Finding My Delicious Passion by Tess Challis

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It seems like just yesterday that I was standing outside the restaurant I waitressed at, wondering if I’d ever find my passion. I was a college graduate who had majored in art and philosophy (two fields that are barely relevant to the work I do now) and working at a job that left me very little time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I had skills in several areas: jewelry making; singing and playing guitar; painting; designing; cooking; and yes – waiting tables! However, being a “jack of all trades,” I’d always found it hard to zero in on just one thing.

Years passed and after I’d worked at an assortment of random jobs (interior design, cleaning houses, and selling furniture), I found myself admitting that I wasn’t living my passion. Incidentally, at this point I’d been vegan for about 15 years and had built up a large repertoire of delicious plant-based recipes. For me, cooking for people and “turning them on” to vegan food was sheer ecstasy! Nothing thrilled me more than feeding someone wild mushroom lasagna or chocolate pie and hearing them say “Wow, I can’t believe this is vegan! This is the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten!”

The very first time I’d heard those words was around 1992. I’d originally gone on a plant-based diet in 1991 for reasons unrelated to health. However, what I noticed within a mere two weeks on my new “diet” blew me away – my embarrassing acne cleared up, I was no longer anemic, I finally had energy, and I stopped getting constant bouts of strep throat and other illnesses. However, there was still a slight problem – as a lover of good food, I was worried! Back then, there were no reliable vegan cookbooks on the market and the restaurant scene was dismal. As someone who enjoyed food a bit too much, I knew I’d never stick with any sort of healthy lifestyle unless it could be enjoyable for me. So, for the next year, I cooked my hungry little butt off, trying to come up with reliable recipes that were truly satisfying to me. There were far more failures than successes at first, but I didn’t give up. Any time I made a dish that was delicious – especially one that my friends and family raved about – was a tiny victory.

For years, I continued working at a variety of jobs and cooking in my spare time. The first time I did anything remotely career-wise was in 1997 when I began teaching my co-workers how to make smoothies. I’d bring my blender to the furniture store and we’d all make healthy smoothies on our break! Soon after, a few of the ladies I worked with asked me to hold a cooking class. I was so excited! I had them over to my house and showed them how to make creamy blintzes, asparagus linguine, chocolate dream pie, and Florentine bread salad. They loved it!

I continued on for the next year, holding classes occasionally, until I decided to quit my day job and be a full time personal chef and caterer. This was great for a while – I had some wonderful clients. However, after a year or two I found that cooking for others left me exhausted and depleted. It was not my passion. I much preferred the excitement of showing others how to cook. I wanted to put the power in their hands.

It was several years later that I finally listened to the many people who had strongly suggested I write a cookbook. I’d brushed the idea off for years, thinking it would be too much work. However, I couldn’t ignore the requests any longer, and finally decided to do it. Besides, it would probably only take about two weeks, right? How hard could it be? Two years later, after countless edits and a steep learning curve, my first book was finally done. I sat there, book in hand, thinking “I will never do this again!” It felt like I’d just had a baby! But unlike some babies who let their mothers sleep through the night (my actual baby didn’t do that either, but that’s another story), a book needs constant tending. I’d been under some sort of illusion that all I had to do was write the book, and somehow I’d end up on the NY Times bestseller list. Yet another learning experience was born – I now had to master the crafts of social media, updating my website, and blogging. It was a lot of work, and especially after finding myself without a day job again, it was often scary. I loved creating recipes and inspiring others to eat better, but I wasn’t sure I could pull it off as a career – in fact, I really doubted I could. Money was tight and I was a single mother, doing everything on a shoestring budget.

tess challis real talk real women

However, an interesting thing started to happen. People began to tell me things that made it impossible to stop. I’d get an email that said “Thanks to your book, my whole family is eating better” or “Thanks to you, my mom no longer has cancer.” I’ve gotten emails from people telling me everything from “You’ve helped me overcome an eating disorder” to “This is the only way I’ve ever been able to lose weight without feeling deprived.” Emails even came from people just wanting to tell me that they appreciated having delicious recipes they could count on – ones that made it easy to eat a healthy plant-based diet. It was exhilarating! I finally felt I was doing what I’d been meant to do. Not only did I enjoy creating delicious, healthy recipes, but I’d found something I loved even more – empowering people to eat better and live better. It was, and is, truly joyful!

Years later, I’m still happily immersed in the same field – I’ve now written four books and added wellness coaching to my repertoire. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. At this point, there have been countless emails, letters, and testimonials from people who’ve thanked me for writing those books, or for being their coach.

If I ever get tired and wonder if I can keep doing what I’m doing, those are the things that immediately recharge me and keep me going. We all have a gift to share, and I’m so thankful I’ve found mine. Truly, nothing can be more joyful than doing what you love and being able to empower others in the process!

I’d like to share what I feel are the Five Steps to Finding Your Passion. I hope you find them inspiring and helpful – and I wish you joy on your journey to finding your passion and living with purpose!

1. Go Where The Energy Flows:
This is a woo-woo way of saying it’s possible to sense what is and isn’t on your path. Can you remember a time when something (a job or relationship, for example) was no longer working? The energy felt “dead” to you. On the other hand, have you ever been drawn to something? There is “alive” energy there for you. Explore that. Go where the energy is flowing, and let go of what no longer holds energy for you.

2. Be Open To Change:
Just because you began a certain path doesn’t mean you need to continue on it forever! We often need to have a variety of experiences as stepping stones to find what we’re ultimately destined for.

3. Choose Love:
Whenever we’re faced with a tough decision, we can boil our options down to two things – love or fear. It’s easy to make decisions based on fear, but when we trust and follow where love leads, things work out beautifully. I’ve often followed the Zen saying “Leap and the net will appear.” People have called me foolish, but it has always, always worked out.

4. Experiment!
Give yourself the opportunity to explore the things that call to you. If you’ve always wondered what pottery would be like, take a class! Play and have fun. Try new things. It’s when we allow ourselves to follow our bliss that we find our passion.

5. Don’t Give Up:
When you do find your passion, please know how important persistence is. Things often take a lot of work and time. Just because you’ve been told “no” by ten publishers does not mean you should give up writing! On the contrary. Do you know that the Beatles were told they’d never make it as musicians? That Oprah was told she wasn’t a good fit for TV? Don’t listen to the critics – persist, don’t give up, and put in your time. The only way to fail is to give up!

Learn More About Tess Challis
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Via Tess Challis

I'm an author, vegan chef and wellness coach.