Healthy and Sane

Embracing discomfort and The Kitchen Daughter ribollita soup

December 16th, 2011 · 32 Comments · soups

Today is the end of week 6 since I left my full time job and I’m starting to get a little anxious. I’m starting to feel a little aimless. I feel like I should have a better structured day by now. I should be able to blog 3 times a week without a problem (believe me, I have a super long list of blog post ideas I want to share!). I should be a better cook, have a cleaner home, have a fitter body, have a handle on my inbox, have a plan for life. Should, should, should… but I don’t. Makes me want to scream (and cry) a little. Instead I’m going to embrace this discomfort and learn from it.

On January 3, 2011 I came home after work balling my eyes out. I remember this date because it was the first work day of 2011 and I woke up that morning giving myself a little pep talk about how productive I was going to be. How this year I was going to be on top of everything. I was not going to get emotional – I was going to get my work done efficiently so I could keep getting better at what I did. So I could keep growing professionally and continue climbing the corporate ladder like I knew I could. Instead, about 2 hours into the day I realized that while I had a long list of things to do, I had zero motivation to get any of them done (I would eventually… I always did!). I watched the clock all day, trying to get some things done. Waiting for a reasonable hour to strike the clock so I could finally leave. I came home crying not because my boss was mean to me (my boss was the nicest guy ever!), not because I was unhappy with the pay, but because sitting at my desk, feeling like every fiber in my body was rejecting this, felt like torture. I wanted out. But first I needed a plan.

Here is where it gets sort of tough. You often hear people say to “Follow your dream!” but for that – you first need a dream. And so I desperately started searching for it. I like fitness; I like food; I care about the environment, about organic produce and humanely raised animals. I like helping people. Where does it get me? I don’t want to be a chef, what can I do with fitness… and how the hell can I help people and still make money? Can my skills in finance be used? I read a million articles on food careers; I talked to gyms about personal training (and realized that I hate the sales part of it!), I started blogging more hoping that would open doors for me… but I didn’t know how it would. Work got busier and busier. I was getting so burnt out and uninspired that by the time I got home all I wanted to do was plop myself on the couch and eat. I was going at 100 miles an hour and yet I was no closer to finding my dream. I was sad and fat and… still dreamless.

So I decided that I needed to quit my job first. I needed to let myself get bored. I figured that if I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted, I would figure out what “whatever” actually was. The thing is – sitting here right now I’m realizing that I didn’t really follow through with my plan. I didn’t give myself permission to really do whatever. I filled my to-do list with new things I should be doing. I created a new cycle of “I have a million things to do – I’m too tired – I don’t want/don’t have time to finish them all – I feel guilty – I’m eating – I still have a million things to do”. So here I am 6 weeks later, still aimless.

So here is the “new” plan – I’m going to embrace the discomfort and use it as my guide. This morning I started writing a completely different post… that just didn’t feel right. I kept trying to force myself to write but it wasn’t working (and I refuse to publish a post that doesn’t feel right to me).

Here is what discomfort told me: I’m not a natural writer (already knew that!) so whatever my future is, writing should not be at the center of it. Working with Cooking Matters has seriously been the highlight of the last 6 weeks. I loved how active it was. Honestly I loved being away from my computer and actually interacting with people, helping them in such concrete ways. I still don’t have a plan but maybe it will become more evident through the process of elimination Smile

To tune in, I’m officially giving myself permission to slow down. To throw away the list of “shoulds” and fill it with “wants.” This instantly reminded me of the book The Kitchen Daughter.


I read it during the New Orleans trip and loved how the main character – Ginny – had this real connection to food. How present she was during the making of each dish. How romantic it made the whole process of slowing down and cooking. I wanted to spend days getting lost in my thoughts (dream revealing thoughts?) while stirring a big pot of soup. It was only appropriate to start with Ginny’s ribollita soup (Tuscan bread soup) and share it with my family.

ribollita soup

It didn’t take hours but it sure was comforting. It was simple yet flavorful, fresh and so homey. My dad said it was something he could see on a Sweet Basil menu (<– my family’s favorite restaurant serving incredible Italian comfort food). I need to find another soup to stir!!

ribollita soup

Ribollita soup (serves 4-6) – recipe based on Ginna’s ribollita soup from The Kitchen Daughter

  • 14oz can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of kale, thick stems removed, leaves cut in ribbons
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano to taste
  • 1/2 loaf of rustic bread, cut in 1” cubes
  • olive oil
  • shredded parmesan cheese for serving


  • In a medium pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté minced garlic until golden (not brown).
  • Add chicken broth, a few shakes of dried oregano, salt, pepper, beans, tomatoes (with juices) and kale. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until the flavors meld (I probably had my pot for an hour, while making the rest of the dinner). Adjust seasonings prior to serving.
  • In the meantime, sauté bread cubes in olive oil. I had a fresh loaf of bread and enjoyed how it soaked up some oil and remained soft on the inside with a bit of a crust on the outside. You can also toast the bread cubes with a bit of olive oil if you want crunchy croutons.
  • Serve the soup with croutons and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Did you ever have to work at finding a dream? What’s your favorite way to distress to reflect?

Do you have any favorite soup recipes?

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32 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Cara

    I’m sorry that things haven’t taken quite the up-and-running start you hoped for. You’ll get there – we both will!

  • #2 - Michelle

    I totally understand the roller coaster of emotions you will feel during this process. I’m here if you ever need a shoulder to lean on or a listening ear!

  • #3 - Julie (A Case of the Runs)

    Heh, I love that you posted a recipe inspired by a book!

    As a corporate worker, I know the feeling of dread and such. I think I put it in my mind a long time ago that perhaps not all of us have a true “dream,” and that some of us kind of just have to satisfice with a job that won’t send us to the therapist. Maybe you’re one of those people who DO have a “dream,” which is great, but I don’t think I am.

    I love health and fitness and writing, but at the moment, I have not found a way to do those things and still make decent money. Yes, money is not everything, but lacking it is pretty stressful in itself when you don’t have people to support you or you need to support others. Plus, I really am not sure that doing what I “love” would really fulfill me any differently than my current job — I’m pretty proud that I have the skills that I do that are outside of those things (finance not being one of those skills, boo!).

    At any rate, I hope your end-result from this discomfort is something that you can be proud of. I know your last job was very demanding, so at the very least, this is a good break for you.

  • #4 - Hallie

    You can help people and use your finance background if you work in a finance department of a nonprofit that you feel passionate about. I’m sure you’ve thought of that, and it’d be another desk job and the pay is usually crap, but I wanted to throw in my two cents. I still don’t 100% know what I want to be “when I grow up,” and that’s pretty scary sometimes.

  • #6 - Katie

    As someone who took ‘the plunge’ I can say it’s not all champagne and roses on this side either. Going back to school has been twice as hard as my job ever was but the difference is I’m twice as happy (most of the time!) It might not have come to you right away (I’m almost 3 years out of finance and 3/4 through a masters and not 100 percent sure!) But eventually you’ll find what part of your day actually makes you happy – the part you look forward to. And then – you just know: that’s what I was meant to do. That doesn’t by any means mean that the road will be easy from there, or that you’ll make a fortune doing it, but you can be successful. It just depends on how you define success. Good luck – you’ll get there!

  • #7 - Lauren at Keep It Sweet

    OMG, I feel like I could have written half of this post myself. I am using the remainder of my vacation time (the last 3 weeks of the year) to basically figure out what to do with myself. One week down and I can already see how fast time flies! First of all, trying to “work from home” has its own challenges because there is an unintentional pressure to clean the apartment/do laundry/cook dinner or whatever people who actually don’t have jobs would usually do. Trying to be productive on top of that is not easy. I’ve been getting some work done at Starbucks, but how long can I really sit there? And by the time the afternoon rolls around I’m always exhausted.

    Anyway, just really trying to say that you are not alone and I can completely relate to so much of what you said!

  • #8 - Beth

    I love this post. Thank you for your honesty. Isn’t it funny how we don’t always know what we want to be “when we grow up?” I hope you’re able to learn something in the discomfort, and I’m sending happy thoughts your way for when times are tough. I loved “The Kitchen Daughter” as well, and loved ribollita soup even before reading it. That soup looks absolutely delicious. I have a number of favorite soup recipes, though this Green Ginger soup from “Love Soup” via 101 cookbooks is one of my favorites Although the vegetarian French onion soup I just made is probably a pretty close second. I guess I’ll just eat the healthy green soup to make up for all the cheese in the French onion soup :)

    • #9 - Elina

      Yup, I mentioned to someone the other day that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and they asked me if I considered going to college. lol
      Thanks for the soup suggestion. Looks very healthy indeed :)

  • #10 - Meghan@travelwinedine

    I have no doubt you will find your way, or craft something that is perfect just for you. It was great to chat yesterday, and I really hope that you can just be for a little bit. Easier said than done!
    I loved The Kitchen Daughter. Someone borrowed my copy, and I don’t remember who it was!

  • #11 - Dana

    I chase my dreams every day, it may not be a big chase every day, but I try to keep mindful of pursuing them. You’ll find your way.

  • #13 - MelissaNibbles

    That book sounds like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the suggestion.

    I’m sure you’ll find your way once you stop putting so much pressure on yourself. You aren’t going to wake up and just know. You have to try a few things, see if you like them and find a way to make a career out of the things you enjoy. Take your time because if you rush into a decision, you’ll regret it. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Take time to just enjoy life! God, that sounds cheesy.

  • #14 - Emily @ A Cambridge Story

    This soup sounds great and I love the story behind its making. I’m sorry to hear that these weeks have been difficult. I have a sneaking suspicion that most everyone is still trying to figure out what their dream is! You’re not alone.

  • #15 - Amanda

    I can relate to almost everything you wrote in this post. I know you said you’re not a natural writer, but I think this is so beautifully written.

    Having left my full-time job about a month and a half ago, I know that sort of aimless feeling. For me, I have to remind myself of how fortunate I am to have this time to just do the things I enjoy – whether that’s blogging, volunteering, or going to the gym. I think when you take the pressure off of yourself to find “it”, it can be easier to simply enjoy the present. I’ve started viewing the things I enjoy as doorways to other bigger things down the road. I have no idea what that will entail, but I’m trying to be open and content with where I am now.

    I think the process is personal, but just know that so many people can relate to what you’re going through. Thank you for sharing it with us. :)

  • #16 - Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic

    I really appreciate what you shared in this post, and I wish you good luck in “embracing discomfort”! I remember your great reviews about the book The Kitchen Daughter and I still have to pick up a copy, but I’m glad you shared one of the recipes! Enjoy the holiday season, Elina!

  • #17 - Pete

    I just saw this video and it seems appropriate to this post. It’s a little lengthy but definitely interesting and worth the watch.

    • #18 - Elina

      Pete, I loved the video and totally agree with everything in it!! Thanks for sharing the link :)

  • #19 - Amy

    What a wonderful and heartfelt post. I have to say this really hit home for me. You are not alone in going through this sort of thing and thanks for putting it out there! I am in a very similar boat and I know EXACTLY what you mean when you say you’ve managed to fill up your time to a point where there’s too much to do- I do/am doing the exact same thing.

    It takes a lot of courage to give yourself that permission to slow down and I know that you’ll find what truly makes you happy. Being present and embracing all the aspects of this experience will allow you to do so!

    Keep us posted on your journey, it’s truly inspiring. Have a wonderful holiday!

  • #20 - Elina

    Thank you all for truly amazing comments. You are the best!! :)

  • #21 - Lena H.

    Believe me when I say I really do know how you feel — and heading into the holidays is usually when it’s the easiest to distract myself but with this being the first holiday since I left my position, all I would be doing is distracting myself from figuring out what my next step should be. And that is SO scary. So I really do get it.

    There is one thing to remember — it took so much courage for you to reflect on what you really valued and wanted and making the decision to jump so far out of your comfort zone is something that you need to be so proud of right now. You are setting yourself up for something great, you have to know that and trust in that.

    I can’t wait to see what comes next for you! And I’m really going to have to read that book :)

  • #22 - Victoria

    At age forty-nine, I have finally allowed myself to follow my dreams regardless of the outcome. The many, many things in my life have always been done with an eye on “success”. I truly believe this blocked me from actually achieving it. Of course, my idea of success has changed. I’m working on my yoga instructor certification and volunteering at a woman’s shelter. BTW-Not long ago, I came to the same conclusion about writing. It was hard to let that dream go. Now, I view it as a compliment to my life, not the main dish.

    You have a new follower. I loved this blog post, and am now zipping off to Amazon to buy, “The Kitchen Daughter”.

    • #23 - Elina

      A compliment to my life, not the main dish… what a fantastic way to look at it! I’m going to borrow this one :) So glad you found your calling in yoga! 😀

  • #24 - Mellissa

    I think it is really hard to know what you want to do with the rest of your life. I figured out that I need to have a corporate life and a home life filled with fitness, food, travel and wine. I don’t know where it will take me but right now I just love having those things in my life.

    • #25 - Elina

      Yup, I think it’s fantastic that you are happy with this balance. Filling our life with things that make us happy is all we need really! :)

  • #26 - Daisy

    things never seem to go as planned, or as we think they will! embracing the discomfort makes a lot of sense. you will find what that dream is meant to be!!

  • #27 - Kerstin

    The hardest part is figuring out what you want – you can’t go after it if you don’t know! I know you’ll get everything worked out and enjoy the journey getting there :)

  • #28 - Kelly

    I think career counselors and career books often VASTLY oversimplify things. Yes, finding something you’re passionate about is good, but even that is only the first step. I know a few years ago I thought I wanted out of my profession and wanted to do something drastic. Like you, food was the immediate focus. I thought I wanted to be a chef or a food writer but I realized when I started researching that I really wasn’t in a place where I wanted to start completely over and both career paths had limitations that didn’t really work with my lifestyle (like drastically reduced pay or working on weekends).

    I really do believe that figuring out your career is a constantly evolving thing and that figuring out what you don’t want to do can be just as powerful as figuring out what you do want to do. I also think it helps to think of it as being one of many things that add up to satisfaction in life, not the only one. And that it’s worthwhile to think about what really makes you happy not what you think should make you happy.

  • #29 - lauren

    You’re definitely on a journey, and while you might not know were you are going – as long as you keep going forward, that’s what matters.
    I think we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “get it together” and in doing that, life gets so hard. Life doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it. I make myself so anxious sometimes, needlessly, and I like the idea of embracing the discomfort. Easier said than done, but something to think about!

  • #30 - Kim @ Imperfectly Perfect

    I completely understand where you’re coming from. I sit at work everyday knowing that this isn’t my passion. I have a strong work ethic and am very dependable, but my heart isn’t here. Sometimes, I feel like I’m being a child, because I’m not doing something that I’d rather be doing. Sometimes I feel like maybe if I get rid of my dreams going to work will be less depressing, but I never want to give up on myself. Like you, I’m drawn to aspects of fitness and food. I’m trying to decide where I can go with it all, but there hasn’t been an exact lightbulb moment just yet. I think that I’m scared to take the plunge, because of finances/health insurance. I’ve thought about getting a part time job so that I can pursue my passions and figure it all out. So proud of you! I know that everything will come together for you.

  • #31 - I got it! | Healthy and Sane

    […] got it! SO, you know that post that I wrote less than a week ago? This is crazy ironic but literally just a few hours later, ideas […]

  • #32 - Jimmy C

    Merry Christmas