Joie de vivre, and the art of living fabulously (or an ingredient list to creating social change)

Terry readers, I’ve been bursting to tell you a story all weekend. (And I’m home sick today, which just goes to show you should never let your feelings stay unexpressed).  An important lesson learnt.

Saturday afternoon, all charged up from reading Michael Pollan’s piece and overflowing with love for Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, I headed to the local multiplex to see the film Julie and Julia. It was one of those utterly perfect afternoons, mum and sister for company, dad and brother and nephew at home, and I was sure that we’d have the theatre to ourselves-cos seriously, who goes to the 4:00 pm showtime? (It turns out a lot of people, so it wasn’t quite the private party I imagined, but I graciously allowed everyone else to enjoy the film along with us).

And in between our mouths watering at all the tantalizing food, giggling over the amusing dialogue and enjoying the wonderful performances,  I think I found the secret to life and creating change.

You’re laughing, but I’m quite serious. And I’m not one to gush too heavily about films-(well except for that one time I stopped in the lobby after “The Pursuit of Happyness”  still teary eyed from the ending to write in my moleskine, but that doesn’t count).

The film revolves around Julie Powell, a woman in Queens who cooked (and blogged!) through the 524 recipes of Julia’s Child’s magnum opus “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in the year of 2002. The film switches between her experiences and Julia Child’s life several decades earlier in France learning to cook, and finding what she truly wanted to do. Their stories connect through food and personal discoveries, and it’s a genuinely delectable film.

Above all though, it was the character of Julia Child that most intrigued me.  Bored in France with nothing to do during the day, she reflects on what it is that makes her happiest, realises the answer is food, struggles to learn on her own, and then enrolls in professional cooking school, where everyone is male, and French, and far more experienced than her. She is determined though, and literally devotes sweat and tears to the process-something most tangibly seen in a hilarious scene where she chops mounds of onions at home, and her husband walks in the door.

From there, in the ensuing years she makes friends, sets goals, laughs a great deal, stays focused, remains resilient and lives through it all with grace and verve and a joie de vivre that is pretty darn inspiring to witness. She makes mistakes, but works hard and is stubbornly, joyfully true to who she is. She makes no apologies.

So, back to those life lessons I was speaking about.

1) The Importance of Purpose

Julia Child is committed to food. She learns, she experiments, she teaches, she invents, and she delights in achieving excellence. Cooking is not a job for her, it’s a vocation. And within that theatre and in the time since then, I’ve been thinking and moleskine-ing a lot about that: about purpose, meaning and discovering one’s calling. And I feel thoroughly invigorated. Excited about committing to new experiences and adventures.

More on this later terry readers, but first, I’m curious: what is it that you most love to do?

2) The Importance of Friendship

In the film, both Julie and Julia have amazing support systems.  Their partners, their best friends, their work colleagues, and even their wonderful penpals, all encourage them, challenge them, and enable them to do and learn the things that they did.

And that’s something I think we don’t emphasize enough when we speak about how to make the world a better place, whether that’s teaching someone a new language,  thinking through the ethics of international volunteering, or simply making a soul nourishing raspberry bavarian cream pie, you need people to help you get there.

(Side note: the film also demonstrated that your friendships are so much more interesting when you’re engaged in work that helps you be the best version of yourself, and not seeking happiness and fulfillment in those around you. And in a positively reinforcing cycle, interesting enriching friendships then in turn help you do more wonderful work, which again strengthens those bonds).

So call it the art of living fabulously, or even an ingredient list to creating social change, but humour, determination, silliness, confidence, commitment, personal conviction, strength of purpose, and beautiful relationships, these are all things to tuck away in your recipe file to create a better and more beautiful world around you.

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Shagufta is a UBC Political Science graduate with a passion for interdisciplinary thinking, writing, travel, reading, tea, and interesting conversations. She hopes to combine all of these things in her life work someday. For now though, she studies social policy and planning at the University of Toronto and shares her adventures in and out of the classroom at