Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars and What Am I Going To Do With My Life

I’ve been thinking about the direction of my life lately. Why didn’t anyone tell me when I was a teenager that life would always be angsty? I used to think that when I became a proper adult, I’d have all the answers.


What does a good life mean to you? If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you be doing? What’s your idea of living the dream?

I’m trying to answer these questions. I spent my 20s in post-secondary school, 9 years to be exact. I took my sweet ass time, that’s for sure. I was extremely single-minded, thinking that I was studying towards a career goal and that as soon as I reached it, that’d be it for me. That I’d spend the rest of my life doing one thing and one thing only.

Life is long, people. And it’s hard. And I know it’s meant to be hard. That work is hard. That’s why it’s called work.

But where’s the satisfaction? Why am I constantly plagued with doubt and longing and stress?
I’ve been reading a lot of new-age-y, self-help type articles about how to live life. One blog post that really struck me was this one “The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today”. The author of the post, Mark Manson, makes an excellent point when he states that most people’s answer to the question “What do you want out of life” (usually to be happy, have a great family and a job you like) is “so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything“. Instead, the question we should ask ourselves is “what pain do you want? What are you willing to struggle for?” Basically, how hard are we willing to work for that life? How much suffering are we willing to accept?

I never thought about it that way. I’m always wondering what it will take to make me happy because I feel like I’m rarely ever happy or satisfied. If I want that good life, I need to work hard for it. No pain, no gain, right?

On the flip side, there are articles like The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. This one discusses the findings of a palliative nurse, who recorded the most common regrets of the dying and wrote a book about it. Not surprisingly, here they are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I once commented to my good friend, Lawyer Girl, that when I die, all I’ll have to show for my life is that I worked and then I went home and cleaned my apartment. I didn’t want to look back and see that that’s all I’ve ever done. That I never pushed myself. That I never pursued my dreams. That I accepted a life of complacency, doing what was safe, feeling bitter and unfulfilled but not taking any steps to address those feelings.
I’m torn. A large part of me says that I should be the practical girl that my parents raised me to be, to always have a good job that gives me a steady salary so that I can pay my bills and put food on the table. My parents taught me to never take risks, to always play it safe, to be independent and self sufficient. My common sense tells me to be thankful that I have a job because in this economy, not everyone is as lucky.

The other part of me wants to say fuck it all and pursue what gives me joy, what fills me with passion. Why shouldn’t I take a risk while I’m still young? If I make a mistake I can bounce back. I won’t regret trying something new but I’ll always regret letting fear hold me back.

I haven’t figured anything out yet. Have you? Are you doing what you feel you’re on this earth to do? If not, do you even know what that is?

These pumpkin cheesecake bars have nothing to do with my angst. In fact, I wasn’t going to blog about them at all because I’m so disappointed with my photos but since they’re freaking delicious and I haven’t baked at all in the past month, here they are.

Shortbread Crust (recipe from Chatelaine)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Note: if you use all the dough from this recipe, your crust will be as thick as mine is. If you want it thinner, use only half the dough. You can refrigerate/freeze or bake the rest of the dough as shortbread cookies.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.

In a small bowl, stir the salt into flour until mixed. Slowly add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix until combined.

Turn the dough into your baking pan and press the dough into an even layer. Bake for about 15 minutes (when I removed my crust from the oven, it was still very pale and just beginning to firm up). Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you make your pumpkin cheesecake filling. Keep the oven on.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars adapted from Taste and Tell

2 packages of cream cheese, room temp
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
3 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add the pumpkin and mix completely. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl down after each addition. Add the vanilla, flour, spices and salt and mix until completely incorporated. Pour the cheesecake mix over top of the shortbread crust.

Place the baking pan into a large baking pan. Place them both into the oven and carefully pour water into the large pan until it is nearly full. This water bath will prevent the surface of the cheesecake from cracking.

Bake until the cheesecake is set at the edges and only slightly jiggles in the centre, approximately 40-45 minutes. Be VERY careful when you remove the pan from the oven! You don’t want to burn yourself with the scalding hot water. I removed the pan holding the cheesecake and left the larger pan with water inside the oven to cool.

People, this was the first time I’d made cheesecake in years and I was thrilled with how it turned out. The top didn’t crack and it was baked perfectly. The cheesecake is super flavourful, dense and creamy, while the shortbread crust provides a sturdy, satisfying base that doesn’t compete with the filling.
At least I have fabulous dessert to tide me over until I get my life in order!

62 thoughts on “Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars and What Am I Going To Do With My Life

  1. I like to think that “enjoying your life” and “not living your dream” are not mutually exclusive. Our society is structured such that financial concerns are paramount (i.e. you must have sufficient funds to partake in the activities that you desire, such as eating, drinking, baking, hang gliding, sleeping under a roof, snorting cocaine, and spelunking). If you can find a way to fund your activities and basic life needs that also is a passion, then you’re in far better shape than most. I like to think of work (and the directions that you take in that vein) as something that must be bearable and some may argue even enjoyable at times, but designed to help me enjoy life outside of work. If you hate your job, it’s time for a change. If you have a true desire that you fundamentally believe is a way to make a living and live a passion, then it’s also time for a change. If you enjoy your work and can fund your life, then maybe you’re not in such a bad place after all.

    Does that make sense?

    (from a fellow lawyer whom you know who also enjoys food [and wine] as a priority in life)

  2. Oh Nancy! I’ve been wondering where you’ve been and thinking about you, but knew you must be so busy at work. I’m shocked you don’t like your photos…in fact, I was saying to myself how beautiful I thought they looked!! They are perfect and the cheesecake looks beautiful.
    On to your other questions…oh man, I used to feel this way years ago and feared I’d be miserable my whole life. My life us completely different now and I’ve never been happier. I’m grateful for my wonderful husband and the most amazing daughter I dreamed about for years. I’m doing what I love and following my passions. I totally respect what your parents are saying, but I absolutely believe you HAVE to go after what you want or rise you will be full of resentment and disappointment. God gave each of us amazing talents and passions and they are to be used for a purpose. You have to live your life…. Really live it. Let your fire explode for what you want and you will be so much more fulfilled. I have dabbled and tried so many different things and even though they didn’t end up being my purpose, I’m grateful to have gone through them and taken so many risks and had life experiences. Live your life girl!!! Xoxo
    P.S. I read that article last week about the 5 regrets…notice the #1 regret!!! Xoxo

    • Oh and I also worked at a job I HATED with a passion for many years and eventually pursued real estate so I could get out of it and I finally broke free and now work for myself and am pursuing my REAL passions with food, sewing , designing, creating….etc.

      • Thank you so much for your comment, Brandi. I know that work is supposed to be hard but I feel like I shouldn’t stay at a job that I HATE. No one should. Of course, being in North America, I have the luxury of choice and because I know this, I always feel guilty about my first world problems. I’m coming up with plans on how to capitalize on my passion for baking and maybe eventually, I can move into doing that full time. For now, I’ll stay practical ol’ me but with one foot out the door. I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing what brings you joy and that you have so much support at home. That makes all the difference!

  3. I can’t tell you how much I identify with this post. It’s as if I’d written it myself! My parents raised me to be nothing but sensible, career minded and “safe”. I worked my arse off my entire life – I sacrificed so much fun to be the high flyer they wanted me to be and to be honest, the high flyer I thought I wanted to be.

    I did three degrees to train for my chosen path which meant ten years at university, mostly working two jobs at the same time to make ends meet. I worked and worked and worked then worked some more! And after my first degree, which I loved, the shine wore off, life smacked me in the face and I was miserable. I worked 96 hour weeks for three years between my second and third degree and that job sucked the joy from me, tore my faith in humanity and made me cry. But I kept on going. Kept the goal in sight.

    Last year I graduated for the final time then began life as a junior doctor. Once again, I was miserable. I lost count of the times in those 13 years of training I wanted up throw the towel in, become a hair dresser (baker/shop assistant/anything which didn’t involve the heart breaking misery life was throwing at me). And I’ll let you into a secret – it didn’t do my mental health any good, I think I was a tad crazy at points and god only knows how I had any friends willing to put up with me!

    However I never cracked. I never have up. I got “The Job” I’d been doing all of this for. It’s only full time – 9-5 Mon to Fri. It’s everything I dreamed it would be. It’s changed me as a person. It’s made me almost forget that crazy, miserble person I once was. I find myself telling younger colleagues it wasn’t that bad, they can do it too when talking about my career path. Happiness, a little time and distance all ease the pain and modify your memories. Nowadays, me and my husband are happy and healthy. We’ve moved across the country for this job and have a beautiful home to live in. I feel fulfilled. Happy. Content. I can cook dinner every night, and eat it before midnight. I can bake. I can read my mountains of cook books. Go the gym. Hell, go shopping. I am happy. It’s taken me 32 years of being alive to say it but finally I am.

    What do I want next? To go part time. Eventually buy a house with a garden. Do more cooking, baking, seeing my friends and loving my family. It’s coming hunny – it won’t be much longer. So I guess all I want to say is I believe, hand on heart, if you want something, you make it happen. You take it for yourself. Having been there when many a person has died and seen what the palliative nurses you speak of have seen I can tell you with certainty – don’t waste your life doing what you think you should do. Suffer only to the point you chose to. Then take a slice of happiness for yourself. Because it is *you* who has the power to do so 🙂 xxx

    • Jo!!! I’m so glad you discovered me and wrote this incredible comment. You give me hope, girl. You’ve had it way harder than me – who am I to complain? I could never be a doctor. There’s so much riding on what you do and the stress must be enormous. I can totally relate to how misery affects one’s mental health. There are moments when I feel like I’m falling into such a deep dark depression, it takes me forever to climb back out and feel normal again. I’ve found that my misery/stress affects my physical health too – there was a year that I was constantly nauseous from stress. I couldn’t hold down more than crackers and water, and I couldn’t sleep. It was horrible. I’m trying to move myself into a good place. One step at a time. I’m thrilled that you’re at a job you love and that you have a good work/life balance. Your future plans sound pretty sweet too – I hope it comes sooner rather than later for you. Thanks so much for commenting!

      • Ah pain is pain hunny – if you understand that, that’s the key to well… Everything! Just because I’m a doc doesn’t make any misery I’ve been through any worse than yours or the next person. I think when you appreciate that, kindness flows from you. It makes your corner of the world a better place. Mental and physical health is so intricately intertwined you can not possibly dissect the too. You absolutely can make yourself sick with worry! The key is to recognise it – that’s the only difficult part 🙂 I hope you sort things out quickly and find that special, happy place for yourself. It’s out there somewhere you’ve just got to hunt it down! Xx

  4. My darling, Nancy. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo for having the courage to look inside and see what is true for you…Ralph Waldo Emerson (as you are probably aware) declared something to the effect that “A life unexamined is not worth living.” So, yes, it hurts…but ultimately “The truth shall set us free.” (From the Bible.) As one who is a bit of a new age, self help fan…Here’s another one – important one – which you probably already know as well. Courage = couere (heart in French) age(wisdom)…And you are one very, very smart lady to be staying alert to your inner wisdoms…BTW HayHouseRadio.com (it’s free) has a bunch of truly wonderful speakers and shows…Not every one is my favorite…But I presumed they designed it that way so that there is something for each of us….Hope this helps…Your always truthful posts and always delicious posts are inspiring =) Thank you, Nancy =) P.s. Your pumpkin cheesecake bars are beyond!

    • Lol, thanks so much, Kim! You always bring a huge smile to my face with your comments. I’m loving all the bits of wisdom you’re sharing with me. As for my truthful posts, I just use my blog as a way to whine ‘n complain! I’m amazed you guys put up with me!

  5. Girl, your pics are really good and absolutely post worthy, so that’s not the issue. Deep self evaluations are a pain, and supposed to be that way, otherwise life goes on as a flat line. There’s so much to be said about that, but it’s a journey we each must take on our own. I think it takes an enormous amount of courage to put your feeling out there as you’re doing here, and did in the past too. The eureka moment comes eventually when you dig deep. But the process sucks! Cheers my friend, you’re on the right path.

    • If anyone inspires me, it’s you, Paula. I know how much you’ve gone through, especially in this past year. You are the epitome of strength and grace. You chase your dreams and you know when to walk away from something that isn’t working for you. I wish I had these attributes. The process totally sucks but it’ll be worth it in the end, right? Thank you for your comments, my dear friend!

  6. I hope that you will soon find what it is that you want to do and then take the steps to make it happen. Confusing times are difficult and at least you are asking yourself the right questions to get to out of it and into happier times.
    Your photos are excellent. I don’t know why you are not happy with them. I’ve pinned one of them already.

  7. Darn. I was actually thinking at the end you would say that took a step towards what you and I have talked about before. Well this is only part 1 of the saga and can’t wait to read part 2 😉 You already know how I feel about all this – exactly the same way you do. Le sigh. We haven’t talked in forever (and I think I was the one who didn’t respond last). We should really catch up 🙂 And I do like the moodiness of the photos! Makes the pumpkin stand out more.

    • lol, who cares who didn’t respond to who last. I always treasure our conversations cause it feels like we’re going through a lot of the same angst, stress and questions. And yes, we should definitely catch up. Time for another facebook bitch fest 😉

  8. As I read your post, I saw so much of myself in your words. I am happy and truly feel that I am doing what I was called to do but the process to get there was a long and winding road. I will tell you that although I am doing what I love, it is still the scariest thing… almost on a daily basis.
    Your passion is out there. You are one talented and brilliant girl and you have so much to offer. Be patient, walk slow, reflect and most of all believe!

    • Your words always mean so much to be, Isabel! And you are one of my role models. You’ve built an incredible empire full of talented, warm, supportive people. I wouldn’t be the blogger or the person I am today without you and Sunday Supper. I’m thrilled that you’re doing what you love. Hopefully one day soon I will be too!

  9. Nancy!!! What the hell are you talking about?!!! I was going to tell you these photos are beautiful! I say, if you can afford it, take a year off, do what you want to do. Take classes, bake, cook, blog. . If you end the year happy, keep doing it. If you end the year stressed about finances, go back to work. Be honest with your boss and maybe they will understand and if you need to go back a year later, maybe they will understand. Regardless, make sure you leave on good terms. I just heard that someone I knew in college, just died tragically in an auto accident this past Sunday, leaving his pregnant fiance and 15 mo old baby. Life is short. Maybe if you never take that chance or risk, it will always bother you. . so I say- go for it. Take the year off. I love you sister!

    • Girl, you always make me laugh. And damn, I’d love to take a year off. Like I said in my email to you, I’ve been bugging the Hubs about saving up and traveling for a year. When else are we ever going to be able to do it? Think of how incredible it would be and the experiences we’d have. That’s super sad about your college friend. It sounds cliche but it’s so true – you never know what’s going to happen. Life is definitely short. We should seize the moment, right? I love ya too, homegirl. So much that I might just end up on your doorstep and move in with you. You won’t mind feeding me and putting a roof over my head until I figure it all out, right? 😉

  10. “In fact, I wasn’t going to blog about them at all because I’m so disappointed with my photos but since they’re freaking delicious and I haven’t baked at all in the past month, here they are.” Well, that sounds familiar! Ha. I think these photos are gorgeous. I love the black background — I need to learn how to do that! I feel my photos always turn out too underexposed or too bright, but never purposely dark and dramatic with the light on the right places. And that cheesecake looks absolutely divine. The perfect consistency, and that shortbread crust? Amazing.

    Bowl #2 and I have been talking so much about just what you posted on today, since we’re both lawyers too and we’ve both just started our jobs. I obviously have no idea how I’m going to feel when I’m at your position in my career, but I do completely understand the pull between doing what we love and the 9-5 haul. And while I think the “go for it” sentiment is vastly admirable and completely invaluable (we need more of it in our lives!), I also get what you’re saying about your parents, because I came from the exact same background and came to where I am probably the exact same way you did. (I think, if I ever blogged full-time, what would I tell my parents?!) For now, I do enjoy what I’m doing so far, so I consider myself really lucky in that regard, even if I obviously would love to be baking and cooking 24/7 and even if it can be crazy stressful. I just tell myself that the things I do for pleasure become even more fun and more precious when I do get the chance to do them. But who knows how I’ll feel after I’m actually underway in this job and not just a month in.

    I have no idea if this made sense, I’ve yet to put my contacts in and I’m squinting at the computer. Haha. Anyway, love this post and these cheesecake bars. High-five for pumpkin recipes with pictures we weren’t thrilled about! 😉

    • Black background – easy! I shoot my pictures against a black tray that I put on my black kitchen chairs. The lighting is trickier – if the sun is blaring through the window, it’ll definitely look overexposed. Diffuse it with something transparent against the window. As for the career talk, see my latest email 🙂

  11. Great post, I am thankful this season for the Internet and all the special bloggers that “put themselves out there” for all to “know” and… judge. Your post resonates with me, it sounds like we may have been raised in a similar conservative, “do your employer proud”, make a good living environment. I don’t have big expectations of my life; I raised good children that are now nice, productive adults, have a good job that I like (30 yrs same company) and 2 cats. Renting a house and now with my youngest off to call in August, trying to figure “me” out! I think I need to make a bucket list – maybe that would help focus me to identify some adventures to accomplish!

    • Hi Karen, I’m so glad you found me! Thanks for the comment. It sounds like you’ve had a wonderful life. Raising nice productive adults is a huge accomplishment and I’m so glad to hear you like your job. 30 years at the same company, wow! I haven’t been at a job longer than 2 years yet! I’m a rolling stone. You definitely need a bucket list full of fabulous adventures. Make 2014 the Year of Karen. It sounds like you’ve spent your life taking care of other people, time to focus on you!

  12. Nancy, I love that you talk about real things! I’ve been reading all the comments and this is among the most real, substantive discussion I’ve seen on any food blog–so bravo! You really have a talent for bringing people together virtually to talk about real things, you know.

    Also, I feel the EXACT SAME WAY. “My parents taught me to never take risks, to always play it safe, to be independent and self sufficient. My common sense tells me to be thankful that I have a job because in this economy, not everyone is as lucky.” <– That is what I live every single day. And I am thankful. But there are days when I feel like I'm just waiting for my real life to start, only…I don't know where where or how or why. I don't know what I'm willing to struggle for. I'm scared of what might happen. But let me know if you find out what your struggle is–and I hope you're brave enough to go after it! (I feel like you are.)

    PS. You may not think these photos are great, but they make me want to eat about five, which is testament of a great pic right?? 😉

    • I’m all about keeping it real, Erika! Plus, I’m just a real whiny bitch which is why I have so many of these insufferable posts on my blog! I hope I’m as brave as you think I am. The Husband was coming up with some great ideas on how I can use my love of baking and as cool and exciting as those ideas are, I’m also scared. Scared to put myself out there and fail. But why the fear when I wouldn’t really be losing anything? Anyways, thanks so much as always for your awesome comments, girl.

  13. These are extremely true, extremely difficult truths. I’m on the opposite end wondering “What if me trying to pursue my passion holds me back? What if we’re never financially secure? Should I just get a practical job and trudge through?” ugh. Being a grownup is so hard.

    thank goodness for dessert

    • I hate being a grown-up *stamps feet*. Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. Besides the work stuff, being a grown-up is pretty awesome. Especially when grown-ups get engaged (eeeeeek, congrats again, to you and Michael, Kayle!!!). Thanks for being supportive and encouraging as always, girl.

    • Thanks, Jovina! Actually, I had to freeze most of it so that I wouldn’t eat it all at once. When it thawed, it was still delicious. I brought it to a party and thankfully had a group of friends help me polish it off 🙂

  14. I loved all your pictures of these scrumptious looking bars. I am always in pursuit of happiness and at times I find it. Working hard is always part of it but you need to balance that with other things that are important in your life. It is a journey that is for sure and you never know what curve balls are headed your way or how you will feel when you are in the thick of something that you thought would make you happy. Keep on trucking girl and making more delicious recipes!! We love them!!

    • Yup, I gotta keep on trucking…at least until I win the lotto 😉 I wish! A law school friend was the first person to comment on this post and because of it, I messaged him a few times on facebook. The way he sees it, do a job that you don’t hate so that you can fund the life you want in your spare time (he said it more eloquently but that’s the gist of it!). He’s right – I can’t do all the things that I want without having a means to pay for it. Butter ‘n flour ain’t cheap anymore, lol. Baking, spending time with loved ones, raising my puppy, seeing the world – these are things that bring me joy. And you’re right, Tara – it’s all about balance. I have a long life ahead of me. I hope I’ll find a career that brings me passion. And I hope that you find happiness more than it eludes you! Thanks for commenting, sweet friend.

  15. Maybe your massive leap to happiness is waiting for you, working hard is that stressful time but it is worth it in the end right? I can’t say I have much experience at all, but you can get through this, and even it if isn’t obvious, subconsciously, you know exactly which success you are heading towards 🙂
    Keep yourself happy my friend! By eating these delicious bars in mass quantities if you must 😛


    • Thanks, Uru! You may think you don’t have a lot of experience, but you inspire me all the time with your incredibly positive attitude and your wicked sense of humour. I have a feeling that you will always follow your heart and your passion, and that if you’re in a place that isn’t right for you, you’ll make the necessary changes. And yes, eating these bars in mass qualities is a definite must 😉

  16. Girl, you just have to do what makes you happy, whatever that happens to be! I dropped out of culinary school after thinking that becoming a chef was the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, coming to the realization that I did not want what I thought I wanted all along. But it was also the most liberating. There are so many opportunities out there, you just have to go with your gut!

    • Hey Mallory, thanks once again for your thoughtful, encouraging comments! It’s funny – you left culinary school while I have the urge to run towards it! Everyone tells me that if I turn baking into work, it’ll leach all the joy I get out of it now. And they’re probably right. I’m glad you followed your gut and walked away from something that wasn’t working for you. I wish I had that courage. Someday! When I figure out what it is that I want.

  17. Oh Nancy,what bad photos are you talking about?These are gorgeous!!About life,well having gone through some tough times of late all I can say is happiness matters and life is short.So live life to the full and do whatever makes you happy.If it involves taking risks do it and be happy!Can’t wait to see more of your baked treats here 🙂 Cheer up my friend!

    • Soni, thank you so much for your comments and encouragement. You, my dear, have had a super tough year so to hear these words of positivity from you have special meaning. You’re absolutely right about living life to the fullest. I want to be able to look back and know that I did everything I could to follow my passion and happiness. I hope this next year brings you only better things too. Big hugs, girl!

  18. The other day my mom was telling me about a conversation she had with her doctor about his niece who just graduated from Rhode Island School of Design last June. Much to her parents chagrin, after four years of expensive education, apparently she up and quit her job and moved to California to wait tables, a stopgap to getting her dream job. Having paid exactly the same amount for our elder daughter’s education at the same school, I felt qualified to say that I admire the young lady. If you can’t follow your dream, what ever that is, when you are relatively young and unencumbered by family responsibilities, when CAN YOU? Now’s the time, baby. To explore, to find out who you are and who you want to be. I think you’ve already answered the question for yourself with this sentence: “I won’t regret trying something new but I’ll always regret letting fear hold me back.” But I am sure what you are struggling with is the almost certain disapproval from your family. You know and I know that they aren’t going to take “Fuck it all” very well. But I am here to tell you that they will come around. That said, let’s talk about the first rule of wing walkers, those acrobats that used to entertain crowds by walking on the wings of small aircraft back in the early days of flight. My late father-in-law used to tell his boys, “Remember the first rule of wing walkers. Don’t let go with one hand until you have ahold of something with the other.” How does this apply to you? Find a job or a source of income that feeds your passion. You may have to downgrade your living situation to afford it but, once you have that in place, by all means quit the job you hate. Live is indeed too short to be miserable on a daily basis. I’ll leave you with a well-know quote from Confucius to toss at your folks: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” You are valuable beyond the money invested in those nine years of education, Nancy, and you deserve to find your dream and work hard to make it a reality you can enjoy living every single day. Please keep in touch and let us know how you are getting on.
    P.S. The pumpkin thingies are lovely!

    • You’re the best, Stacy. Not only do I absolutely love reading your blog for your hilarious stories and all of your incredible life experiences, but you’re always wise, kind, eloquent…I could go on and on! I’m totally with the wing walkers – I’ve NEVER left a job without having one lined up already. Again, it’s the practical gal in me! I admire your friend’s doctor’s niece too. Good for her. Like everyone here has been saying, it takes courage and a leap of faith, both of which I wish I had but it’s coming to me, slowly. Unfortunately, the downgrading isn’t going to happen for me anytime soon cause I just bought a house with the husband (eeek). I’ll be staying at my day job for a while but we’ll see what happens. There are so many things I want to do, especially with my blog and baking. I just need to figure out how to bring it to life. One step at a time, baby!

  19. Goodness. What a deep and honest and thoughtful post. I love your vulnerability and your willingness to admit you don’t have it all figured out. I, too, thought that once I became an “adult” all these questions would melt away. Instead, I find myself with more. All I know is that love and community and connection is what makes my heart sing, and its what I work to pursue each and everyday. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and these delicious bars! I hope you and yours have a beautiful Thanksgiving tomorrow!

  20. My dearest friend Nancy,

    You are fun, sweet, smart, and I know that you are courageous enough to go out there and seek your dream, even if it’s frightening and you need a little push. I agree with what Alice said about life being too short, so why live it regretting and feeling angst? The first step is realizing your state of unhappiness, accepting it, and then…taking action.

    I know where you’re coming from. I was unhappy with my job too and I left it. I don’t think I have found my dream yet, but knowing that I left that former job to search and work towards what makes me happy, satisfies me much more than sitting in front of a computer without feeling any passion at all. I’m thankful that I realized it and did something about it. Many people sit back and accept this state of unhappiness as part of their normal lives. You are realizing that it doesn’t have to be this way and I completely agree with you! If I may just share my opinion with you…I think it’s time to explore your passion and try to find a job that allows you to fulfill your interests. The road ahead will still be challenging, but all that struggle becomes more satisfactory if you are at least fulfilling your dream and exploring your passion. After all, if we have to work, why not work at doing what we love?

    I have faith in you! 🙂

  21. I still feel like I’m in my early twenties and unsure of what I want to be when I grow up. And I’m a mere two years from being 40. I quit a good paying job to go to back to school (culinary) in my mid-twenties. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I be ten times more financially secure if I hadn’t done it? Yes. Do I regret it? No. It’s hard, lady…I just don’t know what to tell you. I think that if you’re not happy doing what you do, you should definitely shift paths for a while. But who am I to talk? I do love every single thing about those awesome cheesecake bars, though – especially the killer crust. Oh, and the photos. 😉

    • Heather, when I was reading your comment, I felt like I myself had written it. I did the same thing – left a career in my mid-twenties to go to culinary school. I still feel like I’m 18 and wondering “what do I want to be when I grow up?” I have none of it figured out, but I don’t regret my decision for even a minute. I’ve (mostly) gotten used to living with less, the accommodation that I’ve had to make for this decision. I’m glad we’re both here, and not stuck somewhere else.

  22. 1. I’ve missed you!!! So glad to see you back in the blogosphere.
    2. Girl, I don’t know what you see in these pictures, but what I see is some damn sexy pumpkin cheesecake bars.
    3. You are not alone! Sometimes I think being in a job that’s actually something we enjoy (or thought we did), is harder than doing something we absolutely hate. If I was working a job that I didn’t go to school for, that I had ZERO passion for, that I didn’t care a bit about, it would be easy to make the decision to screw it all and do something else. But I’m doing what I thought I wanted to do forever…until I discovered blogging…and it was different. And now I’m torn. I have decided that I’m going to go very part time at my day job after the first of the year to give this blogging thing a go. It’s TERRIFYING…and thrilling. I’m going to be honest, I’m nowhere near able to replace my income (which was paltry in the first place…) with my blogging income right now. But I mean, if not now, when, right?! All that to say, I get it, and I’m so glad you shared this!

  23. Well Nancy, the cheese cake bars look delish, but it seems you’ve got more on your mind than baked goods. I have a few years on you, and still I ask my self those same questions. I enjoy my life and am content with it, but still I feel like one needs to be productive and make a contribution, and that’s where I feel I fall short. I tell my kids, do what you’re passion about. It seems one gets great satisfaction from pursuing their passions over just pursuing money. Anyway, I still don’t have the answers, but I keep on searching.

  24. I know exactly what you mean. I spent my early twenties going to school to become an accountant. The second I reached the prize, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I quit my job, and took a summer off to think about what I wanted to do. During that summer, someone asked me point blank “what is it that you want to do?” and I replied with a really non-chalant type of answer along the lines of working in an office. I went home that night and thought about it and realized that I didn’t like my answer, and if I were to be completely honest with myself, I would have said that I wanted to write. If money were no object, then I would write. The very next day I started doing just that. It took about 2 years or so, but now I’m finally at the point where I’m making a decent from it. My hobby is my career, and I can honestly say that I love my job. It took a huge leap of faith, but now my life would never be the same. This video sums it up perfectly, and it literally changed my entire path in life. —> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUw2ZhoEppE

  25. I think Paula put it really well. Introspection leads to dissatisfaction coz our purpose on this earth is certainly beyond a 9 to 5 job and raising kids. I have found solace in meditation…it helped me calm my mind and brought focus and peace to my soul. I hope you find your calling soon and enjoy fruitful time ahead.

  26. Hi Nancy, I found your blog recently and really love how real and honest your posts are.

    I just wanted to say that I definitely see so much potential for anything you decide you really want to do with your life – these photos are absolutely stunning! I was raised by very traditional parents who told me to study hard in order to get a well paying job. I thought that once I got the job at a large downtown law firm I had always dreamed about, it would make me happy. After a few years of working there, I realized that I was extremely miserable and had no time for anything I loved including my family and friends.

    I took the plunge and left the corporate world after letting my family know how unhappy I was – they were extremely supportive much to my surprise. I am happy to say that life is so much more fulfilling for me now as a SAHM and look forward to my days in the kitchen where I get to cook and bake for my small, growing family.

    I know in the world we are living in today, doing what you love isn’t always the practical or economical choice so no matter what you decide or where your path leads you, I wish you the best of luck and hope you find peace and happiness 🙂

    P.S. These pumpkin cheesecake bars look incredible and make me want to grab a few of these for my breakfast!

  27. You know I’ve been in this position. None of it is easy. The simple part for most people is answering “what would you be doing if you didn’t have to worry about money?” That part is a no-brainer for most people. I took it a step further and dove off the deep end. But in reality, I DO have to worry about money, and it sucks. I’m not immune to thinking about how much easier life would be (in some ways) if I had stuck with my old job that I hated. We’d have plenty of money to travel, buy new cars, a bigger house, etc. But on the other hand, I would be supremly unhappy 50 hours/week while sitting at that job I hated.

    I’m clinging to the hope that I made the right decision and that the money will come. Who knows if it ever will. I can say that I’m happier than I’ve ever been doing what I’m doing (when I’m not worrying about money). It’s all a double-edged sword, and it’s difficult. Sorry, so emo.

  28. It took me 4.5 years to finish college, and 4.5 years to realize that I don’t want to do diddly squat with my degree. I went to school for forensic psychology and that’s exactly what I ended up with. Somewhere between my neuroscience finals and my history of learning essay I realized that I do not want to hear about peoples problems, I’d rather have them eat them. Long story short I ended up as an account manager for a furniture company saving up to attend culinary school on the side.
    Anyway TO THE PUMPKIN! If there is one thing I could eat for the rest of my life, its pumpkin. Whenever the end of August rolls around and pumpkin flavored coffee gets into the mix I don’t sleep for about a week because I’m so jacked up off pumpkin coffee. I can only imagine pumpkin cheesecake bars. They look so perfect in your pictures, I am going to have to make them for the people at work tomorrow. Hopefully they will love it! Actually I know they will love it!!!

  29. Oh, girl. I know too well this feeling. I was raised to play it safe, too, and leaving my job (even though I was miserable) was a really scary thing to do. Heck, it’s why I stayed as long as I did. But, I did some math and figured out exactly what my bills were, what I’d need to get by financially and luckily had an amazingly supportive family who encouraged me the whole way. I didn’t aim to leave and go work for two awesome bosses and get to work in an “office” with a wall of sprinkles and candy, but life gave me experience which led to opportunity and, ultimately, happiness. I had the chance to work at a more traditional job right after I quit, but I turned it down because I thought, if I don’t try following my bliss, I’ll never get the courage to do it again. If it doesn’t pan out, I can always go back to what I was doing before, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m onto something that will make me happy, allow me to be creative and find my work and input valued. My sincere hope is that you find the same, in whatever shape that takes on. Hang tight. You’ll work it out! xo

  30. I remember feeling just the same way a few years back. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect ourselves to choose a career path in our late teens/early twenties, and live with that choice day in, day out, for the rest of our lives. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine being happy doing ANYTHING 40+ hours/week for any more than 10 years. I get restless. I need to change it up! I could never feel fulfilled if I wasn’t challenged creatively, that is one thing I know about myself for sure. But really, I think there’s a different kind of drive when you are self-employed. There’s an added push, and an added passion, that you just don’t feel when you’re punching a clock. I’ve been way happier and way more fulfilled, not just career-wise, but in my whole life, since becoming a mom and working for myself. I know it’s not for everyone, but it works for me. I’m excited at the start of every day. I agree with Alice- you should take some time off and figure it out, if you can. Spending your days miserable at work~ life is too short! And you’re spinning your wheels… enough wallowing in misery, focus on the solution, not the problem! Move forward! Ps- your photos are stunning and you are crazy. So striking, and the detail is incredible! I feel like I could reach through the screen and take a taste!

  31. First, the photos are gorgeous, and I want to entirely devour those bars. Second, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’m still in college, but I feel like pressure to figure out what I want to do with my life is already so stressful, because truthfully, I have no idea where I want or need to go to be happy. I think figuring out what you want requires lots of self reflection and actually getting to know yourself, because without that, you’ll never be able to figure out what you truly want. I love that reverse perspective of asking yourself what you would suffer through to be happy for, it shows what really does have meaning to you. Amazing post, and I’m wishing you the best of luck in finding your happiness 🙂

  32. Life is hard, that’s for sure. Happiness varies from one person to the next, and it always seems to be out of arms reach. I’m currently struggling to find mine. I love baking and my website, so I’ve been busting my ass to grow my business, but I still have to go into work to a job I despise every single day. It’s hard. All I really want to do is go in scream “I quit!” If only it were that simple. If only I weren’t so damn responsible. I hope you find something that makes you happy, something you’re willing to struggle for with everything you have. Change is hard, but if it’s worth it… Your photos look amazing. I love the dark background against the warm glow of the orange bars. These look amazing. I hope you find your something, Nancy. Love ya, girl!

  33. First of all, you must do what YOU want to do. No one should live to the expectations of others because those expectations may change at any time causing one to feel they’re in a constant battle for approval (just saying, if that’s where you are). Correct me if I’m wrong but I feel the way you’re feeling stems from your Asian culture. The reason why I say this is because for about the past 5 years of being with my bf, he teaches me the same thing of being independent, work hard (60-hr work week is the new norm), be successful yadda yadda vs. the Hispanic side of me is “just have FUN!” lol. I, too still struggle with what I want to do in life after having 2 failed career paths, so I completely understand where you’re coming from. Hopefully one day I’ll find out and I hope you do too. And btw, your photos are stunning!

  34. First – these look amazing!! LOVE pumpkin, they look so perfect. Secondly, I’m right there with ya! I just finished school, took 6 years to get my teaching degree, and now I’m working full time. However, I would love to say SEEYA and do what I really want. Also, I’m always doing things that I think I ‘should’ do, or what is expected of me. Not always what I want.. I hope I don’t have any regrets later in life, but it’s hard juggling what you need to do and what you Want to do. Also, what makes you happy. I always admire those people who quit their jobs and pursued their dreams.. I hope one day I can do that!

  35. Nancy, I’m so sad I’m only reading this post now and not sooner when you really needed to hear kind words from friends who share the same passions as you (although I love the outpour of love in the comments from so many other bloggers!). It hurts reading this post knowing what a tough time this must have been for you. I don’t know if you still feel the same way, but I totally get it. I was raised to not take risks and to be practical. To work hard, get a job and have that financial security even if you don’t necessary love that job. The only problem is if you don’t truly love what you do, you won’t be happy for long and without happiness what’s the point right? I hope that you are doing what you love and that you are happy. I’ve found that even if your 9-5 job isn’t your passion, sometimes it can still work! It may not be a passion, but there could still be aspects of the job that you really enjoy. And as long as you find time on the side for your passion and to pursue your dreams, you can have that balance. I don’t know if any of that made any sense, but I just want you to know that even in my blog commenting absence, I still admire you greatly, I think you take beautiful photographs (it’s January and I’m currently craving pumpkin cheesecake because of you :P) and I love the stories you tell and how open and honest you are, because I think we can all relate 🙂 xoxo

  36. Pingback: A Cake Smash for My Two Year Blogiversary | gotta get baked

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