“I have had dreams, and I’ve had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.” – Jonas Salk
Five years ago this month, I started what is now “The Familiar Kitchen.” Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow to what it is today. I mean, if you take a second and travel through your last five years of life then compare it to today, isn’t it shocking how fast it all flies by? It’s not like I’ve “made it” or achieved any of my bigger dreams (yet), but I think it’s worth celebrating milestones. Because milestones are a reminder that you’re on (and continue to stay on) a path towards the vision you hold for your life.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the last five years of blogging:
Create what you know, not what is trending.
I know as a content creator it’s important to create a following and foster engagement on your channels. But, I don’t believe creation should cater to the masses. I have fallen into this trap before and sometimes still do. When you start creating based on what’s popular or what you think others will want, it can start to break you. You end up lost because you tangle yourself in doing things that aren’t natural to you.
Forced creation chips away at your identity and leads you to wonder why you’re doing any of this at all. That’s when you need to remind yourself that you have a gift to offer. One that no else can give. It might not be a gift for everyone, but that’s what makes sharing it that much more extraordinary.
Do what feels right.
Along your journey, you’ll find that sometimes things don’t feel right. That’s what happened when I changed my name from The Foodie Cutie to The Familiar Kitchen earlier this year. I had built an entire identity for years as The Foodie Cutie, but something about that persona just didn’t fit who I was becoming. It’s natural, I think, to grow into something that feels more familiar. I don’t view it as abandonment either. Change is something I view as an expansion. As a chance to see the path you’re on, but with a much wider view.
Being The Foodie Cutie allowed me a space to grow and play in. Letting her go to become The Familiar Kitchen? Well, this has given me a more refined sense of direction and clarity. And that could have only stemmed from that original starting place. Making this change, shedding that first layer, felt so right that it allowed me to open new doors and welcome in more of what I wanted.
Step outside of the screen.
One of the best parts about starting this community is meeting people I see on screen in real life. It can be a little isolating and somewhat of a painted picture when we live on instagram. We control what is shown and seen here. Although I’m glad to see more and more people sharing their realities, nothing compares to getting to know someone in person. Or, even if you can’t meet in person, getting to video/voice chat with others on here makes you feel real again. Overall, that deep connection is what I enjoy most about being here.
I’ll admit, the introvert in me runs from the interaction – flailing arms and all. Oddly, I feel like The Familiar Kitchen and Ann Ittoop are sometimes two different people. It’s like how Beyonce has Sasha Fierce as her “performer.” They’re both still badass people, but with very different ideas of contentment. Off the blog, I am generally low-key and tend to stick around a handful of people. I sometimes feel like those I’ve met in person are shocked that I’m a total dork and a slightly awkward turtle. But, that’s what I’m saying. It’s really cool to uncover that about someone and feel seen and understood – two things I think we are all here for.
Let your dreams evolve.
For a long time, my equation for dreaming was dream + hard work = dream achieved. This equation is way too linear and offers no room to branch out, though. Honestly, it was imprisoning to think it had to be all or nothing. Dreams, in my opinion, evolve the longer you sit with them. You start to learn new things about them which changes how you see it.
For example, when I started my blog, I only posted pictures of what I made or ate at restaurants. I didn’t write recipes or stories. I actually wanted to be a famous food critic or just a voice for good food! Over the years, though, I found what I really loved were the stories behind the food. I am drawn to hearing how people connect with recipes or stories I write. That magic drew me into a whole new avenue of food.
These days, I don’t view achieving a dream as a final destination. It is something I don’t want to ever come to a full-stop. My dream has really become a tree with many, many branches to hang on, all built from the original seed. And I like it like that.