I expected to be famous. When I started #365daysofbreakfast one year ago I thought that Laura and I would have sponsors, tens of thousands of followers, and maybe even a book contract. After about two weeks I had a sense that none of that would happen and now that I’m standing here, at day 365 (without so much as a free sample), I realize just how ridiculous that all sounded.
There was never going to be a book deal: no one really knew I was doing this (and fewer cared). There was never going to be any sponsors: I was buying these breakfast products anyway – already providing free advertising (to my 16 readers!). And there was never going to be tens of thousands of followers: I did not promote this project like I should have. If I wanted on people’s radar screens I needed to work to get there. And I didn’t.
The fact is, this was probably a doomed project from the beginning. Somewhere along the way my husband pointed out that I wasn’t really giving people much to react to. I wasn’t saying something about breakfast itself, or about the act of getting breakfast on the table. I wasn’t providing commentary or ideas or strategies. I didn’t tie my meals to the latest science or test out new products. Truth is, I didn’t really do much of anything.
I started this breakfast project because I wanted to show that even moms who know a lot about nutrition and feeding their kids – moms who have formal training and experience and know what they should be doing – don’t alway get it “right”. I wanted to show that even in our houses breakfast sometimes looked like bowls of ready-to-eat cereal. I wanted to show that our kids spilled milk and threw tantrums and didn’t always eat their vegetables. I think we did show this, but perhaps in a way that was just a little too subtle.
A few months ago when The New York Times Magazine posted an article about the breakfast tables of children around the world I thought maybe our break had come; there were no images of the breakfast tables of American kids. I wrote to the editor and author sharing our “real life” portrayal of two American breakfast tables, but my letter was not printed.
So if my end game was fame and fortune and it became clear, very early on, that was not going to happen, why did I keep doing it? In the first few months of the project I regularly summed-up my observations (here, here, and here) and throughout the year I asked myself this very question. But I have been thinking about it more seriously over the past several days: there must have been something of value in the process that it continued to feel worth my time. What was it? (Despite not doing much of anything, taking, labeling, and posting pictures daily is surprisingly time consuming.)
With 20/20 hindsight I can see how amazing it is to have a daily record of a year. Of course many days are indistinguishable from one another, but looking through the pictures I can tell you which was the day that Tim left for 7 weeks in Africa, I remember all the work trips I made, I can pinpoint the morning that Tim and I woke up – in the afternoon! – after night out with friends in Montpellier France celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. I can relive summer in Maine, the first day of Kindergarten, visits from old friends, and the countless pumpkin muffins and bowls of oatmeal we’ve consumed over the last year. And I watch my kids grow-up before my eyes.
With 20/20 hindsight I can also see how [powerful] it feels to have established a new habit. Only a few times did I forget to post a picture at the scheduled time and I can count with my two hands the number of times I had to take post-breakfast pictures because I forgot the during-breakfast pic. That’s pretty remarkable, given what we know about the stickiness of things like new years resolutions.
But it’s even more than that. Each day, in the moment of taking these pictures, I was singularly focused. So often my mind is swirling with a “To Do” list and “Have Done” list a mile long, that the moment of quiet, focused calm is a welcome change (no matter how fleeting). The moment of taking breakfast pictures has also forced to me to stop, and notice. How often do we blow through a day without really taking time to do that at least once: to slow down and observe? It’s this that I will miss the most: having a focused objective for observing my day.
I find myself wondering what I’m going to do tomorrow. How will I fill this void of not taking a picture? Of not having that thing on which to focus my attention? Food may seem like an obvious choice, but I’m not sure it’s the right one. Perhaps something like a daily photographic gratitude journal, or a picture of a particular time of day, or a daily photo of each child. While I’m not sure how I’ll continue, I am pretty sure that I’m not ready to be done.