Cooking Up Hope

I am writing this during the last weekend of my spring break, a break which was anything but spring-like. I had two days of decent temperatures, and the rest was overcome with a cold front of polar conditions. While I was productive for most of it, writing two full research papers, my productivity at this point has been waning some.

In my short time affording myself strictly relaxation and “vegging out,” I decided to catch up on a guilty pleasure of mine: Masterchef. In particular, the newest season of Masterchef Junior. And let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions I made today.

In a time when I had been hitting a real low point, especially looking outside, in the first minutes of deciding to watch this show, my mood immediately lifted. So much that all I want to do is ramble and gush about it.

Simply put, this show restores my faith in humanity. Not that I ever lost it or doubted my belief that mankind is innately good at heart, this is a pure example of it. Young people who are so talented, it blows my mind. People so full of optimism and hope, in their abilities and their futures, no matter your age, it is inspiring.

And the judges? Gordon Ramsey? When we all know him for yelling and criticizing every plate he sees, this man is an angel. I smile so hard seeing how he crouches down to have really intimate connections with these kids. What we portray as a cold, indifferent person is a real softy. All I want to do is give him a hug.

Compared to the normal adult version of the show, one I also enjoy, I appreciate how the judges always end on such a positive note. Because hello, these are very young people already with skills at a professional caliber. Just from learning to cook and bake from their homes, they already have extensive culinary instincts and knowledge. Just for that, they are already impressive. But these judges constantly remind the contestants to believe in themselves and how proud they are of them. When you are dealing with impressionable young people, the way they interact with them is so important. It’s how we should not only be talking to young people in general, but to ourselves, no matter our age.

In a time of transition coming, a time for decisions and trying to figure out what direction I want to take in the future, there is one thing I know for certain: I want to do something that provokes that same love and happiness that cooking does for these kiddos. They smile from ear to ear. Even between the ages of 9-13, they already have such powerful, strong goals and values.

Perhaps you might call it a product of childhood itself, to not be corrupted by the darkness society brings. But that inner child-like wonder is always within all of us. Finding that as an adult is probably the best accomplishment there is. To see the world with a fresh outlook, to see every day as opportunity to do what we love, to be optimistic about the present and future.

You might also say, they are young. They have so much time ahead of them to hold that optimism, to make their dreams a reality. But really, how much time do any of us have? Each day is a gift. We are not promised a tomorrow. Life is so precious, why can we not find that hope of what life holds for us at any age? Why does that kind of mentality seem so silly and unrealistic to us?

There is always a time to be an adult. To face hardship, experience obstacles, juggle multiple responsibilities, make hard decisions. But there is also time to unapologetically devote time toward our passions. A time for laughter and silliness. A time to just look outside and be in awe. A time for curiosity and seeking out what makes us joyful and excited.

And kids face so much hardship, too. I cannot even imagine the strength of some young people to be able to face tragedy and poverty and still find that optimism within themselves. It’s beautiful. What might leave some of us bitter is but a short setback for a child.

When I say that my ultimate goal is happiness, helping others and making a difference, I also mean that my goal is to find the best of those two worlds, the reality that I have to take classes, apply for summer internships, take medications every day to feel somewhat sane; and the pure spirit of spending my time exactly how I please and not regretting for a moment that I’m not off doing something else, something maybe more “successful” in society’s eyes, something that looks more practical on a resume but doesn’t begin to appease my childhood wonder.

Also, when we think of ourselves and recognize that random stream of consciousness always talking in our heads, let us think: would we say that to our younger self? Are we uplifting that child? Are we supported his or her hopes and aspirations? Are we making them proud? Whether it’s on TV or within ourselves, I believe we can always rejuvenate that pure human spirit and see it not as an impractical fantasy, but a gift.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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