Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Moment of Zen

Wow, this past week has been – hellacious.

This whole 'working-full-time/school-full-time' thing has really taken some getting used to. I try to use the weekends to get caught up and read ahead so I’m prepared, but then I end up working tons of overtime! This is the super-busy season at my job now, so there’s not much choice in that.

But I think I’ve finally reached a ‘balance point’ with things. At one point I had hit bottom, thinking that I’d definitely bitten off more than I could chew and made a big mistake. Then I realized that I’m putting too much energy into all of this, which only raises my frustration level to the point where I want to give up. Especially when things don’t go well.

And things certainly didn’t go well this week.

I missed Monday’s classes for a stupid reason, which I later realized was my ‘burn-out’ point. The rest of the week saw ever-increasing pressures in class and at work. Not only was I working overtime every day (by getting in extra-early), but we had exams and heavy-duty cooking practicals at school. I’d come home burnt out, hit the sack and get up the next day to start it all over again.

And a funny thing happened – I learned to relax. It seemed as if the more over-worked I was, the less energy I had left to worry and stress about things. That doesn’t mean I slacked off, ‘cause I certainly couldn’t. But it means that when things didn’t go well, I didn’t stress, I just rolled with it and moved ahead, doing what I could and letting go of the mistakes.

‘Twas a good thing, too, ‘cause man, Chef can get ornery when things don’t go well!

He called Thursday night’s class a big ‘cluster you-know-what!’ and shouted at the whole class. We were running around trying to make a Béarnaise sauce with a vinegar reduction for our grilled and marinated chicken. Sure, some people got it done, and done well. But some of us… well, we take a little more time to learn than others.

I first screwed up the reduction by not straining it, then screwed it up by not using enough vinegar. I couldn’t crack an egg without screwing that up, too! I know I was getting more and more frustrated, and that was sapping my concentration. But by then we had to pack it up and start cleaning, so I essentially didn’t get anything done at all.

Fact is, I’m a slow learner. It’s always taken me longer to get things, and I have to make lots of mistakes to eventually get what I’m doing. Problem is, the classes just aren’t structured that way. You either get it right away or you don’t, and there’s not enough time for slowly-but-surely figuring it out.

But I’ve learned to let go and stop stressing about that fact. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up, it just means that I accept I won’t get as far as some people in my class. Some of these folks have been cooking in restaurants since their teens! This is all brand new to me.

So I’ll focus that energy on what I’m doing instead of stressing about what I’m not, and if it doesn’t turn out as well as it should have, oh well. I’ll keep moving forward. I found out I have Chef Wook Kang for my next Foundations class, which is awesome. The CHIC Podcast is part of why I got into this in the first place, so it’ll be great to learn from him. Here’s hoping I have Chef Beckman for one of my baking/pastry classes!

Now it’s back to work (!), and hopefully I’ll get some studying in, too. Peace out, and Namaste.

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