Human connection. It’s something that people try to attain throughout their lives. We want, even need, connections in love, in our professional lives, and in friendships. Connections are sometimes immediate with certain people and sometimes grow over time with others.
My strength has always been in connecting to people pretty quickly. I’ve always been naturally curious about people and where they came from — their stories, their backgrounds, the life they’ve led, and what shaped them into the people they are.
I’d meet someone new and dive in, asking questions like a scientist and calculating like a mathematician (one who can barely do basic math, ask my mom), and I’d start to get an idea, a hypothesis, of who this new person was.
I think it’s the reason I’ve always gravitated toward work that is heavily invested in creating interpersonal connections.
At first, it was tempting to make it seem like everything was always great, life was peachy, the kids were perfectly well-behaved, and my dinners always looked like they came out of a glossy magazine. A Pinterest-worthy snapshot of domestic bliss.
That wasn’t the whole truth. We’ve been blessed. We have joy and I do make pretty dinners. Ultimately, we’re also real. I knew it and I wanted to just embrace it.
So then I decided to just be me. Authentically me. The me who struggles to diet because food is meant to be enjoyed and can be so good if you know what you’re doing in the kitchen.
The me who wants to purchase a Peloton bike but knows it’ll likely collect dust and my clothes before I put it back in its rightful spot, and it seems like an expensive hanger to invest in so I just listen to my friends talk about the great classes they take. And take a bite of a cookie I swear I’ll stop eating. And then take another bite.
The me whose kids sometimes look disheveled, even if I buy them nice clothes and even lay out the cute outfits the night before, but they still think they can style themselves better.
The me who tries to be the perfect parent to five wildly various personalities but feels like she often comes up short, somehow. Like I’m missing something.
The me who’s had so much happiness and so much heartbreak.
The me who’s relatable to others, so they can look at and appreciate things in my life that are a reflection of theirs in some capacity.
When you let people in and let them see exactly who you really are and you don’t shy away from the parts that make you anxious and vulnerable, that’s when the magic and connection happens.
Because really, you’re made up of the positive and negative parts of your life. Not just the accomplishments and accolades. Not just the image or the highlight reel. But also the embarrassments and the rejection and struggles you’ve been through. That hard stuff shapes who we are, and when we’re willing to show it all and not hide the parts we might be ashamed of, that’s when people are drawn to us for real. Because they’re not just admiring (and maybe envying and being intimidated by) the curated portfolio of what we wish we were. They’re connecting to the work-in-progress humanity that we all share. And that is when the empathy and trust come.
For many years, as a young adult, I longed to look a certain way and be a person that other people wanted me to be. I wanted to want to attend school and become a therapist, which seemed like a practical, responsible thing to do. I wanted to want to look the way other people deemed acceptable, appropriate, and attractive. I wanted the things that I believed would make me wanted and sought after. I wanted all these things and didn’t understand why they didn’t want me.
I was meant to be different and go on a different, less-traveled path. I was meant to have a mouth on me that landed me in trouble so much as a child that I lost count long ago on how often I was punished for the things that came out of it.
But with the missteps and mistakes came great things — a self-forged career in an industry that I pursued and achieved myself. With that grew a confidence I didn’t know I had in me.
It began with a few years of aimlessly posting O.K.-looking food on social media (mind you, I thought I was the least technologically savvy person on G-d’s green earth, to the point of embarrassment). I slowly found my footing and began trying new things that challenged me and kept others waiting to see what happened next.
What happened next blew me away: People were inspired by my work, my creativity and trying it for themselves.
If I’m being honest, I began to connect with my audience through culinary creativity and playful commentary, but it was when my happy homemaker life fell apart that the even deeper connection started happening.
They began reaching out as I struggled to formulate the words to share our experiences after Moshe’s death. With the increased messiness in my life came the most meaningful connections with others.
When I stopped trying to control the uncontrollable, that’s when others really began to relate my story to their own struggles. When I learned the hardest lesson in my life thus far and was able to articulate it on paper, that is what ultimately invited heartfelt connection.
A connection with someone else just trying to navigate the winding roads of life, trying to survive, not claiming to have life’s answers. A person who could finally exhale, express, and accept how perfectly imperfect she was and how much connection and authentic happiness that can bring.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.