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!