How to find a recipe for a better life.
How to find a recipe for a better life.
I opened one of the cupboard doors in my kitchen the other day, and noticed an old family recipe for my mom’s special soft pretzels taped to the inside. I had taped it up there for quick reference when I first moved into my New York City apartment. Each time I had made them, I remember reading it over in detail, measuring each ingredient carefully, following the order of instructions meticulously, in order to bake perfect replicas of what my mom had made with my sister and I as children. I examined the recipe—handwritten, worn, dappled with rogue smatterings of oil and flour—and I realized how much I had modified it to fit my own taste over the years. It made me realize how much we all tend to do that in a myriad of other areas of our own lives.
Even if you are the type of person who adheres strictly to a given recipe, the end product will ultimately be slightly different than what your mother, father, grandparents, elders used to make. For, the variables—vast and ever changing—that contribute to the recipe cannot help but morph with the passage of time, morph with the desire, intent and taste of each person who chooses to concoct, make or bake the chosen dish. The very water, soil, air and food born from these elements are different than they were even yesterday, let alone a generation ago. Such is the brilliant evolution of this earth, the expansion of our civilization. With each passing moment, everything becomes brilliantly different.
We all have been handed down the recipe for a “better life” from what our family and elders have discovered through their own human experience. They have given us measurements for the specific components that they feel create the best leavening dough for us to rise higher and more easily than the dough of their own childhood. My parents handed down a recipe of beliefs that was comprised of one part love—specifically the ingredients of a spouse, the legacy of children, the contentment of a nuclear family of my own; one part bankable, productive, viable and money-making occupation to support myself; and one part socially responsible, philanthropic spirit of generosity that gives back, and contributes positively to our greater society.
When I was first handed this recipe of beliefs as a zygote, I tried my best to follow it to the letter. I looked for each specific ingredient—even down to the metaphorical brand specified by my parents in their detailed list of elements for a successful life. I considered marrying and starting a family early, I sought a traditional job in a bankable genre, in a heavily established workforce setting, I took an extra position in the non-profit sector to give back. I grabbed all of these ingredients off of life’s shelf, trying to adhere, tightly, to the recipe that my parents had handed down to me with the love, experience and desire that they had for me to easy-bake my way to a better existence. And yet, what I had baked didn’t taste quite right for me. Through my own series of life challenges, I had to strip their recipe down to the essence of its intent, figure out what role each ingredient played in leavening my own life, what replacement ingredients I found essential, and then adjust their proportions to create my own perfectly delicious life.
For me, what revealed themselves most prominently, resonated most strongly within the three main components of my parents’ recipe were connection, passion, and purpose. And, as unconventional as it may seem to generations prior, I feel that I have found the brand and type of each ingredient that tastes good to me. I have modified my own recipe to include one part deep connection—with myself, first and foremost, then with each great love of my life. If and when my next great love evolves into marriage and children, I will be utterly excited. I am so open to its perfect unfolding; one part passion—I am many things, and at my core, I am an artist. A creative. Through the eyes of tradition, this may not have seemed like a financially stable, bankable or productive path, but creativity is what undeniably beats my heart, and to try to force-feed myself anything other, seems to be a bitter, painful waste; and one part purpose—besides my commitment within the established world of philanthropy, I have found my greatest joy in sharing whatever lights me up with those around me. In fact, I believe that we all fulfill our purpose—we live our purpose—when we share the gifts that are authentic to our spirit, our very being.
Whether chefs or not, all of our parents, our elder generations, have handed down what they think are recipes for a “better life.” They do it out of love, out of wanting us to have an easier trajectory, a painless journey through this earthly experience. They have such noble intent.
And yet, there is no universal recipe for a happy life. The beauty of being human is that we are individual in what we prefer. We all have different tastes. We are all unique constellations of attributes and desires.
The traditional framework becomes immediately obsolete with each generation—furthermore, with each passing moment. And whether they acknowledge it or not, our parents had already tweaked the recipe that they had been given from their parents before handing it down to us. Such is the beautiful evolution and expansion of our existence. We have an infinite pantry from which to choose the ingredients of our own life experience. It is vast, scary at times and also the most utterly exciting scavenger hunt of our human experience: To find what tastes the MOST delicious. The world is your kitchen. And, now, the first question to ask yourself is, who’s recipe are you following...?
Take the time to tweak, create, concoct your OWN...and happy baking.