I had a conversation recently with a friend and fellow content creator, Justin Khanna. Justin is someone that I have felt I could go to ever since starting out in this crazy world of making media content for those in the food industry. There are not many people in our space, so having a connection that can provide some sort of guidance when doubt and anxiety rise is a blessing.
I had reached out to Justin to get his opinion on some content I was working through and our conversation soon evolved, as almost all of them do, into analyzing the state of the industry, what content has been meaningful lately, and plans for the future for both of our brands. I am not sure what prompted me to say it, but it was one of the first times I had actually said it out loud.
“It was more than once when I thought about giving up on Line Cook Thoughts. This past year really made me question my why and what it meant for everyone around me. I almost did stop doing this work that I have dedicated the last three years to.”
I said this and was surprised the words had actually escaped my mouth. The idea of giving up was in my mind during the heaviest times of the pandemic. And to have shared this with a fellow creator left me feeling vulnerable. It felt like forever until Justin responded. But when he did, I was surprised. “You need to tell people about that!”
I am not sure wanting to give up on my work is the best content piece if you are a first time reader of my work, but if you have followed along in this journey you will know I try to be as transparent as possible when putting out thoughts in media. But to say I wanted to give up is really exposing myself on another level. In a society where quitting, giving up is weakness. Where any thought besides moving forward can lead to you looking uninspired or lazy.
When Justin explained why I needed to share I felt as if I had been holding back this whole time. He shared how important it is for us creators to be honest about the process. How we need to have a clear narrative on what it actually means to be in this process. The countless hours put in are not always pleasurable. You don’t understand the friction that exists between me and trying to put simple edits in a video episode of the podcast.
So, after speaking with Justin and admitting a feeling I had out loud for the first time, I felt it was necessary to discuss about giving up. The thoughts behind it and what led me to a place that made me question my work and the meaning it had on those who consume it.
My brand is not the biggest out there but does have a large community. I have over 13k followers on Instagram, a couple hundred weekly listeners on my podcast, and over 2k followers across other platforms. My writing has grown this past year as well, being published in two different professional areas, along with this personal blog I write. I feel a connection and a duty to keep putting out relatable content for those who do follow along. And the honor and humility I feel that so many people want to see and hear what I have to say and what others in food have to say is unmatched to anything else in my life. I have built a channel in food for those to communicate their passion and needs and wants and it is truly special.
Almost three years into this work, I have learned so much. But when Covid hit it definitely changed my life. Covid came with me losing a job I loved, losing the relationship with a girl I loved, moving out of a city I loved and putting a strain on the industry and work I love. I was displaced as a human. My entire identity stripped away in a matter of months, back home with family and really back to square one. But what could I complain about? I was healthy, safe with family and did have stability. Yet I still battled with who and what I was.
The months during the summer of 2020 were dark for me. I have anxiety, and that is something I have to be aware of daily. But what I experienced like so many during that summer was pure depression. Days where getting out of bed and posting one post to the brand on Instagram felt like an accomplishment. I gained some weight, lacked self-care and felt lost for the first time in my entire life. I am a high energy person, anyone who knows me will tell you that. I felt as if I had been sedated and could not come out of it.
It was during this time where I questioned everything. Who would want to hear me in the food industry when most are not even able to work right now? What more did I have to offer as I sat at home, jobless and without any idea where my next job would be? I had no answers to how people should operate in food, so what exactly was the point of the work? I am looking outside of restaurants for work. Am I a fraud? Who am I?
There were these doubts and then there were the superficial doubts that are bullshit but still crept in. After two years why did I not have more followers and listeners? Should I not be making money now for the work I do? Where is that big break that will make the brand go viral? What is even the point of creating content? What is the point of everything right now?
In September of 2020 I truly felt like giving up. I did not want to continue putting in work into this brand during that time. As I lied to people around me that I was okay, it was the system shock of losing a lot of important aspects of my life that was taking a negative toll on my overall well-being. Who was I?
I sat and thought about what giving up looked like. I’d have more free time for sure. The hours recording, editing, posting, managing, writing and reaching out would no longer be in my schedule. The stress of extra deadlines, consistently coming up with content and the anxiety of people hating the work would disappear as well. Maybe I’d go out like others to party more, have more time with friends, and live a life more conducive to what a 23 year old is expected to live. Instead of working late at night on the next podcast or article I could be out meeting new friends and socializing with the rest of the world. Seems like a lot of stress taken away and a lot of freedom given back. It’s tough to do this work on top of a full-time job. It can be lonely and exhausting. So giving up sounds good, right? Was I right?
As I sat in my childhood bedroom contemplating my life, I took some time away, a few days, to assess what life would be like without Line Cook Thoughts. I logged out of my accounts, turned off media notifications and went on a 3 mile run. The next few days I practiced guitar, played with my new puppy, ran some more and just focused on how I felt minus the work. To be honest it wasn’t relief or anxiety of missing out. I was indifferent.
After a few days I logged back in to my accounts and start to reboot the social media part of my brain. As red hearts, blue thumbs, and tag notifications flashed across my screen I started to dig into what I had missed. Still indifference.
As I finished catching up on my notifications I went to my DMs and saw some messages about an article I had written. It was for Plate magazine and addressed how leaving restaurants did not make you a sellout. In my messages I found that some people in food had reached out to thank me for writing exactly what they had been feeling. How the article helped reaffirm decisions made in a shaky and unruly time.
I have always wanted to be a writer. I always believed it would be fiction, but no matter I did want to write. For me, to have written something that helped another person during a tough point in their life gave me more meaning than any other piece of work I had devoted myself to so far. It was in that moment that the passion re-ignited.
The month to month slump I was in finally came to an end. It was that feeling like in that John Mayer song, Gravity, where I was telling the negative pull of my life to “stay the hell away from me.” And to the thought of giving up I gave a big middle finger.
The truth is that I love this work. I love meeting all of you, hearing your stories and watching the journey. To be able to share about those in food is the greatest honor. Even at my breaking point I had many of you in the community reach out to offer well wishes and encouragement to keep going.
It has become a cliché to have a “side hustle”. It is forced down our throats, the idea that we need to build a profitable side business or brand in order to achieve success. I think what overwhelms people is the money aspect. As of now I have far out spent any of the little revenue I have made with this brand. This is not a get rich quick idea. If it was it would be the slowest one in the history of get rich quick attempts.
I do this work because I am passionate about it. I pay money to do this work. I spend an ungodly amount of hours on all of this because I love it. Because I want to show up for those who show up for others daily as their job of choice. And because it is mine to own. Mine to build. Mine to keep pushing forward.
I do think we all need those projects or hobbies outside of work that bring us joy and passion, especially in the food industry. Having all of your happiness and identity reliant on a job is a dangerous game, and I say this from learning that lesson the hard way. Your passion does not need to make money. People do not even need to know it exists, but please do have one. It will save you.
It is not easy to be a content creator and many people try daily to go do this work. It takes much more effort than the viral stars portray. The hardest working people I know are in a blend of food and media. Like restaurant work, it is a work of love. You need to have passion for it.
But do not let this be misunderstood to mean their cannot be pain. There are tasks essential to this brand I do not like to do. There is a discipline that does come, and it does mean doing work when you do not feel like it. But it also opens up the opportunity to channel creative passion, much like right now after I have consumed a large cold brew and I am 32,000 feet in the air with no Wi-Fi for the next few hours, caffeine flowing through my veins. The jury is still out on if I will even publish this.
Giving up. It is always an option. I had to give up on my restaurant job. I had to give up on a city I loved. I have given up a lot in life. And it is not always a bad thing. It is vital to know your limits, and to know when to walk away. And I think all creators and those who push for building their own work feel like I felt at some point. A point where doubt, anxiety and imposter syndrome perfectly align to deal a blow to the wavering confidence you have.
My advice from this experience for when you want to give up is simple. Take a break. Take time and act as if you had given up. Note how you feel. Note the positives and negatives that enter your life when you have detached from said journey for a bit of time. The goal is not to just push through, but rather to have the time to notice what is best for you.
I could have just pushed through like everything else in my life. I could have gotten to an exhausted point to where I hated the work I was doing and had no other choice but to give up. It is pushing through that can lead to that unhappiness if not done correctly. So, take that time when needed.
At the end of the day I allowed myself reflection. And upon that reflection I realized this work is my life’s work. It is my meaning, my passion and the one thing in life I can build. The one thing I have say over and the one thing I can truly put my creativity into 100% without anyone else telling me how or why or no. And it is a beautiful part of my life.
It takes a lot of time. It costs some money. It definitely keeps me away from other aspects of life. But it is what I know I am meant to do. We cannot fool ourselves that the work we love will always be seen with rose colored glasses. Sometimes we will hate the work we love. It will suck. Resistance will want to keep us from that work. And that’s ok. Flow with it, be aware of it, reflect and then act accordingly.
I hope every single person in this community has that opportunity. To do their meaningful work. It is why I started this brand. I truly believe everyone in food has meaning and is more than the plate they put in the pass.
Have the confidence you deserve and do what’s best for you. Your work matters. People want to see it. No, people do not want to just see it. They aren't even aware they need it yet. So stay focused and remember that giving up is not a failure, but a door to something new. Or it can be a re-awakening. But either way there is no good or bad in your creative decision. Make the decision and go with it.