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".

My inability to come up with a title for this post seems incredibly apropos

 

For most of my life I haven't thought of myself as a creative. I'm not really sure why. I think I've always thought I was too straitlaced. I like rules and concrete plans and tailored clothing. I value logic based decision making. I hate being late. I don't hate math. I am not bohemian. I don't think you can be a great chef, especially pastry chef, without some understanding and appreciation of food science.

But here's the other thing, I think cooking is just like any other form of art, you have to know the rules so that you know when the most effective thing to do is break them.

Yes, I just said cooking is an art. It's a thing I'm coming to terms with. For a lot of people, cooking is paint by numbers, they can follow a recipe perfectly well and make something pretty delicious but they can't tell you what would make it better. Even fewer can go one step further and turn the idea in their head into a delicious dish in the real world.

That's what I'm good at, recipe development. I have an uncanny ability to recreate things I've eaten, to know what flavor combinations will taste like without having ever tried them or to even take somebody else's vague description of what they want and make something to satisfy their very specific craving.

I don't mean that in a bragging sense. It's just a thing I can do. The way other people can compose heartbreaking music or write beautifully or paint something that seems to speak specifically to you. It's a thing I love to do. It's a thing I don't know how not to do.

The tricky thing about doing something you love, about doing something you're really good at, is that it's easy for both you, and everyone around you, to forget that that doesn't mean what you do isn't hard.

Guys, sometimes being a chef is really really hard. And I don't mean that it's physically hard or hard to efficiently organize production or hard to manage people, even though all those things can be true. I mean sometimes creating constantly, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, on a schedule, is motherfucking hard. Sometimes it's not limited to those five days a week, sometimes I leave work on Friday not knowing what I want on the menu for the next week and spend my entire weekend with flavors and pastries rearranging and flying around my head and never actually powering down. Sometimes I'm not inspired. Sometimes something is really really good but I know there's that one thing I can't pin down that will make it perfect. Sadly, there is no thesaurus equivalent for flavors. Sometimes, it's hard to know when to stop. When your creative brain is burned out and using it is exhausting you.

I can't tell you how many new recipes I've written this year. A lot. Like I probably averaged 8 a month. Very very few of them make it onto my food blog just because of the afore mentioned creative energy already being used up. I can tell you I need to eat somebody's food that isn't mine. Preferably a lot of people's food that isn't mine. I imagine sometimes writers just really really need to read a book. To get out of their own rut. To be able to inspire themselves. To take a break. I think this is the downside of not working with other chefs. This is also the part about being a creative I don't understand. How do I deal with this? How do I deal with having a creative job when I don't feel like creating? I mean, yes, on one hand, I get it, I reuse old recipes, I bring back tried and true options, I just make sure there are solidly delicious things out for people to buy each day, I JUST KEEP CREATING. But how do I move past the creative burn out? How do I get back to the place where I feel like I'm really creating something fantastic? Other people with creative jobs, how do you create constantly on demand without totally exhausting yourself? Is the really simple, obvious answer just that I need a vacation? When you're facing creative burn out do you go immerse yourself in your discipline or do you take the opposite route and do anything but?

Help.

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.

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.

Bits & Pieces (the fourth)

August isn't my favorite time of year. It's well documented. I haven't been writing about it, because there isn't anything to say that I haven't said before.

I had a nasty Summer cold earlier this month, the worst deathaversary sick I've had in a couple of years. I wasn't prepared for it to happen so early. After literally spending 48 hours in bed over the weekend, I was still sick enough on Monday that I would've called in sick if my assistant were actually a baker, not a grad student who knows how to work the ice cream machine. I never call in sick, it's just not done in the kitchen, but I would've called in sick.

I over schedule myself to the point where I even thought I was over scheduled. Over scheduling is my thing. I love it. But this month I looked at the calender and thought "Seriously, Alana Margaret? Are you trying to kill yourself?". Nope, just keeping busy.

Busy busy busy.

My brain is on overdrive. I think I've probably written ten blog posts in my head but never let myself sit down to write them. I got in a rut at work and then suddenly thought of all the new recipes I wanted to make at once. That's how it goes. The recipes leave and come back. It's overwhelming sometimes, I never know how to explain it. Once I'm in that mode, I'll literally stop a conversation to work out a flavor combination out loud. I haven't shut down for a while. Quieting my mind during yoga this week was an extra challenge.

My life, it seems so full of possibility right now. My lease is up at the end of November and I'm constantly thinking about what next. It's crazy that I'll have lived in the same apartment for a year and ten months when I leave, I tend to pack up and move, to run onto the next thing more often than that usually. Do I stay in Astoria? Can I somehow afford Manhattan? Do I give in and move to Brooklyn to be with my hipster people? Do I leave New York? (I'm not leaving New York, I'm too happy with my life right now, but the point is, I could. I'd come back, but I could leave for a while).

I love my job and I really believe in the product, but once again I'm not sure what the next step is careerwise. I think the next step is to do what I've been doing and create a life outside of work while I have a job that allows me to do that. Maybe the next step is just sticking around for a while.

Politics are making me rage-y right now. Just a rage bubbling up inside me that I haven't felt for a while. I told somebody the other day that I had such a hard time taking Mitt Romney seriously as a candidate that I keep forgetting it's an election year. WHEN I WAS IN INDIA I READ ENTIRE DEBATE TRANSCRIPTS ON THE INTERNET and this year I've been like "wait, we still actually need to vote on this bullshit?". At least that's how I was until Republicans started saying really REALLY stupid things about rape and then I mean, RAGE. Just, rage.

I guess I feel like I'm finding myself again with the yoga and the volunteering and the rage. I don't know when I lost myself. Or if that's the right phrase. I feel like I'm turning into the version of myself I want to be. I wasn't lost. I just knew I could do more. There still much more to do, there's always more. But I'm growing again. Growing and stable at the same time.

Happy and sad at the same time.

Lara called to tell me Moxie Crimefighter died today. It finally made me pause long enough to feel the sadness that's been lingering around the edges this month. Sadness for her dad's passing, sadness for my own's and now sadness for the loss of a tiny black cat named after pub trivia had a celebrity baby names round. While Lara's dad was sick, Moxie slept curled next to him every day. You were the best, Moxiecat. The best.

I'm currently simultaneously annoyed with myself for being irresponsible and going out and drinking for EIGHT HOURS last Wednesday and had such a good, crazy time, that I can't be. It was just one of those nights that I think can only happen in New York where one minute it's 5pm happy hour in the UWS and then it's 11 and somehow you've ended up in Brooklyn, developing a small surprise crush on somebody that wasn't even really eligible in your mind before. The crush has stuck with me sober. Have I mentioned how much I hate crushes? It's basically like when somebody tells me they have a surprise for me. Either just surprise me or tell me what it is. I don't do well with anticipation and not knowing. Seriously, I hate this feeling. Will it develope into more of a crush? How does he feel about me? Why am I even thinking about this that much? What's my next move? Do I make a next move? Why did I hide in the kitchen when he came into work the other day? What if he has no interest in moves? WHY CAN'T WE JUST HAVE ARRANGED MARRIAGES STILL?

I'm going to lie in a dark room and just listen to the Good Old Wars and The Avett Brothers endlessly now. Also, the Lumineers, still. And the Milk Carton Kids. I'm back on an alt country kick and a buying all the music kick. I'm still so happy to have gotten back this part of myself. I miss my records, though. I want those when I move.

I think maybe my brain will be quiet for a second now because how can anything be left after that outpouring of gibberish?

Maybe All I Need is a Shot in the Arm

I think it's only in the last month that the feeling of constantly treading water, of being in a never ending game of "catch up" just passed, and I don't know if it's a matter of finally feeling comfortable with my life in New York or just finally feeling comfortable with life.

I've been thinking a lot about how much smaller my life feels here. It sounds so big to other people, y'know, moving to New York, being a pastry chef in Manhattan, but when you're away from everyone you know, from the expectations of family or friends that have known you for years, life gets to be as a big or small as you want it to be.

My life for a lot of the last year and a half has been lived on a "one day at a time" basis. My schedule changed, my hours were long, my social groups seemed constantly coming together and falling apart. Maybe that's part of living in New York, or being away from home or maybe it's just the way your 20s go, either way I feel like I'm finally settling into my life here. I don't mean settling in the bad way, I mean settling in the way I meant when I chose "stability" as my focus for 2012. Stable. I feel stable.

I love my job. I love my hours. I love spending time with my coworkers after hours. Yes, sometimes the ice cream business does get a little overwhelmingly busy and sometimes I wish there were a way I could permanently delete Pandora stations from existence and today the ice cream machine broke and I had to replace the gasket on the oven door FOR THE SECOND TIME. Meaning we've had three gaskets since I started working there. EFF YOU OVEN. Also I cut my finger AND splashed boiling water on my face giving myself a minor burn under my eye (CHEF LIFE, WHAT?).

Ok, fine, so far it's been A WEEK, y'all. But that's not the point.

It's been a rough week, but I feel anchored. I feel anchored in routine. By the girls' night I had on Saturday, by the dinner and stroll I had on Monday, by the work visit I had today, by the anticipation of all the activities littering my iCal for the rest of the month.

When you uproot your life there's a constant seesaw between the giddiness of "OH MY GOD THIS IS MY LIFE! IS THIS MY LIFE? OH MY GOD" and "I miss, I miss, I miss". A lot of the things I miss that were part of my normal life in California, I've continued to miss because doing them without a buddy in New York was outside of my comfort zone. I was already living so far outside my comfort zone, already so pushed to the edge, that adding just one more thing seemed unbearable.

It's a hard thing to explain, how you can be so happy, so sure you're where you're supposed to be and so overwhelmed at the same time.

In July, I found my groove. I don't know what did it. I said "yes" to things that caused me anxiety because they caused me anxiety. I sought out the things I missed. I finally went to a New York Cares volunteer orientation and have already signed up for 3(!) projects, the first of which is this Saturday. I hung out with new friend groups on multiple occasions. I was better at contacting people with whom I had fallen out of touch. I talked to strangers at bars and signed up for Meetup events. And my moment of crowning glory?

I WENT TO A CONCERT BY MYSELF.

I actually bought tickets to go to three shows by myself because I figured if I was going to do it, I might as well go all out. Also, because there was no way I was going to be like "well, I want to go to this show enough to go by myself, but not this one". GUESS WHAT? I want to go to all the shows. There are actual no words for how much I've missed that being part of my life. I knew I missed it, but I didn't KNOW know until last Wednesday when I found myself standing in a mass of people at Terminal Five yelling "SOMETHING IN MY VEINS BLOODIER THAN BLOOD" as Wilco closed out their first set.

Are shows better when you have somebody with whom to share the experience?

Probably.

But is life better when you don't sit things out just because you don't always have somebody by your side?

Definitely.

I'm over being a passive bystander in my own life.

 

Hello, Employment

My actual funemployment was short lived. If you take away the two days that would've been my weekend anyways. I was unemployed for... ummm... two days. I went on a total of four interviews, turned down 3 interviews, and only ended up trailing at one place though I was offered trails* for all four of my interviews.

All of the jobs were offering around the same amount of money but they were offering VASTLY different workloads, amount of responsibility and creative freedom and in the end I went with the job with what seemed like the least amount of stress and the greatest amount of freedom. This job, as it stands right now, is definitely not the choice that would've looked the most impressive on my resume nor is it the choice I originally thought I would make. In fact, when I sent out my resumes it was probably number three of the four jobs for which I actually interviewed.

I'm working at a tiny ice cream shop that has only had a store front for a year and only added in the espresso bar and baked goods to the retail cafe in January BUT before they had the store front they'd been selling the ice cream at events and from tricycles for two years and they just landed their first wholesale account. What is a slow day at Je and Jo was a busy day at Stellina. So I'm working for a small business again, but this time it's an obviously growing small business and I want to help the owners, who both have day jobs,  grow it more by taking on a lot of the day to day production responsibilities so they have time to do the big picture stuff.

I'm already in love with the shop, the owners and my coworkers. Everybody that works there seems to be really invested in working there. Ok, yes, it's just the owners, me and a few baristas but I have yet to hear anyone say a bad word about anyone else or the business and I basically started working last Wednesday (even though I've only officially been on board since Monday). I can't tell you how frustrating it is to be a chef who pours all of their creative energy into something and then have servers or baristas who don't give a fuck (not the case at Stellina, but definitely the case some other places I've worked) because if the front of house people aren't excited, customers aren't going to be excited. Also, obviously, it sucks to work at a place where everybody complains about everything/everybody all the time (very much the case at Stellina/Sorella and I was no exception).

There's no ego involved. I'm working for a veterinarian and an architect who went to ice cream school and have fully handed over the baked goods and kitchen management to me. And unlike my other jobs where I've been expected to take on those roles for a measly $10/hr, I'm actually getting paid the same wage I was as a sous chef and have promises of looking into health insurance if enough other employees want to opt in.

And of course, because you can take the girl out of California... as much as possible everything is organic and locally sourced and all the packaging materials, cups, etc in the shop are biodegradable. LOVE.

Right now things are pretty low key but I imagine things will start ramping up as the weather gets warmer and we start selling from the trikes as well as the store and hopefully, eventually get some more wholesale clients. My plan during this slow time, and part of the reason I took this job, is to do some massive food blog revamping and FINALLY start a confections side business. So if you don't see me over here for a while, it's because I'm somewhere on the internet figuring out a completely new blog design and whether or not the neglected blog and this blog will be one and if the food blog will still have recipes or just be for selling shit and maybe working on a cookbook.

Because when I sat down and thought about what I wanted my career to be, it wasn't about fancy titles and hip restaurants, it's about creating and doing something I love. I hate that right now I'm the type of person that would advise "don't" to anyone who asked advice on becoming a chef because in the end, I love what I do and even if I started working in another field, I would never stop baking. The flavors never stop running through my mind. It's the way my brain is wired, the way yours is wired to paint or make music or smith words and when your brain is wired for a certain creative endeavor, you know that life becomes incomplete without it.

Writers write. Bakers bake.

I am a baker. Sometimes it really is that simple.

*We use weird terms in the food world, I'm not just misspelling "trial"

I don't even try

I don't know what I'm passionate about right now. I feel hollow all the time. I'm never hungry but also never full. In February I decided to stop fighting everything all the time but I guess in my case that just makes me apathetic. Or numb. I can't even tell which.

I've been trying to learn to sit with my feelings more. Or rather, just to actually feel them. To be able to say to myself things like "I am sad that this boy doesn't like me even though it's not logical to be this sad about it" or "even though I completely understand and agree with the reason I'm losing my job it's reasonable to be sad and scared and anxious". Maybe this is the way you feel feelings all the time. This is not the way I feel feelings. Look, there's a reason Spock has always been my favorite. However, you'll be shocked to know I am not a Vulcan, even though I sometimes often act like one. The problem is that by the time I actually let myself feel things I'm feeling this huge reservoir of feeling and I can't identify where each one is coming from.

So I can tell you right now that I am sad and bitter and disillusioned; that I just suspended my OkC account for the eleventybillionth time though in truth I've been on an online dating hiatus for a month now already anyways; that none of the job listings I've read make me want to send in my resume; that I made out with a boy I had no intention of ever making out with again and I honestly don't know how I feel about it, I want to say I feel nothing about it but I don't think you can actually make out and cuddle with somebody that you like and not have feelings about it and I think it's actually that the feelings are too complicated and too many things and so I'm not sitting with those ones yet* and that I'm well aware there is some major grammatical craziness going on in this post but I just don't give a fuck.

But I can also tell you I've had moments of peace and serenity lately. That walking around in Central Park with the sun on your skin and new friend is happiness. That nighttime rambles with a flask size bottle of whiskey and friend you haven't seen in a while are kind of great even if they unexpectedly kiss you later. That I do have one single job interview lined up and it looks perfect for me. That I spent yesterday at my pastry cook's friend's home out in Fresh Meadows and got to hang out with her siblings and large friend group and remember what it feels like to be part of something stable and solid. That I have a week packed full of social activities with other BiSC goers who are fast becoming my close friends.

I can tell you that I've recently realized that I'm angry at myself for letting go of and being less vocal about things I care about to make myself more palatable or to fit into groups better. That I've taken my philosophy of "pick and choose your battles" a little too far. Hi, I'm Alana and I am a feminist and I probably don't think any of your sexist/homophobic/racist jokes are funny and yeah, I'm generally ludicrously PC and I'm ok with that. JUST SO WE'RE CLEAR.

So maybe it's not that there isn't anything going on. Maybe it's that there's too much going on. Too much swirling around in my head for me to sort through it and feel any of it. Today I decided I was just going to fake it until I make it. I cleaned my room, I did some yoga, I ate an entire pineapple and also quinoa, poached chicken, black beans and avocados. Fine... also an entire bag of cadbury mini eggs.

Baby steps back to caring people, baby steps.

*This is how I feel: I feel sad and a little angry because it was nice and it was comfortable and making out and a cuddle buddy were exactly what I needed this week and it wasn't expected so it was a nice ego boost but it wasn't with somebody with whom I am actually ok with casually making out and cuddling. So, I'm sad that it's not something I get to do in a non-casual way and a little angry with both of us for doing it. And maybe a little angry at myself for not being over him even though I said earlier it was ok to be sad. God I hate feelings. THEY DON'T EVEN MAKE SENSE A LITTLE BIT, CAN I PLEASE BE A VULCAN NOW?

Hello, Funemployment

For those of you that don't follow me on twitter or missed my tweets about it, as of April 14th, I will be unemployed. Unless I find a job by then, in which case, I will not be unemployed but will have a new job.

Yesterday I was informed that since when the gelato shop/bakery reopens it will be tiny and the restaurant will be the primary business focus and I am a baker, it just didn't make sense for the business to keep me on anymore. Which is 100% true. I had started sending out resumes in February when it became apparent that the bakery was going to drastically downsized but then there was a lot of talk about expanding the wholesale business and I figured I'd stick with it a while longer. Oh universe, you're so funny sometimes. The pastry sous chef position and what that roll entailed were created for me, to get me to come back to work when I had left last Summer and it was a really great fit for me then. With basically no bakery, it's not now. I can't disagree with their reasoning for letting me go when it's the same reason I've been thinking about leaving. It doesn't mean it doesn't suck though.

"Stability" was my word to work towards in 2012 and that was part of the reason I stuck with my job. I wasn't in love with it, but I thought sticking with it would allow me to push work a little more to the backburner and focus on getting the rest of my life back together, figuring out who I am outside of being a chef, do some volunteer work and maybe have a more regular social/love life. My job has always been where I put the most focus in my life and I wanted to let go of that a little bit. Now I'm trying to figure out whether or not that's an option.

I'm trying to figure out where the balance is between not selling out my artistic integrity and having medical benefits. Between making enough money to live comfortably in New York City and making food I can stand behind. I read these job descriptions for new bakeries and just opened cafes and most of them... I just, I just can't. I can't do it again. I've poured my heart and creative energy into so many struggling small businesses that weren't mine for too little pay and too much of my life given, and all I can think is that I just want some motherfucking stability. I just want enough money to live off, benefits and sick days. That's it. I know it's not the cool thing to say, I know my generation is supposed to be all about entrepeneurship and doing our own thing and going after what we love but fuck it. I've been doing what I love since I started culinary school at nineteen and I'm tired of being a starving artist. I'm tired of it. And I'm tired of people telling me my job is awesome without realizing that I've never worked somewhere where I could afford to regularly eat if I didn't have an employee discount. Or the look of shock at the lack of paid sick days. You probably tipped your server at your last meal more than I make an hour when I break down my shift pay even though I'm the one with the specialized trade skill.

I do something that I love, that I'm good at and it hurts my body and I can't go see a doctor about my inabilty to hold a knife for an extended period of time without part of my hand going numb.

Right now, doing something purely because I love it, seems unsustainable but I'm not very good at compromising my values and working for the man. I'm not even sure who the man is in the culinary world. I'm not sure where that leaves me in job hunting. I can't really afford to be super picky but I'm feeling really picky.

And frustrated. I'm just so effing effity eff frustrated.

Bits & Pieces (the third)

I mean, THIS WEEK, y'all, this week. Or two weeks? I don't even know. I don't even know where to start. This is going to be a little brain dump-y. Ok, a lot brain dump-y. (read: hilarious/ridiculous/rambling)

I didn't finish Scintilla because I had a carpal tunnel flare up, probably from Scintilla. What I learned from Scintilla: I actually, physically cannot write every day. So there's that. That's pretty shitty. I mean, I probably could if I didn't get paid to squeeze piping bags and shape tiny pasta but I do, so writing every day is out. And no, I couldn't really hold a pen by the end of the day either. With a break from writing and "sleeping" with a wrist brace for a few days, I seem to be doing ok. This makes me really happy because a) I can stop sleeping with the motherfucking wrist brace because sleeping with a wrist brace is more like "wake up every three hours and groggily wonder why the fuck you have this uncomfortable torture device on your wrist" b) I was freaking out because I don't have health insurance and I'm ok with paying the $100 for an urgent care appointment if it's for getting antibiotics or some shit, but carpal tunnel isn't really a "here take this things and it's fixed" sort of problem and I have no money for tests or physical therapy or, god forbid, surgery and the freaking out probably didn't help with the wrist brace induced insomnia and c) now I can write again.

And I need to write again so that I can tell you about how I haven't slept longer than three hours in one stretch EVEN WHEN I DRUGGED MYSELF for like two weeks and I am really really glad I finally have two days off IN A ROW tomorrow and Monday.

Also, I need to talk about how boys are confusing.

I suffer from chronic bitch face, my mouth naturally turns down when my face is relaxed, while this doesn't seem to really bother other women, it means I get a lot of those annoying commands from men to smile. It also seems to mean that men either think I'm a bitch, or if they've gotten me to smile, that I'm flirting with them. I either apparently have "bitchface" or "flirtface" on because apparently I unintentionally flirt A LOT when I think I'm just making conversation. (Sidenote: Yes, I am also a flirt, but when I'm intentionally flirting it's usually pretty obvious, there's a lot of smirking and eyebrow raises and taking advantage of my shortness) And then I'm too nice and I give people my number EVEN THOUGH I DIDN'T THINK WE WERE FLIRTING and then I feel awful but most of the time this isn't too much of a problem because I can just be that awful girl that ignores your calls. However, it is a problem when my drunken coworker kisses me and I didn't even see it coming a little bit.

Drunken coworker.

Kissed me.

Not the one I slept with forever ago when I wasn't working there. A new one. Like, not just new to kissing me, but new to working there. Oh, and did I mention he has a girlfriend? And I've barely every spoken to him? Except for making polite getting to know you conversation at the other sous chef's going away party, I'd pretty much never said anything other than "Hey, how are you? Which breads are you low on?".

But we left the party at the same time and we were waiting for the train and he kissed me and WHAT? So I told him it was a bad idea and then he said it was a good idea and then he looked me straight in the eyes and told me I was beautiful and I was so caught off guard (see also: drunk) that I didn't dodge a second kiss. And then he fell over, taking me with him. And then he vomited.

So here I am, in the train station, with a guy I've known two weeks and have had maybe a total of thirty minutes worth of conversation with who is falling over, vomiting, black out drunk. Sober me realizes he might've hit his head when we fell and that maybe I should've taken him to a hospital. Drunk me went into crisis mode and decided to get him in a cab and get him home.

He's a foot taller than me and does not have a small build. I have a bruise over half my right ring finger from the pressure of the claddaugh I wear from trying to pull him up by his hands. I succeed in getting him up and out of the train station. With much effort I get his address out of him and get us into a cab. Not thinking about the fact that his address could be construed as Brooklyn or Manhattan and assuming that the cabbie would stay IN THE BOROUGH WE WERE IN if I didn't specify, I focused on making sure new coworker was alive and ok and not on the fact that OH HEY WE'RE IN MANHATTAN NOW, also please pull over because new coworker needs to throw up more. So then I had to go back to Brooklyn. Most expensive cab ride ever. Fuck my life. But, I mean, what the fuck else am I supposed to do?

We finally get back to his house and the effing effity eff keys keep sticking in the lock and it's freezing and it's 3am and it takes like twenty minutes of us passing the keys back and forth to each other to get in the god damn house where we proceed to go upstairs to his bedroom and then I go to the bathroom only to find he's disappeared while I was peeing. Fuck. I find him downstairs in the other bathroom sitting on the toilet with his head in the sink. I mean, hey, I usually prefer to use the toilet for vomiting and the floor for sitting on, but at least this way he can't choke on his own vomit in his sleep. He vaguely wakes up, throws up some more. I try to force some water into him, he doesn't keep it down. I consider sleeping in the bathtub because I am a crazy person that thinks that somehow by sleeping next to a black out drunk person I'll keep them from injuring themselves. I try to pull him up and get him upstairs. No luck. Finally, I give up and let him fall asleep, head in the sink. I go up to his room, curl up on the bed, completely clothed, jacket still on because it's freezing and set an alarm for twenty minutes to go check on him. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Eventually he makes it into bed.

And that, was how this week started. I left before he woke up. I know he knows I got him home because I overheard him telling my other coworkers that he blacked out and I got him home but I have no idea what else he remembers.

So I'm pretty much just pretending none of it ever happened and he hasn't said anything about any of it to me (either the kissing or the me getting him home) but he has been really friendly and look, HOW THE FUCK DO YOU DEAL WITH THIS SITUATION? Because I'm at work, I have a professional relationship with him. I barely know him. I don't want to kiss him. But I spent multiple hours wiping vomit off his face and I've slept in his bed so it's weird. It's really fucking weird. I don't know what to do, so I'll probably just keep pretending nothing ever happened except it makes me kind of feel like a bitch to be like "hey, I've seen you crazy vulnerable and in need of help but now I'm acting like I barely know you". But I barely know him.

So anyways, apparently I have no idea how to read men because I really didn't think we were flirting but he really was determined to kiss me. Also, he was really drunk so I'm assuming it has no bearing on how sober him feels about kissing me. At least I'm hoping that's true.

Boys Are Confusing Part Two:

This past Saturday I think I almost got into my first fight with Trouble. (Pro Tip: You're not supposed to get in fights with somebody with whom you're just sleeping and have no emotional involvement, because I think that's a sign of emotional involvement. Oops.) We were in a cab and he mentioned how his new subletter was a really great guy and HE SAID "not like my other roommate" so I said "who hates me?". He again clarified that his roommate hates everyone and I again stated that I didn't really care if his roommate hates me because he was kind of a jerk.

"Really? Because he's one of my really good friends, y'know we grew up together, so his opinion really matters to me"

And then I changed the subject because a) never try to reason with drunk people especially if you are also drunk and b) why does it matter what his best friend thinks of me if we're not dating?! What?

We are talking about a guy here who once pointed to the ring on my finger and said "Are you engaged? I mean, not that it would matter if you were, I don't believe in the whole marriage thing". I thought we were firmly in this is not a relationship land, not ambiguous relationship land. Ambiguous relationship land is my actual least favorite.

Why am I meeting his best friend?

Why does his best friend's opinion matter?

Why are we seeing each other (slightly) more often?

And why is he doing cute things like pushing my hair out of my eyes and telling me it's a good to see me?

And I AM A GIRL AND I NEED TO ANALYZE ALL THESE THINGS TO DEATH BECAUSE I HAVE ALL THESE FEEEEEEEEELINGS.

Unrelated to all these things, I worked 13 hours today even though it's the day my pastry cook came back from being on vacation. I don't know either. Also I had potato chips for dinner even though I'm starting a juice cleanse on Monday. The world has been muffled all week. If you understand that statement, I am glad for the company, though also sorry. If you don't, I can't explain it. My room is a mess. I misread my DIGITAL scale all week and thought I had gained back five pounds instead of losing five pounds. I will clean my room tomorrow and I will pay to have somebody else do my laundry and I will have dinner with my family and I will start drinking all the juice on Monday and life will come back in focus again. I think. I think that's how it works.

But now, it's time to go the fuck to sleep.

I am the luckiest

It's 10am when I struggle with my copy of a copy of a copy of a key to roll up the metal gate and open the heavy door and walk into the dark and silent wine bar that makes up the front half of the restuarant.

What has proceeded this moment: 45 minutes of "snoozing", a bleary realization that I went to bed with my hair wet (again) and that it is sitting in a half-Jew fro on top of my head, hello flat iron, clothes somehow end up on my body, tinted moisturizer and out the door. Coffee at the bodega where they know my order (Am I a New Yorker yet?), 45 minutes on the train, half awake weaving through Chinatown and then digging through my purse.

I walk through to the pastry kitchen, flipping on lights and ovens,  setting down my phone and coffee. I snatch up a yellow legal pad and head downstairs. Into my cubby goes my purse, my real world clothes, my shoes and jewelry, out comes yoga pants and shiny blue clogs. My clipboard and I make our way around, counting and checking what was gone through the night before against what I had written for production. Two walkins, two kitchens, opening drawers, pulling out sheetpans.

And then, finally, thirty minutes later, I tie on an apron and head into the kitchen to start the real work.

Into the dock goes my iPod. Nobody is here yet, I can play whatever I want.

Stop... with you feet in the air and your head on the ground...

Mixing bowls out, yeast, water, flour and salt. Eggs for some. Olive oil for others. And suddenly the quiet kitchen is filled with the not so quiet whir of two 6 quart stand mixers and a 40 quart's clunk, clunk, clunk. I still have another hour before anybody else arrives. Another hour of just me, my music and the kitchen.

Even though I know that means I still have another 9 hours to my day, another 9 hours on my feet and running up and down the stairs and hoisting flour sacks and realizing the wholesale order should've been in the oven twenty minutes ago, I also realize that I chose right all those years ago when I chose culinary school over college because I am in the kitchen and so, I am happy.

This post was written as part of the Scintilla Project. Prompts can be found here.

On Adulthood

I don't really understand this whole not thinking of one's self as an adult thing.

Lightbulb Moments I never had:

  • I am responsible for myself now.
  • Adults are imperfect.
  • I am an adult

I hold these truths to be self evident.

My dad used to describe me as 13 going on 30.

My family feels the need to remind me that I don't have to do everything by myself.

Being an adult was all I ever wanted to be and I wouldn't trade being in control of my life for any part of childhood or adolescence. It was all I ever wanted and I will gladly take it, bills and monthly budgets and ten hour work days and all.

Because I don't trust anyone else to take care of anything ever.

Maybe when I do, that'll be the real adult moment.

Maybe adulthood is backwards for me.

This post is written as part of the Scintilla Project prompts can be found here.

Bits & Pieces (the second)

Social Life/BiSC:

In the last week, I met Adam, Sara and Bob, which means, along with Rachael, Dominique and Nicole, I have met 10% of the people I'm going to Las Vegas with in May. And I have to say if everybody is both as awesome and attractive as those six in real life, it's going to be the most overwhelmingly amazing experience I've had in a long time. Also, I'm really gonna have to bring my A game.

I made some moderately stupid decisions in the last week so that I could meet those people. And by moderately stupid, I mean I went out twice in the last week once knowing I was getting sick and once knowing I was still sick and should be sleeping instead. The result was working with a fever last Sunday and feeling likc if I had to stand for one more second past ten hours of work I might die for most of the week. But you know what? That's the great thing about being an adult. I consciously made those decisions knowing they weren't the best idea and I accepted the consequences and the only asshole to blame was myself. And then I spent pretty much all of yesterday in bed, spent today at AMNH and wandering through Central Park, came home, took a nap because that's what my body said we should do and pretty much feel like a human again. So I think, overall, worth it.

CA v NY:

It turns out you can take the girl out of California, but you can't take the California out of the girl. My pastry cook is giving up cigarettes, soda and fast food for Lent and everybody tells her it's crazy while I'm like "that's awesome, it's really not that bad". And not to pat myself on the back for not having bad habits I never picked up, I just call that normal life. I think most of my friends back home do too. It still weirds me out that the chefs I work with eat fast food. In fact I'm so not used to people eating fast food (with the obvious exception of In'n'Out) that even non chefs eating fast food surprises me. I mean, this week I'm concerned that I'm eating organic yoghurt from humanely treated cows and bread made at a coop because they come all the way from California and I think that's a perfectly normal way to think about food. I guess it's all relative to what you're used to. Hella NorCal, yo.

Boy Stuff:

I really will make out with anyone when I'm drunk. Pretty sure Sara asked me if I would make out with like 5 different people the other night and I said "yes" everytime. Sober me would not have said "yes" that many times. Sober me is now back in charge of my love life. The "don't get drunk on the first date" rule that Michelle gave me is now in effect. Despite being single for a whole year my friends have been shocked the last few weeks when they've asked about my dating situation because there currently is none. At all. Haven't gone on a date in three weeks. There are no boys that I'm currently regularly sleeping with. (I know, it's weird for me too) I am however, currently writing 6 paragraph messages to a guy on OkC that I genuinely want to be friends with. Or more. But most of the time when I go on dates from OkC I'm kind of forcing myself and I feel like I'm putting myself in such a contrived situation because I don't know if I would always go on dates if I had met the guy IRL whereas this guys seems like somebody I would actually hang out with in the real world. So that's possibly exciting.

New Year's Goals:

I'm currently losing weight at a rate of approximately two pounds a month. Did you know I was trying to lose weight? Probably not. Mostly because I think it's the most boring thing ever to read about on other peoples' blogs and because I'm a small person I feel like people will want to punch me in the face if I complain about my weight. But look y'all, I'm a chef which means my weight has actually been somewhat of a constant struggle since I went through culinary school. It also means part of the reason I don't weigh a lot more with what I eat is because I am on my feet cooking for ten frakking hours a day and lifting fifty pound sacks and running up and down the GD stairs. Anyways, with some portion control and stopping to make myself eat actual food instead of just randomly putting whatever cookie is closest at hand in my mouth when I realize I'm starving, I'm slowly but surely losing weight and starting to feel a lot better about my body and not hate the way every piece of clothing I put on fits. Which is good, because I really don't have enough money to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Dairy is the devil. I've gone back to pretty much cutting it out entirely and feel so much better on a day to day basis.

I'm still obsessed with Blue Print Cleanse juices but have mostly just been incorporating them into my regular diet instead of going all out cleanse. I would like to do another three day cleanse soon though.

Random shit:

I read all three books in The Hunger Games trilogy in two days. I would've liked it better if they hadn't been written in such a way that it only took me two days to read them. This is why I don't usually read YA books. Good stories aren't enough, I want to read that sentence that rings so very true my heart aches, that expresses an emotion so perfectly I'm knocked on my ass. I will say that it was a good story and will probably make a pretty enjoyable movie.

Best for last: My new work schedule is 10 am-8ish pm which means I might get to have a social life again. I've only had it for a week, but I think I might love it. I'm still alternating between having Sunday/Monday off and Thursday/Sunday off, which is really weird but the new hours might make it manageable.

Work Hard, Play Hard

It's a weird thing when the image of what younger you thought your life would be and your life actually line up. Teenage me though adult me would be a confident, single, career oriented woman, hopefully living in New York. Adult me went through several incarnations and ideas of what life was going to be, none of which fit quite right before finally, becoming that woman teenage me always hoped I'd be.

Of course teenage me also hoped we'd be stage acting or somehow working in something related to international relations and that Corina and Lara would be nearby always, but though the specifics change, the essence remains the same.

Sometimes I spend so much time focusing on the things I still want to improve, I forget how much I've accomplished. The ways in which I've changed to become that person that is somewhere between the person I think I am on my worst days and that person I'd ideally be. That person, that is the most realistic version of myself.

I was a strange combination of a bookish and athletic child. Soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, tap dance... and at recess I'd walk to the cafeteria while unable to put my book down. I grew into teenagerhood an odd combination of somebody that was comfortable speaking in front of large organized groups but a little lost socializing at parties or when meeting new people. Shy, but opinionated, which mostly just makes people think you're a bitch, it turns out. My young adulthood wasn't much different. I used to wish I could be the kind of person that didn't care about everything, the kind of person that could be ridiculous and lose control. The kind of person that just met people and presented themselves in a way that said "hi, here I am, take it or leave it, but either way, I'm probably going to get drunk and have a dance party and I think it'd be pretty fun if you'd join in".

At some point in the last few years, I became that person and it especially solidified in the last year of being in a new city and meeting new people. I am not always a silly drunken party girl that will dance at the drop of a hat (sometimes I'm a completely sober party girl that will dance at the drop of a hat, ask Sara) but at some point I stopped being the person that hid quietly in the corner kind of wishing they had a book. I've had a life, and I have things to say and I want to meet other people that do too and that live on the crossroads of taking life far too seriously and "wooooo!" which it seems, is almost everyone in New York, so at least I'm in the right place.

I've been told I'm on the better side of my 20s now, where everything stops being so crisis-y and starts to solidify and fall in place. Where you stop giving a fuck about the person you're supposed to be and just start being the person you want to be. I think I'm starting to believe it. I think I'm starting to get it, whatever it is. I think stability was a good word choice for this year. And I think I like this person I've become, weird dichotomy of super responsible/super serious and party girl and all.

More asking, less waiting.

I just realized that maybe part of the reason I feel like I'm going mildly insane is that it's been two weeks since the last time I did anything out of the work/sleep/errands circuit. January, January was just SO MUCH that I wanted a little recovery time, but then somehow that recovery time turned into more recovery time than I wanted and I have not socialized with people outside of the people I work with for half a month. And guys, only hanging out with other chefs? Nonstop ticket to crazytown.

This whole socializing thing, it's tricky, right? To have friends you have to be a friend and I am always at work or going to work or coming from work or sleeping. Unless it's between midnight and 3am. This schedule, it's getting a little old.

To go on dates you have to respond to OkC messages. Or write them. The initiating part, that shits tricky. I never know what to say.

Hi, I'm Alana and I cook a lot and drink whiskey. Wait, it already says that on my profile, shit.

Hey, I see you live in Brooklyn and have artist/writer/creative as your profession and I'm totally not just sending this message because you're hot because that combo totally doesn't equal OMG RUNNING AWAY NOW to an adult woman or anything.

And then you go on dates with a guy that's all PDA-y and "my schedule is crazy too, but I think it'd be worth it to find time for this" and just when you're ready to let him in, you never hear from him again. Ok, fine, our last date was two weeks ago, so "never" might be an exaggeration, but, hey, if you find my OkC profile you'll discover that one of the things I can't live without is hyperbole. So that statement is helping me continue breathing for at least a little longer.

(Please don't go and try to find my OkC profile now)

And then I think, hmm, this guys was willing to go on dates in the middle of the night on weekdays and was pretty cute and nice, maybe I should call him, maybe he's waiting for me to take the initiative. But I took the initiative on scheduling the last date so it's totally his turn because I'm not the kind of girl that likes to play dating games except WHEN I'M THE TYPE OF GIRL THAT LIKES TO PLAY DATING GAMES. So, he has to call me. No pride swallowing here.

Fact: I am really bad at pride swallowing.

Also, how do people meet people not on the internet? I don't even mean just for dating. I also mean for friends. I thought about going and hanging out at the bar around the corner tonight, just to get out in the world a little bit, but I don't have a physical book to read and reading an iPad in a bar would make me look like an asshat and also I'm not sure whether or not I want to be friends with people at the bar around the corner but I don't know because I've never been there. I've only been to other peoples' neighborhood bars in Astoria and that doesn't make any sense at all. But do people actually meet people at bars? I mean, people they hang out with for longer than a drunken New York minute (which is actually shorter than a regular New York minute but it feels longer because you're drunk so you've already become that person's bff)? Do I have to become one of those people that just starts talking to other people at yoga classes?! Because a) I get really weirded out when strangers talk to me so I don't know if I want to be that girl and b) have you talked to people that are really into yoga? No, really, have you?

Clearly, I really need to start working on liking people more, but that's old news.

Do you know where this post is going? Because I sure as heck don't, but it was one of those dump everything out of my brain so I could be able to sleep nights. Sorry I'm not sorry. Maybe I should get a paper journal but I think that would also require getting a chair for my desk. I really need a chair for my desk. And blinds. Don't ask.

Work is frustrating right now. Like, it's a good thing I'm usually closer to whisks and spatulas than knives frustrating. Selectively sending out my resume frustrating. It's a good place to be in while job searching though because I know I only will take a job if I really want it and they're really going to pay me more money. And it never hurts to keep up your resume writing and interviewing game. The place I was at today wasn't quite what I'm looking for, but they did offer benefits which is pretty much the unicorn of the culinary world.

For the most part, things are ok. I can live off the amount of money I'm making this month (unlike last month), I'm meeting new internet people on Saturday because I'm working an 11-8 or 9ish shift so I can actually go out, I'm kitty/housesitting next week which means I'll be living in Chelsea which is pretty much my favorite thing and I have another job interview in the morning. I'm guessing they can't pay me what I want to be paid. But if you don't ask, the answer is always "no," right?

Hey, I guess that actually applies to all the things I wrote about. Tying it together like a pro, bitches.

I should never quit my day job.

What's love got to do with it?

Feelings

I have been so cranky lately. The actual crankiest. Even I'm starting to get annoyed with myself cranky. Days start out fine and then I get to work and look at the production list and it's just from happy to STAB STAB STAB in 30 seconds. Right now I spend the majority of most days making pasta and breadsticks. Don't get me wrong, it's really delicious pasta and grissini AND also was entirely the intern's job before the bakery was closed indefinitely and the intern went back to culinary school. So basically I get paid a sous chef's salary to do an intern's job. I could look at this as awesome, like "ha ha suckers, you're paying me waaay too much money to do this shit," but since the whole point of being a chef is to do something I love... I'm mostly bored out of my everloving mind and HATE my job right now, legit hate. And my boss hasn't been consulting me on recipe development or menu changes which was part of the deal when I took this job back. And I wasn't given make up days for days off in January, so I'm broke. Bored and broke.

This bored, broke and cranky as fuck version of me has been going on dates. I've even gone on three dates with the same guy. Here's the thing about being single for an entire year: at some point I mostly detached my emotions from relationships with boys. I am not saying I didn't feel things at all, that I didn't have crushes or fall in some serious like, but I kept the feelings at a distance. I lowered my expectations to "none". If you lower your expectations to none and are in the mood to be the bitchiest, most defensive of all bitches, dating is pretty weird. I mean, I'm going on dates because I want a boyfriend. Hands down, I like committed relationships, I want to be in a committed relationship, that's what I'm looking for. And then I'm all like "WHOA, what's with this being sweet and wanting to see me again soon and holding my hand in public, dude?".

I'm like a feral cat. Stick your hand out and I might come cautiously over and see what you're all about, but try to show me some affection? RUNNING AWAY NOW WILL BE BACK WHEN YOU BRING OUT THE FOOD (AND BY FOOD I MEAN WHISKEY).

I was on date three on Friday, it was after work and he was putting up with my crankiness pretty admirably. I did, at least, have the decency to apologize for my crankiness. We were sitting on a bench in the subway, his arm was around my shoulders and I was cranky and bristling and somewhat uncomfortable with it and suddenly a switch flipped. I had a moment with myself where I said "self, the only reason you're keeping this guy at a distance is because he's acting like he actually likes you and wants to date you, so what's the real problem? Let's just try letting the defenses down a little. Lean into this". I gave into it. I relaxed and rested my head against his shoulder. And that's how I spent the rest of the date, leaning into it. Happy that I could put a little hope, a little expectation there. Not a whole lot, just enough to change the dynamic a little, to offer up a little vulnerability.

Wading into the shallows to see if the water is pleasant enough to head out to the places that are too deep to stand.

There and Back Again

I got back Friday from nine days in California.

Nine days under the stars and redwoods.

Nine days forced to slow down.

Nine days reflecting, examining, turning around past choices in my head. Not having regrets, just playing the "what if" game. I felt so removed from Sonoma County. In eleven months, I changed in some way that made me absolutely certain that that is not my life anymore, that I really was just visiting. It made me think of all the decisions I've made that could've left my life in different places and it made me really examine the life I have now.

What if I hadn't broken up with Jacob? Would he have broken up with me by now? Or would we, nine years into a relationship, actually be planning a wedding instead of just assuming we'd spend our entire life together? (I know, I know, we'd probably both feel miserable and trapped but that's not how the "what if" game works) I once knew with absolute certainty who I was going to marry. That's so foreign a feeling now, yet at the same time I feel like I'm always chasing after it. I don't know what "it" is anymore, but I know I'll know it when I feel it. I think.

What if Che had realized what an ass he was sooner? What if all the apologies he gives me now had happened two years ago? Would I have forgiven him? Would we still be dating? What if I had accepted his wine cellar proposal instead of moving to New York? Would I still be working at a group home, going to school and living perpetually feeling slightly ill at ease? Or would I somehow embrace being a country wife? There was a moment once where I thought I could do that (before the wine cellar proposal, by which point the moment had long since past), settle down where I could raise my own animals and grow my own food and turn it all into a meal each night. While I still love those things, I just can't picture myself in that life anymore.

What if that guy I'd had a crush on since 8th grade, my Harry Burns, had made a move sooner? What if I had been dating him for a year, instead of Matt, when Michelle offered me a room here? Would've I have accepted her offer? Or even, what if he had just asked me to stay in those last two weeks before I moved? He never would have, and that's one of the reasons I love him so. But he's also probably the only person who could've given me pause. I didn't even try to see him while I was in California. I don't know why. I don't know if I was afraid that that relationship never having a chance to happen would turn into a full blown regret if I did see him or if I'm just a pansy and couldn't bear the thought of the disappointment if we no longer connected in the same way.

I think I've been so focused on relationships because they were so often the thing I let hold me back but also because I felt like the reoccuring theme of my visit was "You work how much?! And when?! When do you have time to go on dates?". It's easy to forget here that there are plenty of people in other places only working 40 or 50 hours a week. People that work normal hours, have normal social lives and go on dates that aren't either in the middle of the night or at a normal time but on a Monday. And mostly my answer was "I don't" because that's an easier answer than "Well, there's this one guy I've been sleeping with but he's kind of an ass and I have no desire to date him and he has no desire to date me and it's kind of perfect in an absolutely no emotion sort of way and then there's also this other guy that I've had a crush on since July and I don't really know where we stand at the moment because I'm too afraid to ask because I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get the answer I want but I really really like him and it's fucking up what few dates I go on because I keep comparing".

(Sidenote: I know where we stand now. It definitely wasn't what I wanted. We definitely did have that conversation in a bar at a friend's birthday on my first night back in New York. So. There's that. To steal a phrase from my grandma, my heart could use a bandaid right now. But it doesn't need stitches, because we were never really dating, so it can't really warrant more than rejection hurt and disappointment it didn't become what I wanted. Basically, I'm sad, I'm not sobbing into a pint of ice cream sad but, still, sad)

I've been chanting the "my career will never leave me" mantra for a year now (thank you, Lady Gaga) but I'm starting to realize how much I've let it take over. I used to give up myself in relationships to the point where I no longer could define myself as somebody outside of it and now I don't know who I am outside of my job. When I'm off work for too long I start to get uncomfortable because I don't know what else I do other than work, laundry and sleep and also because I end up spending too much time with myself. My focus has been too much on work and not on building friendships. I'm not entirely sure how to change this yet, but I know I want to. I know I value having relationships more than my career. I also know I focus on my career as a way to hide from putting myself out there and taking the emotional risks making new friends requires.

Once again, I'm striving to find the middle way instead of always going to extremes. I'll get there.

Someday.

Home is whenever I'm with you

2011 was the year the city that was my second home growing up became my home. I suppose technically, it was always my first home being born here and all.

It was the year I learned to stop missing my father constantly because, somehow, this place, where memories of him are everywhere, soothes and comforts me immensely. I think it's also because 2011 was the year I was forced to only live for me. I had nobody else's needs to put in front of my own and taking care of myself made me miss having somebody to take care of me less. Also, I know my father would be proud of the things I've done this year.

It's the year I learned how dependent I am on codependency, how hard it is for me to just take care of myself and live my life only for myself. I mean, deep depression, in the bell jar, crying jags, barely able to function break downs. The leg up us children of addicts get on others with depressive tendencies, is that we're extremely adept at hiding emotions and will compulsively make ourselves do things if otherwise we'd be letting others down, even if it means hiding in the bathroom and sobbing every ten minutes. So, hi, Al-anon and therapy in 2012. Let's do this.

I learned the thing that nobody tells you about adulthood is that, yes, you can eat pizza and beer for dinner whenever you want, but you'll get way more excited when you have time to cook a real meal. Also, you will become that person that obsessively makes their bed every day just so they can crawl into it and feel cocooned at night and that thinks fresh sheets are god's gift to mankind. That you will wake up some mornings and just HAVE to clean your room before you can even think about doing anything else and that you will get really excited when you have the time and energy to go to the grocery store. Maybe this only happens when you work ridiculous hours, because this week I discovered that if I only work eight hours in a day, there is just SO MUCH TIME to do everything, unlike last week when I broke down and paid to have my laundry done because it just wasn't going to happen otherwise. But I kind of think being an adult is when you wake up one day and realize you're thrilled to change your sheets.

I think adulthood might also be when you move to new places and your friends are the ones that come to visit instead of your family, presumably because your family a) knows you'll be fine and b) puts the responsibility of plane tickets on you. Also, possibly, because your family thinks you're just going through a phase and will come flying back soon. Sorry, family, here for another year and even after my lease is up, I'll probably be here. You're just going to have to come visit if you want to see me more than once a year.

On the flipside, this was the year that I started to almost understand when people don't want to impulsively move across country because "All my friends and family are here". I have met some really great people this year. But, also, it's really hard to meet new people in a new city where you're going only knowing like four people even if the city, itself, is familiar. And it's double-y hard if you work long ass hours at weird times. I feel like I'm kind of starting to collect a friend group but it's obviously not the same as being at home with people I've known 10-22 years.

Yes, Lara and I have know each other since we were three. And that's probably the hardest because Lara is basically my sister and knows to laugh at me when I go on long angry rants and buy me potato puffs when I'm sad but to not poke at me and make me tell her what's wrong unless I want to. And we're both not great about picking up the phone and calling, so I also don't ALWAYS know what's going on with her and can't try to fix things and did I mention I have a problem with codependency?

Right now, even though I know I'm going to be ready to come back to my Manhattan skyline when it's time, I cannot wait to be surrounded by people that know how to read me, that I'm not always keeping some sort of wall up when I'm around and also, that I know how to read and where I stand.

2011 was also the year that I got back into the things I love. A month didn't go buy without me practicing yoga, sitting and listening to a new album or finding a day to obsessively read for hours, even though it meant I couldn't have clean sheets. 2011 was a lot about opportunity cost.

My word for 2011 was "choices" I wanted to keep all options on the table. For 2012, I'm using "stability". I don't need all the options. I want to focus on the good choices I made and expand those into creating a life where I am not sick and tired all of the time, where I have familiarity and routine, where I really solidify my relationships and I continue to live my life on my terms instead of latching onto somebody else's. I'm excited to keep becoming me. Hopefully a better me, even.