Rip it Off

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I have a million things to say to you, internet. I want to tell you about my studio I share with my boyfriend fiance and how we turned it from a glorified dorm room into a poster for micro living. I want to tell you about how I've pretty much been living here since September and we haven't killed each other yet. I want to tell you that it is the midst of winter and inside me there is definitely not an invincible Summer, no matter how much fake gummy sunshine I chew each night and if you also feel like getting the mountain of lead that is your body out of bed each day is the only resolution you can make then make that one with me. I want to tell you how weird engagement rings are. Not from the feminist perspective nor the perspective that the value of diamonds is all contrived nonsense but from the perspective that it's really bizarre to go pick up the laundry wearing the single most expensive thing you own. I want to tell you that I just spent a weekend in Cleveland and in a few weeks I'm going home to California for the first time in two years and my anxiety levels are approximately ten times higher than my excitement levels.

But before I can tell you about those things, I have to tell you something. Maybe I've seen you lately and seemed odd. Maybe I've paused when you've asked how life is or given vaguely generic answers. Maybe I've been distant. Maybe we don't know each other in real life at all but I still feel like I've been lying to you because I strive to be open and honest on social media and in this place.

So if you haven't guessed it from the picture above:

I'm moving to Seoul.

I know, the Eastern Europe book thrown in there is a bit confusing. Also maybe the elephant holding a SparkleRock. So let's be a bit more transparent:

I'm getting married next month at City Hall.

I will be honeymooning in Eastern Europe and Turkey for the month of July.

Starting in early August, Dan and I will be living in Seoul for TWO YEARS.

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Which, obviously, will be an entire post on its own.

PS My SparkleRock is not that big, I just have tiny child hands.

PPS There are two reasons this post is password protected: I don't want to get fired (yes, technically illegal but also it's really slow so my boss could just say he's laying me off) AND uh, I haven't told my family (also an entire post?) so I'd appreciate if you kept this all on the DL on social media but feel free to comment/email/text/etc.

One Post, Three Cliche Topics

The hardest part of anything is starting. The hardest part of yoga is making the trip to the studio. The hardest part of sleeping is going to bed. The hardest part of writing is sitting down in front of a computer and confronting the blank page.

It's much easier to fall out of habits than get back into them. Even the habits that are good for us. Maybe especially the habits that are good for us.

In case you don't know, I've been dating somebody since April. I try to not be too gross about it all over the social media but it's pretty serious and I'm pretty in love and I pretty have alllll the brain chemicals going on that make you need to spend every single second with somebody. Writing is solitary. New relationships are not.

My boyfriend has been out-of-town for two weeks now. Lara was here for the first week he was gone but I've had all this week to sit down and write. To write here, to go back to working on the writing I started offline while I was working on my short cookbook, to write to my boyfriend (who has written me every single day he's been gone), to maybe work on something for an essay contest and instead I've pretty much done anything but. I've drunk with coworkers, I've marathoned tv shows, I read a solid 15% of Infinite Jest yesterday which is A LOT of reading and thought about how I should write. Thought about what I should write. Thought about how nobody needs read yet another person writing about writing. Or falling in love. Or being a twenty something struggling to make it in New York. But I'm already writing about writing, so I might as well give you the rest.

***

If you're like me, then by the time you tell somebody you love them, you've probably already said it a hundred times in your head. Changed a hundred sentences to things that sound more reasonable but really mean "I love you so much my heart might burst if I go any longer without saying it but I'm a coward and I'd rather it burst than break".

But eventually "As you wishes'" have to turn into "I love you's" or your heart doesn't so much burst as wither and that place on your chest that feels like it's been rubbed raw with sand paper only chafes in a bad way instead of the way that makes you grin like a mad man. It's a reminder that you are without armor. It's a reminder that you are cracked open and terrified for all the right reasons.

There is nothing new to be said about falling in love under the sun. There is nothing reasonable to be said about love though the smart stupid logical part of me has lots of thoughts about hormones and neurotransmitters and how long things last. Look, these neurotransmitters don't just fire for anyone, baby. Men that won't get references to The Next Generation, Season 7 Episode 19, need not apply.

I wrote this a month ago, which was a month after I started thinking about writing it. I am head over heels in love, and I'm more comfortable telling you, internet, about when things go wrong, then things going right. Maybe I don't want to jinx it, maybe I think nobody wants to hear the disgustingly cute stuff I think all the time right now or maybe I'm still a little more comfortable managing chaos, than managing happiness.

***

I've lived in Bed Stuy for almost a year now. When we moved in here it was because it is a huge amount of space for about $600 less than what we had set as the maximum price we were willing to pay for rent. At the time, I gave pretty minimal thought to living in the hood because it was just an awesome deal. When we moved in here, rent+utilities+student loans+metrocard equaled about 1/3 of my income. Considering most New Yorkers pay over 1/3 of their income just for rent, that felt pretty comfortable. Fast forward one year later and with my reduced income rent+utilities+student loans+metrocard equals just over half my income. Even right now when I'm working a busy schedule and have had at least ten hours of event pay a week. At this point, I basically live in the hood out of necessity, which definitely doesn't feel comfortable. I'd like to say I've stopped going out with my friends as much because I spend a ridiculous amount of time with my boyfriend, but it's mostly that I'm incredibly embarrassed by how little I can afford and anxious all. the. damn. time.

You want to know the worst part of this, though? I make an above average hourly wage for a pastry cook in this city. I found this article hilarious because I just wanted to scream "Maybe if you want more cooks to stay in New York you should pay them a fucking living wage". I make the same amount of money right now I made 5 years ago in Berkeley. Be better, New York City.

I am having some serious thoughts about whether or not it's worth it to be a chef here. About how being a chef here compromises my values on quality of ingredients, where they come from, how they're grown, how it all affects the economic injustices of our food system. About the ways in which it compromises my values on how workers should be treated. Catering, in particular, creates more waste (both plastic and food) than I ever could've imagined and that breaks every piece of my liberal Bay Area heart.

My cooking class will start-up again with the school year, and I am happy for that. I have fantastic coworkers and open and honest communication with my boss and I am happy for that.

I want to teach more and I want to write more. I guess it's time I commit more time to doing that.

Heads Carolina, Tails California

When the humidity breaks and the rain starts falling, I sleep with the window open. In the middle of Summer it'll stay hot enough to justify the air conditioner even then, but right now I prefer the mixture of warm air and coolish breeze and occasional mist that makes it through the screen. I like the wind and the thunder and the lightning. The weather takes me to places or times that aren't here - India, Thailand, Mexico, Manhattan twenty years ago. I took a Greyhound out of the city last Saturday. It's such a different thing to say you're taking the Greyhound than to take an airplane or a train or even its newer cousins like BoltBus or MegaBus. The Greyhound is for adventure, for escape, for hiding out and getting the hell out of dodge. It's one step above hitch hiking.

I'll let you in on a little secret: Greyhound has wi-fi now and outlets, the tickets are significantly cheaper online than from the ticketbooth at Port Authority and at least one of the buses had seats more comfortable than my overstuffed couch. Don't worry though, it still seems to have an insanely inefficient boarding process, runs a few hours late and is filled with characters that will give you cause to practice your crazy eyes lest you end up with them as a seatmate.

It was my first time out of the boroughs in about a year and my last trip out of New York was only to Montclair, New Jersey. I had my usual leaving the city anxiety, I still think when I leave New York I won't get to come back to it, I still have to reassure myself I live here now. The farther out I got, the more my anxiety went by the wayside. I put away my book and watched as endless trees flew by and felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I had three days where I wasn't going to have to fight with New York to keep living in it. Three days where the only things I had to do was hang out with friends, eat, drink and participate in the marriage of two of my favorite people. Even though the windows were tinted, I put on my sunglasses because we weren't in New York anymore where I would just be another twenty something crying on the train, here I would be that crazy girl crying on the Greyhound to Northampton.

"She was just sitting there reading Infinite Jest and then suddenly she started crying, you just can't tell these days, can you?"

Relaxing to me is always more overwhelming than not relaxing. I can work a ten-hour day fine as long as I don't sit down. Savasana is always the most painful pose as I feel the knots in my back letting go and my shoulders and ribs returning to their correct places. I can operate on five hours of sleep a night until one day I get eight and suddenly realize how tired I've been. I am the queen of soldiering through, of keeping calm and carrying the fuck on.

When I came back my boss asked me if I felt like I had gotten enough time out of the city.

"No," I almost started crying again, "I think it just made me really feel like I need a vacation, I feel really silly saying that because I've had lots of time not working this year but I was just so stressed during all of it."

"Just give me a month or so notice, and will get somebody in and figure it out"

It's both that simple and not. Vacations require money and that is a thing I'm still sorely lacking. Right now I have at least one event in every pay period for the next month and a half and I will not say "no" to hours. For now, I will squirrel away that feeling of relief and I'll keep on keeping on, building back up to the normalcy I'm fighting daily to once again create and hope that come fall I can take an effing vacation.

All Kinds of Things You Can't See From the Center

It's warm in New York today but not hot. It's hovering around 80 with no humidity. It's my favorite kind of weather. It's weather that makes me yearn for Sonoma County the way winter used to make me yearn for New York. I can see the hills still green from winter rains and smell the damp of the redwoods and feel the way the air changes as you get closer to the coast. I can feel my excitement that it's just about time for the Sonoma-Marin fair which will tide me over to County Fair time. Hot black tops and too expensive fried foods. Sheep shearing and sheep dog trials. Wondering why I was so much better at winning goldfish when I was a child. It's funny how life knows exactly how far to push you before turning around. How just saying something out loud or getting things out of your head and onto a piece of paper can loosen some thing's hold on you.

Dominique suggested I date the lumberjack and just give into the spiral about two months ago, and I thought about it. I thought about giving in because sometimes it's easier to just give in than risk fighting against it and failing. If you are a relentlessly controlled person, there is no better feeling than the high of being out of control. I thought about it. And I rejected it.

I had just gotten Charlotte and I think I had just gone on my second date with the guy I'm dating now and both those things felt like a return to normal for me. My baseline. And it felt good. It felt like somewhere I wanted to be even as a felt my life was spiraling out of control financially and careerwise.

A couple of Sundays ago, I found myself cooking dinner in a vintage dress, making enough for aforementioned guy to be able to pack for lunch and I laughed to myself thinking what a caricature of myself I had so easily become again. I thought about how much more normal my life suddenly seemed to me with a kitten and somebody for whom to cook and, thankfully, a return to a full-time schedule. I have spent most of my adult life with all of those things, the last two years an anomaly. I didn't need to learn how to live without a pet, but I did need to live without a significant other and I'm happy it happened and I'm happy to take a break from it.

I thought I would be terrified to incorporate somebody into my life again. I thought it would be hard to fit somebody into a schedule that has been built solely around my own priorities. I thought I might lose myself. I thought I'd still be bad at open and honest communication about my FEELINGS. Instead, I'm startled by how easily I've adapted, how stupid happy it makes me and how much I still feel centered in myself. I surprised myself Sunday when, with my voice quavering, I said "I'm just sad" instead of continuing to insist that I was fine.

It's strange how we can not change at all and also change immensely and that those things are not mutually exclusive.

Trade Offs

I'm not really an "everything happens for a reason" or "the universe doesn't hand us anything we can't handle" person. When I got laid off at Stellina, I was miserable and it seemed like a relief. When I got laid off at Je & Jo it seemed like it was probably time I get out of my rut and start working on something that actually challenged me anyways. When I got hired at my current job it seemed like a perfect fit but now I am severely underemployed and obviously I want there to be a reason. I want something better to come out of it. I want to know it's because the universe knows I can handle it. I don't believe that's how the world actually works, but I still want it to be true. Probably the best thing that has come out of this is that I've been able to focus on writing.

Probably the worst thing that has come out of this is stress vomiting, panic attacks and missing out on big things I really want to do like my friend Elise's Vegas bachelorette party and then BiSC.

The worst part about missing BiSC is that only ended up working one day of all the days it happened so it seems like I should've gone anyways. And reading everyone's tweets late at night and almost crying while waiting for the G train.

The best part about missing BiSC is texts like the last one I got from Dominique that said "We've just poured a (figurative) stream of melted butter on the ground at bouchon for the chefs that couldn't join us (you)".

The other best part was that I had a weekend that reminded me I really like my life, which is a thing I've definitely needed some reminding of lately.

Wednesday was a 14 hour work day for supper club and then going out for "one drink" with my coworkers and obviously not doing that.

Thursday was a hangover and an afternoon date where I like to think I was being charmingly honest about the state of my head. Dinosaur bones and almost falling asleep in the Hall of Minerals. Gorgeous day in Central Park. Shake Shack fries for my hangover and a walk to Columbus Circle because my hangover also demanded a rainbow sprinkle cone from Mister Softee. People watching. Sunset watching. Beer. Making plans for a fourth date. You might not do dates well often New York, but when you do... Damn.

Friday was errands and then brunch at Egg with Morgen. Cafe Grumpy cold brew. Walking the Highline. Sample sales I had no business being at. Discovering that there's a Vanessa's in South Williamsburg. Realizing how ludicrously cheap Vanessa's is. Then a trip to our new favorite honky tonk for a giant whiskey sweet tea and live music. Bed.

Saturday was my commute somehow taking 1.5 hours instead of thirty minutes. Work. A text suggesting we meet up that evening instead of Sunday for date four. Drinks with my coworkers. Showing up tipsy (choosing to believe this is also charming) to my date. Many plates of fancy bar food. A visit to a bar with a TARDIS. Moving on to a bar with delicious beer. Definitely being the people in a bar other people might hate a little (or find adorable? Let's go with adorable). Late Saturday night snuggles (both a euphemism and not) leading to Sunday morning ones.

Sunday was laziness and brunching and tv and snuggles and naps. Hiding from the rain and being read to. Ridiculous dance party for two (these arms of mine...). Home made pot roast for dinner. Returning to a very excited kitten at 10pm after having been gone for 38 hours.

I wasn't able to go to BiSC and that kind of really sucked but I'm keeping my fingers crossed there was a reason.

Becoming Real

I think a lot about all the ways I feel like I'm not real. I've written before that I don't feel like a real creative because I'm not interested in and don't have a relaxed go with the flow lifestyle, because I don't want to write a novel or because I get paid to do what I love and it doesn't require having a day job. I sometimes don't feel like a real chef because I don't like restaurant work, "I'm just a baker," I'll say. I don't think of my job as a real job because it doesn't fit into a neat nine to five, salaried, paid vacation box. I'm definitely not a real writer. Real writers have outlines and drafts and edit their work instead of just vomiting their feelings on a page to be consumed by the internet. I know that writing is important for my well being. I know that if somebody else told me that they had a place on the internet with 4.5 years of writing, that they spend time thinking about the way words flow together, that when they haven't written for a while, it feels like their brain might explode, and then said "I'm not a real writer" I'd call shenanigans. So I started working on a writing project outside of this blog. Offline. It's definitely in its very first draft, I'm not sure what the final product is going to look like and I'm not really ready to talk about it yet. It turns out "real writing" is hard. It means I have to choose writing over other things. It means spending a lot more time deleting. Like being a chef, I guess I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know how hard.

To give myself a little motivation, I decided to put aside the first writing project I started for a bit and write a quick and fun cookbook.

Here is what I wrote about it on my tumblr:

"Pretty much my favorite thing I do every week is teaching basic cooking skills and healthy(ish) eating habits to tweens in East Harlem and the Bronx. My budget for the projects is not large (read:miniscule) but the task of teaching kids to love vegetables and get excited about cooking each week is. Surprisingly, I’ve managed to do just that both for the kids I cook with and the adult volunteers that help me. (The kids ask if we can make kale chips almost every week and one of my repeat volunteers told me she’s all about Brussels sprouts now). I absolutely love it, but it’s taken a considerable amount of my time and a not small amount of my personal resources to do it.

I wrote a pretty short, but (I think) amusing cookbook of some of the recipes I use in class that teach basic cooking techniques like roasting vegetables and how to make a roux. My goal is to provide these kids with the skills to feed themselves without resorting to processed foods and to teach them that cooking isn’t always about exact measurements and fancy tools, but about creativity, curiosity and venturing outside your comfort zone. Learning healthy eating habits and how to take care of yourself shouldn’t be a privilege.

(and because I really do believe that, if $2.99 on Amazon isn’t in your budget, you can pay what you want to download the book in pretty much any ebook format here)

(Or if you just want to give me more than $2.99 you can pay what you want at that link, I’m fine with that option too)"

Some people have downloaded the book for free, some have paid the recommended price and some generous person paid $10.00! Sure, I've still only sold 20 copies but that's 20 more copies of something I've written than I've ever sold before. My expectation was that I would sell approximately zero and I felt really anxious about asking people to pay money for my writing even though it was for a good cause and tapped into my knowledge of the thing I definitely get paid to do. But there it is. I wrote a book and figured out how to publish it in ebook form (with big thanks to Ashley's "how to" post) and you can buy it. I guess I'm a real writer now.

And, because obviously I want you to buy my book, here's a sample recipe for motivation:

Stove Top Mac and Cheese Round 2

Easy

½ lbs Elbow Macaroni

½ Stick Butter

4 T Flour

2 c Milk

1 lbs Shredded Cheddar

Salt and Pepper to Taste

 

Cook that macaroni in boiling water with a splash of olive oil in it. Drain it and set aside. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan; whisk in your flour until a paste forms (this paste is called a roux). This should take about 2 to 3 minutes because you actually want to cook the flour slightly so that it doesn’t make the sauce taste weird. Pour milk into the pot and continue whisking until the sauce thickens (at this point the sauce is a béchamel). You’ll probably have to do some heavy whisking to get your flour paste (roux) dissolved. Stir in cheese and whisk just until melted. Be careful not to overcook or your sauce might break. Congratulations, you just made a Mornay sauce! You just learned three really important cooking things in one super simple recipe. Feel free to write home.

Right. Pour that Mornay over the pasta you set aside. Eat.

 

Want to pretend it’s healthy? Use whole wheat pasta.

DGAF? Add bacon bits. Put a fried egg on top.

And the living is easy

I know this weather is only for today. That tomorrow it's supposed to thunder and then it will cool back down into more appropriate Spring time temperatures, but for tonight I will revel in it. I'll take a moment to ignore how odd it is for me to have bare legs while the trees still have bare branches and instead enjoy our wide open windows and the daffodils I sneakily picked in Prospect Park on Sunday that have turned from yellow and white to a uniform a cream. I'll drink this white wine while Otis Redding plays and smile and dream of Summer. Since, I am, as always, a creature of extremes, I like snow and I like sun and this long winter of mostly neither has not been my favorite. I am eager to read in the park and lay out on the beach and go months without wearing pants except in the kitchen.

I want warm nights and walks along the Highline at sunset and a hand to hold. I want wooden picnic tables and pitchers of beer and shared laughter and fried things. I want short skirts and high heels and dancing. I want to fill our balcony with pots, to dig my hands into soil, to watch green tendrils crawl their way out. Lettuce, sugar snaps, tomatoes. I want food truck rallies and farmer's market abundance.

In Winter the world closes in and in Summer it opens again. Each is necessary but I'm ready for adventure, for being out in the world, for saying "yes".

It's Pretty Weird That I Don't Have Any Tattoos Yet

A week or so ago, I wrote this little bit over on my tumblr about this list of 50 things they never tell you about being a chef. Basically what that list says is that being a chef is really hard but if you love it you could never do anything else. What my little bit says is basically that exact same thing. And because the universe is a wrathful, wrathful monster, it basically was like "oh, you think being a chef is hard do you?" and made me walk the walk to go along with that. In true chef fashion, I spent all of last weekend spending the entirety of my disposable income on GREAT food and mediocre to fantastic alcohol. I went into work Monday still kind of recovering and proceeded to work one of the most physically demanding weeks I've worked in a long time. Possibly ever. I spent 2-3 hours rolling out pie dough each morning, no break. Just rolling out two pounds at a time, cutting it to the size I needed, moving onto the next two pounds. About 32 pounds worth of dough each day. Here is a thing I have learned, all repetitive motions sucks after two hours. Even when I was a chocolatier and the motion was just dipping a little tiny truffle. Muscles burn, joints creak and your back seizes. Rolling out two pounds of pie dough at a time is no big deal to me for about the first twenty pounds worth. Between pounds twenty and twenty-five I'd start to feel my triceps burn. Somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-two my shoulders would start to ache, I'd become acutely conscious of how I was holding the rolling pin, the pressure on my wrists and how to be ergonomically correct and my body was thinking something like "I hate you, you are the actual worst, why the fuck are you doing this to me. NOBODY NEEDS SAVORY RUSTIC FRENCH TARTS THIS BADLY". I know body, I'm sorry.

And then in the afternoon, I'd spend about an hour and a half mixing another 32 pounds of pie dough. I had no problem falling asleep early enough for my 4:45 am alarm this week. I was working 10-12 hour days and I was basically asleep an hour after I got home. By Thursday I was WRECKED. My boss would semi jokingly ask if I was ready to walk out yet. She and I talked about how we were going to make working with this client possible both in terms of how much time it was taking up and what I was physically capable of. The only answer was a sheeter. That's it. So I was given the option of coming in Friday or taking another three day weekend (I opted for a half day) and she pitched renting or buying a sheeter to the owners.

Obviously, the major plus side of this is that my hours have not actually been reduced. I also chose to come in on Friday and power through some stuff because I'm definitely in a "taking all the hours I can get now" mentality which I think is just the way the catering lifestyle has to work.

Today I got an email saying we had a mutual parting of ways with this particular client and I'm sure everyone is sighing a HUGE sigh of relief because it was taking over our lives and it was just incredibly stressful. Pastry for this client was basically entirely my responsibility and took over all of my hours (which meant the pastry chef was also working crazy hours having to get everything done for our other catering events all on her own) so the downside is, I might possibly be back in the boat of not knowing what my hours/paycheck are going to look like. We do have a lot of events this month and hopefully the combination of pastries for those and working onsite will keep me flush. Also, now I get to work on the fun stuff.

So I guess the moral of this story is:

A) Don't say something is hard and then expect it to just keep being the level of hard it normally is instead of astronomically harder because the universe is an asshole.

B) I did think about going to cry in the walkin, but I never once thought about walking away because at the end of the day I worked my ass off and I did it well, doing something I loved and, even though I will admit that I was dreading starting the whole process over again tomorrow morning, I can't imagine a whole lot else that would give me the same satisfaction.

So this is the life I have chosen. This is the life I keep choosing. And it's HARD.

But I'm harder.

CHEFLIFE, WHAT.

If you don't understand him, an' he don't die young, He'll prob'ly just ride away.

When my mother left, when my mother came back. Going to live with my grandparents. My father being arrested in front of me. Visits to rehabs. My father's death. Turning points in my life have mostly been things where I feel no control. Turning me from a quiet controlled girl into a contained, obsessively controlled woman. ***

When I kissed him when I shouldn't have because I was committed to kissing somebody else. The kiss that would turn into months of arguments. Of late night phone calls. Of screaming and threatened suicide if I didn't come RIGHT NOW. Of two hour drives and me leaving the peninsula at 6am to get to high school in Santa Rosa on time. Of spiraling down, down, down. Poor grades in eagerly signed up for AP classes and lies to my therapist. Or at least, not truths. Breaking the trust of the somebody else for, maybe, ever. The first proof that for the next six years I'd always find a way to be leaving.

Until that day when I left.

"I don't want you to move in with us"

"Is that all?"

"And I don't think I can do this anymore"

"I was afraid that's what you were going to say"

And so I drove away in tears from the boy I thought I would marry, who put up with panic attacks and days spent crying and that early mistake of kissing somebody else who would only make things worse. Allowing us both to grow up and apart.

Maybe this was my moment of being cruel to be kind.

***

I sat in the waiting room with my grandmother. I hadn't slept for days weeks and so I was here. Therapy, round 2. I guess that first round, when I was a small child, didn't take. The truth was, I needed it more before my father died. Now I had reason to be sad and reason to not sleep, though both those things had been true beforehand. I filled out the forms with my grandmother sitting next to me and though I was fairly certain she wasn't looking, I lied. I lied about the amount of sad, the crying, the thoughts about death and suicide. I didn't lie about sleep habits because that's why I was there after all. Grief and sleeplessness and dropping enough pounds that my pediatrician asked if I had been trying to lose weight. I lied. And I would mostly keep lying. And after a year I would be pronounced fine.

The therapist couldn't have known then that she was the one doing the lying.

***

That time I locked my heart up when my mother told me it was no fun if I didn't cry. That night child me walked herself home in the darkness of the West Oakland night. That first morning I got myself ready for school and attempted to wake up my mother to get her to take me. The habits of self-sufficiency cemented early and forever unshakeable.

***

When I boarded a plane for India. When I boarded a plan for Turkey. When I chose culinary school over college.

When I left my dream job, relationship and apartment to move into a cabin in the woods.

When I was still unhappy two years later and boarded a plane to New York.

***

I don't know that there are event horizons I haven't written about or beaten like a dead horse. I don't know the moments where I truly changed all. I think sometimes I have been the same forever. The happier version or the sadder version or the more honest version. But my core seems the same. The only difference is how closely I have lived in line with it.

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of storytelling. One of today's prompts was What have been the event horizons of your life - the moments from which there is no turning back?

How To: Big Sistering

  1. Be an only child for eight years. Preferably, also be an only grandchild for at least seven.
  2. Acquire a younger brother. Alternate between resentment and eagerly helping take care of him.
  3. Suffer through a year in which he thinks biting is the most effective way to get what he wants thanks to a kid at daycare. You will have bruises. The tooth marks on the tender skin on the inside of your upper arm will be the ones that make you come closest to instinctively smacking his toddler face. Don't smack it.
  4. He will soon move on to kicking you. Love him anyways.
  5. Get dragged to his second PeeWee soccer practice. He would only watch at his first and your grandma thinks he'll be encouraged if you're there*
  6. Watch him watch the other kids do their "practice drills" (we are still talking 4 to 5 year olds). Feel bad.
  7. Get a ball and take him to the other side of the field. Start lightly kicking it to him like you've done at home.
  8. Watch him smile and enjoy himself. Feel good.
  9. Move closer to the other kids. Get yourself and him in line for the drill.
  10. Go through the drill a few times with him before running back to the sidelines and watching him participate fine on his own.
  11. Repeat for as many practices as necessary.
  12. Go back to resenting him.
  13. Love him anyways.

*WARNING: Because of this story, your grandma will always think this is true and this is how MANY years later you'll find yourself at 23, awake at 2am, filled with many cups of coffee wondering how ethical it would be to just write a damn Sophomore English paper yourself as you drag sentence after sentence out of him and repeatedly yell that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. You will do this more than once. I'm sorry.

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of story telling. Today's prompt was to tell a story in the form of an instructional manual.

Bits & Pieces: Feelings and Job Updates

So here is the reality of the last few weeks. For the first week after getting laid off I was nauseous every day. Every. Single. Day. I knew I would find another job but that didn't keep the sadness then anger than anxiety at bay. By that Friday I was actually sick, not just anxiety sick. I basically spent the entire weekend in bed, snotty, hacking, fevery and gross. Even sick I managed to send out a second volley of resumes because sickness does not anxiety cure (unlike having a source of income).

My motivation to show up for work for the next week was pretty non existent, both because I was sick as hell and because I had mostly moved onto anger. I had poured all my creative energy into my job and, in the end, gotten nothing in return. There had been jobs that would've been better career moves for me, jobs that would've given me health insurance, but no, I believed in the potential of Je & Jo and I believed that I'd be working for people just as committed and concerned about taking their business to the next level as I was. And I'm honestly not sure they were. And, fuck, I HAD JUST GOTTEN SALARY AND PAID TIME OFF, which had lulled me into an apparently false sense of security. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.

Look, I've never been much for routine, I'm more of a "running from one falling star to another" sort of girl. I'm used to getting bored and wanting change constantly. When I got laid off last year, I was relieved. I was excited about my new job prospects. This year I was resistant, I applied to jobs because I had to. I took the job I knew objectively made the most sense for me careerwise and for the things I like to do. I'll be honest, I wasn't excited. I wasn't not excited, I just wasn't really anything. For once, I didn't actually want my life to change.

I've now worked at my new job for five days. I'm starting out with a six day week and I've gone through close to 15o pounds of flour in the last five days. This is real baker life and I've kind of missed it. My arms are not as sore as I've thought they would be (today I mixed a batch of brownies that involved 4 pounds of butter and 2.75 pounds of chocolate BY HAND and that's been pretty typical of my week) but I feel pretty physically exhausted by the end of the day. It's a good feeling. I'm using skills I haven't used in a while and using them well. My boss and I assembly lined some galettes today and worked easily and efficiently as a team. I'm starting to actually get excited.

I won't say I'm excited about waking up at 4:45am or going back to working weekends, but I will say that I think the shake up in routine is good for me. My commute is half what it used to be and there are many more daylight hours in my life. They feed me family meal at work. It's a pretty seasonal/California cuisine/nouveau American sort of place so I've been eating pretty clean which makes me crave more clean food and cook at home more. I have a feeling my new schedule might get lonely pretty soon, but right now I feel like I've been given a blank slate. I've been forced to completely reorganize/prioritize my time. Which is nice. Each day I get to say "So what is it I do on <insert day here> at 5pm now?" and do whatever the fuck I want. At 8am, the morning bake off has been picked up and I can walk to get a coffee at Five Leaves. At 3pm I usually have snack time at home. This week has involved a lot of reading and trying to not nap, some cooking, some cleaning and a little pre bedtime yoga. I think the pre bedtime yoga is here to stay.

Also, the coffee break. OBVS.

In Flux

I have a new job. I think I like it. I made pate a choux today for the first time in years and it turns out I still know how to make pate a choux so that's pretty cool. Actually, it turns out every time I'm terrified I've forgotten a technique hammered into me at culinary school, I'm wrong. (please don't ask me to make a sugar show piece because I have a feeling that's when I would be right)

I don't know my new schedule yet. I know have to go in at 6:15 tomorrow and 7:15 on the weekend days. I don't know what my life is going to look like anymore and it's something I'm really struggling with because, guys, despite what it may sound like sometimes, I really like my life. Or liked my life.

It's weird to be under somebody else again. It's weird to know that I'm probably out of the weekend brunch game. I'm probably out of the weekend going out game all together. I hang out in the same places and with the same people almost every weekend. No more.

I'm back to Real Chef life.

My arms are going to be sore tomorrow, because my beefy baker arms are not as strong as they once were but are now back to making quantities they used to make. I am going to be tired tomorrow, because I have to wake up at an hour with which I've only been familiar drunkenly falling asleep in the past year.

Things are in flux and I don't know how I feel about it. I used to be the girl who hated routine and felt stuck living somewhere after six months but after getting laid off two years in a row, after two years of casual relationships, I'd just like things to stick around for a while, y'know? But I also no longer really expect anything to.

So I guess I'm happy about my new job. I get to bake things and they give me money.

And everything starts all over again.

Piles of Good Things

I mention my living room window a lot. I constantly take pictures of it. It's a large window facing out to the street with a ledge big enough to be a secret writing place before we filled it with things. It's too cold to sit on the ledge next to it and read or write right now but when the Spring comes our rusty lanterns and candles and bottles will have to move. Currently it's set up for Winter, for coziness. In the evening one of us usually plugs in the twinkle lights and lights the candles. In that part of the living room we have a floor lamp that provides a warmer glow than the overhead lights. Sometimes even when all the other lights are out, the twinkle lights get left on for the last roommate home. You can see it coming from down the block and I don't know if I've ever had something so visually comforting to come home to. It's a little thing. The kind of little thing I've been trying to pay more attention to. I worry sometimes about the things I won't remember. I think because I take less pictures these days. I don't keep a journal, just this blog. Journals are for the little things. The minutiae of the day to day that actually make up a life. The books I've been reading this year make me think it's time for a journal again.

I wonder which things are important and which things aren't. Sometimes I worry because I haven't been in a serious relationship for so long that I don't know how to do it any more, that all these little ones shouldn't have happened. That they were useless. When you can look back and say "here is six years I dated this person, here is the year I spent arguing with another man and there's that year where I moved in with somebody too quickly" those seem like real solid things. Solid things that aren't just fleeting moments like a head leaning against yours or a car covered in snow.

But always, the little things are the things that matter. I remember leaning up against Jacob at a bowling alley, months before we dated, I remember painting pottery and the sound of the rain during our first kiss. I remember a moment watching "Adaptation" being the first time he learned I would always flinch and close my eyes during a car crash, holding back a panic attack. Those are the early things, the things that happened ten years ago and I remember them.  The relationship wasn't made of this block of six years, or graduating high school, or changing jobs or the things that seemed like everything at the time. Those affected it, but the relationship was made of the tiny moments, good and bad.

I can tell you how I felt the first time Che and I walked around his property and he showed me his favorite view. Or when Matt left me a secret note on the inside flap of my alka seltzer box when I had a kidney infection.

The lumberjack faded away on me and I oddly felt nothing. I was sick and dealing with looming unemployment and maybe I just didn't have enough emotional energy. Maybe I always thought our lives were too different for it to work anyways. Or maybe I've just come to accept that even if I really like somebody, it's ok if they're not the one. It doesn't mean I'm not still looking for my penguin but I can take the way he said my name or put his arm around me whenever we crossed streets against the light to hurry me to safety and add them to the pile of good things and move on.

If this isn't nice

I am awful and cranky most days. Truly awful. I want to remember the little things more. I don't mean to notice them and think that pleasure I get from noticing them will make everything better. I just want to know that when I look back the thing I'll remember isn't getting laid off or sifting through endless descriptions of jobs I don't want, it'll be things like Trouble and the snow.

Except that was last year and this is this year and this year it's a string of red lights against red velvet curtains. Trusting a man to lead me somewhere small and out of the way and perfect. Sitting down just in time for 16 Tons and happy memories of folk music and my childhood. Feeling my annoyance at my job, my life, the evening's hectic planning melt away as I smiled involuntarily, loving it like he said I would. It's the proprietary way he drinks my beer without asking and his head leaning against mine when the train gets stuck between stations long enough for me to believe we have actually found our way into one of the circles of Hell. Not knowing where things are going and learning to relinquish control.

This month it's the children circling around me each yelling the same question.

What are we making?

What are we making?

What are we making?

The confidence that comes from waiting for them to settle down, clearly explaining and watching and checking in with each student, knowing I'm in my element. Showing the children the bright mix of roasted vegetables they've created. Their eagerness to try a bowl.

This week it's the stark contrast of leafless trees against the bright blue sky. The thing I have wanted tattooed on my body for longest and most.

Valentine's with my roommate. Creamy burrata and a jar of tiramisu. Later, all three of us on the couch. Moonstruck and a bottle of wine. Cozy.

The promise of more snow, of seasons soon to be changing and something new right around the corner.

Trouble (reprise)

Friday I got a text from Trouble. It was surprising since I hadn't heard from him at all since the last time I saw him nine months ago. I was starting to feel like the nature of our relationship was changing and if I had to put money on it, I'd guess he felt similarly and feral catted his way out of there. It was an innocuous enough text in the middle of the afternoon, so once I got over the initial surprise and finished my confused staring at his name (surely my phone was wrong and somebody else had sent me a 'long time no see' message) I responded with a standard innocuous response asking about life. He told me he'd had a cancelled flight and had to ride out the blizzard in Astoria instead of Florida, that storm made him think of the time he came over to my place and it snowed over night.

I had forgotten that it snowed on my birthday last year. That when he found me at the back of the bar he told me I looked pretty, like myself because the last time he had seen me I was vintage and mink and red velvet heels. I remembered the snowflakes were fat and lazy. The quietness of snow blanketed Astoria at 3am. We made out in his car and when we came up for the air the car was coated in snow, hiding us from the outside world. I remembered how vulnerable I felt letting him come to my house for once but how oddly happy I was to feel that vulnerability. And I remembered that he knew it. Because I told him. That he was exceptionally sweet about it. That in the morning he did that thing that makes it so I can only ever describe his grin as boyish (though I hate myself for the cliché), kissed me and thanked me for letting him stay the night.

I smiled to myself because everything about that night was lovely and good.

But I remembered more and I didn't write back.

To My One True Love

photo-8 Two years ago I moved to New York.

I quit my job. I broke up with my boyfriend. I dropped my classes. I packed my bags.

There are things that are the same and things that are different.

The streets were piled high with snow when I arrived, like they are now. 2011 was a normal New York Winter. One where people didn't freak out about it snowing eight inches for just one day because that's just what happens in Winter. I remember it snowed well into March when Ruby came to visit for Spring break. Or was that April? It was a long winter but I got to spend a lot of time walking through Central Park in the snow. Time reminding me of the magic of my city love.

When I moved I had spent eight years in relationships. Eight years. Now I've spent the last two years more or less single. I didn't know how to create a life that wasn't built on somebody else's, that wasn't always slightly compromised. Now I don't know if I remember how to fit somebody into the life I've made. I have moments when I don't know if I even really want to and moments when I know with absolute certainty that I do. 87% of the time I do.

I was job searching then and I'm job searching now. I had taken a break from the culinary world and was terrified to get back into it. I couldn't afford to be too choosy about where I worked. I didn't have any idea what I wanted. Now I'm mostly happy to be back in the kitchen. My ideas about what I want my career to look like are in flux but I know my strengths and I know my worth. I know I don't have to take the first job that comes along even though from my preliminary interview that first job looks pretty great.

I lived in Queens then. I live in Brooklyn now. My hair was long and I was planning on chopping it off. Now my hair has been short for long enough that I'm fairly certain I'm growing it out. I miss my curly mane.

I've lived in two different houses and three different rooms. I've worked at three different jobs, gotten one promotion and been laid off twice. I've made it to the third date a number of times but rarely past that. I've lost my monthly unlimited card twice, each time with only a week left. I know it's not that hard to jump a turnstile. I've had one phone stolen. I know that rotating beds creak when they spin and can actually be pretty distracting. I no longer know how many times I've gotten drunk from free wine after hours at the American Museum of Natural History. I no longer know how many people I've met here that have moved back home or out of town. I don't know how many people I know now that won't be in the city next year. I've made many friends and I've lost a few.

I've worked every hour of the day.  I worked 80 hours a week for two weeks straight. There might be days where I got paid more for crying in the walk in than for mixing dough. I've gone straight from a bar to the kitchen and baked in my slip. I know what a 50 lb block of butter looks like.

I've made out in cabs and cried on the subway and thrown up over the edge of the train platform. The number of miles I've walked is easily in the hundreds, if not at least a thousand.

I've sung along to "This Land is Your Land" with a crowd of people during an encore that involved three bands and an 80 degree Summer night in the middle of Central Park. I've had a nightclub sing me "Happy Birthday".

When I moved I came down with a massive case of "wherever you go there you are" because when I moved I had mostly been unhappy and it turns out that doesn't change overnight.

Real change takes time.

But the space away from expectations and shoulds, the space to focus on myself, the decision to be in the place I've always wanted to be has helped that change take place.

So here's to you, New York, on our two year anniversary - may there be many more to come.

DipticDiptic-1

Falling in Love

I'm sitting with the intention of writing. It's a struggle lately. Every word feels like I'm pulling it kicking and screaming out of my brain, but I know, I know the only way to write is to write. So I'm sitting here, listening to First Aid Kit on repeat and writing. I'm not writing. I'm wondering if a lumberjack has texted me again. He hasn't. I know, but I check my phone anyway, maybe I didn't hear it vibrate. I hate this part of dating. The way my brain works. We're writing right now, brain. We've been on three dates. Maybe he'll never text again. We're always going to write, we know our relationship to it, we're committed. Not monogamous, because there's always baking, but committed. Let's put our focus there. I'm falling in love with neighborhood again. I'm constantly falling in and out of love with it. The tree lined blocks are perfect covered in snow. I bought a cup of grits with pesto, jalapeno sauce, a soft boiled egg and thick bacon from a window this afternoon. I'm falling in love with food again. I've been too in love with alcohol and too isolated at work to remember how much I value food. Rich Momofuku ramen. Brisket breakfast tacos. Fully loaded grits.

I've been putting up a pretty good front these past two months and I'm falling in love with not putting on a front. Little things. On my first date with the aforementioned lumberjack I almost didn't wear perfume because he seemed like the kind of man who wouldn't be into that. But I'm the kind of woman who wears make up and perfume when she wants to. Take it or leave it. I'm invisible on gchat a lot of the time because I don't want to talk all the time. Or I don't want to talk to everybody all the time. I've spent a lot of time internet absent because it felt like an obligation, a thing with which I needed to keep up. I took a sick day instead of powering through. You don't always have to power through, Alana Margaret. Sometimes you'll get further by taking a second, a minute, a day to power down. There is value in powering down. You are not the kind of person that can always be on without the toll being heavy.

I'm falling out of love with alcohol. Drinking seems unappealing. Being hungover doesn't even seem remotely worth it. Drinking makes it easier to power through but I'm taking a break from powering through.

Breathing. I want to breath. I can't catch my breath lately. Literally. The more exhausted I become, the worse my asthma. My body is good at this. It says stop when my brain refuses to. It knows when I am mentally unwell and turns it into something physical. It forces me to pay attention.

I am twenty-seven and I am still always relearning the difference between standing right out on the edge and pushing myself over it.

A good friend once told me that I shouldn't even have a job because even unemployed I managed to overschedule myself. It was probably three and a half years ago. I still think about it. About how hard I push and how well he knew and tolerated that about me. The way he's one of the few people I always forgave for being late, something I'd never forgive in myself and generally cannot abide in others. The way I'd nudge him into being more focused and the way he'd convince me to relax. We had only been back in each other's lives for maybe 6 months after four years absent at the time but our dynamic was immediately the same as it had been third grade through high school.

Nobody encourages me to calm down here. Nobody values it. It's a double-edged sword, the thing that makes me feel so at home in New York but a thing that makes me lose my health and my sanity if I don't monitor myself.

I think I am falling in love with monitoring myself.

And I'm frightened by those who can't see it

I am certain. I have great clarity surrounding the things I want. I don't know how to get them all but I feel sure in my likes and dislikes, my values my worth. I am terrified. I know that what I want is to settle down. That I want to date somebody that is in it for the long haul. I know this not in an urgent 'a relationship will make me happy and complete my life' way, but in a calm 'this is a thing I value and a risk I want to take' way. I'm terrified of myself, of my past, of my ability to get lost in another person. I'm terrified of liking somebody before they know that I am flawed. That sometimes I live in the Bell Jar.

I am content. I like my home. I like our window of booze bottle candle holders, our rusty old lanterns, the snow webs and twinkle lights. I like our bar and I like my room. I'm happy with my extracurriculars, ready to get back to the kids I haven't seen for a month.

I am weary. I feel tired, in my bones. I feel the urge to just shout "stop" at the world for a moment. Just stop. Give me one day of frozen time. One day to rest and catch up and not feel behind. One day where I don't dread going to sleep at night because I'm not ready for another day to come.

I am elated. For the first time in years, my New Year's and my birthday were everything I wanted them to be. No let downs, just good good friends and food and music and dancing. I finally have paid time off back in my life. I can call in sick for work. I can actually go home for a week. I can NOT FREAK OUT. I have a Crush. And maybe another one developing.

I am a mixed bag. Life is a mixed bag, it is hard and wonderful and lovely and terrible and calm and frenetic and overwhelming and underwhelming and just right. It is all of those things. And it will never stop being all those things. I will never stop being all those things.

I am coming to terms with the unbearable dichotomy of being.

Yes, I do! I do like your party hat!

208306_516445119615_1123321980_nOn my last night as a twenty-six year old, I donned a party hat that I had wrapped in Christmas tree garland, ate chicken and waffles with eight of my favorite of people (also in party hats, though less sparkly ones), met up with more friends to dance in a Bulgarian club until midnight when the DJ called my name and had the entire club sing me happy birthday and then moved onto another club where the 90s rap was in a language I could actually understand and continued dancing until 3am. Other highlights included: being serenaded on the street, being prayed over, getting whirled around and dipped for an intense minute on the dance floor, my friend's commitment to keeping the party hats on and looking over at a table and realizing my friends had already purchased my next four rounds.

The night started out a little rough with a few last-minute cancellations from friends and a large party taking their sweet sweet time at our table so we didn't actually get seated until 45 minutes later than when I had made my reservation, but it ended up being everything that I wanted it to be. Truly everything.

New York, sometimes when you're on, you're really fucking on.

Lets do this, twenty-seven.

Allons-y

I'm going on a third (!) date with The Doctor this week (we're calling him 'The Doctor' because I like any chance to pretend I'm actually in Doctor Who and also because he's literally a doctor, but mostly the first thing). I've decided I like him. I don't know if I like like him yet. But I like him. He's kind of super awkward which brings out all the super awkward in me and this makes absolutely no sense, but I like that. He's the first OkC date I've ever been on where a) it wasn't boring and b) I didn't feel like I was putting on a show.

After my date with Chuck Klosterman and my realizations about kissing the wrong people I also realized that I was just straight up doing dating wrong. Until The Doctor, I had always gone on OkC dates with one goal, to procure a second date. It turns out I'm really good at procuring second dates with people I actually have no interest in dating. I know the things to say and the parts of myself to play up and the parts to hide and an unfortunate tendency to kiss people when I've been drinking. When I went on my date with The Doctor, I changed my attitude. No longer was I going to try to get a second date, I wasn't going to just show some smoother over version of what I could offer but I was just going to be me and let the guy do the proving that I would want to go on a second date with him. Novel idea, right? Actually finding out if I like somebody before jumping straight into convincing them they want to make out with me?

It's weird, right? Online dating is weird. Because in real life you probably like somebody a lot before you go on a date with them, but in online dating you go on dates and try to figure out if you're going to like that person a lot in the future. I've always felt a lot of pressure to try to create that first date feeling you get when going on a date with somebody for whom you already have feelings which just doesn't work. It's not the same. It actually cannot be the same.

The Doctor and I just seem to be figuring out if we'd like to keep getting to know each other better and so far the answer is 'yes'.

It probably helps that we haven't even kissed.

Also that he laughed when I joked about not wanting to meet new people ever and in this round of setting up a date suggested we drink BEFORE eating this time to help with our extreme social awkwardness.

I may have not decided if I like like him yet, but I think he's definitely my people. I could like him a lot in the future. Maybe even the near one.