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I first knew I was adulting when I mastered the art of building a charcuterie board. Truly.

To me, nothing says “I’m a domestic goddess” without actually requiring me to turn on the oven quite like a fancy-ass cheese and meat platter. (And that’s “fancy-ass.” Not “ass cheese.” Come on, people.)

And don’t even get me started on accoutrements, one of the most important elements of the board. I’m talking tomato jam, citrus fig spread, stone ground mustard, and a million things from Trader Joe’s (I’m looking at you, pepper jelly). These additions provide so many sweet and savory layering possibilities, like tangy goat cheese plus spicy harissa paste, that accompany the charcuterie board… of life.

Yes, somehow, designing a quality combination of meats and cheeses has come to represent building a better life for my adult self.

The type of cheese you choose is the true building block of the board. It’s the first step of structuring a charcuterie board, and it influences all the choices that follow. For balance and to provide a variety of options for your guests, it’s best to choose cheeses from a mixture of the following categories: firm, soft/creamy, aged, smoked, and funky.

And in the board of life, I think my partner is the cheese.

This metaphor may also have to do with the fact that I felt romantically and professionally unsatisfied for a long time. I had a tendency to date people I had zero chance of being happy with (i.e., type-A cheaters and one chronic noncommitter who was far too old for me). Woof. It was almost like I didn’t actually want to succeed in love.

Then I met my now-husband, who is the actual best person on Earth.

Having that romantic stability after the ups and downs of dating life has been a total game-changer. That’s because, for me, finding the right romantic partner led to a bunch of similarly better decisions in other parts of my adult life.

Career corresponds to the meat choices in a charcuterie array. To me, it’s less important than my life partner — but taking a leap into the gig economy was much easier with some cheesy support.

I’ve always been naturally smart (thanks, Mom!), but at times I lacked ambition or direction. I bounced among a few jobs that didn’t challenge me or that I didn’t try too hard at (whoops!). Ultimately, I was left feeling unfulfilled and a little jealous while my circle of brilliant friends hit milestone after milestone, promotion after promotion.

My career trajectory took a turn for the better a couple of years ago when I met a travel writer at a chef pop-up. We were both going after the same table and ended up sitting together and hitting it off, which led to my first paid writing gig for her company. (Or, as my hubby would say, “You turned stealing a table into a career.”)

Fast-forward to now: I’ve quit my job to write full time. I’m making more than I ever have (especially when I get paid on time), and I get to travel the world to write about it. I get to talk about cheese equating to adulthood and make enough for groceries for the next month!

This life is a gift, and the meat of it is job stability in a fulfilling role. Fulfilling — who doesn’t consider that a key marker of so-called adulting?

Charcuterie boards are mainstream. They’re everywhere. You can’t escape them. People will pay handsomely for a pretty cheese plate, not just at a fine dining spot but also at a local bar. The internet is littered with versions of “How to make an epic charcuterie board” and “Best Ever Charcuterie Board,” and folks often craft (and ’gram) charcuterie magic at home.

And honestly, being able to share a charcuterie board really screams “adulthood.” Sharing has become the accoutrements in my life: It’s about the friends you make it with and the fact that you actually have enough groceries in your fridge at any random time to throw together a nice charcuterie spread without a ton of prep. It’s the details of friendship and community that add sweet and savory balance to life.

As my life gets busier career-wise and with kiddos, it’s nice to just come together with the people I love. Bonding over cheese is a bonus. And I’m becoming a queen of charcuterie (a title I happily share with many of my cheese-loving gal pals).

While I’ve been on this path to self-discovery, my charcuterie-making prowess has also turned me into the go-to appetizer supplier. My extended family has even entrusted me to set the tone for our holiday meal by procuring Christmas charcuterie.

The end result of 2018’s holiday charcuterie was a gorgeous, overflowing, well-balanced three-board display that I was super proud of. And it passed the true taste test, since my family devoured it immediately. After all, while everyone can appreciate a nice charcuterie board, it takes a little obsession to really knock it out of the park.

Maybe it’s my super millennial self finally embracing personal fulfillment that’s led me to find an overly enthusiastic identification, or a metaphor for life in artisan cheeses. Whatever it is, if I ever start shitting the bed when it comes to charcuterie, I’ll know to do some soul-searching and life evaluation.

Katy is a freelance food, business, and travel writer. She has contributed to Chilled Magazine, The Reader, Matador Network, Crunchbase News, Business Insider, Popular Science, and many more publications. Follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn.