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My Way: Charles Balcer


Charles Balcer has just recently dropped out of work and into life. He's currently based in NYC.

Dhrumil couldn't have asked me to write this at a stranger time in my life. I'd been thinking all week long that about quitting my job.  It's something I've been contemplating for awhile now.  Blame raw foods.  It has a knack for making you to want get more involved in this holistic way of living.  Suddenly, money didn't seem so important anymore.  I found myself thinking more about fresh sunshine, clean water, foraging in the wild... eating raw has a way of connecting you to nature like nothing else.  And I was filled with a desire to help others get healthier by changing the way they eat.  I'm not the only one who felt this way either.  Philip quit his job and now he's traveling around the country giving talks and working on a book.  Anthony left NYC to do his permaculture project in Minnesota.  Even our beloved Dhru gave up his successful consulting business to focus on this lifestyle full-time. I'm just the latest in a long line of people to finally "get it." 

So being at my job really wasn't an option anymore.  I began feeling suffocated there.  I never got a break for lunch.  The group I worked in was constantly swamped, so I'd have to eat lunch at my desk while I worked.  (Eating my "rabbit food," as my coworkers called it.)  I was watching Chris Rock on HBO recently and he made a joke about how working at a job that doesn't give you an hour's break for lunch really blows -- even prisoners on death row get a full sixty minutes to eat.  Makes you think, right?  And not getting any sunshine at all disturbed me.   I'd find myself getting to work early and not going outside again until it was time to leave... when it was already dark.  I'm confident my Vitamin D levels are pretty low.  Another thing that irritated me to no end were my coworkers constantly spraying chemically-toxic Windex and Lysol every freakin' day, or having to smell their grease-laden fast food lunches.  It was a poisonous environment, both literally and figuratively, and I had to get out of there for myself.

Having said all that, this wasn't an easy decision.  I've been doing this same job for 13 years: ten years with my current employer and three years doing the same thing for another company.  I had no backup plan either.  I just wanted out.  I wanted time to think about my future.  But it's scary to just up and leave such security, especially with the economy in the sad state that it's in.  And it's not like I have tons of savings to live off of either.  So why am I telling you all this?  Because I want you to understand the frazzled state of mind I've been in lately, especially during this momentous week in my life. Had Dhru asked me to write this column the previous week, you'd have read the same boring menu from me every day: lots of salads, lots of fruit, lots of smoothies.  But the stress of my decision got to me and my diet suffered as a result.  I turned to a lot of "junk" raw food for comfort.

Wednesday, Day One
I hadn't done much food shopping in the past week, so I didn't have much food to bring with me to work.  I ate an orange, a mango, two apples, and some brazil nuts.  I normally have quite a bit more fruit to bring with me.  I also brought some lemons with me (as I usually do -- I buy lemons by the sack) and drank lots of lemon water.  That night I came home and ate the rest of the spinach chips I had dehydrated the previous night.  It's a fairly simple recipe: baby spinach leaves, flaxseed oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and cayenne nutritional yeast, to give it that cheesy "flava."  I also made 32 ounces of juice, using dandelions, kale stems left over from the kale chips I had made earlier in the week, ginger, two lemons, and two apples. 

Thursday, Day Two
For work I brought another orange, another mango, some grape tomatoes, and more brazil nuts.  I also drank a lot of water, but, unfortunately, I was out of lemons.  At the end of the day, I told my manager Miles that I was thinking about handing in my two week's notice tomorrow.  I explained my reasons and he completely understood and wished me the best of luck.  Miles is a cool guy.  We used to work together at my previous company.  After work I headed into NYC and did a little food shopping at Lifethyme and stopped at Sal Anthony's for a few treats.  I like to stock up on raw snacks which I keep in the house for when I'm in the mood for something sweet -- the advantage of living in the NYC area.  A couple bites is usually enough to satisfy me.  I ate one chocolate chip cookie from Sal's.  Later that evening, I made some quinoa.  Quinoa's the only food I still eat cooked, which I'll have maybe once or twice a month.  I don't eat it warm, though; I let it cool before eating.  I usually add a little lemon juice, baby spinach leaves, onions, garlic, a little sea salt, and sometimes some cherry tomatoes or chopped up celery, although I neglected to write down what I did that particular evening. 

Friday, Day Three
The big day.  I had informed Miles that I'd hand in my letter of resignation.  So did I do it?  Nope.  Totally chickened out.  My heart was pounding all day.  Then I started thinking what I could do to get fired instead; at least that way I'd have unemployment checks pouring in.  But nothing sprang to mind.  I ate more grape tomatoes, more brazil nuts, and two more apples.  When I got home, I ate the corn on the cob I had gotten at Sal Anthony's.  Simplest recipe ever: marinate in apple cider or red wine vinegar, squeeze some lemon juice, and add some seasoning on top.  I think Sal adds rosemary, but don't quote me. I'm going to try duplicating it for the next potluck I attend.  I also had some quinoa left over from the previous day.  I was planning on making a large juice or smoothie, but as the evening wore on, I really started freaking out over my future and I ended up raiding my fridge of all the raw treats I had stored in there: a few bites of the cinnamon apple granola bar from Lifethyme, Oreo cookie ice cream from Pure Food & Wine that had been sitting in my freezer, and a slice of chocolate cake, also purchased at Sal's.  Yeah, not a good night of eating. 

Saturday, Day Four
I woke up and drank lots and lots and lots of lemon water, to flush out the previous night's binge.  I also ate a 16 ounce container of strawberries.  (I wish you could buy them without the plastic container.)  For lunch I had a large arugula salad with an avocado and lemon juice.  Later in the evening I had another container of grape tomatoes (I eat oodles of them, in case you can't tell) and some sunflower seeds. 

Sunday, Day Five
Lights, cameras, action!  Today I filmed a student movie with Matt and Amy, two fellow raw foodies.  It was a horror movie, filmed by Lily, yet another raw foodie.  Thank you, GI2MR, for introducing me to so many friends.  Matt and Amy played teenaged sweethearts.  I, of course, portrayed the evil monster who stole their souls at the end.  You could tell I was evil because I wore a strange looking hat and plastic Dracula fangs.  I woke up that morning and ate an apple.  During the course of filming, I had an orange and a few bananas at Lily's place.  After we were done, Matt and Amy and I walked over to Bonobo's and enjoyed some salads.  I ordered the Gorilla salad (their largest size) which comes with an assortment of greens and your choice of toppings. I went with
macadamia pate, celery, onions, sprouts, and an agave mustard dressing.  Then I ordered a small container of durian ice cream which we all shared. 

Monday, Day Six
I had prepared all weekend for this day.  I was definitely going to turn to turn in my resignation letter.  There was no doubt about it.  I had even told Matt and Amy that it was a done deal.  And, once again, I punked out.  I even sat at my desk and typed the letter, but I didn't have the guts to turn it in.  Miles came up to me at the end of the day and asked if I had changed my mind.  I said I was still thinking over my options.  The truth, however, was that I was way too scared, thinking about a future without any security whatsoever.  Who jumps out of a plane without a parachute, I kept telling myself.  My pulse was high the entire day.  As for what I ate, I had another large container of strawberries, a spring salad with an avocado, lemon water, and had a few bites of a raw chocolate bar that had been sitting in my refrigerator. 

Tuesday, Day Seven
I walked into work and sat at my desk.  I sat there for a few minutes, just sorta staring at my computer monitor.  It's now or never, I told myself.  And so I stood up, grabbed the letter, and handed it to Miles.  He took it and shook my hand.  Then I had to wait in limbo for the next few hours while my fate was being decided by the higher-ups. Sometimes they'll let you go immediately if they think there's a danger of you stealing information from their systems to pass along to the next employer.  Miles explained to them that I was leaving the industry completely, so there was no cause for worry.  As for what I ate, I had a salad and some water and that was it.  My nerves were way too shot that day for me to eat much.  It was a weird combination of being both nervous as heck and relieved at the same time. 

And that's my story, people.  It's odd how this My Way thing worked, the way I quit on the last day of this tale.  I truly didn't plan that (honest!), but hey, it made for a satisfying narrative arc.  Like I said, I don't know what my future holds.  My parents weren't too pleased with my decision, but I know in my heart that I made the right choice.  I was hanging out at Vanessa's place once, the awesome lady behind Gnosis Chocolate, and she has a magnet on her refrigerator which reads: "Leap, and the net will appear."  Those words have stayed with me during this entire process.  Here's to the future...