"If you're going to have a fear of failure, you're just never going to learn how to cook. Because cooking is lots of it, one failure after another. And that's how you finally learn."
Julia Child understood something about cooking, and life, that made all her endeavors seem effortless—even though, objectively, they were not. Her baby, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, took a whopping decade to write. Her cooking shows were lessons in humility. Fans of hers could watch Julia slice into her own finger while dicing a carrot or burn the roux for a béchamel right from their televisions screens. And then they could watch her laugh it off, as she always did, and move on to finish the task at hand. Not taking things too seriously: that's what Julia understood. It allowed her to approach cooking with a levity that made home chefs feel comfortable with their own failures too.
Enthusiasm, for cooking and eating and writing about cooking and eating, maybe the only quality I have in common with Julia. I dip my toes into the ocean as if a tidal wave could reach the shore and swallow me whole at any moment. I add unnecessary layers of complication and general angst to most things in front of me, and I take failures personally. But dwelling on fear, I learned embarrassingly recently, is something of a luxury, uncomfortable as it is. It requires time and brain space I just couldn't give up this year.
Since January, I've traveled to nine cities and five countries, started a novel, started a business, grew the business, stopped writing the novel, and started writing another novel with a better story. I enrolled in a weekend culinary school program. I learned what activism means to me and the small part I can play in helping our country change its course. I turned 30, freaked out about aging for a hot second, and then realized I wouldn't trade the years I've had with this brain and this body and all my favorite people for anything. I've read 11 books that have all reaffirmed something I already knew—that fiction can sometimes be the best conveyor of truth. I said goodbye to my Grandpa who was the truest mensch I ever knew and who stayed engaged and interested in the world until the very end of his life.
"No fear." That's what Julia used to say before stabbing a lobster between the eyes or flipping an omelet. And I've repeated it to myself all year. A kind of mantra. I said it before sending emails I was nervous to send, before making decisions that felt big and course-altering, before showing pages of my novel to my writing group, and before my first attempt at poaching an egg the old-fashioned way (no container—just a dash of vinegar and a swirling pot of hot water). And I made plenty of mistakes. Although it should be noted, for the record, that I poached the heck out of that egg on the first try. A small accomplishment, I know, but one that I'm pretty pleased with.
Rather than dwell on the shoreline, I dove headfirst into the waves this year. I dove so many times I felt numb, pins and needles, from the shocking cold. And that's the thing about "no fear," about embracing forward momentum. You get used to it. I've had lots of failures and some successes I never thought possible, and I've gained courage equally from both. So here's to the past year and to this next one—may it be another year of living enthusiastically and fearlessly as Julia did and may the lessons be just as rewarding as they've been. I wish that for myself and for you, too, reader.