“What do you DO, Camille?”
How on Earth do you explain what you do?
It’s a terribly intimate question, one I have too many answers for. It’s almost like asking who I am, in a sense.
I cook. I travel. I explore. I drive a semi truck. I am a co-owner of a trucking business. I am dabbler in television. Though no one has yet bought the show we’ve been selling, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Oh yeah, and I write. Until about eight months ago. Make that almost a year.
I have several drafts in my folder, great ideas one and all, but I couldn’t find the endings. They just weren’t there.
I’m not sure if my circuits overloaded. I’m not sure if my “genius” has taken a long overdue hiatus. Maybe I have juggled my careers and life so precariously that all the balls fell to the floor at once, and I wasn’t quite sure how to go about picking them up again.
A good friend sent me a TED talk, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I urge you to follow the link and watch it for yourselves. It explains a lot about what artists of every genre go through. I am simply showing up to DO MY part. www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius
The one thing I’m sure of, is that without putting words on paper, or a screen, I’ve lost a part of myself I can’t afford to lose.
How many times have I sat here and wondered where to start? Should I write about the transition I’ve gone through? How about some of the adventures I’ve had? How to balance the two without losing my readers’ interest? Oh wait, do I have ANY readers left?
Well for better or for worse, here’s a few of the things I neglected to mention. Starting in March, I signed on with Tricon Films, left Swift once and for all, paid my truck off, and I made the first move to repair the most important relationship I’ll ever have. Deep breath 2-3-4….
Even writing the words makes me short of breath. Transition is a pretty word for change. As humans, we resist change. I was, simply put, in shock.
All of these things I’ve struggled and bled to achieve. I had little faith in surviving at times. I didn’t believe in myself. I should have.
I met with Tricon in late February, after months of corresponding. I was a nervous wreck. I mean, here I am, a virtual nobody, sitting down for lunch with people that have flown a couple thousand miles to talk about the possibility of making a television show. With me.
One of my closest friends orchestrated a fancy lunch at the restaurant he runs. I made my quail dance on my plate like Benny & Joon. Nervous much?
As it turns out, they’re a great group of people. I had no reason to be nervous. As we discussed the possibilities, I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in a long time. Hope.
I kept thinking, “Do I really have a shot at doing what I love?” I DO have a shot at it. Maybe in a different way than I had initially suspected, but I digress.
We made plans to shoot a “sizzle reel”, with high hopes of one of the bigger networks picking up the show. Then the hard part, waiting for that day to arrive. I thought it would be difficult. I was riddled with fear of the unknown and thoughts of not measuring up to the expectations of so many people.
When the day finally came, it was more of the same. Comfortable, funny, and positive people descended on my small Georgia town, and it felt like I got to hang out and goof off with a few of my friends in front of a camera. I could seriously get behind doing this on a regular basis. Who wouldn’t want to go to work when it’s this much fun?
While that meeting and subsequent contract signing seemed to relieve some of the pressure, there was so much more going on. I can’t seem to just do one thing at a time.
My personal life has been a mix of pain and pleasure for the last couple of years. Amidst the excitement of filming, working, and playing, my personal life began to even out. The hopes for my happily ever after seemed to become more than just a distant dream and more like reality.
When you really love someone you have to be vulnerable. I’m not good at that. It was time to swallow my pride, my fear, and be honest about what I wanted and needed. On Friday, December 13th, 2013, I did just that. I married my best friend and my soul mate.
We dreamed of marrying in Hawaii, and having the “perfect” wedding. We weren’t able to make that happen. There were many people, too many, that couldn’t attend, and that was difficult in many ways. For that reason, and a few others, we kept it close to our hearts and promised one another we would renew our vows for ourselves and those that couldn’t be there.
We married instead at Safehouse Coffee Roasters in Griffin, Georgia, upstairs above the coffeehouse. We had multitude of candles in Mason jars, twinkling faerie lights, and were surrounded by people who love us. Hunt Slade officiated, and his wife, sister to my soul, Amanda, directed us beautifully.
I’ll never forget how beautiful Chris made me feel when he first saw me. I carried a gorgeous bouquet filled with thirteen calla lilies to represent my grandmother and grandfather. I walked to him with Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” playing softly over the well placed speakers.
That simple ceremony in front of God, just for us, meant more than any other dream wedding we could have concocted. It was two days before my 36th birthday, and so simply beautiful it brings tears to my eyes even now. However, as some of you may identify with, I was still holding my breath. I wasn’t yet sure I knew how to go from a hurricane of swirling emotions to a spring drizzle.
So, what to do? Keep putting one foot in front of the other? Well that’s exactly what I did.
With my trucking business, I have always pushed ahead with the thought that all I really needed to do was pay off the semi and the world would be a better place. I figured without an enormous truck payment, that all the problems I had been facing with my company would be a thing of the past. In theory, it was a solid goal. In reality, it was a shining example of untarnished idealism. Some things I just have to learn the hard way. Does this sound familiar?
I’m not going to go into every gory detail. What that amounts to is complaining about the system being unjust, without having a dignified, reasonable answer to the problem.. I’m not willing to do that until I can offer a solution. Suffice it to say that I left Swift Transportation, tried an unknown company for about six weeks, and finally landed with Forward Air. They are a great organization. Forward Air has a great support staff, and while they weren’t a perfect fit, it was a pretty awesome place to land while taking the steps necessary to get my own authority.
My husband was a big part of that process and without his knowledge and support, I would have faltered. I might have even given up. He was the calm to my storm; my safe harbor. Some ask, “Why do you want to be independent? Doesn’t it cost more, and have MORE responsibility attached to it?” My answer is yes. It does cost a little more for insurance, permits, plates, etc. The benefits far outweigh the negatives though. With your own authority you have something besides pride and a name on the side of your truck. You have choices. I paid off a truck within an extremely flawed corporate system. The existing system is not conducive to having control over time and finances- two factors that spurred me into working for myself in the first place.
The time had finally come to push myself to gain better control over my revenue. You’ll never know if you don’t try. It’s a time consuming, expensive, and extremely frightening process. During all of this, I still found time to enjoy the things I love.
I just haven’t written about it. I had a difficult time finding my voice.
There were so many great joys, and so many setbacks. I shot that sizzle reel and had high expectations. My friends, family, and as many strangers as I could make watch it, loved it. My producers had numerous meetings with Food Network. To my utter dismay, they passed.
Said something like I had the perfect look, but they were afraid I didn’t have enough personality to carry my own show. My very proper, very Canadian producer, T, snorted at this. She may have even said a few bad words that I won’t repeat. Andrew Zimmern took time out of his busy schedule to give me a pep talk. Sweet man. All have said not to give up. I mean seriously, not a BIG enough personality??? Me??? To add insult to injury, many of the other large networks passed as well. The industry is very male dominated right now and they weren’t looking for a woman.
Ugh. I tried to brush it off as best as I could, but failed miserably. These were my first rejections in what is a fairly new career path. I got further and further away from writing and I didn’t know where to begin.
I told myself I was busy with life. Real life. Like making sure the lights stayed on, that the rent was paid.
I was keeping my two year battle to stay sober in check. I helped my husband through the death of his father, memorial, and probate process. We are trying to handle moving into a house that requires sweat equity and a ton of time. We are navigating the waters of gaining our authority and getting compliant with the FMCSA. This is a bigger, more time consuming job than either of us could have possibly predicted.
We are repairing relationships with family after dealing with the fear of our own mortality. We are prayer warriors and supporters in his mother’s battle with breast cancer, subsequent double mastectomy, and foray into rounds of chemotherapy.
Amid all of this it felt selfish to take valuable time away to write.
This is what I’d tell myself, “Maybe I’ll sit down after this or that, and write about our time in Sarasota, Florida for Kateybug’s 21st birthday, with Kyle, Jessie, and Brady. Maybe I’ll tell the story about how it felt when we were both unsure about us, before we married, and took some time apart. How during this time I spent a weekend alone in Denver, Colorado and got a beautiful tattoo that will forever remind me of the hurdles we’ve jumped.” This went on for months.
The only person that got me to write anything at all was my editor at the magazine. She is also sister to my soul, and is one of my best cheerleaders. I thank God she challenges me to push harder for what I believe in and what I love to do.
I wore myself out day after day, too tired, perhaps even too discouraged to write about any of my adventures on the road. I have pictures, stories, places, restaurants, food porn, and more stories.
I just lost my voice.
Like a terrible lump I couldn’t get out of my throat. I pushed it away and delved deeper into my depression. I felt like a failure. I felt like a selfish asshole for dwelling on rejections that were a distant possibility to begin with. I told myself that I will never be a proper Giada, Lee, Trisha, or Paula.
I am grittier, more approachable, and somehow, (forgive me) more real. I will always be the girl next door. The REAL one, with tattoos and piercings, vulnerability, weight issues, and the chutzpah to say what I mean.
I use fuck as a comma (except around Gramma), and with all my culinary training, I will still walk next door to borrow a cup of oil for a damn boxed cake.
I have decided I don’t have the luxury of caring what other people think. I am me. I am damn proud to be me. I will entertain and teach people. It may not be in front of the masses on television, but I have a plan.
We will get out of this truck (someday). My husband will have his tattoo shop. I will have my book store and coffee shop. I will teach cooking classes. I will write my cookbook. I will sell my bleu cheese dressing. I will write about it all.
It turns out above all else, I AM a writer. Today, at 3:30 in the morning, over coffee at our new kitchen table, in our house, I found my voice and my “genius”.
It is earthy, unedited, and real. It involves joy, pain, redemption, forgiveness, struggle, achievement, failure, faith, family, and God. You all are welcome to this journey we are embarking on, but know what you’re getting into isn’t always perfect. It’s a beautiful mess.