By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

I have more than my share of side gigs. So many, in fact, that I think most people might think me the type who has a hard time focusing on tasks in general. But that’s never been the case; it’s just that I enjoy a variety of things, I’ve incorporated them into my life slowly, and now not only are they things I truly enjoy but also things that generate income.

Win-win overall.

I’m a realtor (Avid Homes) and a food Insta blogger (@kissthekoshercook) and at times I bake professionally for parties and other occasions. I very often get asked for menus and try to explain in the best way possible that baking isn’t my motivation—it’s an art form and I do it when I get that creative urge.

But please don’t be mistaken—I don’t bake simcha cookies.

I also write this column, which evolved into a weekly piece that I never anticipated happening. So now, as my life changes and the grief we used to suffer from has taken on different forms, this column has done the same—my writing is based on matters of the heart, musings on raising a family in a frum community, and other challenges as I navigate single parenting.

Because of my extensive writing, I have been approached on a regular basis by many individuals who host their own podcasts. They run the gamut as far as professions are concerned—I’ve been on podcasts hosted by therapists and social workers, life coaches and beauty brand owners, and most recently a podcast that stuck out above the rest, simply because of the complex questions posed during our hour talk.

The host was a local social worker. I’ve known him for years—his wife and sister-in-law are friends of mine and when they approached me about being a guest on his Spotify podcast called “Consciously,” he sent me a list of questions that I naturally didn’t look at until sitting in the seat across from him.

That’s when I realized that maybe I should’ve taken a peek at the sheet. It was split into two parts: part one was questions getting to know who I am and my background and part two was something called “practical wisdom,” a cheat sheet of sorts on different things I’ve learned as we lived through our ordeal.

By nature, I tend to overthink things—I usually like to be prepared, so it doesn’t make much sense that I wouldn’t take comprehensive information given to me and formulate responses in advance, but when it comes to being a guest on a podcast, I choose to respond to any and all questions in the moment.

I feel that a different part of me has the opportunity to be as transparent as possible, and to answer in an organic and open fashion, something that can’t be done as well when responses as rehearsed.

When Menachem asked me about whether or not being prepared for something gives me anxiety, it caused me to think about why the things that would stress me out previously no longer did.

I came to a conclusion on the spot, telling him that when something larger than life (literally) explodes in a sudden fashion, the little everyday things don’t have that same effect that they used to.

Being ill-prepared for a podcast is figurative pocket change when you think about the other bigger-ticket items we’ve been through.

I also know that above all else, people are looking for relatability and honesty when it comes to reading an article or listening to a podcast. The way I give over my most authentic self is when I have little time to polish it to a high shine. It might not sound as impressive, but truer words won’t be spoken.

When you present things in your life, in your experience, as they are instead of how you think they should look or how you think people want them to be, something wonderful happens—real trust is established.

Real life is beautiful as a whole form, but a lot of the life experiences are gritty and raw. They’re unfinished and ugly. They require work, communication, vulnerability, and cringe-worthy self-reflection at times. But there’s true beauty in being true to yourself and getting to know the real you inside.

Challenges change us and discomfort causes growth—mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Hard times crack the facade you’ve created disguised as a picture-perfect life and, at that point, you get to choose honesty or fabricating more stories to save face.

Personally, I had too much to deal with on a personal level and was unwilling to be anything other than open.

I get comments all the time about how candid my writing is and how I don’t hide behind those cracks that caused my life to be open season for anyone wanting to discuss a nightmare come true.

My only condition once that happened was that I would clear the air and be the one informing others. My truth was the only thing I was able to hold on to. And that emotional honesty seems to resonate with many.

As we learn, “Words that come from the heart, enter the heart.”

I didn’t want to make believe things were OK when they weren’t and I didn’t know if or when they would be.

I also wanted to be up-front when things went better than expected, when things in parts of our lives normalized somewhat, and I would excitedly write about that.

As I spoke about in the podcast, what happened as I continued writing was that I’d be approached by others suffering from similar circumstances.

While I’m not a professional therapist or bereavement counselor, I have something most of them don’t—I have life experience, which is the deepest form of wisdom. At times like these, when a formal class on what to say to people who suffer through loss just won’t cut it, I know I have the insight and empathy to help them through it in a unique way that others, even professionals, don’t.

When I think about the writing and the podcasts and the speaking and wonder where this will take me, I no longer have an endgame in sight like I used to. I just keep evolving, learning, sharing from the heart, and learning more from others who share back with me, in an infinity loop of personal growth and human connection.

As we approach the holiest days of the year, I reflect on the last year and realize that the learning about life, about self-discovery, and about helping other people has no expiration. It’s the currency that gives this life meaning and flavor. It’s become a second language for me.

I’ll continue doing what I do until I run out of what to say, but be forewarned—I’m quite talkative. 

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, a social media influencer, veteran real estate agent, and runs a patisserie in Woodmere.

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