I bought Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France a couple years ago on a whim. I read a few pages, felt bored, and didn’t pick it up again until last month. You know that saying about finding a spouse? “The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.” I tell people that all the time. Well, it’s true for books, too. There’s a right time in each of our lives for certain books. Two years ago was the wrong time for me to read My Life in France. Two weeks ago was the right time.
In all the whirlwind of packing and finishing work and moving, this book was a small escape for me. I would sit for 20 minutes or so and feel like I was having coffee with a very pleasant, older aunt who was telling me all about the grand adventures of her life. It didn’t hurt that it takes place mainly in France, with vivid imagery of the foods and sights and smells of their homes in Paris and Provence.
But about halfway through the book, I realized I was completely inspired by Julia Child. She was in her mid-thirties when she moved to France with her still-new husband Paul, and she had been floating around the world doing government clerical work since college. Paul was an accomplished artist and had an interesting PR job in Paris organizing visual arts exhibits for the U.S. But Julia wasn’t sure what to do with herself, and let her passion for French food lead her to what became not only a personal calling, but a profession that changed home cooking in America.
As I get devastatingly close to my thirtieth birthday (less than a month!!), I’ve been thinking about how I’ve wandered through my twenties. When I started this blog (at the tender age of 22) and included the Tolkien quote “Not all who wander are lost” as its tagline, I was thinking more of my restless desire to travel the world. Recently I wondered if I need to change my tagline, but I realized it still applies. I’m still wandering. I meandered through my twenties, working hard but on many different types of things—missions work, a master’s degree, a new marriage, and my first year as a high school teacher.
It’s hard, though, not to feel that I not only wandered in my twenties, but that I squandered my twenties. I still have little sense of where exactly I want to go, career-wise, in life. I have no idea what my calling is, if everyone even gets one. But then I see how Julia Child wandered, too. She ended up finding something she was so incredibly passionate about that nothing was too much work, too much trouble. She was so often in that “flow” state of being, that some say is the secret to happiness. She lost herself in her work in the best way possible, whether it was teaching a cooking class, experimenting with recipes, or writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She didn’t find her vocation or calling until her mid-thirties, and then she had 50 years to grow in it!
It’s hard not to feel like 30 is the mid-life marker, even though I know my life expectancy is much higher than 60. But it feels that way all the same. I hope once I’ve crossed over, and gotten behind that curtain of 30, I will see the world open up to me more than I imagined or anticipated. Thanks Julia Child, for giving me that hope.