Side Effects


They say that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Often, as we hope, wish and strive to accomplish our goals, we forget that there will be A downside to reaching any of them. Let’s think about medicines for a moment. Commercials are rampant these days for every disease out there. After it tells you how it will help you, an announcer quickly glosses over all the bad things that medicine could cause. 

One day as I watched a commercial with friends, one of them asked why anyone would want to take that medicine. I answered that the benefits to the person had to outweigh the risks. Take me, for example. When my last leukemia medicine failed, I had to switch to Tasigna. I’ve been on oral chemo for 15 years, so I didn’t figure it would be a big deal to change. The doctor say me down and told me that I needed to fully understand the potential side effects of this drug. The number one side effect?  Sudden death. Let that sink in. SUDDEN DEATH. 

I told my doctor that I had always said that I didn’t care if the medicines made me grow two heads, I was taking them. I wasn’t through with life yet. But it still gave me pause. I remember holding the first two pills in my hand, wondering if I should take them. I documented the dose on Instagram, just in case it was the last thing I ever did. Clearly, my heart didn’t react badly to the medicine and I am very careful to follow all the rules with it. 

I see similar things in the cake world all the time. We dream of success, without thinking about its cost. If you are dreaming of more customers, you will find that invariably you are going to have less time for yourself. Those lazy days can disappear. Those weekends at the lake?  Gone. 

Many of you dream of owning a retail location. You will definitely find that your schedule is now ruled by the business. You may find that as your business grows, so do the headaches with employees, taxes, vendors, etc.  you might look up one day and realize that you aren’t even decorating the cakes any more because your day is filled with the operation of the business. To give it your all, you have to give less somewhere else. Often, I see marriages crumble and fail in this situation. 

Maybe you want to travel and teach. And then you find that you never have a date, because it is hard for someone to handle the life you’ve built. Do you board your pet?  Do your relationships at home suffer?  Do you find that you hate airports, or driving, or hotels?  

It is so easy for us to think that “if only x happened, my life would be perfect”, but that is rarely the case. The person whose life you are idolizing could have a lot of side effects that you cannot see. Remember, most of us only show the world what we want it to see. 

So as you map out your dreams, be sure to think about the side effects. Taking fewer orders gets you more free time, but maybe less money for yourself. Taking more orders gets you money, but less sleep and time with family. In the end, we have to look for the balance that works for each of us. Don’t try to live anyone else’s life. Pick your goal and the side effects that make your life happy. 

And because I haven’t said it yet in this blog:  I believe in you. You’ve got this. 

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9 thoughts on “Side Effects

  1. Thank you for this one! This was one of those “I needed confirmation” moments! I’ve been struggling with this, but am finding that wonderful balance!

  2. So true!! I hear people saying they want to open a bakery all the time in the cake world. “WHYYYY?” I think to myself…. Many bakeries fail because people didn’t expect no paycheck for months (depending on how long it takes to get off the ground), 3am wake-up calls, and all the stuff you mentioned above. But then I realize – we all have our own drivers that push us. Mine isn’t to open a bakery, so part of me doesn’t understand why in the world they’d ever want to take that on.

    I love decorating, but with a full-time job, it’s getting less and less enjoyable squeezing it in and giving up those hours and the weekends, my precious time. I wanted the job, the sacrifice is no cakes. I also knew I never wanted to do cakes full time! Oh well…. at least I’ve made some AMAZING friends because of my love of decorating!! ❤

    The take-away is that there is always an up-side to your decision – always stay focused on that and the down side won't be as evident.

  3. That’s exactly what I just went through! Although I LOVE this art, it means more to me to have a free weekend then to be decorating cakes all the time. In your article I was waiting for you to say… Have you studied this art enough? Have you practiced enough? Because after you dive into the a cake business there is no practice time, it’s all OJT. Before you spend lots of money on a shop take a bunch of cake orders. Keep your schedule tight. After about a month of this you may decide a shop isn’t for you (especially when you have a full time job). Learn from the seasoned cake artists! I’m not seasoned but I have been doing this for 12 years. Thanks Ruth!!

  4. Well said Ruth, as always. I have been doing cakes for 25 years and missed a lot of parites, trips with friends and family, sporting events and numberous other activities. It was OK because I was providing cakes for celebrations and that made me feel good. It was very satisfiying and rewarding. About 1 & 1/2 years ago, I read a very nasty, critical YELP review of one of my cakes. The review was probably 2 paragraphs long and sounded like it was wirtten by Kerry Vincent! I was absolutely stunned and devasted. I debated calling the customer but since the review had been posted several months preivously, I didn’t call. It hurt me tremendously and my self confidence plummetted. So, I decided that giving up my weekends and working long hours just wasn’t worth it anymore. I closed my shop and sold most of my equipment.
    Its been an adjustment for me but I have a life again. I don’t regret my decision. The best part is that I don’t suffer from the worst “side effect” of the cake business – the handful of extremely picky, nasty clients!!

  5. Ruth, that was a great article and I also know both sides of the coin with the medications and cakes. However, I’ve never had to take a medication that could have been Sudden Death! Yikes, that could have been really scary, but thankfully, you are still here. As you know, I was in the cake world for 51 years and probably still would be if God had not intervened, but I know it was for the best. First I had the lung taken out and then went on oxygen full time and then lost my husband all within less than 2 years so my world collapsed quite fast. However, I have adjusted quite well and looking back, I do regret some decisions of working too hard and probably too many hours. My lung was filled with infection, polyps and fungi and we are now fighting to keep the good lung clear – Mayo’s says it was from second hand smoke most likely and I never smoked in my life. Others wondered if it could have been powdered sugar and cake mix dust? We will never know. I did very much love what I did and during the years my kids were growing up, I was able to make time to always be at school parties as the room mom and make the treats, be at ballgames they were involved in, etc., but as they grew up and went away, I seemed to work harder thinking we needed the money. I’m sure like everyone else, most of us can live differently and get by on less. I know I do now on a fixed income. However, I am always running into people who remember cakes I’ve made and loved and so I feel good about that. BUT, you are right, sometimes we give up too much of ourselves for others and yet, regret that we sometimes left our families out. Be kind to yourself – life is short!

  6. Aint it the truth!

    I think people don’t often realize that the higher you rise the harder the climb and the greater the fall. Owning a business is like trying to climb Mt. Everest, When you stand at the bottom, the summit is a long way off, you know the climb will be hard, you’re mentally prepared, or at least, you think you are. You are filled with excitement and you have one clear goal. You have a rucksack full of tools to equip you for your journey and the safety of ground-level is within close reach. So, you begin your climb, slowly and assuredly, focused and determined, a few trips and a few stumbles as you go, but determined by the end goal.

    You slowly slog your way up that mountain, you’re tired, your backpack once heavy, becomes lighter with each passing day. Eventually you feel like you’re almost dragging yourself up that mountain, the climb becomes steeper and steeper, the air is thinner and thinner; your confidence shaken, your mind shattered, your physical being battered by climb and you are overtaken with overwhelming fears of failure. You’re half way there now, you’ve committed yourself come hell or high water. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you still hold on to the hopes of reaching the end goal, that summit, the beacon of success.

    You slowly realize just how hard it is to reach that summit, you start to question whether you can make it at all, but also, you question if you still want to make it. As you near the top, there are fewer and fewer other climbers, sometimes you glance down and you can no longer see where you came from, and sometimes the fog is so dense it obstructs your view of the summit, there’s only your memory of it, that assures you it’s still there.

    For the lucky few who actually reach the very top, it’s very lonely, it’s isolated , it’s unknown and it came with insurmountable sacrifice. The climb changed you, possibly, you will never be the same again. You can now only look down below at the things you overcame, the things you left behind, and what is ahead is uncharted territory. Your achievement is great indeed but the cost to get there will leave a lasting imprint. You know you were one of the few lucky ones, you can see others were not so fortunate, their climb ended in failure; and there are other new climbers on your tail, eager to de-thrown you, to take your place at the top.

    My teacher once told me, “Rebekah, strive for success but remember it’s tough at the top”. When I was in school, I just thought, “but success is the ultimate goal”. I know now, it isn’t.

    Great Post Ruth! food for thought indeed!

    • You should be a writer as well as maybe a cake decorator!! I couldn’t wait to see what you said next – great article!!

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