ExpatLIFE

I've been trying to write about what it's like to live in Seoul, what it's like to be an expat but the truth is, so far, mostly it's pretty boring. I spend a lot of time trying to find things like sponge mops and three-ring binders without page protectors. I still don't know where to get a bucket. My house is only partially furnished because IKEA hasn't opened yet and I sleep on a mattress on the floor and I don't like it. Ada and I go for a lot of walks and she put her head right into the strollers of Korean babies to mixed results of dismay and delight. Four days a week I go to Korean class with Dan before work and three days a week I go to Korean class with other spouses from ten to noon. Mondays I tell myself I'm going to write all day but instead I spend the day walking the dog, fucking around on the internet and mopping. I'm so tired of mopping. It's not that I dislike living here, or that I'm unhappy, I just haven't found my place yet. Haven't found my schedule, my people, my groove. So I struggle. I struggle through my to do lists that are somehow always more than I can get done in a day and never the things I want to do. I struggle with Korean because I've already spent the day doing things I'm indifferent about and have zero desire to study. I struggle because I feel like my priority should be keeping our house in order, not figuring out what I want to do here, not baking, not writing. I struggle because it's hard to explain to other spouses why I don't want a job, why I'm not looking for work here even though I love what I do. I struggle because it's embarrassing in a room full of professionals to explain how little a chef makes, how little it's worth it to me to work unless there's someplace fantastic. I struggle because after spending the last three years primarily with friends made on the internet, it's incredibly strange to be back in a position where I feel uncomfortable saying I'm going to spend the next two years writing. Lastly, maybe mostly, I struggle because it feels weird to be a feminist and be a housewife. It feels like some core part of my identity, of my self-sufficiency, has been taken away and I resent the new identity I've been given while wanting to be the god damned best at it because it's the only thing over which I have control and because I've never learned how to not be the best at something. Every day I feel like I haven't done enough and every day I feel physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Every day I wonder if today is the day I've found the magical formula that tells me what my place is here.

I've been hoping that if I just keep on keeping on, that I wouldn't have to decide. That the way would just become clear. I was hoping that I could just fill my day with mindless errands and that would be enough. But mostly all I've done is given myself anxiety to the point where I feel physically ill, so I think something probably has to change.

Today I decided to ignore most of my to do list and make Sichuan Pepper Peach Jam. It's bubbling away on the stove right now and it smells comforting and familiar though the taste is something totally new. I wrote this post, because the rumor is, the only way to get something written is to sit down write. I'm working on changing the physical appearance of this blog and also, a little bit, the subject, so if it seems a bit messy and scattered for a while - I know, I'm sorry, I'm just trying to pull all the pieces together.

And if you talk to me and I seem a bit messy and scattered for a while - I know, I'm sorry, I'm just trying to pull all the pieces together.

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.

It always end up making you blue as hell

I feel like a failure most of the time these days. Not the kind of failure where you joke and make self-deprecating comments about how you'll just be buying new underwear tomorrow because ooops you're drunk and the laundromat is closed, but the kind of failure where you don't tell anyone and how bad it is and find yourself on the verge of panic attacks at least weekly, if not daily. It's easy to look at my employment situation for the last couple of years and logically know that I keep choosing to work for small businesses that operate on a slim to none profit margin and the economy is still really shitty. To a certain extent I can justify being poor, because I love what I do because I do something that makes me happy that I'm good at. I know I'm a good chef, I don't feel like I'm a failure at chefing.

I feel like I'm a failure at being the person I want to be. I feel like I'm failing at some very basic goals I set for myself a long time ago. I know how little money you have to make to qualify for food stamps. I know I made just enough not to last month. I know I'm terrified. I'm terrified all the god damn time. I know this situation makes me feel like I've gone back to my early childhood and I have no control. No control. It is the worst thing. It is the thing I promised myself I would never ever ever feel again. I broke a promise to myself and that's the worst kind of promise to break.

It's the kind of thing I can't really explain to anyone because it is so completely illogical but so completely my truth right now.

I'm looking for a second job or another job. I have people who would help me if I asked for help (hahahahaha, like I'll ever learn to do that one). Despite strong temptation to just say fuck it and spiral down down down into bad decisions, I've been spending more time reading and writing and strolling in the park. I'm dating a guy I really like with whom things are easy so far instead of dialing up one that would immolate me. I show up for my kids every Tuesday and I smile and we cook things.

I also know I've been self isolating like a pro. I know I just can't explain getting semi laid off again but then also that I'm about to work 8 days straight. I can't handle anymore people offering to help me find my dead goldfish. I don't know how to talk to my really close friends or family about it because it's painful. And embarrassing. And I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed about the state of my life right now. And I don't know how to talk to anybody about anything else because it's the only thing I think about. So instead I just don't talk to most people. I mean, I have a kitten, so it's fine.

I'm 50% doing all the things I should be doing and 50% deep in hiding.

But I guess 50% hiding is better than 100%. Right?

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.

Writing About Writing

I've never wanted to be a Writer. I feel strange saying that. So many people have that novel on the back burner or those short stories they want to some day publish and I often feel like I'm supposed to want that too because I like writing. It's not because I don't think I'm good enough or, at least, won't at some point be good enough or that I don't think I have stories worth telling. I don't know what it is. Mostly, I think it's that I have myself convinced that I'm only a good writer because I've read a lot. It has nothing to do with me or my stories, just my innate ability to synthesize and reproduce the voices of other writers. I have never had a knack for fiction. I just can tell you about my own life through other people's voices and that seems like cheating. I've had a few people tell me my writing seems melancholy lately and I suppose that is true. I don't know how much has to do with me being melancholy and how much it has to do with reading memoirs and journals of melancholy authors. I don't know where my voice ends and Sylvia Plath's begins. I don't know if all truly great writers have a unique voice that came from nothing or from the way they've absorbed and blended Hemingway and Bukowski. I don't know if it really matters.

Lately though, because I've been reading all these books that make it seem lovely to be poor and spending days in front of a typewriter, I've been thinking about whether or not I'm wrong. I've been thinking about writing more. I've been thinking about writing with discipline. Not here, necessarily. And I don't know what, for sure, I want to focus on. I probably still won't write fiction. But I think somewhere in these years of digital pages, there might be things to be expanded and other things to cut loose and maybe something could come of it, even if all it is is becoming a better writer.

"My new job both exists and doesn't exist. Like a certain cat in a box"

So my new job has both a cafe and a catering company and my main responsible is the cafe. Or was. It was the cafe. It's not anymore because the cafe's last day was yesterday. The cafe is now closed.

Yes, for reals. I'm basically cursed. If you would like your small business to close/downsize, HIRE ME and it will just happen.

So now that my work is just a catering company, the number of core kitchen employees and their hours have been reduced because catering work is not the kind of thing where you can say "I will always need X number of people for X number of hours". Last week was a relatively light week for me but the savory people worked like CRAZY. This week is a relatively light week savory side, but over on the pastry side we have multiple events requiring hundreds of tiny pastries, some show wedding cakes for a wedding expo and the savory and sweet pastries to go with one of our larger catering contracts that is mainly what the savory people are working on this week.

So. Today I got a raise and this week I'll probably be working over 40 hours but next week and subsequent weeks I'll be down to 24. Unless there's a lot of pastry catering to get done, then I'll potentially be working more. But 24 is all I can count on working.

When our catering events need to be staffed onsite (as opposed to just delivering platters to a conference room or baby shower) staff gets paid $20/hr to work those events and it doesn't take away from your other scheduled hours. So, again, potentially, if we have a lot of onsite events, I could make $200/day for each of them. And the idea behind closing the shop is to focus and expand catering. So POTENTIALLY, I could be working full time again soon and POTENTIALLY I could make enough money with the onsite events to supplement my regular production income even if I'm not working full time. I think there are enough events in the coming month for that to work, but then what?

I like my job. It is challenging enough that I'm not bored but familiar enough that I feel competent and in control. The pastry chef willingly schedules around my volunteer hours and managed to get me a raise and at least some guaranteed hours because she wants me to stay. It is very nice to work for somebody who has an accurate appraisal of my skill level. It's weird working for not food people because all they know is that you know how to do something they don't but not how easy or difficult that thing is. I really like working with other people that speak food and technique again.

But I'm not twenty, you know? I have pretty regular bills I have to pay and a savings account that's dying to be fed some money. I'd like to be able to donate to Planned Parenthood instead of using their services. I'd like to see a neurologist about this whole hand going numb business. I don't even want to think about my ramen addiction having to change from pork belly to chicken "flavor". I'm almost out of migraine meds and my inhalers all have that overly medicinal taste that lets your know you're at the end of the canister. I want to take a trip home because I miss the Pacific so much it aches. And I want to take a vacation somewhere that isn't home, a real one, with no real commitments. My shopping and barhopping ways have already been on hiatus for a while (which is fine) but I'm keeping my daily cappuccino (for now).

I don't know what the solution is. I'm not about to make food I don't believe in but I don't really see the point in hitching myself to another small business wagon. I guess in my ideal world, I'd keep my job and find some sort of supplemental income to hold me through until things picked up again. Or didn't. I still would really like to find a way to teach kids but, not to get all Maslow's hierarchy of needs here, I just can't see myself focusing on researching how to start a side business doing that while I actually don't know if I'll make enough money to pay all the money that needs to be paid and feed myself.

I'm going to check out the onsite events calendar tomorrow. I'm going to hope I can ride it out a month without having to take on a second job. I'm probably going to ugly cry some more. At some point I'm hoping to breath.

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?

Stillness and Snow

It snowed a few days ago. It snowed and now it's in the mid to high 40s and still light at 7. Such is March. The light at 7pm thing is lovely I'm sure for 9-5ers, but since I've recently joined the ranks of 6-2ers, it just means that for me it is dark dark dark when I wake up and my body thinks the light means we should stay up later. So I find it less than lovely. The snow, though, the snow I find lovely. Always. The snow softens and muffles. The world becomes quieter and slower. I am quiet by nature but I am not slow. Slow is the antithesis of my nature. And any slowness that may have been native has been scrubbed out by the ever important sense of urgency necessary in my profession. I am not frantic or hectic in my speediness. It is generally an efficient, neat quickness. A quickness that colors right inside the lines.

When it snows lines blur.

And when the outside world become soft and blurry, it's easier to stay soft and blurry inside. I need some blurring. Blurring and stillness. I find myself craving stillness. I want to live in the same place and work at the same job. I want to sit at the same table with the same tap tap tap of laptop keys. I want to know what it's like for my brain to just quietly fall asleep each night. It is hard to remain still when I don't even know how to be slow.

It is hard to be slow when I hold myself to exacting, precise standards. Not perfectionism, just lines and boxes to stay within. Boxes I would never demand hold somebody else. But boxes I think should hold me. I feel made up of sharp angles and hard lines and hard lines must be maintained.

The same hard lines I maintain to keep myself contained, to keep from falling apart or risking too much  have become exhausting themselves. An impossible game of pickup sticks.

So. Slowness. A continued forced reorder.

Thou mayest. Thou mayest not.

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.

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.

And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good.

2012 was a good year for me. It seems strange to say that. I got laid off in early 2012, I swore off online dating sometime last March and my best friend's dad died. But I found a job that didn't make me cry most days, I used the time and energy I had been using on OkC and first dates to do things that made me happy instead and well, there's  no positive spin on a parent dying. I said it was a good year, I definitely didn't say it was perfect. Nothing is coming easy in wrapping up this year. I don't know why. I want to say I didn't have any grand realizations or startling epiphanies, but I don't think that's true. I know I learned things. I know I made changes. I continued the process of settling into myself which seems like it isn't really a thing. I want to say "this year, I became even more myself" but it seems so self evident. It's not though, right? Becoming yourself is hard. Stripping away the concepts of what you should do or the notions of what you're expected to do and listening to what things truly make you happy is surprisingly fucking hard.

I'm reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking right now, and a lot of it is confirming things I already know about myself but a lot of it also making me really examine the parts of myself I respect and the parts I don't. It's had me reexamining my career through a different lens. I put a lot of effort in my early twenties into being good at being a fake extrovert because I got tired of being told I was intimidating or came off bitchy at first when really I'm just slow to warm up and pretty fucking shy. I don't think there's anything wrong with fake extroversion but I've been coming around to thinking of it more as a tool and less as the person I'm supposed to be. I had a lot of quiet time this year. I learned how much better I focus without netflix on in the background and with tweetdeck off. I learned that I am actually totally fine with there being musicless days in the kitchen. I stopped focusing on relationships with acquaintances and formed some really close, real friendships this year because that's something I'm actually much better at.

For a long time I kind of abandoned service work because it wasn't something people around me were super interested in and because I didn't want to come off as too much of a pious goody two shoes. Yes, that is correct. I though that if I went on a volunteering spree people might judge me negatively for being a good person. I don't know, maybe some people have. Who fucking cares because I'm happy and the world is a better place. Like most things in life, it turns out the people that care about you are excited and supportive because the people that actually matter want you to be happy.

2012: The year where I learned the obvious truths.

I spent a lot of time reading in 2012. I scheduled a lot of down days. I saw some fantastic concerts. I watched more tv than I'd like to admit and I still haven't found a yoga studio that I love (2013 pro tip: try actively looking). I'm starting the year stripping away things that aren't making me actively happy and adding more of the things that are. That is, really, my only goal for the year- to give myself permission to go after the things I really want and to say no to things I don't really want.

Nobody will be surprised to learn my word for the year is "Timshel".

Deciding

I don't have a lot to say reflecting on the last year. There are changes I've made that've happened quietly and slowly and some I've jumped up and down excitedly about all over the internet and in real life. There are places where I've fallen off the wagon, places I need to get back on, places I don't, and places I need to jump on for the first time ever. I'm writing (with a pen) my own logical anlysis of what I like in my life RIGHT NOW and what I don't. I'm prioritizing and rearranging. It's a lot of lists, it's not a very exciting read for other people.

I've been catsitting since Friday. First for my coworker and now for my family. It's nice. It's quiet. My roommates are quiet but there's a different stillness to living alone. It matches my brain right now. It's quiet. There are no words or flavors rolling around, trying to force their way out. It makes it easier to focus on this task of making lists. Of deciding what I want my first year of my late twenties to look like.

Twenty seven sounds like a real adult age. I know, I know, I'm still young. But every year I feel more certain of who I am, more settled into myself, more sure of what I want and more decided that I'm too fucking old to not act in accordance with those things.

It's disturbingly easy to not do that.

So, that's where I am. Sitting quietly with cats and actual pen and paper. Deciding.

Smaller Steps Towards Bigger Things

Sometimes I write things just to get them out of my head. I write them because they just keep going around and around in circles and I can't move past them. So sometimes I write things and in writing them can move past the just feeling them and start rooting around and digging into the feelings. You could probably argue that maybe I should just keep a journal and then write blog posts about the other side. The side where I have actual answers and plans and a lesson learned. There's probably a whole different blog post about why I don't do that which also goes with me not writing drafts or scheduling posts.

But anyways.

Today was my last day of the Saturday Culinary Explorers program with which I've been volunteering and when the Team Leader said she was looking for somebody to take over team leading half the classes next semester, it only took me about 5 seconds to decide I would talk to her about it after class and probably agree to do it. I told her that in my dream world teaching kids to cook would be my full time job but I just wasn't sure how to go about doing it other than teaching private classes to kids on the UWS.

"Well, you teach those kids. You start saving up some money and you start asking around. You can start asking around now, just call schools, tell them you're a chef and you're interested in starting a culinary after school program. Ask who you can talk to and what they would need for that to happen. Just start putting yourself out there. You're probably going to do a whole lot of asking around before you actually start doing anything"

And here is the brilliant fucking epiphany I had: Change doesn't happen overnight. Real change takes time.

Hi, welcome to adulthood, Alana Margaret.

I haven't had a career goal for a while. I've been floating. My focus for the year was stability. It was on settling into New York, setting into myself. I'm usually working towards the next big thing. I set goals, I achieve them and then instead of being satisfied, I immediately decide the goal wasn't good enough and I still need to keep going. Change something new. BE BETTER ALWAYS.

Look, ultimately, "be better" isn't that bad a life philosophy. But "be better always"? Who can live up to that? When you spend all your time striving, holding yourself to standards you would never hold to anybody else, all sense of realism is lost and no accomplishment is satisfying because it's only the accomplishment of the version of your self that isn't the better self you already need to be.

So I made a really conscious effort to step away from that. To focus on the day to day. To focus on my life outside of work. To say yes. To lose control. TO HAVE FUN. I've happily moved somewhere that I can call my own. A room that is full of stuff that belongs to me. A living room where I stay up too late with my roommates drinking wine. Or, on a night like tonight, happily writing away on the couch, Fiona Apple playing softly while one of my roommates fills a blank page sitting at the table.

I have bell jar days, maybe even a bell jar week now and then. But it's been a while since I've truly had a full bell jar month. I'm not saying that's good, but it's better. And I'm definitely not saying that I don't still need to suck it up and go to fucking therapy, I'm just saying that I sometimes write more about the lows than the highs and that might be misleading.

So I've calmed down. I've worked on routine and settling. I've found myself recently saying that I'm anxious about something because it's something I'm used to being anxious about and then stopping myself when I realize I'm not actually. Obviously that didn't happen over night. I didn't wake up one day suddenly anxiety free. But I put myself out there over and over and over again this year. Sure, I've been disappointed from time to time but mostly I've been pleased and successful at creating the life and relationships I want. Real change takes time.

I'm ready to decide I want to be a culinary instructor and I'm ready to say that I have no idea what that's going to look like for me. It's a nebulous goal. I'm ready to say that I'm going to dip my toes in the water for a bit instead of just quitting my job and changing everything all at once. I'm going to keep with my volunteering through New York Cares in various culinary explorer programs (and I'll be doing some team leading). I'm going to look at places like Sur La Table and William Sonoma that have teaching classes and see if I can be an assistant or a part time instructor now, while the ice cream business has slowed for winter. I can't afford to take more time off work and teach for free, but I probably don't really need to be there 40 hours a week if I give more responsibility to my assistants and can find a way to get paid to teach a couple of classes a week.

Break things into steps. Real change takes time. Put yourself out there.

Learn the same lessons over and over again until they stick.

Timshel.

Bits & Pieces: In Which Everything is Fine

I'm in and out of the bell jar a lot lately.

It's fine. I'm just tired. Always tired. I fall asleep at ten and wake up at 4, which, I'm sorry body, is not quite how this falling asleep early thing is supposed to work.

My life is in a holding pattern. Not a good holding pattern or a bad holding pattern. I don't feel stuck and I'm not in a rush to figure out the next thing. But there's not a lot of passion.

It's fine. Everything is just fine.

I'm starting to feel on the edge of burnout. The culinary world, the struggling small business world, it's rough, yo. I miss health insurance and paid sick days and vacation time. And the cold weather, with ice cream sales slowed, I have no push, no drive. My motivation is non existent.

Right now, I'm by far the happiest when cooking with kids. I couldn't stop smiling as we made cupcakes for them to sell to raise funds for people affected by the hurricane. In the Saturday class I watched the kids' amazement as the yeast bloomed and bubbled for pizza dough. This is the stuff I love. I don't know how to get paid to do that though. I know I certainly couldn't get paid to work with the demographic of children with which I volunteer. I know that I think that's stupid.

I've been on a thinking about privilege kick lately.

I stared at this job again. I stare at it a few times a year. I want it to be in New York. It's not in New York. It's not even near a city I like. But it's what I want to do. This is a constant conundrum.

I guess I'm lonely. I guess that's a thing. I'm the kind of person that usually functions best with a few close friends to hang out with constantly and here I have a lot of acquaintances with which to spend time sporadically.

And guys, I'm so sick of girl's nights and lady brunches. I'm not saying I don't love all my female friends but other than my boss, I basically don't interact with men ever. I work with all women. I live with all women. Every event I seem to go to is all women. Holy shit are there any men in this city? I don't even mean that in a dating kind of way. I just miss having guy friends.

I mean, yes, I also miss having A guy friend. The kind that is mine for snuggling. But I know that's not the thing that's making me unhappy. Or at least that it's not the thing that's going to make me un unhappy. Hello, personal growth.

There's something larger that is wrong. I'm pretty sure of that. But I can't quite put my finger on it yet. So instead it just feels like nothing is quite right. Or maybe nothing being quite right is the larger thing.

But I can't help but feeling like there shouldn't be anything wrong with everything being fine.

America, Fuck Yeah! Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Major Party Candidate

Kerry/Bush was the first presidential election during which I was old enough to vote. The California gubernatorial recall had happened a few months before my 18th birthday in late 2007 and not being able to participate in the election that resulted in the governator (no, I would not have voted for him) was a sad moment for me, but knowing that I would turn 18 in a presidential election year made up for it. I registered green and knowing my home state's massive number of electoral votes were all going democrat, and honestly believing the democratic party to be too conservative to reflect my values, I happily (absentee) voted for Ralph Nader. It's a lovely luxury to have only lived in states where I know I can honestly vote for whomever I want instead of having to vote strategically.

I spent my fall semester in India that year. I read the transcript of the first presidential debate in a small internet cafe in McLeod Ganj, home of the Tibetan government in exile. I did the same for the following debates. On election night, my group and I were isolated working improving the Summer home for an orphanage with which we had been volunteering. We had a tiny radio and we tried our damnedest to find a station in English reporting on the election with no luck. Somebody came back from town and told us the next day. I didn't want to believe. I'm not sure I really did until I got back to an internet cafe and could read the news myself.

The idea that had been offered at the Democratic National Convention earlier that year that "There is not a liberal america and a conservative america, there is the United States of America" seemed nice but awfully hard to believe.

And on my 19th birthday, George W. Bush started his second presidential term.

2003 rolled around and boy was it exciting. In the same year, we had both an African American man and a woman in the primary as serious contenders. I had spent years thinking that I was an anachronism, that I was made for when the times they were a changin. That the way my family had raised me to believe in the power of protests, writing your representatives and passionately participating in democracy was pointless because so much of my generation was too cool to care. But then there was this man, this great Progressive hope that other people my age were getting excited about and I felt like maybe things were going to change.

I still wasn't a registered Democrat, I was registered independent. In California, independents can vote in the primary of their choosing. I still believed the democratic party to be overall too conservative for me but I was excited to vote for Barack Obama.

Election night, Lara and I listened to the coverage on NPR. A bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge waiting to be opened to celebrate the election and hopefully the defeat of prop 8. The presidential election was called early in the evening but we waited hours for the news on prop 8, eventually going to bed because it was too close to call that night.

In 24 hours we had elected our first African American president and California had amended its constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Sometimes in the world of you win some, you lose some, you really win and you really really lose.

I wrote my first real personal post on this blog January 19th, 2009, the day before my 23rd birthday and Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. I briefly mentioned the jubilation in Berkeley in a post a few days later.

It's strange to think how much my life has changed in the course of a presidency. Or that I've been writing that long.

At times Obama has gone from being the great Progressive hope to being the great Progressive disappointment. I'm not going to pretend to that my politics have mellowed enough to believe any differently. But I've kept faith that if he had a second term his more liberal ideals would come out. That maybe we could get real single payer health care. That we could legalize gay marriage nationally.

I'm a registered Democrat these days, mostly because when I reregistered I knew nothing about New York's parties or primary laws. I don't know how long it will last. I know that the inclusion of gay marriage in the Democratic platform makes me feel better about it. I also know that I voted for both Obama and Gillibrand as the "Working Families" candidate (see, I'm finally letting go of California's politics and learning about New York).

As much as 2008 felt like things were shifting, its got nothing on 2012. More states chose to legalize gay marriage. More states legalized marijuana (which is honestly something I care very little about but I still think points to a more progressive future). Thank goodness, Ted Kennedy's seat is once again held by a democrat and Massachusetts's first female senator. New Hampshire is ALL ABOUT the ladies. We can now all breath a giant sigh of relief that Akin and his disgusting views on rape were defeated.

I know we have a long way to go towards justice and equality in this country but when I look at the things that have changed in the last four years, when I look at the things that have changed in my lifetime already, that I used to think wouldn't have actually happened by now, I do genuinely feel hope again for the next four.

Don't let me down, Mr. President.

Over and over and over again

"I have to have something caffeinated or I'm just going to not function"

"You hit a wall?'

"Well I think I hit the wall like three days ago and now I'm like a roomba trying to get around a corner but instead of going around I just keep backing up at the wrong angle and running into it over and over again"

I've been in the hole. And instead of taking a moment and being kind to myself and saying "hey, slow down," I've just kept going. I've just kept myself all the way on all the time.

To a certain extent, this is how it works, right? This is adulthood. You do the shit you have to do. You keep trying to be the person you want to be. Sometimes you fuck up your priorities and doing the things you "have to do" makes you unable to be the person you want to be and then you find yourself unable to sleep at 2am figuring out the barista schedule for no reason other than your inability to just turn off and let be.

Or instead of walking away 10 times out of 10, it turns into 9 out of 10 and at 3am that 10th person gets all the wrath that should've been doled out evenly. But that 10th person was an asshole and so you're not entirely sure you feel bad and then you feel worse because you want to be the type of person that does feel bad. Because most of the time you are.

I've added 4 to 5 hours of volunteer work to my life each week. It's teaching kids in after school programs/weekend programs in the Bronx, Harlem and Long Island City how to cook. I love it. It's what I wish I could get paid to do.

That's the person I want to be. I want to be the person that prioritizes giving back. The problem is I didn't really think about the commute to those places. I didn't think about 3 hours in the Bronx really eating 5 or so hours of my Saturday. Or another hour getting taken away on Tuesdays to get myself from work to Harlem or LIC.

So I need to sit down, right? I need to sit down and figure out what needs to give for me to be able to prioritize volunteering without going insane. Because this is actually why I went to culinary school, so I could always have a practical skill and do all the volunteer things that I can't turn into a career. That was always the plan. It wasn't that I wanted to be a chef. It's that I couldn't major in the things I wanted to major in and ever be gainfully employed. So I need to make this work. I figure out what gets sacrificed. I figure out what needs to make it in. I stop holding myself to standards that are impossibly higher than I would ever set for others.

I slow down for a minute.

I try this new thing called "sleep".

But my grandparents get into town tomorrow.

So i'm probably not going to try any of that until next week.