Trying Something New Again: Pumpkin Carving


As a kid, I remember carving pumpkins, but the memory wasn’t the nostalgic sense of joy one gets from completing a project. I remember stress and anxiety. My dad would always do the cutting and it was my job to scoop the guts out. I hated that job.

Why couldn’t I carve the pumpkin?

“You’re not strong enough.” “You’ll cut yourself.” “You’ll mess it up.”

At this point in my life I’m not sure if those were internal or external words, but the message remained. I never a carved a pumpkin as an adult because I didn’t think I could. Even after being a CrossFit Coach for two years and lifting more than my body weight over my head, I didn’t think I was strong enough. “It’s too messy, no thanks” was my go to response.

This year was different. I’ve been pushing myself to do things I used to avoid. The activities that made me uncomfortable for fear of failure are now back on the table.

Last night we went to Safeway and picked up a pretty sizeable pumpkin. I scanned the gourd and internally proclaimed “I’m gonna carve that son of a bitch!”

We brought him home and after binging on three episodes of Stranger Things Season 2 I was ready to dive in. I cleared off a space on my kitchen island and broke out the Sharpie. I started sketching when my boyfriend stopped me. “I thought we were going to do this together” he questioned. I paused. “I want to do this one on my own to see if I can do it.” Sensing a need for self-empowerment he nodded and continued with what he was doing.

I sketched out a basic design, but made sure my pumpkin had a friendly expression as shown in his eye brows. I then drew an outline on the top being careful to avoid his curly stem that reminded me of an Elvis bang.

I gripped my bright yellow serrated Cusinart knife and made my first incision. The questions filled my head “can I actually do this?” “I don’t want to go to the ER.” Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself to go slow and no one was winning a speed carving contest.

I took a second and third stab staying on the line at an angle. Before I knew it I made the full loop and was ready to uncover the guts. It worked! I took a deep breath and new I had this bad boy in the bag.

Little did I know before Halloween that my boyfriend loves pumpkin seeds. He actually wanted to carve the pumpkin just to get to the seeds, so he was more than happy to dig out the guts. Watching his excitement inspired me to get a spoon and start helping. Within 5 minutes we were done and on our way to roasting seasoned pumpkin seeds.

I moved on to the face and decided to start with the most complicated part – the mouth. I created two layers of teeth which somehow turned into an overbite making him even cuter. Using a smaller knife, I slowly punctured the orange flesh directly on the line.  Meticulously I repeated this action until the full piece started to jiggle. I did it! I grabbed the mouth piece like it was a trophy and waved it in the air. “You’re really good at this!” my boyfriend said. “Yes I am!” I responded.

I finished the other teeth section, mouth, nose, eyes and eye brows and there he was – “Clarence” my victory!

It took me 25 years, but I’m so glad I pushed myself to do it. I know if I slow down and take deep breaths, I can figure anything out or ask for help to someone who does. I may not have been strong enough as an 7-year-old, but 34-year-old me can do anything!