We were having a celebration in my office and I had promised to bring in something sweet to my co-workers the following day. So I decided on a rum and raisin cake. Something I had never tried before, but which seemed both simple enough to pull off without too much struggle and yet complex enough to earn myself some baking props.
That week in work was brutal. Well, to everyone else in my office it was a perfectly normal week I’m sure. But all I could think of were the seven mistakes I made, the countless awkward encounters I’d experienced, the meetings where I never managed to speak and those where I had and felt immediately ridiculous for doing so. “Surely that was the most inane comment anyone has ever made in a professional context?” “Why did they even hire me?” I wasn’t smart enough, quick enough, generalist enough, specialist enough. I neither knew enough languages nor enough people. Every evening I would come home to my apartment feeling like there was a ticking time bomb sitting on my shoulder as I thought “any moment now, they are all going to realise that I am a fraud.” That evening was no different. Except that it was entirely. I had a cake to bake. And as soon as I started, all of my anxieties about work melted away. Every. Single. One. It was as if my brain did not have time to whisk and to worry simultaneously, and the more complex my task become the less I thought about work. Initially I thought it was just a temporary distraction, but the phenomenon lasted from the first time I made the rum icing and it looked like scrambled egg (ugh) until the final time when it turned out perfectly (huzzah). It made no sense. I knew for years, for my whole life really, that I had a problem with anxiety. I would spend hours lying in bed going through every single interaction from that day in my head and cringing at my perceived failures. Friends and family would advise every remedy they could think of. Yoga didn’t work. Reading didn’t work. Meditation didn’t work. Walking in nature didn’t work. Eventually I accepted my fate that the constant ruminations and negative self-talk were something that I could never escape. So imagine my surprise when I realise that finally I found my peace, and I found it in the most unlikely of places. I have found what makes every little concern float away and I’ve clung on to it for dear life ever since. What I’ve lost in worries I’ve gained in calories, but every single mouthful is worth it. And that, is how it all began with a rum and raisin cake.