How Avocados Changed My Life and Other Work-Life Bullshit

avocados changed my life - lessons from a redheadGrowing up in Texas, my Thanksgiving dinners were turkey and Christmas: fajitas. Occasionally brisket, but for the better part of my formative years, “Can y’all pass the tortillas?” was much more common a request than asking for the gravy.

Which meant there was guacamole on the table.

For a kid with an imagination, it reminded me of something off that stupid You Can’t Do That on Television show, where some girl named Moose was always getting slimed. I also imagined it was brains, guts or pistachio pudding. (Note: after a pistachio pudding OD incident, I shunned the speckly dessert with fervor). It was evil incarnate in a white Corningware bowl. I’d never tasted it. Never wanted to. And frankly, I’d rather do math than eat it.

I spent thirty some-odd years thinking the worst of avocados, wondering how they kept finding their way into my sushi (slices which I poked-out with a chopstick), why people would purposely order a sandwich with Green Evil on it and passing over menu items left and right that noted the evil in the list of scrumptious ingredients. I would even make guacamole for parties, yet never ate it.

And then I finally tried it. Age 36. It began with a chip, a dip

And OMFG.

My life changed. This morning’s breakfast? Homemade chilaquiles with uncured turkey bacon and avocado sliced on top.

How often do preconceived notions color – or taint – our journeys? I have no idea what prompted my chip-in-Green-Evil incident, but if I hadn’t put aside my preconceived notions, I’d be missing out on killer fish tacos, unbeatable nutritional benefits and the incomparable yet silly joy I feel when I score an avocado perfectly and the pieces pop out with a perfect plop into a bowl.

It’s the joy I’m after. Avocados, while not life-changing in and of themselves, changed my life. By opening myself up to some freaky, squishy, fatty fruit, subsequent doors have opened and damn, am I glad.

When one door closes, another one opens. While we’re occasionally stuck in the hallway (written May 2006), I’ve become more a fan of thinking that when one door opens, you walk into another room filled with doors. The ones you open from there are your choosing.

Preconceived notions keep us from opening doors. So does fear.

I’m asked more frequently than not how long I’ve been writing. The answer? As long as I can remember. I recall a day in some English class or another when I wrote a story about a dick of a businessman and after I read it out loud, Diane Blair yelled, “I want to date that guy!” A character brought to life before I’d lost my virginity, yet it took until age 34 for me to say:

THIS. I want THIS and I’m going to do THIS.

I was supposed to work in an office and have two weeks of vacation, medical and manage other companies’ sales operations. I was supposed to live in California, Nevada, Virginia, Tennessee. I was supposed to like being a part of the Navy Wives’ Club (and if you though Desperate Housewives was ruthless, this trumps any socioeconomic politics out there).

I don’t know who told me I should do (or even want) any of those things.

Shedding preconceived notions and taking a walk on the wild side – so close to the edge of the cliff that you’re scared shitless of the fall yet far enough away that you know you’re not going anywhere…

for me, that’s living.

My work-life balance isn’t unlike my avocado journey: a tall glass of “Really? What the hell – it can’t hurt” and embracing whatever follows. I mean, shit – I found out that I like avocados. Here are some other things I’ve discovered that I like:

  • Crab-stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon
  • Cross country skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Ice climbing
  • Mountaineering
  • Cycling, cycling, cycling
  • Teaching (who the hell thought I’d ever become a teacher of sorts?)
  • Loose leaf tea (its developed into a bit of an obsession, I must admit)
  • Writing flash fiction while sitting at cafes, airports and anywhere I can watch people
  • Traveling (this, coming from a woman who never took a vacation other than to Florida until she was 28-years-old)
  • Art (another borderline obsession)
  • Historical fiction from the Elizabethan and Tudor periods of English history
  • Gadgets and analytics (I am a geek for this… I suckle at technology’s breast)

As I’ve been writing today’s post, I sat here and wondered how I’d describe myself as a kid growing up.  I always played sports (volleyball, mostly. And bowling. Shut up.). I loved history and won tons of history fairs. Speech, theatre and debate were tops. I hated being told what to do and where to be and cleaning my room was Teh Suck. I absofuckinglutely loved essay questions on tests.

And somehow, I chose an early adult life that included none of these things.

I don’t pretend that my journey is special – I could fill up a basket with people who each have had their avocado moments and said fuck it – THIS is what I want to do.

Life catches us. It’s the reality of the Personal Legend. If you’ve never read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, pop it in your Kindle and report back. When you set out to follow your dreams – and if those dreams are truly yours and your purpose – life has a way of making sure we achieve them.

I was meant to love avocados. Each day brings me closer to my Personal Legend and further away from Preconceived Notions. It’s bliss, I tell ya. I get all teary-eyed and kumbayahfuckinghugme just knowing that I’m lucky enough to live this path. There is not work-life balance: there is only life and it’s best thought of as a bouquet. What you put together makes it work and when you do it right, no one passing by can do anything but stop and gaze at the beauty you’ve created. They want to be near it.

And when you try to cram any ol’ bunch of crap into it, it’s a mess. It’s out of sync. There’s no harmony. You won’t throw it away because you need something in the middle of the table. But what you won’t admit is that you don’t need that. And so by not throwing it away, you’re taking up space that could be occupied by something lovely. Inspiring. Awe-inspiring.

What’s your avocado?

19 comments
The Redhead
The Redhead

Well, damn, Courtney. Thanks :) (blushing)

CortneyJacobs
CortneyJacobs

Seriously. Fucking. Adore you. I know it's getting creepy but with the exception of the crab and bacon, you are the perfectly segmented plop to my avocado. I want to move into your rental property and learn how to wax cars, paint fences, prune teensy trees, and catch flies with chopsticks from you. I want to argue about how none of it has any bearing whatsoever on writing and SEO and owning your inner girl and then have you hurl words and phrases and gadgets and stilettos at me as you scream out "wax the car!" "paint the fence!" "prune the bush!" and marvel at my new found samurai-like skills in all of areas in which YOU, yourself are fabulous. (then I want to do it all again in a foreign country where I meet a sexy local and spar to the death with the town-asshat while you make distracting noises with strange little...OK, the KK metaphor just played itself out. You get the picture.)

Ike Pigott
Ike Pigott

My avocado is the tomato.And I will be just fine without it. ;)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Welcome! I simply can't wait for my trip and thanks for checking me out!

Ashley
Ashley

Ha! At age 28, seeing caviar in somebody's shopping basket at the grocery, then looking sadly into my own containing canned tuna and ramen. The light went off.(Followed your link from Far&Away Cycling's page; I've been bugging my hubby for Tour d'Indochine for Christmas- have a fabulous trip!)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Dear Shelly - I love you, too. I told you I was going to install an additional Twitter widget. But the "t" icon is in the Sexy Bookmarks at the end of the post - last in the row :) #loveyoutoo #madly

Lindsayfultz
Lindsayfultz

Huge f*cking fan of your writing and style! Not only do I love how you intertwine stories about avocado moments into "aha" moments but I also love the fact you curse. Keep it up sexy b*tch!

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

Dear Erika,Twitter share is missing from your SexyBookmarks. I know, because I've now looked for it twice there. AND your url is so long that TweetDeck will not shorten it for me. I KNOW that your content gets shared. But sometimes, this older than you friend, has some words of advice that you should listen to. Because you love me. And I know shit. And I do not have time to go and sorten the damn link on bit.ly so that I can tweet your greatness. BUT, because I love you, I will do it anyway. Your NEW readers, which you like and want, may not be so gracious. #thatisall #Iloveyou #madly

The Redhead
The Redhead

Sylvia - way to connect with a PERSON instead of an age. There's something to be said for the younger soul's ability to reawaken an older one that's forgotten how much fun it is to be young, no?Life's too short to eat eggs every day, too :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

You, Jamie, are fabulous. I'm sooo going to go bite life in the ass today :)

Sylvia
Sylvia

Hi Erika, so glad you decided to try avocados and therefore something new to you. And even better that it paid off!Trying something new, taking a leap into the unknown, is something I did recently and it is the reason I am now having a thing going with a guy almost twenty years younger than myself. (I'm in my fifties). I was positive that at my age I was done with personal relationships for good. But then something happened that caused me to reconsider my decision. I closed my eyes, held my breath and jumped. And here we are. I believe it's done wonders for me.Okay, back to avocados. Try this: fry a flour tortilla in enough fat to get it nice and brown and crispy. Drain well on papertowels or newspaper. Top with shredded cheddar, chopped green chile (canned is all right if that's all you have), and a bit of chopped onion. Heat in a broiler or microwave until the cheese is melted. Top with guacamole and tiny dollops of sour cream.Enjoy! BTW, you're not the only one having strange things for breakfast. I've had many a breakfast of chips and homemade salsa. Truly amazing with hot, strong, sweetened coffee.

jamiek8
jamiek8

"taking a walk on the wild side – so close to the edge of the cliff that you’re scared shitless of the fall" well done to grasp that concept at such a young age. I'm 63 now with the motto "if you're not living on the edge, you're taking too much space." One of the big bonuses of getting old - and yes, I'm loving it - is that I really don't give a shit about all the external stuff. I'm a cancer survivor too and fearless because of it. Really a blessing because I walked the planet for too many decades in fear of something or other. But since the cancer didn't kill me, I'm invincible. Still working as a web developer, I never know where the next buck comes from; I can get as close to the wall as humanly possible, and the phone always rings. So if you "Bite your teeth into the ass of life!", joy cascades continually like manna from heaven. Love your blog and your terrific attitude.

8Deb8
8Deb8

Love, Love, Love THE ALCHEMIST...

The Redhead
The Redhead

Well, it's apparently ONE other life at this point! I'm a huge fan of the come-to-Jesus moments in life :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Another life changed by guac? I'm speechless :)

Amber Garner
Amber Garner

I have actually had this exact moment with the exact same nasty looking dip - I avoided guacamole up until last year because it just looked like mashed peas or something, and then at a football tailgate, I had my epiphany. There's some cheesy cliched quote about how the things we're afraid of are the most worthwhile or something and while guac may be a tiny tiny example of that I definitely see how growing a pair and trying something before you knock it is a good habit to keep.

P.S. Jones
P.S. Jones

Just like so many other people who will read your post, I totally agree. We all have a "come to Jesus" moment at some point where we realize that it doesn't have to be the way we thought it always had to be. Now how many of those had to do with avacados? That I can't say.