When I was a senior in high school, confused and frightened about what my future might hold, I had a chat with an army recruitment officer at my school. He was an excellent salesman and he had an answer to all of my doubts; the army would give me money for a full college education, it would allow me to travel and see the world and explore careers. It would give me the opportunity to challenge myself physically and provide guidance and discipline. And as for war? There was no chance anything like that would come up over the next four years (who knew that the World Trade Center attack would happen two years later?). So I signed on the dotted line. I took the oath to serve and protect my country. It was then that I was told that I couldn't have the career I wanted in journalism. Those jobs went to people with experience and education. I also wouldn't get the full amount of money they had promised for college. And as for seeing the world? My first stop would be Oklahoma.
It was suddenly very apparent that I had made a mistake. This path was not going to give me the life I had dreamed of. I started to panic. I had several months before my high school graduation and the day I would ship off to bootcamp, so I scrambled to find a way out. After multiple failed attempts, the same weaselly recruitment officer told me to skip town on the day I was supposed to leave for Oklahoma.
"Just disappear for a couple days, and things will eventually blow over," he told me.
It seemed too good to be true, but I was desperate. So the day of my ship date, I drove to Canada and spent the night. Things got a little scary after that. Some senior officers contacted my mom, words like AWOL were thrown around. They demanded I come back to town and explain myself. I had visions of army helicopters swooping in, armed men seizing me and carrying me away. Luckily, I never saw the interior of a Black Hawk helicopter. Things eventually blew over, the blame fell on my recruiter and I went on with my life. But even so, the damage was done. By the time I realized I was a free woman, it was too late to enroll in my college of choice, the University of Washington, in the fall. So instead, I found a private arts school in the Midwest that had open enrollment. I got accepted, got a dorm room and a few months later was enrolled in classes.
Fast forward through a few more decisions after that including a partial move to Hawaii and back to the Midwest again, a career change from PR woman to web developer, the decision to end a six year relationship, a whim to post an ad for a tennis partner, choosing to marry that tennis partner, and poof! I find myself baking desserts in the back kitchen of a homey little diner. Alter any of those decisions, and I might be in Seattle working as a marine biologist or performing in a musical on Broadway. But maybe, just maybe, this is where I was meant to end up all along.
All of this history was weighing on my mind as I went in for my second shift in the back prep kitchen. The first time I baked there had been an awful experience and I was not looking forward to it. This day was already starting out a little differently since I would be working there during the day. I had taken the day off of my regular job so I could see a concert later that night. I decided to go in early to get my shift out of the way.
When I arrived, I was greeted enthusiastically by one of my favorite daytime line cooks - he was surprised to see me since I usually worked nights and we rarely worked together. When I stepped into the prep kitchen, Ronaldo and Julius were there. Pam had brought them over from her previous kitchen job to take on some of the management duties and I had really come to like them. They greeted me joyfully and cleared a space for me to work. The kitchen was warm, smelled delicious, and reggae music was playing in the background. The shelves were already looking more organized. Four hours breezed by and I was almost sad to leave when everything was done baking. After my last shift, I had seriously considered quitting. Now I knew there was no way I was giving this up. I wondered though, if I had come in to work my shift that night instead of choosing to come in that day, would things be different?
That night I went to see the lead singer for the Decemberists perform. A fellow Montanan, I marveled that two people from the same place could have such different lives and yet still cross paths. I never would have expected that I would become a dessert baker back when I was eighteen and the experience of army boot camp loomed ahead of me. But now I know that I wouldn't change any of the decisions I made to get here - I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.