Yesterday I tried for the third time to make chocolate eclairs.
Because is there anything on this earth more divine than the combination of the light, fluffy pastry, thick, rich custard and silky, chocolate ganache?
Eating an eclair is such an alluring prospect that I am willing to struggle time and time again to make them perfectly.
And each and every time, I am stumped as to how it all goes so wrong. The first two trials I followed the recipe to the letter and still my eclairs looked disappointingly nowhere close to the picture.
But in my flurry to bake yesterday I misread the recipe and accidentally missed out an entire cup of flour from the pastry. And even though I noticed and quickly tried to make amends it was too late, the mixture refused to thicken.
I thought that adding the eggs would help coagulate the dough but to no avail. I then put my hopes in the cooking of the pastry.
But unfortunately, they came out of oven looking deflated like a rugby ball that had been mistakenly driven over by a truck.
By this point I was extremely put out. I’d already used far too many eggs and a tonne of butter so there really was no going back.
After a brief reprieve I returned to tackle the custard filling. I then carefully sandwiched pairs of the flattened, pastry blobs together and merrily sprinkled the whole lot with icing sugar.
They weren’t chocolate eclairs but the custard provided an adequate distraction so that everyone ate them without complaint.
If there is one thing I have learnt over the past year it is that life is full of these kinds of setbacks and surprises.
When embarking on new adventures and sailing into uncharted territory, we are bound to make a few blunders.
We hardly ever get things right the first time around. More often than not our chocolate eclairs look more like flattened footballs than the perfect image we found in a recipe book.
What has taken me by surprise is that the setbacks I most often come across are due to my wayward imagination and lofty expectations.
I’m a dreamer whose eyes are always starry with thoughts of the future. With dreams so vast and expansive it is hardly surprising that I find reality to be bitter and unkind.
I thought the year after graduation would be different. I thought I would breeze into a job and finally find my place in this world. I thought I would know what I want and I’d hop onto the career ladder just the same as everyone else.
But this year saw me working part time as a shop assistant, then unemployed for three months and finally working again as a waitress.
And a little part of me feels like a failure.
Because college graduates are supposed to have real jobs. Because adults should be working 9-5 and focusing on serious, obtainable goals. Because by now I should have a plan, a path forwards and an answer for when people ask me what it is that I want to do.
But I still have no answer. I still have no plan. I still don’t have a real job.
I’m not the woman that 12 year old me hoped I would become. As far as she is probably concerned, I am a failure.
But who decides what is success and what is failure? Who sets where the goalposts lie? Who has the right to tell me how I should live my life?
I’m only a failure if I believe so. I’m only a loser if I give up on myself. I’m only hopeless if once I fall, I refuse to get up and try again.
I suppose that success looks different to me now then when I was a little girl. It’s less about finding the perfect job, husband and house.
Success for me now means knowing who I am. It means being true to myself and living each day in a way that makes me proud.
Loving people even when I feel tired and impatient.
Creating something out of nothing and sharing it with the world.
Challenging myself to face my fears, push the limits and try new things.
What I am realizing is that following your own path instead of sticking to the status quo does not make you a failure.
Success doesn’t necessarily look the same for everyone so comparison is fruitless.
The truth is, nobody really has a clue what they are doing. Most of us are stumbling along, figuring it out as we go.
So perhaps my life doesn’t look they way I thought it would at almost 22 but that’s part of what makes life beautiful…its total unpredictability.
I’m going to attempt to make eclairs again. I cannot resist, the sweetness or the challenge.
I’ll probably fail a few more times but one day I won’t.
One day the choux pastry will rise and stay crisp. One day the eclairs will retain their proper, elongated shape. One day I will bake them, fill them, ice them and present them to the oohs and ahhs of my loved ones.
That’s what success looks like to me.
Never, never, never giving up.