only had Taiwanese housewife friends? I grew up in a traditional upper-middle-class Taiwanese family. My stepmother has never worked ever since she married my father. My father hired a cook, a nanny, a cleaning lady, and two drivers to help my stepmom run the household. I never knew how to crack an egg, not to mention how to cook a meal. My parents never talked about a career with me. They expected me to marry a man of means and be “the great woman behind a successful man.” Because no one expected me to have a solid career, I had the freedom to study drama and theater in college and later mass communication and art history for my master’s degree. All these degrees were there to prove that I was “cultured” and ready to marry a gentleman and be a good mother.
When I went to culinary school, I was already thirty-one. Many chefs went to culinary school right after high school or college and worked their way up from the bottom. I was late in the game. My journey to pursue my career got more difficult after I went through a difficult divorce since I lost the financial support and had no family to help me take care of the children when I had to work. I could have gone down the rabbit hole and hated the “old me” or regretted getting married when I was young, losing the opportunity to dedicate myself to my career when most of my girlfriends were thriving at work. When I take the time to think about my career path, I realize I couldn’t be where I am today without the old me. Everything in the past can be viewed in a negative way, but it doesn’t mean it’s really that bad. It all depends on how you view it.
Even though my undergraduate and master’s degrees are not relevant to cooking, the knowledge and the skills I learned from those became handy after I created my business. Because I took all the acting classes in college, I am a natural on the stage and in front of the camera. I do not get nervous when I have to demo how to cook in front of my students. I also make short videos of myself cooking and share them with my followers on social media. Because I am fun to watch, I get positive feedback on the videos. Many chefs are great at craftsmanship, but that doesn’t mean they feel comfortable explaining cooking techniques or talking about ingredients to those who do not work in the food industry.
Because I studied mass communication for my master’s degree, I learned how to think critically about an issue. Therefore, I never view the food business as just the food business. I view it as a “people business” and dig into topics that are relevant to food but more in depths than just cooking. I write about fitness, relationships, wellness, parenting, and so on. And I share these inspiring blog posts to my subscribers. I have so much more to offer than just recipes!
My role as a homemaker was also helpful for my career. I have two young children. Max is eleven, and Amber is seven. Max has severe autism and intellectual disability. Amber is a typical developing child who constantly needs attention. Because of them, I have become a patient parent and have so much more empathy for those who have special needs. When I first started to teach, no one wanted to teach children cooking and baking. I got promoted to be a chef instructor from a teaching assistant very quickly because I was willing to teach young children and was many parent’s first choice for children’s cooking lessons.
In order to grow, we need to constantly pivot and evolve. I don’t think you need a “new you” for this “New Year.” Think about what you have achieved in the past year, and what you can do to push yourself to another level. Dare to dream and never give up! My parents always wanted me to marry a CEO. It never occurred to them that one day their girl would create her own business and become a CEO. Instead of marrying a CEO, why don’t you become the CEO your parents wanted you to marry?
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