Don’t Wait for a World Crisis to Discover the Best Parts of Yourself
Don’t Wait for a World Crisis to Discover the Best Parts of Yourself
By Shari Wallack
Babyboomers.com Staff

What do you do when you feel like the world is caving in on you?  How do you even begin to pick yourself up when you are convinced that you have hit rock bottom? 

If you had asked me those questions a few years ago, I would have looked at you like a deer in headlights.  Because of some timely circumstances, a few good business choices, and tenacity, I have been fortunate and successful.  True, I have made mistakes, but mostly those that have taught me great life and career lessons.  Even when Celebrity Cruises (my employer in 1997) was sold to Royal Caribbean Group leaving me jobless (I was nine months pregnant with my second child and my then husband was unemployed) – I got back on my feet and rapidly became what I call an accidental entrepreneur.  I found a way to start a new business and thrive in an ever-changing environment.  Buy the Sea quickly soared to success, winning more awards and accolades than any other travel brokerage company in the industry.  And then 2020 happened to me.

So, there I was at the start of the pandemic slowly falling apart internally and externally.  Travel programs were cancelled, clients demanded refunds, commissions were recalled, and our best year ever had become our unimaginable nightmare.  My adult kids were home from college, back in their childhood bedrooms.  I felt isolated.  I felt distraught.  I felt like a failure.  To add insult to injury, the housekeeper quit!  My anxiety got the best of me and I cracked.  “I want to die.  I don’t want to see how this horror show turns out.  I hate my life,” I said in July.  And with that, I landed in a mental institution for a brief, yet impactful stay.

And then it hit me.  I had to do something, anything, to get over my panic and depression.  Fly Shari, fly.  Do what you do best.  Go.  Connect.  Get out of Florida!

So, with one carry-on bag, assuming I would be gone and completely healed in ten days – SERIOUSLY? - I flew to visit my brother in New Jersey.  That initiative continued for 95 days, as I visited 18 unique destinations around the United States.  I found beauty and humor in everyday things and interesting people.  I hadn’t laughed in four months, and there I was telling jokes, singing songs, and ultimately baking for anyone who didn’t insist, “I am gluten-free.”  I was fattening up America!  The baking and cooking eased my heart-pounding anxiety.  It worked so well that I began sharing my recipes on Facebook Live from kitchens across America.  I wanted everyone to see the real me.  Curly hair up in a ponytail, no make-up, and usually clad in my “Snoopies” – a pair of velvety jammies I picked up at Marshall’s outside Minneapolis.  This was as informal as I could possibly get.  Was I so previously consumed in work that I forgot the enjoy the simple things in life?  Yes, I was.  Focused on tasks, contracts, travel, awards, and social media – but not on the people who truly mattered, those who were right in front of me.

From hell to challah is about my journey from despair to joy. I went from confined and slightly suicidal to emancipated and happy in three months.  I made challah, blintzes, and matzoh balls in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, California, and North Carolina for those who had never had them!  I taught the “non-chosen” folks lots of Jewish prayers.  I delivered my unique brand of New York sarcasm to anyone who would let me.  And they loved it!  I met the zaniest people along the journey including a Mormon sex therapist, a Wiccan tarot card reader, and a shockingly politically incorrect tour guide.  I went glamping on a mountain by myself, sailed in a hot air ballooning over Sedona, experienced a colonic, and even got my first tattoo (My mother was just thrilled! Now I can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery.  Oy!)

I believe that everyone has some “challah” baked inside of them.  For some it is music or gardening, writing, or painting, knitting, inventing, fishing, volunteering, or decorating.  Whatever it is, you need to dig deep and find it, cultivate it, and have it ready to go.  This pandemic taught me to find my passions outside of work.  I thought that Buy the Sea was my identity.  What would I be without it?  I was scared, but I found that I was so much more than the founder of a travel company.  I am a mom, a partner, a daughter, a sister, a writer, a baker, a friend, a humorist, and an inspiration to those who find themselves feeling lost when the world seems like it is caving in.

It is easy to see what we have lost in COVID; loved ones, jobs, money, time with our friends and family.  But look at what we have gained!  Our personal and business connections grew stronger, even though we could not be in person.   We learned so much about ourselves and how creative we can get when trapped inside our homes for the better part of a year.   We got precious time with our “bubble.”  We perfected Zoom and discovered the glory of Netflix. I never knew how much I really liked my daughter until I got to spend this much quality time with her.  I have always loved her, but to truly like her was wonderful.  I had the chance to get to know so much about her – the adult version – and I gained so much respect for her knowledge and choices.  I can’t say that I would wish another COVID on anyone.  It has been difficult, sad, frustrating, and challenging.  But I have never learned so much about human resolve.  I am beyond grateful.  Without COVID, I would have never traveled, seen the best of the US, and spent so much quality time with family and friends.  I certainly wouldn’t have had the time to write a book. It’s been on my bucket list for a few decades.

My advice:  don’t wait for a world crisis to discover the best parts of yourself.  You don’t have to be in hell to find your challah.  It’s right in front of you.  Open your eyes.  You will be surprised at what you see when you really look!

 

Shari Wallack is the author of the upcoming memoir From Hell to Challah: Rising from Fragile to Fearless, One Grain at a Time. Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, Shari Wallack started her professional career working for Club Med in New York City, and relocated to Fort Lauderdale, FL, in 1993 to work as an incentive sales executive for multiple cruise lines. The sale of Celebrity Cruise Line to Royal Caribbean International in 1997 led Shari to become an “accidental entrepreneur.” She later founded Buy the Sea, which has become the largest and most decorated cruise and all-inclusive brokerage company in the industry. Her extensive network in the United States enabled her to take the journey that led to this inspirational book. Shari challenges everyone to do the right thing, put people before profits, never take away anyone’s dignity, and find the humor in almost any situation.

Shari is most proud of her children Rachel and Jake. She shares her time between her home in Plantation, FL, her “retreat” in New York City, her tiny mobile home that resides in Salt Lake City, UT and any cruise ship anywhere in the world.

To learn more, visit fromhelltochallah.com, and connect with Shari on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fromhelltochallah and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fromhelltochallah/.





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