Question 8 of 52

Write about a person you admire. What qualities do you have in common with this person?

I spent several days thinking about this one. I don’t have one person I admire, but there are qualities I really admire in people. This isn’t the first time someone asked me this question. Five years ago after I helped a teammate complete 500 miles, his wife sat across from me a peppered me with questions like I was interviewing for a job. At the time I thought it was odd, only learning later this is a cultural difference between Americans and Canadians. We use small talk to find commonalities and then talk about those. Americans (in my experience) will ask pointed questions – like a job interview – to find out more about you. One of the questions she asked me was ‘who was my role model?’. Then asked ‘to be successful do you think you would ever move to New York City? Again, weird. I am Canadian with zero desire to be an American or live there. I like the idea of having a winter home at Big Sur or on Maui but move to a place that is devoid of nature? No thanks. I suppose it boils down to how you define success. Success to me embodies those qualities I admire, not financial worth.

Speaking to her I realized I don’t have a role model. I do live my life to be a good example for my children. How can I expect my offspring to behave in a certain manner when I don’t? I live my values and when I find someone else who lives theirs, I admire that.

Last summer during the big BLM protests, the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen (BA) went through a very turbulent time. I loved BA. I followed the videos, read the magazine, did the BA baking challenge to enhance my baking skills. Then it came out that Conde Nest (the parent company of BA) and BA were practicing racists. One of their staff members called them on it and asked for their resignation. Sohla El-Waylly called people on their shit and demanded change. She didn’t expect change so she was prepared to walk. But walking was scary. Her chef husband Ham was laid off earlier in the year due to Covid-19. She was supporting the family. If she lost her job, they would have to resort to plan B. Living in Jersey in the Father-in-law’s basement. She and Ham talked it over and decided living counter to your values does irreparable damage. She took the leap and watched BA crumble because all of the BIPOC chefs also left and some white chefs left in solidarity. Meanwhile, Sohla was offered a column with Food52 and NYT Cooking, a video series on Babish (where she gets over a million views each episode – suck that Conde Nast) plus five different cookbook offers. She accepted one and it will release 2022. How is that for landing on your feet?

I admire the risk she took. The unknown is scary but compromising values makes life unbareable. I worked one place and was forced to compromise my values day one. Day two I was actively looking for another job. It took a bit and my soul was sucked out almost completely (dementor style) but the horizon was so much better.

I learned that making choices out of fear is the worst possible thing you can do for you and the people who love you. These are the qualities I admire and I try to live them everyday:

  • Advocate for the oppressed and the underdog
  • Choose kindness
  • Lift up people around you
  • Refuse to compromise your values
  • Choose love over fear
  • Love yourself because you matter

My friend reminded me over Christmas that you are no good to people if you don’t put on your oxygen mask first. Take care of you and then you are able to help others. You can’t give from a dry well.

So no, I don’t have one person I admire. I admire qualities in people. There is a long list of people in my circle who live their values and refuse to compromise. When you say no to someone and they get angry, that doesn’t mean you should have said yes. Stand by your values.

How about you? What do you admire in people?

Stay healthy friends!

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