Boy oh boy! I cannot believe its been 6 months since I decided to walk away from the one thing I wanted most. I have been pretty open about about what brought me to this decision, but I thought it was only fitting to put all my thoughts and experiences together in one place, since its all been shared in fractions over Instagram stories and posts.
I know quite a few people want to know about life before baking. But that story I am saving for my first vlog post. I just need to figure out a good spot in my apartment for shooting those. OH! and get a mic, because I think a podcast might also be in my future. But I digress, let's get into what happened.
On December 3, 2018 I made the announcement that I would be subleasing my space and taking a short break from my baking business. I had every intention of going back to it, after all, I was making cookies for THE Plaza Hotel. Who in their right mind would give that up? Right? Well, it didn't take long for me to realize that I did not want to do any of it. I always thought baking for people was my purpose in life, my calling! That through sugary things, I could bring people joy. I mean, isn't that why I went to culinary school? The reason I took out another student loan to fulfill that dream?
That freaking loan to attend culinary school is one of the reasons I stuck to this dream for so long. Not the only reason though. First of all, I love baking. Truly love it, it brings me peace and a sense of accomplishment (wish someone would have said "BEWARE! this does not mean that you should monetize it"). Secondly, I had received so much criticism from people about having gone to culinary school, only to take a "regular job". People! UGH! People and their opinions. Opinions that I took to heart and that constantly made me feel like I was never doing the right thing. What I've learn though, thanks to the help of therapy, is that I have a very deep seeded need to please people. To put everyone above myself. Why? Because I don't like to be a burden or a bother, because I want to help them find happiness. This has translated into pleasing people to the point of being agreeable on all their opinions and observations, so they feel great about being right. How ridiculous is that? Maybe someday I will feel comfortable enough to share my why. For now, that is staying private.
ANYWHO! Realizing that this was a big time issue of mine helped me open up to myself. Look within and explore if this dream I had was worth aggravating the anxiety I already live with every day. Entrepreneurship is just not for everyone. Did I, and do I love baking? Yes! So much. But, do I love it enough to sacrifice my life? That was the main questions. The answer to it? HELL NO! It is true that I love the creative aspect of this. But I hated owning the business, I hated creating other people's visions, being restricted by clients. I was so lucky that 90% of the time clients trusted me to "do my thing", to put my own spin on themes and designs. But that pesky 10% made my day to day miserable. Could I have just said "no thank you! This is what I do, deal with it"? I WISH! The truth is that, although we were seeing success, I still had to take every single order. Because $50 or $100 could be the thing I needed to make rent or pay my $300+ electric bill. I've also been told that I should stick to my convictions when it comes to being a creator, because "well, they really won't go anywhere else, you just need to stand your ground"...Ummm, when I did that, they did go somewhere else. Do you know how many bakery options people have around here? A LOT! But community and sticking to your principles over compromising and competition, right? HA! Not as easy when you have crippling anxiety and many many bills to pay. Alright...I will leave that there for now and get into those topics in another post, because I have many, many thoughts and feelings on the topic. But I will say this, having boundaries with your "competition" while being kind, and not a bully, is possible. However, you owe your competition absolutely nothing. Don't want to share info? Don't do it.
I know, I know, another tangent. Ok, ok, back to it.
But Ana, why not get clients accustom to your principles before opening up a space? Because I just didn't have the time. Or at least, my brain didn't think so. If I wanted to fulfill this dream, I had to get things done, ASAP! The state of NJ is a pain in the ass with no Cottage Food laws and renting a kitchen by the hour was no longer an option. Most of them (at the time) had no overnight storage and for cookie decorating, that is a must! Add to that having a competitor that was sniffing around to see if I was baking from home, that was watching everything I did. Which, BTW, lots of people told me I was being paranoid about. But come to find now, that I was not! This person has gone after some of my friends and made their lives miserable....No, I will not share who it was. I am not in the business of hurting people. I just want to share my story in hopes that it will help someone else.
Looking back, could I have done things differently? Of course! Could I have kept on renting the minimum required by the commercial kitchen and baked from home? Sure! Someone else could have done that. But without the help of therapy, I didn't know that my anxiety was making all my decisions. The fear of a lawsuit, if I made someone sick...and the investigation that would follow that...the thought that in this hypothetical situation, they would find I had spent 0 hours in that kitchen. Terrifying thought! What would happen? That, aided by the paranoia of someone watching me? Not easy waters for me to navigate. I so wish it was easy for me to go through life thinking "that wont happen to me! Risk it!!". But I have come to accept that anxiety is part of my life. I now know that anxiety doesn't need to rule my life, but I need to learn to live with it. After all, it makes me a pretty amazing and organized planner in life and we really need to become friends.
Ummm, WTF? Ana, you said you left because you needed to get hand surgery. Well yes, that was the driving force. Surgery and my general health forced me to stop, it threw me into this new existence where I had SO MUCH time. Time to think. Time to really let therapy do its thing. All of a sudden I was happier, I could see things clearly. It was then I decided I was done! I got nothing out of being a business owner. You know that thing most entrepreneurs get when they reach a goal? That sense of accomplishment? Pride in their work! I couldn't feel that. All I saw was red, bad, bills, stress, how things could fall apart any second...annoyances left and right.
What did leaving it all behind do for me? I was no longer driven by who would think what. I was free. I was happy. I am more at ease with myself than I have ever been. I am finally at peace with my decisions. Do I still struggle every day? Hell yes! Because mental health is no joke and living with anxiety is a burden I will have to carry forever. Only difference is that I now know that I also matter.