Goals and Dreams and Priorities

Thank you for the outpour of support over the past few days since my last entry. It really means so much, especially in a time when I feel like I’m giving up, or that I’m selling out, or that I’m not just not good enough to continue with this lifestyle. Yes, it’s my second quarter-life crisis. Yes, I’m pretty proud too that I’ve lasted for over two years. Yes, I know it’s OK to change my mind on this journey we call life. (Don’t I have the most wonderful friends?)

My mom sent me this quote she had found that seems pretty fitting to my situation right now: When your dreams change, let your values guide you. (It’s also the title of this awesome blog post by TJ Chasteen.)

The article and the parts she found important in it gave me a lot of food for thought. When I started on this journey, my goal was clear: I wanted to become a Michelin caliber chef running my own kitchen, designing my own fanciful tasting menus like those at noma or Alinea or Atelier Crenn. I had many obstacles in my way — the physically strenuous conditions, being female in a male-dominated industry, the emotional strain of the long hours and uncertain schedules, the years ahead of working your way up from the bottom (luckily I got to start a few steps above peeling potatoes… I picked herb salad). But NO MATTER. I was going to prevail and conquer and I was going to show all those people “stuck” in office jobs like my previous career that it is entirely possible to love your job and pursue your passion!

But I’ve changed. I found what I was looking for in TJ’s post and in this article (it was published only a week ago so it’s hauntingly timely). They articulated in words what I had had difficulty explaining to others about this burnout I’d been feeling. “The problem isn’t passion,” Mark writes, “it is never passion. It’s priorities.” If I were single and younger and able to devote every waking moment of my time and energy toward becoming this tortured artist of a chef, perhaps that first dream could have become a reality. But it’s just not the case. The more I toiled away in the kitchen, the more I came to resent how much it took me away from my fiance, from my home, from my cats, from my friends. A casualty of working in this industry is that after having to decline enough times, we all gradually stop getting invitations from our “normal” friends to hang out. That’s why industry people end up going out for drinks every night with each other. And I love food and I love cooking. I learned all of these amazing skills and techniques and yet I’m always too tired to actually make anything for the people I care about most. And over the past few months, it finally started to dawn on me… this life just isn’t worth it anymore.

So I finally brought up these thoughts and feelings to Honey Bunny the other night. I could tell he had been avoiding the conversation for at least a few days and he confirmed it. He tried to remain neutral but supportive, on the advice of his friend. But I could tell that he was not going to be heartbroken that his fiancee isn’t going to be a Michelin chef. I could tell that after all this time, all he’s really wanted was for me to be home more. To spend more time together. To not feel the need to make a Friday night special just because it’s the only Friday night off I’ve had in months or years, because before this life, pizza, beer, and a movie would be more than enough to “celebrate.” To just wake up in the morning and go to work at a job that I can reasonably enjoy, and then come home in the evening to him and our little family. Because as Mark said so eloquently, “Really, what is so wrong with working an OK normal job with some cool people you like, and then pursuing your passion in your free time on the side?”

So now I’m at a crossroads, looking for alternatives and backup plans. I’d still love to stay involved in food somehow, though fine dining dinner service on the hot line just isn’t in the cards anymore. But as long as I keep my values and priorities in mind, I’m sure I’ll figure out something.

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