The Journey Is At Times More Important Than The Outcome….

Last night’s class opened up a can of “whoop a**” on me.  From the knife cuts (fluted mushrooms and tourne potatoes), the dishes we cooked for presentation (glazed beets, braised cabbage, duchesse potatoes) to kitchen clean-up (we stayed until 9:30pm cleaning) it was a stressful situation (in my opinion).  Over the last three months, I have had highs and lows in my affinity for culinary school and have  seriously doubted everything from my ability as a chef to my aptitude for remember information. My first day in this new course brought back all the feelings of inadequacy I felt the first time I stepped into the kitchen two months ago.

I have a tendency to psych myself out and to over-analyze situations — in essence, I scare the crap out of myself for no good reason.  This self-created anxiety is one of the issues I work with my counselor with because it tends to block progress in my case.  Modern psychology states that small amounts of stress are good for running at peak levels of productivity. I am unique that the thought of stress actually creates unhealthy amounts of stress.  I find it amusing that my classmates are always complimenting me on my calm demeanor in the kitchen.  It isn’t that I am calm at all — on the inside I am doing cartwheels but I know that if I don’t focus and try to control the internal chaos, it will have detrimental effects.  Once rolling, the stress compounds and that is when you find me a sweaty mess talking to myself in the corner or angrily yelling at my classmates over small things.  Neither is a good scenario, hence why I try hard to go in every day with a game plan and really not get too shaken up.

Because of this tendency, I often get lost in the moment.  For some that is a state they aspire to embrace but for myself it’s something I avoid. Many times in my life, I get caught up in the here and now, but never look at the path I am have or the journey as a whole.  As I get older, I am appreciating life as a whole rather than compartments. Yet, somehow this “whole perspective” is not translating to culinary school – this is a journey I need to remember because it has informed me about some much regarding myself. In life we can take many different roads, but those roads we take, well in particular, the road I have taken, I need to pay attention.  Yeah, sometimes we deviate or go off path – but that is the beauty of a well-lived life.

Last night, as I laid in bed exhausted, I thought of the poem by Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”. I memorized it in elementary school for a contest and still remember it to this day, considering I can’t remember my Mom’s birthday, it’s no small feat.  Little did I know that some 20 plus years later, it would have such new meaning to me……

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Tale of Caution……

So here is the deal-o……

I hate the way I have sound right now.  I am a Negative Nate that is sucking all the color and joy out my surroundings right now.  Right now, everything is a shade of grey when I know my world is bursting with all the vibrant hues of red, yellows and blues.  I say all of this because I am depressed at the moment.  Actually, I have been for the last few weeks.  It isn’t anything new to me or those that know me.  I can call it a “funk”, a “mood” or whatever semi-polite term that I can think of to hide what it is.  Straight-up depression…the kind that caused Van Gogh to lose an ear the kind that made me betray a friend in my sophomore year of college.

See, depression has always been a thing I tried to hide, albeit not very well.  As a teenager, I buried myself in activities to ignore what I was feeling inside.  I was a member of three clubs, held a part-time job after school and volunteered on the weekends.  in many ways, my depression created the opportunities for me to leave Detroit and attend Stanford.  However, my depression also allowed me to ignore coming out to my parents and family as gay.  It really was perfect when I think back on it…….my depression drove me to insane levels, which my parents saw as motivation and thus led them to believe that I was a happy kid who had aspirations.

I kept this up through my freshman year of college, but then I met a boy in my sophomore year.  We will call him “E” and I found him beautiful.  Unfortunately, he fancied himself straight.  He also fancied one of my good friends at that time. lets call her “A”.  I pined for “E” with all my heart and since I couldn’t be with I offered him my friendship rather than risk not having him in my life.  And for a while, it worked out.  We studied together, hung out together and I even went to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner.  It was dating without any of the physical components.  And I was ok with it.  “E” was the closet thing I had ever had to a boyfriend at that point and merely being able to spend time with him was good enough for me.  Oh yeah, did I mention that paired with me depression I had a horrible concept of self-worth and confidence?  Yup, I have found this “dynamic trio” tend to travel together and never makes for a happy living arrangement.

In any case, I was perfectly content with the jacked up relationship known as “Fake Gay Boyfriend”, until “E” met “A”; to be upfront, I did introduce them and I did encourage them to date each other.  After all, I was “E”‘s friend and that is what friends do right?  I was also “A”‘s friend and I knew she liked guys with the same characteristics as “E”, so it seemed like a match in heaven.  Well slap me and call me Cheryl that those two did like each other and actually started seriously dating.  Shocking huh?  And you know what, they were a great couple ….. they were the couple that I wanted to be and part of me snapped.  I hated “A” and loved “E” more…strange how the girl got the short end of the stick.  So what is a boy to do when one of his good friends starts seriously dating the object of his affection?

In my case, it was go into a horrible spiral of self-destruction where I lied, plotted and created a whole story in my head that I was the spurned one.  Yes, this was straight-up Melrose Place + 90201 + whatever Aaron Spelling show you want to add stuff.  CRAZY with a “K”!!!  Yuppers, I was officially psycho.  In the end, it didn’t work and I lost two friends, of which I still deeply regret hurting “A” the most since she literally was a source of kindness, honesty and light in my life at that moment.  I know she won’t be reading, but again, I am sorry and wish you nothing but joy and prosperity from today and into eternity.  But then, she is a kick-ass legal eagle with a soaring career who is hot as hell to boot, so I doubt my absence in her life has caused her much lost sleep.  As for “E”, I don’t know what happened to him after college really.  He was a good guy that I dicked over…..again I am sorry.

However, I am not writing this posting as a way to make amends to those I have wronged.  It’s a personal reminder of my own cautionary tale.  I do stupid stuff when depressed and I need to remind myself that this will pass.  No rash decisions.  No judgements.  Fortunately, after that experience and subsequent mini-episodes after that throughout my adult life, I am learning to distinguish what I am feeling and when its time to seek help.   Finding a professional to talk to has helped me before and I think it may be time to employ one now.  See there is no shame in my game…….depression is part of who I am but doesn’t need to define how I lead my life.