My Jean Valjean moment


This blog began over a year ago as I was making a major life change – leaving a busy, fulfilling, and successful business and stepping out into the unknown of new enterprises and uncertainties. Many of my blog musings have been related to me trying to find my way after leaving the front lines of food preparation and serving guests. I have wondered silently and in print about how I even feel about cooking, about how much of my identity has been tied up in that role and what will fill it now that I don’t actually cook for a living. Even calling this blog “The Chef’s Wife” has been a way for me to clothe myself in the cooking world, albeit slightly distancing myself from it by using my wife title. Now my chef husband doesn’t cook for a living either. Of course I am still his wife, but what else am I?

I recently went back and tried an activity that profoundly shaped my youth – ballet. In much the same way that the restaurant business has dominated my life as an adult, ballet was my everything through my teenage years. Ballet gave me a sense of purpose, the cause for praise, and allowed me to travel to study it. But when I was 18 years old I left it behind to see what else I could do. I haven’t danced since. Until last week, that is.

I was afraid to take a class – afraid I would suck and get frustrated, that my body would not cooperate with my expectations, and also afraid that I wouldn’t like it anymore. A nagging voice wondered if I really ever liked it all, if all those hours spent at the barre were actually enjoyable but rather a means to getting attention. So I took a class to find out – just paid for one class in case I never wanted to go back. And you know what? I loved it. My body remembered it all. It was actually fun. Go figure.

I wonder about that part of us that exists apart from the things we do. Sure our jobs define a lot of the activities that we carry out, as do our relationships for that matter. But aren’t we all more than a parent, spouse, teacher, or whatever job we have? Can I reasonably say that I am even a chef’s wife anymore or that I am somehow still a dancer somewhere inside?

So I had what I refer to as a Jean Valjean moment (you know, the character in Les Miserables who sings “who am I?”, in which he realizes who he wants to be by the end of the song?). I realized there are a lot of things I don’t know about myself yet, even as I am pushing 40. But this I now know – I am someone who enjoys to dance ballet. And for knowing that I celebrate.

What about you? Have you had any Jean Valjean moments lately?


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Alice says:

    Molly, I am thrilled that you had your Jean Valjean moment, and with ballet, no less. I am certain that you would have been successful in whatever field you chose to pursue, but you have found one that makes you profoundly happy, and that is a wonderful thing.

    When I was first married, we lived outside Madison, WI, on a little farmstead, and I grew beautiful vegetables and flowers. ME! I am a Jewish girl from Texas. This activity was far outside my zone of familiarity. But I LOVED it. When we moved, I gave it up. Now I am moving towards the end of my professional career and thinking about all the things I would like to do, and all of the things that have given me pleasure. And it has moved me to plan to build a greenhouse on the south side of my house and grow veggies and flowers again. Here’s to JV moments!

    The best to you and the family,

  2. Tom says:

    Always enjoy your posts, Molly. Glad you’re all well.

  3. says:

    Life is an adventure — titles come and they go — military, business. Now retirement — what am I. I’m still working on it. Don’t ever expect to be done!

  4. Alexa says:

    I am ready to have mine as well. I have joined a vocal group for a 6 week stint and a recital. I am terrified. I am looking over the music, wondering what all those notes could possibly mean. At the same time, I am so excited. Izzy said when I told her about it, it was the happiest she’d me in a very long time. We’ll see. Love you.

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