“I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say ‘maybe’. I’m never gonna say ‘I don’t think I can’. I can and I will!” – Nadiyah Hussein, Great British Bake Off winner
I got into watching this baking competition last winter quite by chance. It showed on PBS at night just before the two PBS series that I quickly got hooked on (first, Home Fires and then, after Home Fires had run its course, Downton Abbey). Since both Home Fires and Downton Abbey finished months ago I haven’t bothered to stay up that late so haven’t been paying much attention to the return of The Great British Bake Off… that is until a few weeks ago when I came across it, again quite by chance, and remembered why I enjoyed it so much. So I jumped back into watching it every week.
When I resumed regular watching there were about seven contestants and what peeked my interest was that there were more people of colour than I’d ever seen before. One contestant, in particular, stood out to me. She was a Muslim woman, as evidenced by her clothing, and always seemed so distressed over her various baking projects and the judges’ assessment portion of the segments. A little worry-wart was what I dubbed her. Always… well mostly at least… her projects came out looking and/or tasting great but she wasn’t without criticism (sometimes I thought the judges were just finding fault for the sake of finding fault but that’s neither here nor there… and I admit I might have been more than a bit biased because, well, my spirit took to her as we say in Antigua & Barbuda).
Anyway, as week by week this and that contestant got eliminated the feeling I had about this Muslim woman-of-colour contestant got stronger and stronger. It was at the second episode that I’d watched, the end of it, that I said (to myself really because my husband had been bored to sleep by then, British baking shows just aren’t his thing) “she’s going to win this, you know!”. Not sure what gave me that sure conviction but I knew somehow that the worry-wart was a powerhouse to be reckoned with and week after week she proved that more and more, without ever losing her gracious disposition, respectful nature, or passion to get it right. She was judged “Star Baker” more than once and when she made it to the finals (along with two men, one a white Brit and the other an Indian) I knew Nadiyah would win and the other two (who were both really good as well… obviously) would hold on to second and third place however they chose (turns out only the winner is chosen, there’s no ranking of the “runners up”).
Well, she did it! She won! And I literally cried happy-for-you tears at witnessing her personal accomplishment. She was shocked to tears… to the very end she thought she might not win. The quote I shared at the beginning were her first thoughts after winning the contest and I love them for their sincerity, powerful message that inspired and touched me to my core, and just because they came from such a clearly beautiful soul.
Her words reached deep into the murky places most sentiments don’t go and rousted lingering bits of fear and self doubt within me; challenged my ephemeral dreamings with a “Well?! What the bleep are you waiting on?!”, and reminded me of the truth in Lisa Nichols’ words that YOU are the author of your own story! That 60 minutes of my life devoted to entertainment could morph into “just what I needed” makes her victory cherish-able in a deeply personal way and her words have been ricocheting between the left and right hemispheres of my brain since my ears took them in: I CAN AND I WILL!
Augusta 15, 2016