All I ever wanted was to work at Bon Appétit.
It’s why, after earning my bachelor’s degree, I enrolled in culinary school. Why I worked as a line cook. Why I moved to a city that didn’t speak to my heart. All this just to get a shot at earning a spot on the magazine’s masthead.
Spoiler alert: I got the job. And in August, I walked away from it with no regrets.
After a stint in 2012 through 2013 working as a farmhand and cook in Central New York, I sold my car, traded in my overalls for pencil skirts, and made my way to NYC. I knew that to make it—to really make it—as a food writer at the national level, I had to live in the epicenter of the industry.
Besides, Bon App’s offices were located in Manhattan.
Bright-eyed and hungry, I found an apartment, settled into an interim editing job for a lifestyle website, and began strategizing. And praying.
I prayed a lot.
It was not all for naught—in early 2014, the position of staff writer for BA became available. I fired off my resume along with an eager (but not too eager, I hoped) cover letter, and prayed some more.
I got the call. I nailed the interview. I nailed the follow-up interview. And the one after that. And then, two weeks after it all started, I got another call: I got the job.
Now I don’t want to toot my own horn but then again, if you don’t toot yours, who will?
I crushed it.
For the next two and a half years, I rocked that job. I was promoted to associate editor, and then to senior associate editor.
Then I was given the keys to BA’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, creating the role of social media manager for the brand. I worked hard and worked long. There wasn’t a night or weekend I didn’t spend hunched over my phone, obsessively monitoring clicks and comments from BA’s readers.
The job was my entire world, which was fitting, because—quite frankly—I didn’t have a life.
It’s not that I didn’t want to nurture friendships, try new activities, or open myself up to the potential of a romantic partner. It’s just that, for two and a half years, while I was working my dream job, I was too depressed to make the effort for a life outside of it.
I have never jived with large cities, but something about New York and me felt deeply, intrinsically rotten. For two and a half years, my spirit was slowly crushed under concrete and broken subways and expensive rent.
For the first two, I didn’t notice. I knew something felt off, but I never stopped working—never came up for air—long enough to be introspective and seek the answer as to why I felt so damn sad and hopeless all the time.
It took a birthday to force my attention to the matter. As I turned 29 (I know, I know—not exactly knocking down the door of the independent living home. But not the spry young co-ed I once was, either), it hit me like a ton of bricks: I was alone, I was unhappy, and beyond a job that impressed strangers on the internet, I didn’t have much.
I wish I could tell you that once that thought crept in, I lit a stick of incense, sat cross-legged next to a candle, and meditated on my unhappiness. That would be nice, but it’d also be a lie. I didn’t meditate on shit; I just understood. I acknowledged, deep in my gut, and with every beat of my heart, what I had known all along: This job was never sustainable, because living in New York was not. It was time to go.
The above allusion to gut and heart are not by accident. We do have the answers to the dilemmas we face.
Meditation is nice, but it’s in listening to my physical body that I find every answer I’ve ever sought. I often place a hand over my heart or on my belly to monitor how my nervous, respiratory, and digestive systems are responding to their surroundings. Try it and you’ll see: When you’re calm and content, placing that hand on your skin feels like being enveloped in a warm hug. But perform the same action in a stressful situation, and you can immediately tell that things aren’t right. Your heartbeat is irregular. Your eyes dart. Your stomach clenches. Your muscles tighten.
To understand what was happening in my soul, I had to listen to my body. Friends have asked if I found it difficult to leave my dream job. From where I stand today, in the middle of my dream life, with my hand on my heart and a grin on my face, I can say with complete honesty: It was the easiest thing I have ever done.
About he Author: Rochelle Bilow
Rochelle Bilow is a writer, yogi, and spiritual seeker based in Syracuse, New York. After leaving her job at Bon Appétit magazine, she moved back to her hometown where she works as the social media at an advertising agency. She is also the author of the romance memoir, The Call of the Farm; connect with Rochelle on Twitter and Instagram at @RochelleBilow