Monday, October 29, 2012

Culpability... another life lesson from the cake world

(written in part during my latest travels)
As I sit in a cold hard international terminal chair waiting for a flight home, I can't help but think:  Life is beautiful...  Life is also a challenge and sometimes the things we love and believe in most, want most and dream of, are the things that seem to be hardest to grasp.  Sometimes circumstances stand in the way of all that life can be, to often I've forgotten just how much I have. (I'll get to the cake related part of this blog soon! I promise!)

I've lived a life that often surprises the people I meet.  I've done so many things, seen so much and experienced a wealth of visions, real, unreal,  pleasant and painful.  For so long I wondered around in a frantic attempt to please the people in my life that I held responsible for my happiness...  I believed the purpose of my life was to earn their respect, gratitude and approval.  My "job" was to make them happy.  My purpose was to some day feel worthy of their love, and not feel as though I had it because they had to, or because they needed me so badly that I got it by default.  It's one thing to be loved because you're needed, and a completely different thing to be loved...  through out it all I always felt misunderstood.

I have given up so much and been subjected to some of life's very dark side in my attempt to break this cycle and be happy.  I learned the hard way that I am extremely rugged...  I am able to subject myself to enormous strain and endure all sorts of pain and punishment and I even have the ability to rationalize to myself why it is all going to be worth it some day.  But the truth is life is short.  Waiting for the day when my family would approve of me,  the people I need would step up and carry their own weight, and I'd finally have earned what I thought I was working for, is not a very good use of my time.
Breaking the cycle, and being able to accept both my own bad habits and the short comings of myself and those around me cost me more than I ever expected, but in hind sight, the cost was equal to the degree of just how much of a mess my life had become.  The knowledge I feel I gained combined with the possibilities of a brighter and more loving future, more than justify the cost and in truth, we
are what we are because of what we've been through.  I am a product of the life I lived, and these
days I'm starting to feel like I might actually come to like this guy!

So how the hell does any of this matter to you?  " What's it got to do with cake mike? ". Well...  As I said I'm a product of my own life experiences and past.  We all are.  I've come to find myself in an industry that few people really understand, and one that many people paint a very unreal image of in an attempt to earn the respect of their peers.  (if you've read my fake it til you make it blog, you know what I mean).   I've been guilty of this too, as it's nice to be looked up to  and to have a persona of
success, even if the reality is that we're all struggling!  In general the idea behind what we do is great,
 but after all the emails I get about my blogs and comments from fellow cake people I find that I'm
not ever as alone in my thoughts and plight as I thought I was.  So many of my friends and fellow
artist feel and experience the same things I do, and many who do feel like its some sort of failure to
admit that they too struggle.  It's very liberating for me to share my experiences with others, and in
turn feel like we've shared our struggles together.  For me, the truth has been very rewarding.  

I've heard from many people who are like myself artistic  in nature.  For us things are perceived
differently.  Our industry in general is not at all like most out there. We have a very unique job and it is one in which we put a massive amount of time, energy and even emotion into our work and receive in return much stress, long hours and a great deal of unpredictability.  For many people who come 
from a corporate or other type of background our work is and will remain a mystery.  I've had so 
many people write me and tell me that their family doesn't understand them,  they think they 
should be "more businesslike". Hold regular hours and schedule work so that we can be like the rest 
of the world and have Saturdays off,  our evenings free and more money in our pocket.  
My partner Carey has gone through so much because of her dedication to what the people in her 
family consider a hobby.  The idea is that if it were a real business, she'd have posted hours that are strictly adhered to, and a Clear separation between home life and business.  I've heard the same scenario explained by many and I really believe that there is a distinct lack of ability of some people to see the value in something artistic, especially if the pursuit isn't exactly making a bunch of money. In her case( and many others) the only way I feel that she could prove herself in the eyes of her nay-sayers was if her business was so successful that  she needed to hire employees, the next step would be to open a custom cake making factory with share holders and an international marketing budget.  The lack of any of the obvious signs of success means to the people that criticize her (and many just like her) that she is unsuccessful.  Having your work perceived as a hobby and the long hours and time dedicated to what is hard work seen as a waste of time, or even a lack of good time management really can take its toll on a person.  Many people with regular jobs bring their work home at times.  Does this mean they're wasting time at work?   
Add to the already unpopular and misunderstood job choice the value or apparent lack of said value gained by doing charity work, and quickly  blame and anger directed at "cake" is the result.  

(continued on 10/27)
I've thought about things so much that my brain literally smokes from the friction inside.  The scenario Carey and so many like her experience is so common, yet no one inside our industry seems to talk about it openly ( and this is why I am!)  There are countless types of people, and countless pursuits or jobs (if you got to call it that) but in general for our industry most are pretty creative, some are very much so and it seems that as a creative type, we are easily mis-understood and even looked down upon for being "like we are". 
There seems there's a root to the problem:
For many of "US" in the cake industry, the "business" started out as a hobby.  Most of us decided to make a cake one day and decided we liked it and even found out that we had an aptitude for it...  Many of us did them more and more frequently, maybe for friends, neighbors or co-workers, and at some point in the scenario it happened and we began to charge for our work ( this isn't how I got started, but it's a definite trend, and true in Carey's case)   The problem is for many that family and even friends often continue to see it as a hobby, or something less then the hard work we all know it really is!  Cake is a bitch of a job!  I can't claim it any other way...  I love to create things, and to wow clients, but rarely do I ever get paid an amount that really justifies the time and talent involved.  If I have another customer claim they "would have paid much more had they known it was going to turn out like this" I'm going to go POSTAL!  It's tough ( yeah I said that already) the hours are long and the reality is it takes as long as it takes to do it, and when you very literally pour yourself into the work as most creative people do, it is very commonly not understood by those with a more 9 to 5 sort of personality.   They see it as a hobby or even an obsession in which we spend tons of time and endless heart into for little pay, and tons of stress.  We do what we do because we love the feeling of creation.  It is an art, and as artist, we are willing to suffer for our craft, even if the people we love and those who are sworn to support us fail to understand it.  It's just another added "perk" of the job, to have a spouse or family criticise you because "you're not done yet"  and in some cases point out how this isn't a "real business" because it's not practised like many are.  We can't just quit at 5:00 because it's closing time!    

Steve Jobs, started his empire by working in his garage with money he got from selling his VW with the intent of furthering a fledgling industry.  He worked round the clock, and often lost more than he made, until finally making perhaps the largest impact on the world possible for a single person.  We won't make billions on making cakes, but the drive behind it, the belief in one's self and the love of the creativity our job does include will continue to push us along.  It's a tough thing to do to realize that the people closest to us may never understand it.  I find myself trying to end with a suggestion or a technique good for straightening out the dilema, but again I'm as lost as you are...  The only thing I can say with certainty that I've learned through my lifes struggles and from hearing so many stories from friends and fellow cake artist is BE HAPPY...  Find out what it is (or who) that makes you happy and try like mad to do it.( what ever that is!)  I've been through the toughest times of my life in the past 3-4 years,  I've learned so much about myself, the people close to me and about life and happiness.  I'm still in the thick of it, but I've realized that you have to be honest with yourself, forgive others while accepting your own culpability, and most of all try to find the good in the situation.  I also suggest giving yourself a break!  I've blamed myself for so much and sadly blamed others for far to much as well and finally coming to terms with that is a real spiritual awakening!  Hoping that your family will some day "get" what it is that you do, may be a lost cause, forgiving them for it, talking to them about it and atleast trying to explain yourself is the first step to living with it.  I guess the moral of this story is acceptance....  accept yourself, accept others, even if you can't see eye to eye.    


  1. Could not have said that better myself! Thank you! :)

  2. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

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