Saturday, 5 November 2011

The truth about a life changing decision

I've had an odd week.  After being laid low by a severe bout of tonsilitis, I probably spent too much time in my own head, admittedly in a somewhat fever addled state at times.

Having some time to stop and think about my where I am up to now, what my next steps might be, well to be perfectly honest, it was fucking terrifying. Like staring into an abyss that I have already leapt into, and feeling most unsure about myself.  I've had so much wonderful support from friends and even strangers, telling me how great it is that I am following my dream in food.  And it is.  But for all those people who dream of making life changing decisions, there's a reason so many don't.  It's scary to think about doing it and even more so when you actually take the leap.

I've worked pretty hard since MasterChef to make this transition and find the path I want to take with food.  But it's one of the steepest I've ever tried to climb and I think it's worth a truthful blog about the experience of the journey in making such a big decision to quit everything and start a new career.  Self employment in itself is a tough place to be right now.  Add to that working in a highly competitive arena where few actually succeed in the long term, makes for quite a scary place to be.  There are moments where I wonder if I have made the right decision.
I know some of this comes from my own self doubt that I have unfortunately been plagued with since childhood.  I had a tough father.  I can write that here as I know that he would never read anything I had written.  He didn't even watch me on MasterChef.  So me being riddled with doubt and worried about the future and the pressure this all puts on my family, well it's not exactly helpful to have close family members also think you are making a terrible mistake.  The thing is, he thought it was waste of time to study social science, and yet I had a successful career as a researcher.  He thought I was crazy to take the children out of school and go travelling for a year.  So yes, he could well be wrong.  It wouldn't be the first time!

I also cannot lie and say I don't remember how much negativity I received during the airing of the programme.  People who think they know me and can define me from watching the output of smoke and mirrors.  That backlash rocked my confidence a little too.  Only because it's echoes my critics who may be closer to home.  I met a troller face to face once.  In that moment, it took all the power out of anonymous critics right there.  I will leave you to figure out why. 

And then there's me, with my fever and head full of doubt, thinking what the fuck have I done.  I have worked my backside off for the last few months and for every few steps forward, I take more than the odd one backwards, not least financially.  The impact of me quitting a full time grade 8 NHS post is huge.  The impact on my family is evident and the pressure it puts on my husband immense.  Being skint again after years of middle class comfort is no fun whatsoever I can tell you. 

I spend a day in the kitchen, and I remember why I am doing this.  That isn't in doubt.  But is it enough?  I know I have a long steep path ahead.  But I also believe that I'm going in the right direction.  It's a bit painful right now and I'm going to have to dig deeper than I probably ever have before.  For now it's about stamina, with more sweat and tears to come I suspect.  I do need to take more time to develop myself as a cook and my future business.  So I think I'm just going to have to ride this one out....


  1. Everything looks crap when you're ill and it's 6 in the morning. You're a real inspiration to me. I'm changing my career at nearly 40 and it's the hardest thing I've ever done, but I can only believe it will be worth it.
    Wasting a skill like yours would be harder than not getting out there and trying it. I'm sure it will all work out for you, and I hope you feel happier soon. I wish I had half your talent.

  2. Speaking as a Boomerang Baby, I'm one of the millions of 18-24s that are going to wind up unemployed after University, maybe for years, but one of the things reading your blog has taught me is that hard work really does pay off, and if you try your hardest you will eventually get somewhere. It may take a long time, but you can see yourself moving forward. I find it incredibly upsetting reading the news these days because I feel like I'm working my butt off right now for absolutely no reason, I'll still come out of this on an even footing with the millions of others fighting for a job in the UK, and there's very little I can do about it. But sometimes you just have to keep going and keep working and something will come along. At least that's what I'm trying to do now. So please don't lose heart (I know you can feel really down when you're under the weather anyway, and money worries do suck) because you really are a wonderful cook and things will improve eventually. Wishing you the very best.

    Beki xxx

  3. Thanks so much for such kind words of support. It means a lot to me Jackie x

  4. Sorry to hear you have been unwell. I find what you are doing amazing. I think you are incredibly brave to follow your heart and do what you love. I'm sure you will get there (wherever there is) in the end. Take care x

  5. Jackie, where to begin...from the early days of MC'11 there was a spark in Liz's eyes at your style of spicy vegetarian food, and I knew then that I had to keep an eye on your progress (via Twitter, etc) as she is such a techno-Luddite!

    We've had two of your fantastic meals so far, and we'll be back for more, and yet still you doubt yourself. Why? Your food is excellent, outstanding, and if anything you undersell yourself: I got a severe b*ll*cking from Liz when we got home for only paying the going rate...

    To take your children out of school for a year to very narrowminded of those around you to critisise: they will never forget it, long after the clipboards have moved on to the next 'issue', and though they may never thank you for it, well not yet at least, they are still teenagers after all, one day you will know that they know it was the right thing to do.

    So sorry to hear of the rift with your dad: life's too short! That makes me truly sad.

    On a more positive note, hope you have a great evening at Sara's later next week: Liz and I are booked in there for her birthday on 9th December...and whilst Sara is aware of Liz's diet, I'm hoping for a little meat feast myself ;)

    Best, Rx