Six years ago I was in a much different place in life. I was a military wife living in Mannheim Germany with my husband on an army base. Six years ago is also when I posted my very first Instagram photo which happened to be a picture of this vegan pumpkin pie. Yes, I was also once a vegetarian. I guess i’ve been just about everything at some point in life. I’ve been a student, a housewife, a vegetarian, a runner, a crossfitter, an omnivore, divorced, a lesbian, a cook, and a man all before the age of thirty.
Through all of these things, cooking was where I found my escape. Especially in those lonely times as an army wife in Germany. I can still appreciate this photo because making food was the only time I felt I had any sort of worth. I made my food with love, and filled it with dreams of better things. I felt it was all I could do to please people in my life… in this moment, my husband.
I have often said that anyone who goes into the food industry has a disease. Some may also call this passion… but the reality is it is a disease to please. No one else in their right mind would work long hours with low pay and most likely no breaks. (unless you smoke). You put your heart, sweat, and soul into the food, and it is all for that first bite. For a cook, it is that first bite that makes it all worth it. The moment when someone takes a bite of your food and a slightly or not so slightly sexual sound escapes from their mouth. A “mouthgasm” they might call it. That is the moment you successfully pleased. It is an addiction really.
I will be honest. Lately I have been feeling burned out with cooking…but seeing pictures like this reminds me how it has always been there for me as an escape in my darkest times. I may not be a chef at a five star restaurant, or a cheftestant on Foodnetwork ( hey but there is still time right? )but it still has the same reward it has always had and that is not only providing an escape, but a way to show love, and a way to connect people from all walks of life. Nothing brings people together quite like food.
It may not be the most glamorous of careers. I will never be rich, I may grow frustrated or burned out, but as long as I can feel like I can contribute a good memory or moment in someones day with a bite of food, I think everything is going to be okay.
Shame is something we all learn at a young age. Perhaps you were once told “shame on you” for something you did wrong. Or maybe you recognize it as that queasy, gut wrenching, heart pounding, nervousness right as you debate whether or not to confess to your mother you broke one of her prized possessions. Can you glue it back together? Will she notice? Or should you confess now and hope for the best? It was an accident after all, maybe she will go easy, or maybe if you don’t say anything she won’t notice…but that feeling of shame will remain if you don’t tell her. Surely if you do not tell her, God would know. God always knows. Better fess up.
I have struggled with a lot of shame over being gay. The moment I learned what it meant to be gay, that familiar feeling of shame rushed over me. I felt as though I had done something wrong. I had been taught that I was immoral, and would be boxed into the same sexual perversions as bestiality, incest…etc. This was worse than accidentally breaking one of my parents belongings. This could break their hearts. It became my deepest darkest secret. There was no way I could be gay, so denial became my lifestyle of choice.
Denial only works for so long. When my marriage ended I had a choice. I could either start living true to myself, or I could keep living in denial. It was a hard confusing process but I chose to start being true to myself. The hardest part to get through was the shame. Even though I had stopped living in denial, I constantly worried. What will my parents think? Will they still love me? Will they be ashamed of me? What will my friends think? What if they don’t want me around their kids?
My secret was eating me up inside. I couldn’t keep this all to myself any longer. I finally built up the courage to come out to my counselor. It wasn’t exactly the best first coming out experience. When I told her I was gay she asked me. “Well, is this something you want or don’t want?” I was confused. I replied “Who would want this?” She proceeded to tell me there were groups out there for me where I could “beat this.” That there was hope for change. But what could these conversion groups do that I hadn’t already tried? I prayed to God, and I got married. To a man. If that doesn’t work I don’t know what will. Then she said something to me I will never forget. “You will never be the woman God wanted you to be.”
Those words stung worse than any other words I had ever heard. I left her office and never looked back. She tried contacting me multiple times through text message saying that she hoped that I hadn’t given up. Well, I had. I had given up lying to myself and believing that I had something to be ashamed of. I realized that all of this shame I was feeling wasn’t from God. It was from people. How does she know who God wants me to be? I already tried to live how I thought God wanted me to, and I failed miserably. I was living a lie. Doesn’t God say thou shall not lie? I believe this means you shall not lie to others… or yourself.
For a long time I thought being gay meant you could no longer believe in God. That I couldn’t be a christian and be gay. I no longer believe that, and I no longer feel shame. I know God loves me, and he doesn’t just love the sinner and hate the sin. He loves all of me. No person can ever tell me who God wants me to be.