Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Risk Aversion: Tomato Soup Extremadura

If you had the chance to do things over, professionally speaking, would you do it?

Imagine that your work situation (this is really more for people who work outside the home, but play along with me if you can) has become untenable.  Toxic.  That you wake up in the morning and know that if you go to work, you will lose your integrity, your dignity.  Imagine that you have the freedom to leave that situation and start over.  What do you do?

Do you leave, and apply for jobs in your previous field: the presumably safe(r)* bet?  (*obviously not exactly safe given the current economy)

Do you leave, and start something entirely new?  Would you strike out on your own, knowing that you have to help provide for a family, even if you can afford to spend a year in professional limbo?  Do you trust that things will just work themselves out?

Do you stay in the untenable situation, and make the best of it?

My father left Spain at the tender age of ten, and went to a Catholic boarding school in France.  He became a Jesuit brother, and was sent to Cuba, where he taught for years before becoming a principal at his school.  He left one night, diamonds hidden in the handle of his suitcase, after a firing squad had been picking off students and teachers one by one, and stopped for the day just as he was next in line.  He escaped to Miami, where he taught again, then to Bayonne, where he met my mother on a trip to Spain he was running for students and teachers.  He left religious life to marry my mother, saying, on the way back from a first date at the beach, "I think we should get married."

It amazes me to think about the things my father did.  I wonder if he was just more willing to take risks, or if life circumstances conspired to change things for him, or if he was simply just able to trust that things would work out because of his own clarity about what he wanted from life.  Either way, those decisions--because they *were* decisions, even if they were made under difficult circumstances--make me look completely risk-averse in comparison.

Then again, at that time, he didn't have a family to worry about, or a mortgage, or any of the things that tie so many of us down: the things that make us grateful, but also perhaps a little more cautious.

I'm curious: what would you do over, given the chance (limited to things over which you have control)?  *Amended later: what would you do if you had to start over from where you are right now?  Would you opt for a risky, untried path or less-risky path?

This soup is definitely not a risky one.  It's plain, belly-warming food, the sort of thing that fortifies you for the journey ahead.  Because it's not always easy to try something new.

Sopa de Tomate Extreme├▒a
(Tomato Bread Soup, Extamadura Style)

2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1/2 celery stalk, thinly sliced
3 tomatoes
3 c. stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
salt and pepper
1 c. 1/2 inch cubes day-old bread

Heat oil and slowly cook onion and celery over medium-low heat until very tender but not brown.  Puree two of the tomatoes and stir them into the onions.  Cook quickly over medium-high head until the tomatoes form a paste.

Pour in the stock and add bay leaf, cloves, salt, and pepper to taste.  Cook over low head for 30 minutes, partially covered.

Peel, seed, and cube the remaining tomato (I did this by cutting a small x into the bottom of the tomato and submerging it in the hot soup for a few seconds until the skin began to come apart).  Add to the soup just before serving and heat through.  Stir in the bread cubes and serve.
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  1. Wow. Your dad led quite a life. It seems that the older I get, the more difficult risk is for me. My dh is even more risk-averse than I am so we are unlikely to do anything crazy soon. It makes me really admire those people who have the ability to embrace it.

  2. I worked with a man who had been a priest for about 20 years. He met his wife and he left the priesthood and never looked back. I always thought that must take huge cajones. I guess if a big enough opportunity presents itself you have to have the courage to take the leap. But...the more you have, the more you have to lose.

  3. I would buy a house in Dublin (my hometown) when I started working, as my Dad suggested I should. At the time I thought, "But I might travel, I might move overseas, and anyway, house prices are crazy, they have to come down first." Of course, then house prices got really really crazy, and only the people my age who got in when they did, early (I was in my early/mid-twenties at that point) have a leg to stand on property-wise these days.

    Apart from that, I'm happy to have few regrets. The fact that I left a career and moved across the ocean to be with the guy I loved might sound like it was a risk, but in fact it was the only thing there was to do. Maybe your Dad's decisions felt like that at the time too.

    1. Funny ... that's sort of what my blogging friend Mel said, too. :) (Not the Dublin part, but the part about risky decisions seeming like the only real option.)

  4. I'm not sure what choices I would have made differently but I wished I had planned for more contingencies. I wish I had thought about whether the money I would be making in my profession could support a family instead of just assuming I'd marry someone who made enough for both of us. I wish I had listened to my mother, who told me teachers don't get paid enough, and it's hard and exhausting and thankless and you'll want to get out but be stuck. I wish I had saved more money, god do I ever wish that. I wish I had thought more about money and my future and what I wanted and how devastating it would be not to be able to get it. I wish a lot of things for the past but unfortunately all I can do it look towards the future. And now I have a lot fewer choices.

    1. I think my question was badly worded, because I was hoping it would get people (myself included) to dream. If you had to start over from today, if where you were was no longer an option, what would you do? Say you got fired today. What would you do?

      I'm sorry it depressed you ... there's lots of should have beens, but I think the same thing ... we can only look forward. So given that, where do we -- both you AND I -- go from here?

  5. My Hubby's Dad was going to be a priest until he met his wife. I thank God he left and they had my Hubby!
    When I was working I needed to leave my job. It was toxic. My Hubby said I could just leave and then find a new job, but I toughed it out for a bit and tight before I was just gonna quit I found a new job. Unfortunately 6 months later I was let go from the new job. I am glad I left. It was a safe job and I probably would still be there if I didn't take a leap.

  6. Your dad's life could easily be a movie! Perhaps you'll write a book about him someday.

    I don't know that I'd do anything over. Actually yes, I would. I would have done a double major in university, and studied the sciences as well as anthropology. There's a lot that I'd like to now, but a lot of it requires a science background. Oh, and I'd probably never have gone into teaching. I sometimes feel like I just accidentally fell into my career and I've been doing it for ten years now.

    I'm finding myself at a bit of a crossroads now. There are two potential lives for me, one with kids and one without. Both of them are fantastic lives, but they're different. If I know that I'll never have kids, then I'll make different decisions than if I know I will. I just wish that I could know whether any risks that I take now will just affect me and my husband, or whether they'll end up affecting children as well.

  7. Well...what would I do differently in my career? It's been a long journey to get where I am today. Firstly, I would have gone to law school earlier, rather than later, instead of thinking about what a huge commitment it was etc etc. I have made a few rash decisions and one of them I didn't really feel right about at the time, but listened to other people's advice. One thing I have learned is to trust my own judgment.

    I most certainly would not stay in a toxic situation. I was in one, and I left. It did not ruin my career. I found another job, and yes, it was a lesser position so I did eventually move on to better things, but it was worth it to be away from that situation. Life is short and it just isn't worth it to put up with a toxic situation. As one of your long time readers, I feel familiar with your story, and as a friend I would say, do not go back to the toxic environment. You won't be happy. You could look for a "safe" job in your field, or, you could take a leap of faith and do something entirely different (yoga, baking, etc :). Sometimes you have to take that leap to discover all the good things on the other side. Even if you need to take the middle ground of safe job and investigate setting up your dream, then that's okay too.

    If I had to start over right now? (I've been thinking about this a lot lately). I would go back to the farm and start a food/market garden/whatever business from there. From scratch. I wouldn't be rich but I would be happy - the farm and the food are both my passions, but so is my current job. If I lost it I would probably be done with traditional working life.

    A very long comment (which I cut down, ha ha) but I do hope this helps in some small way. I wish I was there so I could come over with some tea and cake and have nice long talk with you. :)

  8. I'm the queen of trying new jobs, seriously. All have been a learning experience some way more pleasant than others but I wouldn't change them because I learned so much about myself from each and I know what I want and I know what I should and shouldn't expect. So, I kinda am starting something new right now which is scary but it's a scary fun and that kind of scary is a scary I can handle.

  9. hey, thanks for stopping by my blog! you raise a good question. i guess if i were in that situation i would probably stay in my current job and look for another one on the side. given the current economy, i would be afraid to just quit a job, even if i hated it.


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