Detours column

[DETOURS] Baking my way out of the corporate world

Ella Julian
[DETOURS] Baking my way out of the corporate world

Art by David Castuciano

‘Success comes the moment you find your own happiness, not the other way around’

Editor’s note: Ella was just like many of us, she used to chase one high-paying job after another. But one day, she realized that no matter how many times she got a raise or promotion, she could never be truly happy. That was until she started baking.  Get to know her story. You, too, can share your life’s greatest detours. Here’s how

I can still recall how I felt when I received my first paycheck. I went to the nearest ATM and withdrew about 25% of my salary. While waiting for the bills to come out, I’m already planning how I’d spend my money. 

I remember my goal then was to own a laptop – something I can use for freelance projects when I get home from my day job. My long commute gave me more than enough time to compute and plot a date where I can finally walk into a store and buy a computer. “If I only spend this much, I’ll be able to get it in 4 months,” I told myself confidently. 

Of course, that didn’t work out. I did eventually get that laptop, but it took me two years. I stayed in my marketing job at a startup, was praised, recognized, and promoted that I always felt like I needed to reward myself. The rewards, of course, were my reminders of why I needed to continue the hustle and work even harder. 

I never used my laptop for freelancing. Instead, I used it to build and update my LinkedIn profile. I used it to binge-watch shows starring high-powered women, thinking that someday, I’ll get to strut like them because I knew I was very good at what I do.

It came to a point where I grew tired of my routine. My first instinct was to move to another company, so I did. Why change industry when I’m doing well in this one, right? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. 

I landed the same position in a more traditional company. There were a lot of rules to be followed; regulations and limitations that I thought were good enough reasons for me to quit after a year of working there. That took me to job number 3, another startup with more flexibility, but this time, in a work-from-home set-up (I had this job a few months before the pandemic), which means I had to use my own equipment.  “Finally! A good use for my ‘now starting to heat-up’ laptop,” I told myself.

One month in, I realized that I was already dreading what I was doing. I realized that I never really loved my job, I just stayed because I had a title that I could broadcast at family reunions and not be ashamed of. It was usual for me to work every waking hour and even dedicate a part of my weekends and holidays to it. 

I wore my busy-ness as a badge of honor, only the badges were in the form of eye bags and bad tempers. It took me only three months, at the peak of the pandemic, to finally resign and find a new career path. 

However, just my luck, my laptop crashed when I was rendering my last few days. I was using my phone to work, but I can no longer update my resume to look for a new job. And with everything closed because of the enhanced community quarantine, I didn’t expect it to be fixed anytime soon. It was a combination of stress, frustration, and anxiety that caused me to break down. I felt hopeless and even blamed myself for being a dreamer instead of a realist. I really thought I had it in me to be successful.

Aside from crying and consuming myself with self-deprecating thoughts, I spent the rest of my free time in the kitchen. I baked a lot of “almost there” cookies until I came up with the perfect one and gave them to my friends. It wasn’t long until they convinced me to sell them and start my own home bakery, Avelina Home Cooking. 

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The goal was just to provide decent chocolate chip cookies in my small town, but it grew into so much more. It was a place that’s completely out of my comfort zone, but I’m very much willing to explore. I started getting feedback from acquaintances, orders from strangers, reassurances from friends, and for the very first time, I got to manage a brand that’s mine. 

All my life, I thought I can only call myself successful once I climb the corporate ladder. I thought if I work hard enough, ignoring my internal cries for help, grit will pull me through and I can finally be happy. I realized, however, that success comes the moment you find your own happiness, not the other way around. I have no business starting a business, but I did it anyway and I have never felt more fulfilled in my life.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about my laptop, I got it fixed after a few months. It’s the same old laptop, but it feels entirely brand new. – Rappler.com

Ella Julian is a marketer turned home-baker and part-time writer from the little town of Morong, Rizal. She’s also a quintuple Pisces with a slight obsession for Taylor Swift, Drag Race, and Shonda Rhimes.