Not the Daring Bakers: it’s ok to say no

No, it’s not the Daring Bakers today though the 27th of every month, it usually is.  But not today.  Because I wasn’t enamoured with the challenge, because I don’t have to. Because it’s ok to say no.  So I challenged myself to make chocolates instead.  But this post is about more than just the Daring Bakers and making chocolates, it’s about making choices for the right reasons.

As many of you know, it’s been an incredibly hectic year for me with a full-time job, part time grad school, the blog and, well, life.  So often people would say to me “I don’t know how you do it all” and quite frankly, I often wondered the same thing myself.  And the answer – well I did it all because I could. Like the little engine that could. Until I couldn’t any more.  Yes my incredibly well-managed multitasking life came crashing down around me in late February when I fell ill with what was later diagnosed as an inner ear viral infection causing extreme nausea and dizziness (nothing like an ear infection in case you were wondering, that would be a walk in the park compared to this) and later, a viral infection, causing extreme fatigue (reminds me of when I had mono – glandular fever – in university).  All this rendered me much sicker than I ever remember being in my life for a couple of weeks and feeling like I have been hit by a truck still, weeks later as I try to get back to normal and go about my business.

As I was recovering, I started to think about all the things I couldn’t do but wanted to. Work (I missed the boys!), normal life (I have never cancelled so many plans in my life as in the past few weeks) and blogging.  Do you see one part of my crazy life that does not feature in the things I was missing? Uh, huh, grad school.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being a student. In fact, I would be an eternal student if I could afford to.  But anyone who has completed a PhD will understand how demanding it is by itself, let alone if you have a regular full-time job on top of the studies.  The program I was enrolled in was supposed to be designed for those who were working full time and on paper, looked do-able.  After all, I completed an MA a few years ago when I was working full time.  Neil will remind me that I had no life outside of it and he is right.  But an MA is 2 years long.  My PhD stretched out ahead of me with at least five more years to go.  Five more years of doing a full day’s work and heading home to hit the books for another few hours most nights. Five more years of sitting in my office on the weekends reading papers instead of relaxing. Instead of cooking.  Since I started my blog, I have found such pleasure in cooking and baking (and photographing the results and writing about it) – something that totally took me unawares – I never expected to love it this much.  And there is something very wrong with someone’s life when they are reading a paper about second language pronunciation pedagogy and they are actually thinking about what they want to bake on their study break.  Someone’s priorities would seem a little screwed up.

So yeah, that’s me.  Even before I got sick, I was contemplating a break from my studies next year to take stock and really decide if this is the path I want to go down.  It’s such a huge time and financial commitment that it would be wrong to go on just because I can.  Just because you can do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.  So I am taking a year off my PhD (maybe more? who knows..) to think about it with a clear head.

My life has actually been fraught with me making these types of decisions, if I look back.  When I was 19, I quit a much coveted position in a journalism course to do a B.A.  My dad (former journalist) was probably shaking his head but mum and dad just wanted me to do what would make me happy.  Ironically, I could probably have used staying in that program a while longer but I still maintain that at 19, you have no real idea what you want to do with your life.  Later, I did an Honours degree in French and then a teaching degree because I didn’t know what else to do. That B.A. definitely did not open up a precise career door like a Journalism degree would have.

After that, I started a PhD in French literature (special interest area: adultery in the novels of Guy de Maupassant – seriously, what was I thinking) and my life led me to France where I felt it was more appropriate to be studying literature.  That would be the first PhD I never finished and I remember agonizing over that decision, over much wine and cheese in my 18m squared chambre de bonne. Being scared to tell mum and dad because I though they might be disappointed in me (again). But they were fine. Because they knew I was happy, pursuing my ESL qualifications in Paris.  And that decision couldn’t have been more right for me.

A few years later when I had finally scored what was arguably the best EFL teaching job in Paris, I left after one year, to move to Canada to be with Neil.  I KNOW mum and dad were truly shaking their heads at that one.  But again, trusting my instinct turned out to be the right thing.  Here I am 11 years later. Something about that decision must have been right.  But that was also a heart-wrenching decision. Leaving my beloved Paris.  To move to anglophone Canada. Never in a million years would I have imagined that would be my destiny.

And now I find myself in a similar position. Knowing deep down what the right thing to do it. But worrying about what people will say and think. I am not a quitter but this taking a break thing feels like the weak thing to do. And the stubborn Taurus in me fights that.  I mean, I should be able to do everything and do it perfectly, right?  Wrong.  It’s ok to acknowledge weakness. It’s ok to say no.

So this month I said no to the Daring Bakers and their “edible containers” and made my own chocolates instead.

The other day, as I hit “send” on my final paper for a while in my PhD program, I decided I wanted to try my hand at chocolates.  It can’t be that hard, right? I mean, I have cracked the perfect macaron, chocolates shouldn’t be too hard.  My neighbour was laughing as I told him what I was doing now that I was “free”.  “Making chocolates? Really?” but then he said “Good for you!”  Yes, good for me. These chocolates are far from perfect. They are very tasty. But they are ugly. But that’s ok you know.  Because now I have a whole year to perfect the art of making chocolates, or work on bread, pastry and other baking tasks that still elude me.  Because I can. And more importantly, because I want to.

** Don’t forget to check out next month’s “Forever Nigella” event – I’m hosting a street party in honour of the Royal Wedding and would love for you to join me. All the details here.

86 Responses to Not the Daring Bakers: it’s ok to say no

  1. Brian @ A Thought For Food April 27, 2011 at 06:36 #

    It is impressive that you are doing all of those things. But they’re all things you love and you seem to balance it all well. My feeling is that when those things become more of a burden than a joy, then it’s time to reevaluate. But it sounds like that’s not the case.

    And, yes, it’s definitely ok to say no. 🙂

  2. Sweet U C April 27, 2011 at 06:38 #

    Hi Mardi,
    I don’t think you were wrong, I chucked my PhD to be home with my baby and be a stay at home mother. Oh, the chocolates look beautiful, not ugly at all… I think making chocolates is therapeutic, specially the tasting bit : D

  3. Tracey@Tangle Noodle April 27, 2011 at 07:06 #

    May we all learn the simple truth that saying ‘no’ is not the end of the world! It seems to me that you have an exceptional gut instinct (pardon the inelegant term) about where you find your happiness and equilibrium. Keep on trusting that finely-tuned instinct – it’s led you to where you are right now, making chocolates and finding your contentment.

    As for your PhD, it will wait – it took me nearly 15 years to complete my undergraduate, but I can honestly say that I was a better (and happier!) student for taking it at my own pace. At that, I would have to be wheeled to the stage if I were to attempt a graduate degree. 😉
    (Please send me some chocolates…imported brands are so expensive here!)

  4. Chris April 27, 2011 at 07:15 #

    I read often, but admittedly don’t comment, as I try to read posts on the fly, on my blackberry, in between lunch duty, seeing students, and answering to parents. School life….as you know. But, I must say, it is so important that you do what’s best for you. We often start things and, while we have a vision, never know where life will take us. It takes a lot of courage to “say when”, regardless of our inner self conflict.
    I remember several times throughout my program telling my Chair that I was done. And, I did take a year during the dissertation phase. I finally finished, but if I never see another study, it will be too soon. ha!
    Again, it is all about what is best for you & your family. And, eating these delicious chocolates. 🙂 Way to go, strong lady!

  5. RJ Flamingo April 27, 2011 at 07:33 #

    I’ve always been concerned about your burning the candle, not just at both ends, but through the middle, as well. I’m glad you’ve decided to take a bit of a breather, honey. You’re doing the right thing for your health, your sanity, and your life. Love you! xoxoxox

  6. Lynne April 27, 2011 at 07:48 #

    Good for you Mardi,saying no is just fine…….in fact what you are doing is finally saying YES to all the things you really want to do.As you know I had to wait for retirement to finally be able to say no (far,far to long) and now I couldn’t be happier saying YES to all the things that make me truly happy.

    Well done Mardi,enjoy YOUR time.

  7. Carolyn April 27, 2011 at 07:50 #

    Great post, Mardi! Sounds to me like you have made a decision that is very much right for you. I left my PhD program after completing my master’s, because I was in such a highly academic field, I couldn’t see where it was taking me any more. It doesn’t have a practical application and I found that my favourite parts of grad school were the learning and the working with undergraduates, but not the research so much. I have no regrets!
    So take your time and decide what’s right for you. And in the meantime, enjoy your gorgeous chocolates.

  8. Edite April 27, 2011 at 08:21 #

    What a wonderful life-lesson post, Mardi. I think we all could learn soemthing here.

  9. Liz April 27, 2011 at 08:21 #

    Gosh, I just can’t imagine how you do it all! But I’m SO glad you took the time to make and share these gorgeous chocolates! I’m seriously in awe!

  10. Paula April 27, 2011 at 08:36 #

    I hope that Neil chose the perfect wine to open and celebrate this momentous decision. It is not a weak moment in your life but rather a very strong one. Changing paths is never easy but I believe that one should follow their heart. Just as you followed yours to Canada, choosing to take a break from the path to your PHD may prove to be one of the best decisions you could have made for yourself.
    Who knows what the year will bring for you? I’m hoping that you are able to fully recover from this viral infection first of all and then I hope that this time away from studies allows time for discernment so that you understand that which creates a passion within us is what we are meant to do. Best wishes brave Mardi.

    p.s. if those chocolate are *ugly* then I can’t wait to see your *beautiful* ones 🙂

  11. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction April 27, 2011 at 09:00 #

    Good for you… I often have wondered how you do it all! It’s good that you are taking time to reevaluate and figure out what you truly want to be doing. I can speak from experience, after quitting a full time IT job a few years back… One where I had more responsibility and higher pay than most people my age and with my experience. Very few people understood at the time, but I know that my life is much better as a result!

    PS – I think your chocolates look lovely, and you definitely made the right choice re: the DB challenge. Though, I’m slightly disappointed that you didn’t fill said chocolates with maple mousse 😉

  12. Angela@RecipesFromMyMom April 27, 2011 at 09:11 #

    Doing the things we enjoy, because we want to, can make every morning brighter and more exciting to wake up to. I can’t wait to read and see what you’re going to do in the upcoming year. Having made my own recent decision to leave a job, I know it’s an adjustment but the trade-offs have been sweet.

  13. Nelly Rodriguez April 27, 2011 at 09:26 #

    Dr. Seuss says it perfectly “So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

    Finding balance is what it’s all about! I’m glad you’ve found it. Have fun conquering chocolates!

  14. Jan April 27, 2011 at 09:31 #

    I seriously admire your ability to say no, and follow your gut and your heart! I persevered at my PhD in chemistry for 6 years. It really destroyed me because I was absolutely miserable. I was incapable of walking away. Now my giant degree is in an envelope on the floor; the ginormous frame for the degree is still in its box on the floor, and I am unemployed with the weight of the degree on my shoulders. You are truly an inspiration to listen to your heart and to what you need! I am trying to learn to listen to mine.

  15. mademoiselle délicieuse April 27, 2011 at 09:39 #

    I think ultimately it’s all about balance and preservation of personal sanity =) I enjoy my current job not for the work involved, but more what’s not involved! The hours are much shorter than my previous job and affords me much more time to do enjoyable things such as blogging.

  16. Victoria (District Chocoholic) April 27, 2011 at 09:44 #

    Your chocolates look beautiful – better than what we all made for DB this month. It is absolutely OK to say “no” when you need to – really prioritize. You are an amazing person with all that you do already.

  17. OurEyes EatFirst April 27, 2011 at 09:53 #

    As a previous comment mentioned – it is all about balance. You are a blessed person to have had all the experiences you wrote of! I believe things do happen for a reason and possibly getting ill was a way for you to step back for a minute. Well welcome back and the chocolates look beautiful!

  18. RLV @ bittensweetblog.com April 27, 2011 at 11:09 #

    Good for you! You’re an inspiration and I think it’s awesome you found something that makes you truly happy.

    I love that you made your own chocolate, btw. I was thinking about doing that for my next tea party!

  19. Stephirey April 27, 2011 at 11:22 #

    Mardi, good for you! Enjoy your time and remember we only live once. Do what you love, it’s important.

  20. Melissa@EyesBigger April 27, 2011 at 11:24 #

    You have to listen to what your heart (and body!) are telling you. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break! What you’re doing is a heavy haul and life’s too short to spend it doing something you “might” like. Who knows after a year you might really miss it and be ready to go back! And maybe you should take a mini vacation to Montreal or Quebec City for a francophone fix 😉

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite April 27, 2011 at 11:37 #

      Oh I manage to get my francophone fix at least once a year in France. Six weeks worth this year – Paris, Alsace, Burgundy…. 🙂

  21. Mindy April 27, 2011 at 12:03 #

    Your chocolates are far from ugly, they look terrific! And good for you on what clearly is a difficult decision, but as you always have, trust your gut. It will lead you right.

  22. Michelle T April 27, 2011 at 12:24 #

    I sit here reading your blog and contemplating what to make today when I’m supposed to be writing a paper for my PhD…it happens! Life is not linear and I believe it’s okay to take breaks every now and then. And breaks with chocolate are even better!

  23. Judy April 27, 2011 at 13:08 #

    I have changed careers so many times I’ve lost count. And now at 56 I’m thinking about doing it again. Follow your heart – you’re not likely to be sorry.

  24. Vicki @ WITK April 27, 2011 at 14:30 #

    I totally shouuld have skipped this months DB challenge, I completed it last night at 10:30 and I definitely phoned it in. I wasn’t feeling the whole edible container thing either. I’m loving your chocolate though, they look beautiful!

    I finished my PhD two years ago and it was a full time program. I can’t imagine doing that and having a full-time job. Many of my friends decided to take a year off and reevaluate what they wanted. Some came back, some found jobs they loved. I’m sure you’ll find the right path for you!

  25. Jess April 27, 2011 at 14:39 #

    this is such a fun little artsy treat!!

  26. Suzie the Foodie April 27, 2011 at 14:44 #

    Mardi, I think you are doing a great job at taking care of yourself and listening to what it is you really want. My sister Jamie did the same thing and never regretted it. It is more important to know what you want to do than it is to do something you are not passionate about. I think your health will improve now and that is the most important thing in the world. That… and chocolate.

  27. Andrea @ Food Not Fuss April 27, 2011 at 15:02 #

    Love this post Mardi, and good for you!!

    The chocolates look delicious, and not ugly at all! 🙂

  28. Emily @Cleanliness April 27, 2011 at 15:50 #

    I understand about juggling too much, but you seem to be doing so well with it all! These candies are perfect.

  29. Nancy@acommunaltable April 27, 2011 at 15:58 #

    Hi mardi!!

    I think we have a lot in common because I know exactly how you feel!! So, good for you for choosing to do what you want and not what you felt you “should”!! The great thing about these types of choices is that if you decide pursuing your PhD is what will truly make you happy well, you can still pursue it!!
    But until then, you can keep cooking and baking… and making chocolate – which BTW looks beautiful to me.

    Congratulations on your decision!!!

  30. Renee -Kudos Kitchen April 27, 2011 at 16:05 #

    I think that chasing happiness is never the weak or cowards way out. Sometimes it’s the bravest thing you can do when others seem to want (think) you should go in a different direction. I’m so sorry that you’ve been ill but if it’s made you reevaluate what really makes you happy and brings you joy, then it’s been a blessing. I realize that’s easy for me to say being that I’m not the one who’s sick but I really applaud you Mardi for all you do and all the decisions you make to seize your happiness. You deserve it!

  31. MikeVFMK April 27, 2011 at 16:18 #

    Great post, Mardi. Sometimes the hardest decisions end up being the best ones we ever make because we’re forced to look inside and listen to ourselves.

    As Nietzsche once said, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.”

    By the way, love the chocolates. I think you made the right decision to take your own path!

  32. Kimmy @ Lighter and Local April 27, 2011 at 17:03 #

    Saying no is one of the most liberating thing you can do, and I’m so proud of you for doing so. You need to read yourself and know your limits. I feel that’s truly the path to balance and happiness. You will find your path, whether it’s the road you’re currently taking a rest beside, or other path weaving in another direction. You are one brave woman, I admire you for that.

    Your chocolates, by the way, they’re beautiful. 🙂

  33. merry jennifer April 27, 2011 at 17:11 #

    It takes courage to say no to things, so I’m proud of you for doing it. You may feel like you’re giving up or quitting, but you’re not. You’re just switching gears, and that’s perfectly okay. Just because you start something, doesn’t mean you have to finish it. I was in graduate school for psychology, halfway through, when I decided to pursue the course I’m on now. It was the hardest decision I’ve made, but it turned out to be the best one.
    Congrats, Mardi. You’re doing the right thing. And we’re all here to support you along the way.

  34. Lisa April 27, 2011 at 17:13 #

    I think the chocolates are very pretty. And I think your post was wonderfully honest and thoughtful. Life is meant to be well-lived and, above all, enjoyed.

    Have fun.

  35. Charlotte April 27, 2011 at 17:25 #

    Great post – very inspiring that you are following your heart (and your stomach!)

    And your chocolates look amazing, just like the Guylian seashells.

    Blue Skies,
    Charlotte xo

  36. Cookin' Canuck April 27, 2011 at 17:44 #

    Congratulations on your decision, Mardi. You may be feeling weak right now, but I think it’s very courageous to admit to yourself and others that you need to take a break. There are only so many bags once person can carry before one or two of them falls.

    And your chocolates? I think they’re absolutely beautiful!

  37. Happy When Not Hungry April 27, 2011 at 18:06 #

    Your chocolates are beautiful and looks so tasty! I too decided not to do this month’s bakery’s challenge either. It def is ok to say no sometimes!!

  38. sara @CaffeIna April 27, 2011 at 18:38 #

    I feel a lot of empathy with you in this moment. I dropped out of my PhD on the fourth year. Yeah, half way through. I got sick at the beginning of the second year and since then I never seemed to be able to really recover my strength. I could not take a year off because I was on a student visa but it did take me over a year to decide about my life. it was not an easy decision. I’m glad you can take time off to see things in perspective because sometimes it is easier to go on doing something that does not make us happy than making big life changes. I send you good vibes!

  39. Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) April 27, 2011 at 19:34 #

    Not realizing all the items that were on your plate and the viral infection, I thought you might say you were saying goodbye to blogging for a while. I’m glad that is not the case, though I recognize how difficult it must have been to make the decision that you did. I think it takes a lot of courage to do that. Congratulations! Your post puts things in perspective for me, too. When you said that you would be a perpetual student if you could, I could relate. I feel like I’ve been studying for one thing or another most of my life (and liked it) . Now that I don’t have anything in that dept, I’ve been considering going back to school. These days, though, few things can top the enjoyment that blogging has brought.

    Very nice post and the chocolates, too. 🙂

  40. Geoff April 27, 2011 at 19:45 #

    Lovely post, Mardi. Actually, reading it carefully, it’s not as if you’re saying ‘no’. You’re saying ‘maybe later’, so what you have opened up is more flexibility in a busy life. That’s a good thing. And, one more thing… your mother and I have always been proud, puzzled, confused and worried about you. Not necessarily in that order.

  41. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having April 27, 2011 at 19:50 #

    Great post. Recognizing what’s important in life is so crucial. Many people aren’t capable of being so honest with themselves. I’m sure taking a break and clearing your head is the right decision. At the end of the year off you’ll know what you want to do.
    Oh, and those chocolates are so not ugly, they look wonderful!

  42. Cathy April 27, 2011 at 20:06 #

    Congratulations Mardi. I heartily endorse sequntial careers. I’ve had at east five careers, each one providing great life lessons. Enjoy your bonbons. They’re very pretty!

  43. The Yummy Mummy April 27, 2011 at 20:15 #

    I chucked my PhD right before the dissertation. I never looked back. And I never regretted it. It wasn’t what made me happy.

    The only thing you can do is what your heart is telling you. And do it now, before you guys get locked into kids and craziness and life and you realize you are into something that doesn’t give you joy. When it’s too late.

    Do what you love. Yes. The great thing is we get to reap the rewards of that, Mardi. We are a part of what you love to do, and I, for one, am grateful. You have real talent. You have heart. And now, I see, you are a ballsy bitch, a take no prisoners, no regrets kinda girl.

    That makes me love you even more. Rock on Sista.


  44. The Yummy Mummy April 27, 2011 at 20:17 #

    PS: I totally love your dad. Just sayin’.

  45. Tunde April 27, 2011 at 20:28 #

    Great post Mardi. Overcoming the fear of not finishing something is actually harder than the task itself. Take a break, reevaluate and see where it leads you. All that matters is that you are happy. As long as there are no regrets. Photography and lately blogging as well PhDcomics are what saved from the loony days of the last 2 yrs. Best wishes on the journey ahead wherever it leads you.

  46. K A B L O O E Y April 27, 2011 at 21:57 #

    Wow. Congratulations on a difficult decision. But the way you explained what you missed and didn’t while sick made it crystal clear. Impressive that you are listening to your inner voice; so many of us ignore her. Or him. Anyway, I long ago concluded that you were actually identical quadruplets, each handling a quarter of the work purported to be done by “Mardi.” (Clever of Neil not to let on.) So maybe this concession proves me wrong. Maybe you are only a set of triplets?

  47. penny aka jeroxie April 28, 2011 at 00:11 #

    it is ok to say no… that is something that I need to learn fast. health and sanity is more important. Chin up and we shall drink to that tomorrow 🙂

  48. Jenn April 28, 2011 at 03:56 #

    I understand how difficult a decision this is, and I also know very well the pressure of doing things “just cause you can”. Good for you for knowing what you want and doing something about it 🙂

  49. Pam M April 28, 2011 at 05:56 #

    Love you Mardi, and you know what I think about the chocolates.

  50. Jackie April 28, 2011 at 06:16 #

    Mardi, I’m just like you, and I’m super proud of you for saying no! It’s hard to be the little engine that could, sometimes you just need to take a break. I think you should trust your decisions, after all they’ve got you to where you are and you’re happy, right?

    Well done, girl. And those chocolate don’t look ugly at all, they look beautiful!

    Jax x

  51. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen April 28, 2011 at 08:18 #

    What are you talking about, those aren’t ugly at all. You need to give yourself more credit, you make hard choices but you follow your heart and trust your instincts and that’s what’s important.

  52. Trix April 28, 2011 at 10:05 #

    My dear Mardi, sometimes the toughest and strongest thing you can do is simply to do what is right for you. There is nothing weak about it! To hell with what anyone else thinks. I too did a master’s and after one semester of PhD work I was like: This is crazy and I will never ever pay it off. So I quit. But I don’t look at it as quitting – instead, I started something else. That was the end of my student career, but the beginning of my journalism career. Now I’m in this whole weird combo food/journalism thing … and it’s great. Live your life. Be happy when you can. Never regret.

  53. Jun Belen April 28, 2011 at 11:00 #

    I’m seriously amazed at how you do it, Mardi. Full-time job, part-time grad school, family, and blogging. I look back to grad school when I was finishing my PhD and it seemed like a gargantuan task. But learning to say no, isn’t the end of the world and I’m glad you realized that. Take a deep breath, take breaks, and enjoy the journey. I’m sure you do know this already.

    By the way, I also wanted to thank you for the tweet about SAVEUR. So thrilled that Filipino food is being noticed.


  54. Mary Luz April 28, 2011 at 11:22 #

    Ugly chocolates? Not the ones I’m looking at! It’s often tough to make decisions that feel huge. Time to clear your head will give you that- time. To ponder, assess and re-assess. You’re a smart cookie Mardi- and all of your choices have paid off so don’t second guess yourself now! 🙂

  55. Janis April 28, 2011 at 11:27 #

    Ok, here I go… No one really cares. I don’t mean about you, I mean about the things you do that don’t impact them directly. The stuff you do HAS to be for yourself. As far as careers etc…I have been a stay at home mom, worked for a “Think Tank” for 16 years, I owned a Yarn shop in California, I worked for an incubator Start up place (remember the sock puppet?) and now I am in an office filling my time part time. You have to just find joy in whatever it is you do. Do it for you not for what others think.

    Ok, love you.

  56. Rochelle April 28, 2011 at 11:38 #

    I was looking forward to calling you “Professor”, Ms. Mardi. However, as many have said before me, it’s much better for you to do what you want/love to do.

    I still don’t have a clue what to do with my life when it comes to furthering my education, too many things I love to do to decide on just one focus (I’m envious that you have had a focus!).

    I say, learn what you want and makes you feel good. In the end it will be better for you and make you happy, which is of course, what matters :D.

  57. cat April 28, 2011 at 12:10 #

    oh, my dear friend, i know the struggle to walk away from a phd program . . . and i am a firm believer that sometimes it takes more courage and strength to be “weak” or to say no and not do it all than it does to stay in something that is ultimately not what makes you the happiest. i applaud your decision and i look forward to seeing what new paths you might explore in this next year, whether they be in the kitchen or elsewhere. i think you have made a very wise decision.

  58. Sarah, Maison Cupcake April 28, 2011 at 13:37 #

    Oh wow! What a post! I identify with this on soooo many levels. I can’t believe you manage to do a Phd at the same time as your incredible blog. Feel terrible now that I foisted Forever Nigella on you when you were so busy!

  59. Ethan April 28, 2011 at 14:20 #

    I hope it’s not corny to say “I’m proud of you”, but I am. It is tough away to work away from something specially knowing in theory you can do it. But just because you can do it doesn’t mean you have to do it. You have to look out for Mardi and it sounds like with the help of Mr. Neil, family and friends you have all the support you need.
    As for those chocolates being ugly, I think you have a higher expectation or your pictures are just THAT good that you transformed them from ugly to gorgeous:)
    Let’s tackle bread baking togather!

  60. Erin @epiCURIOUS ERIN April 28, 2011 at 14:38 #

    Mardi, this INSTANTLY reminded me of Botticelli hazelnut chocolates. Very happy memory. I loved them.

  61. Sanura @ MyLifeRunsOnFood.com April 28, 2011 at 16:33 #

    My love of food was always internal, but years ago the only food industry was working in a restaurant. This new technology of writing blogs within our favorite niche, especially for food, works better for me. Since starting my food blog, I’ve transferred out of design. It’s starting to lead to a few food writing and social media management opportunities combining my love of food and design skills. BTW, I remember when I first started, you commented on twitter on liking my writing skills. Thank you for the encouragement.

  62. mallory April 28, 2011 at 17:01 #

    yeah, just say NO to daring bakers………i think i lasted for about 4 challenges? and i’ve already been blogging for 4 years! i dont know you but it sounds like you are making the right choice. most people are programmed to think that the more school means the better you will be-at least that’s what i thought. Then after LEAVING my wonderful Paris (we have a lot in common!) and not continuing school (to my parents’ surprise) i move to Brazil to teach English so i can be with and marry a Brazilian. Never thought i would ever use my hard earned French degree again. but now i am teaching French as well and i love it! and at the same time working in food photography in Sao Paulo. every decision is made for a reason–you have to give yourself a window so something new CAN happen in the real you want it to (cooking, writing, photography etc.).

    chocolates look great! best wishes to you 🙂

  63. Maria April 28, 2011 at 17:21 #

    Life can be overwhelming-good for you for saying no! Best wishes to you!

  64. Andrea@HighLowFoodDrink.com April 28, 2011 at 20:27 #

    Good for you Mardi! It’s so hard to say no. As one of those people who constantly marvel at all that you do, I know you’ll figure it all out (and even with your studies on hiatus, I’m still going to marvel at all that you do!) Hope to see you soon!

  65. Rhonda April 29, 2011 at 01:19 #

    You have a wonderful blog and do so much, more than most of us do. Follow your heart and it will lead you down the right path.

  66. bridget {bake at 350} April 29, 2011 at 15:27 #

    Ugly? Are you kidding? Those are GORGEOUS!!!

  67. ali April 29, 2011 at 15:48 #

    If you bear down now to stick with your studies and get your PhD, you’ll qualify for a tenured teaching position at a university. And what job could be better than that of a professor when it comes to flexibility of schedule ?

    As a prof, you’d be able to arrange blocks of free time (non-teaching hours off during the day, non-teaching days off during the week, non-teaching weeks off during school holidays etc.) to pursue your other interests.

    So, it would be delayed gratification now for eventual reward later.

    Or…….you can make chocolates now instead. JMO.

  68. Jennifer Hess April 29, 2011 at 16:40 #

    I hear you, sister – this year has been all about learning balance. I can’t really say anything that hasn’t already been said, but thank you, and I wish you all the best no matter what you choose. xo

  69. Wolf April 29, 2011 at 17:39 #

    Good for you for listening to your heart and mind and making a desicion based on YOUR feelings, not what others think you should do.

    We don’t always have to love a Challenge and not want to do them, and that should be ok.}:P I know there are a few I wasn’t interested in myself- so I ended up not doing them. Heh.

    Those chocolates look delicious to me. WAY better than I’d ever have been able to do.}:P

  70. Joy, The Herbed Kitchen April 29, 2011 at 17:40 #

    You are doing what it takes, when you can and if that means taking a break of even quitting your PhD, all the time you spent working on it will not be lost. It is such a difficult decision to make and it is also heartwrenching to leave school but it can come to a point where it is more detrimental for you to keep going at it than it is to stop and breathe. You will figure it out.

    Also, being a professor isn’t a walk in the park. Yes, you schedule your free time and can balance AFTER you get a tenured position. Any idea how difficult that is Ali? Especially here in Canada where post-secondary education is being cut and programs are being lost across the country? Laughably difficult. I have a friend who is brilliant, two books, countless articles written, classes taught, multiple masters and a PhD (and she is very young for all these accomplishments) and she is a part-time prof at two of the universities in town. Tenure is job security when and if you get it.

    Good luck Mardi. You are doing splendidly.

  71. Lynn April 29, 2011 at 17:54 #

    Lovely post- and I think the chocolates are inspiring, not ugly. I’m so gale you are feeling better, and connecting with what you want to do. I’m struggling to find a path right now, and I found your words helpful.

  72. Kirsten April 29, 2011 at 18:03 #

    I’m not sure I could relate to this any more than I do right now. So thank you for sharing. Also, those chocolates are NOT ugly. They are making my mouth WATER.

  73. Lora @cakeduchess April 29, 2011 at 20:27 #

    When I was reading your very honest post I couldn’t help thinking about the same decision a best friend of mone made recenty who was also getting her Phd. I remember having discussions about how it’s not easy to teach full-time. be a mom, a wife , and study.
    It’s more than ok to say no. It’s knowing what is making you truly happy and following your gut. Maybe you can come down for a visit to bake bread w/me?:)
    PS: your chocolate looks lovely.

  74. ali April 30, 2011 at 15:47 #

    A book that might be helpful during this time of decision making is “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.” It’s a compelling and fairly quick read.

    And while this book may not seem, on the surface, to be directly applicable, Amy Chua’s own stops-and-starts career trajectory and insights she has picked up as a parent could be valuable.

    • Wolf April 30, 2011 at 16:45 #

      Hey, Alki, here’s a thought- YOU go read the book and stop making comments about how you think Mardi should do this ir that, how she should read this or that, and get on with YOUR own life.

      Stop trying to dictate how someone else needs to live their life. They are old enough to make the diesicions on their own without you butting in and telling them they’re wrong.

      What may work for you personally, won’t work for someone else. Mardi’s doing what works for HER. You need to accept that and get over it already.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite April 30, 2011 at 16:50 #

      Thank you Ali for taking the time to read my post and comment and then respond to some people’s responses to you. I do appreciate your suggestions.
      This is a decision I have struggled with for the better part of a year now and I finally feel at peace. I have a wonderful, fulfilling teaching job (which you would know if you read my blog regularly) and husband who loves to travel as much as I do. I have chosen life, not a life that someone else thinks I should have.

  75. amanda @ fake ginger April 30, 2011 at 15:59 #

    I think your chocolates are beautiful! I was extremely jealous of how pretty they are throughout the entire post, actually. 🙂

    Good luck with whatever you decide in the future!

  76. Darlene April 30, 2011 at 17:36 #

    I can sympathize. I quit an all-expenses paid PhD program after my son was born. Talk about being made to feel like a complete loser by the program administrations, my thesis advisor, my classmates. Fortunately, my family was very support and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. You know what is best for you and your family so who cares what everyone else says!

  77. Sandy April 30, 2011 at 19:19 #

    You are an inspiration to all of us I have always admired your blog and followed you This posting today is just beautiful -your sharing of your life decision-I am very touched..and your chocolates are gorgeous !

  78. Ally Lynn May 1, 2011 at 23:57 #

    Good for you for following your heart.

    I can completely relate to the pressures of school. It took me over five years to finish my B.A. and I was so miserable the last two years because I knew I wanted to bake for a living. I got so close to dropping out every single semester. I was on edge all the time, every day. I only stayed in school to please my parents, and in the end got the degree for them, not for myself. When I was writing my last paper a week before graduation all my misery and exhaustion came to a climax. I stopped and thought to myself, Remember this moment. Always remember how you feel in this moment, and never pressure your children to this point. To this day when someone asks me if it was worth them I tell them, Absolutely not. I’ve wanted a degree, but not at that point in my life. I needed a break!

    Follow your heart, it will never lead you astray!!

  79. Tami May 2, 2011 at 20:41 #

    Good for you Mardi. I made that same decision eight months ago – to take time off from studies and have loved every minute of the extra time I have at night and on weekends.

    Which reminds me, better get onto the uni and let them know I’m getting married in September instead of resuming my life of technical books and papers!!

  80. Conor @ Hold the Beef May 3, 2011 at 04:02 #

    They are ugly? I think all this soul searching has turned you blind. Not to worry, you can train Miss Cleo to be your seeing eye cat.

    In all seriousness, I couldn’t be more heartfelt in my “yay you” sentiment right now. These decisions are gut wrenchingly difficult, wrestling with what is “right” and how other people will see your choices and what is really truly right, deep down in the pit of your tummy and the bottom of your heart.

    There’s only one of you, and although it would be lovely to have more runnign around and achieving absolutely everything there is to achieve, it ain’t possible. You need to choose what is deserving of your time and energy and devotion and be true to those things without using yourself up on other stuff just because it seems like the proper thing to do.

    Any decision that involves chocolate must also be correct.

  81. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite May 6, 2011 at 17:18 #

    Thank you all SO MUCH for your support and love. It means so much to me that you would all take the time out of your busy lives to respond to a post that took me a long time to get up the courage to write. I have to say in the time since I posted this, a few big projects have ended and I am finally feeling I can relax. I feel like this was the right decision (for now at least) and that the sky really is the limit.

    Thank you also to those of you who responded to “Ali” and came to my defense. To be fair, I emailed her my response above and she responded with the following:

    It was so kind of you to trouble to respond. And aside from having to dodge the flying darts (whoooosh….there goes another one past my ear….whew! close call), it was nice to see how much protectiveness you inspire in your readers.
    I had happened upon your blog on Food Gawker. Since I was reading it for the first time and, therefore, could have no grasp of the “big picture,” it was presumptuous of me to wander into the discussion. It’s just that the discussion struck me as so profound in its implications and so weighted in only one direction, that I felt compelled to add a dissenting voice.
    I knew my tone was not warm and fuzzy but perhaps I overdid the “tough love” aspect in trying to broaden the discussion. I just did not want you to someday look back in regret.
    However, now I realize that you seem to have already engaged in a lot of thoughtful consideration and arrived at conclusions which make you happy and from which we could all probably learn much — and, alas and alack, all without any input from me, a total stranger! Heck!
    Again, please excuse my previous presumptuousness. My apologies.
    I wish you the best. I realize you’re very busy so no need to respond. It’s enough that you’ve given me word that you know that my suggestions, however uninformed given the context, were meant in a spirit of good will.

    … which I found a lovely end to this chapter in my life.

    Watch out for a new tagline coming soon to this blog 😉

    • Wolf May 10, 2011 at 12:55 #

      Yay for happy endings}:)

  82. Sukaina May 10, 2011 at 06:10 #

    It’s wierd how an illness is what makes you finally stop in life and slow down or gather the courage to finally do things you’ve been procrastinating. Still majorly impressed with you superwoman! I hope you find your true vocation whilst you’re on this break 🙂

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