New Year Ruminations

It happens every new year. Lists upon lists of things from the year prior that we want to take with us, or leave far, far behind. I haven’t personally been feeling like 2016 was a completely terrible year, but I know that it was pretty terrible for a lot of people. Things changed drastically for me in 2016 and I’m still seeing the repercussions of that change. Not all bad, not all good.

The last couple weeks have been pretty hard for me because coming out of 14 years of retail holiday hell is weird to see from the comforts of the couch. I watched on social media as a whole lot of my friends were stressed with customers and heavy cheese production while also seeing the joys of helping people find the perfect cheese for their party or some fantastic seasonal goodie that was just received. I tend to be the type that likes to stay busy and this was my first year in a long, long time that I was not busy at all. It’s a change that I’m sure I’ll be able to find a way to get used to.

Plenty of good things happened for me last year. I competed in the Cheesemonger Invitational and while I didn’t place, I made lasting connections with some supremely talented people that I won’t take for granted. I quit my job at Whole Foods which has been the catalyst for other things that have happened for the rest of the year. I started this blog. I bought a DSLR and have been trying to learn more about photography so I can make the products I’m focusing on here look as beautiful as they are. I took a Business Bootcamp class where I learned a lot about how to start a business but I also learned a lot about myself. I hopped around to a few jobs but starting my own business happened to fall in my lap. I’ve been able to travel. San Fransisco, Des Moines, LA, Portland, and to farms around my area to see where the products I love are being made. I still got to eat wonderful cheeses along the way and learned more about brands that I didn’t know about and was able to really search out some new stuff that I’ve never had access to.

I’ve watched this last year as new mongers have come on to the scene with a fiery passion and as beloved cheeses die a terrible death due to unsustainable market we currently have. I’ve seen so many new cheese makers trying to eek their way in. I’ve seen so much love for these products and I’ve also heard the complaints from consumers about prices being too high or not understanding the cost of doing business where we are now. I’ve talked to shop owners about the reality of keeping quality employees when the ability to pay them what they are worth is nearly impossible in small business. I’ve talked to cheese makers that are doing everything themselves because they can’t afford another person on the payroll so they have to be the ones to work their fingers to the bone. I’ve seen the look in someone’s eye when they taste something so supremely wonderful that they were able to fully immerse themselves in the moment and forget all the things around them that might be causing them pain.

This is life. The ebb and flow of things. I guess it’s more noticeable for me this year because I’m looking at it from a new angle. I’m seeing it without the corporate backing and stability. I’m seeing it on my own terms.I’m asking different questions. I’m using my prior structure to help inform me, but I’m looking at it in an entirely new way. It’s not easy but neither is staying somewhere you don’t belong anymore. I don’t know what 2017 is going to bring for me. I know that I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and if the right opportunity is presented then I will jump on it. I do know of a few things though.

  1. I will continue to learn and grow in all the ways I think I can. I want to continue learning about cheese. I want to learn to take better pictures and how to fully utilize my camera. The education never ends.
  2. I will continue to tell the stories of the farms and the places that inspire me. I want to boost the signal for the places that are important to me.
  3. I will continue to support the Artisan Cheese community in any way that I can. Documenting, photographing, or volunteering, I’ll be there.
  4. Somehow I’ll find a way to do all these things while still supporting myself.

This is doable. This is what my life has already been. I try not to make grand proclamations about my plans and intentions because, quite often, what happens doesn’t look like what you originally thought it might be. Maybe you aren’t the type to make resolutions? Maybe you are like me and don’t want to pin yourself to anything hard and fast? I’d still suggest determining some open ended intentions to keep in mind. It can make the path a little easier to travel.