Category: personal growth

Career Advice

My coworkers, rather my ex-coworkers, when I lost my job, their immediate heartfelt reaction was to not let this minor inconvenience get in my way of pastry domination- a catchphrase that came out of my lips multiple times on a daily basis during my reign as a Pastry Chef at two top Chicago restaurants.  Pastry domination, taking over the Chicago dining scene, being one of the best pastry chefs in the nation, making pastry relevant again, was my dream.  I worked so damn hard at pastry domination, at being successful, at making badass dishes that people loved and remembered and talked about and Instagrammed.  I was in multiple magazines, I was on television, I sold a rather large percentage of dishes, I was for a brief moment successful.

So when that unexpected ax came for my head, when my success wasn’t actually successful, I gave up the fight.

I did.  I gave up.  I don’t give up on anything.  I am a fighter, I am determined,  I don’t let anything get in the way when I have made up my mind on something.  But I did, I gave up.  I threw in the dirty towel.

I have been cooking since legally allowed to start earning money.  I didn’t have much background before that- I didn’t learn from grandma, I didn’t grow up in the kitchen under mom’s apron. But once I picked up that knife, I didn’t put it back down.  I have 19 years in food service.  I have been a part of every angle, in every corner of the industry, learning and experiencing the entire gamut of food service- fast food, catering, cafeteria, fine dining, modern casual dining, large restaurants, small restaurants, serving, busing, prep cook, line cook, pastry assistant, pastry chef, menu development, costing, management, dishwasher.  You name it, I have done it.

I thought that this would be important, I thought that this would prove to be an asset.  Everyone needs to eat, right?

Well yes, but as it turns out, people don’t really care about what they eat so much.  They care about fashion, they care about cocktails, they care about gossip, and movies, and politics, and social media.  People care about taking pictures of their food, but they don’t actually care about food.  Cooking and cleaning is a nuisance, and eating out is expensive.  So the people want something fast and cheap and easy.  This leaves me irrelevant.

Not only do I have the years of food service, I put all my eggs in one basket.  I gave up everything to pursue my dream.  I gave up making any kind of money.  I gave up having a life of my own.  I lost my friends.  I gave up holidays with my family.  I gave up on the physical self- I gained weight, lost muscle, stopped going to the gym, got veracious veins, developed asthma, had a bout of psoriasis for about 3 years, got acne, developed alcoholic tendencies, ran myself into a car on my bike which resulted in sever bruising but couldn’t take any time off work, got very sick many times but still worked my 12+ hour shifts, got burned, got cut, worked mornings, worked nights, worked the night and then the next morning, I got mugged on the way home from working a late shift, I got pink eye, I never had vacation, I could hardly even request a day off.  I had two full-time jobs at once multiple times so that I could pay rent.

I gave up my dignity- I got yelled at, verbally harassed, degraded, threatened, treated like a child.  I never got complimented, nobody ever said “good job”.  I didn’t get breaks of any sort, I ate my one meal a day standing up while still trying to get my prep work done.  I never had health insurance, (don’t even ask about dental, that’s hilarious) never had time or money for the doctor.  All for nothing.  All to be a servant.  I never made any money.  The most money I ever made a college grad would turn their nose up at, and say no way in hell would I work for so little, even at an easy job.

I thought it was worth it, but when that ax came down I felt like a damn fool.

My coworkers told me not to give up, they told me that I was very skilled, that I had something.  They looked me in the eye and said to keep going.

They still ask “where did you end up?”  I reply I am on welfare.

So I am not following their advice.  I am not following the path anymore.  I am going to carve out my clearing by giving up.

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Marco Polo

I think of things to write about, but when the time comes, I go stone cold.  Is this writers block?  If so, then maybe I don’t have what it takes to write a book, maybe I don’t have the charisma to hostess a blog, to live my life by the way of pen, by the stroke of the ink, by the code of the keypad.

I get inspired to write only when I cannot, namely when I am struggling against sleep, tossing in the sea of the comforter, tangled in the seaweed of the sheet, mind racing while the body cannot.

So here I am, hanging out with myself on a late fall evening, bored and avoiding Marigold.

Maybe we broke up and I was too distracted to even notice, maybe that’s it.  Whenever I call on Marigold, when I am ready, when I have time, I have already lost motivation because of how long I have avoided my blog baby.  Marigold has run away, and I do not blame her.

It’s like I am nervous, or scared, intimidated, unclear, and for the first time in  my life, unopinionated.

It certainly is strange, but I miss Marigold, and I do hope she starts to stop by a little more often than never.

XO

Marianna

Tuesday Vibes

Things are really working out for me lately.  I am enjoying another lazy day in my uptown apartment, slowly sipping coffee and staring out into the late morning kitchen: it’s clean in here, the light is soft due to a hazy overcast day, the cat is happily playing in the basement, the neighborhood is graveyard silent.

As I sip the viscous coffee, very warm and pretty black is the way I like it, not too hot, not too room temperature, thick but not roasted too dark, I am making my daily to-do list and sorting out the errands for the day.  I am ready to accomplish every task at hand, motivated because they are all relatively easy and since I made the list, I want to do them.

Things are looking up is the prevailing feeling of this cozy and lazy morning, I have my life under control.  This is pretty ironic considering that I recently lost my job- a critical part of my self-identity, of my self-worth, of motivation, a demoralizing feat after working for over a decade with a personal sense of dedication for an end goal in which you feel like you got gypped.

Now I have lost my job before in the past- a couple of times.  But this time it is more personal and more defining.  I was very proud of my position, I worked at it very hard, at the expense of the personal life.  I lost my friends, I had to make an appointment with my roommate just to see her, I saw my nieces hardly at all.  I saw my lover while he slept, and we disagreed on what to do on our one day off together.  He wanted to find adventure in the big city, I wanted to sleep.

It felt worth it because this was a goal and I was following through with it.  I mean, as an adult you do have to prioritize work at times to get ahead.  This city is competitive and it takes a lot of energy to pull ahead.

But now, all I can feel is that it was a complete waste of my youthful years.  The payoff is that I cannot imagine doing that ever again.  I am willing to do the type of work, but not for the hours and not for the pay.

So, considering the circumstances of an intricate web of personal feelings, things are really working out.  For the moment at least, while I can wrangle some time for myself, while I can manage some time for other people, while I can keep motivated in not having anything in particular to do.

One Year In, Self-Reflection And Confection

I know the right thing to do.  I know by now that I should have the confidence to do whatever I want do.  I mean, come on man.

I know I am not an expert, but I know that I an more than competent.

So what is holding me back from like truly believing in myself?  Why do I insist that I have so many short comings and so much to learn?  Why can I not after a year of being in leadership throw my weight around?  I constantly resent people because they do not respect that fact that they should listen to me.  I never demand that they listen, which is my problem, they just don’t get it.  My advice is not an negotiable item at an auction, it’s a highly refined opinion that you really should do.  I mean, come on, lady.

Anyway, harmonizing the nonchalance of adaptation with the hyper sensitivity of precision can be a bit of a tight rope stroll, if you catch my drift.  I gotta say, I feel like I have I met my match.  I work in a kitchen that has a strange balance of personalities and attitudes.  Maybe never has so many different people cohabited that same space and time, with timidly snarkly me caught right in the twilight.

Semi-Obligatory Birthday Post

It’s that day again- it happens once a year to everybody and today it’s my turn.

My birthday always makes me so self-reflective, it makes my heart look in the mirror and ask “What have I done with my life?  Who have I become?  Have I made a difference?  Am I successful?  Am I happy?”

Seriously, why I can’t just be carefree like I usually am, why can’t I take the day off emotionally?  Instead it’s the opposite where I question everything about my life: who I have become, what impact I have made upon the world around, where my career is going, what does my future hold?

Some birthdays are filled with the most happiness I have ever felt, some are filled with tears and remorse.  Very few are non-memorable in terms of emotion and self-reflection.

This year, my 34th, I have finally reconnected with that sense of indescribable joy that has slowly leaked out of my heart over the last year filled with work stress.

I am a giver.  I give out all my energy to the outside world- mostly to strangers, but also to my coworkers and friends because I have this unending need to make everyone happy.  I am only partially delusional- I know I can’t actually make people happy, but I want to do all I can to make everyone smile.   Lately, it has taken its toll on me-  I have nothing left for myself.  Lately, after a full night of rest, I still feel drained, tired, empty.  I need a lot of coffee, a daily personal pep talk, just to get a minimal sense of momentum to take on the day, to endure the tasks.

Something has got to give. This is a reality that has been weighting on my mind a lot in the past few months.  And that in itself is tiring.  Being mad, upset, questioning everything, unsure, making myself motivated every morning is so exhausting- on top of the long, hard days in a hot, demanding kitchen.

Today, though, after deep though and self-reflection, after a personal examination of what I have done, what I am doing, the people in my life, why I work so damn hard basically all the time- I feel so fucking joyful.  I have wonderful people in my life that give a damn about me, about wanting me to smile, about wanting me to shine my energy with them.

I have spent so many years wanting a career I am proud of.  Although it’s a lot of work, I have been given the chance to finally be a Chef.  It’s way more work than I bargained for, but I am proud of everything I have created, and at the end of the day, that is really the most important thing to me.

So cheers, Marinara, to a new year.  Cheers to not being stressed about work, cheers to having more to talk about then work, cheers to following my personal standards for health and happiness.

I have a wonderful people in my life, and at the end of the year- that’s all that matters.  I am looking forward to focusing on the love in my heart, to keeping this joy so that I can shine it out.   The most I can do to help increase the happiness of the friends, co-workers, and strangers is to concentrate on the love and joy that I create with relationships and art.  And that is not hard, difficult, or draining- this is the easy part.

Lucky Number

Already it has been two months since the new year rang its bell.  I have not yet divulged all the luck I drew over the past year, I have not yet documented all the adventures that the past year brought.

Until June of last year, I was a devout personal recorder keeper. Last year began with high ambitions of art and writing.  I was posting on Marigold every day- so much so that I had posts planned out for weeks, scheduled and ready roll out at a set time.  I had recently rediscovered drawing- black ink highlighted with colored pencil- a very whimsical yet focused and symmetrical portrait of dancing lines.

I have not been the artist I was in the start of the 2016.  I have not even begun to document all the dishes I have put out in the last 6 months- a personal goal that is greeted with a D- failing grade.  It’s not that the resolution to Marigold wore thin, it’s that I found and focused on a large, all consuming professional project.

Marigold is not the only one who has experienced the profound drop-off in friendship, communication, sanity, support, and the charisma of the real me.  I spent so much of the second half of the year at work that it took everything and everyone from me.  I started a  giant and lovely garden that I let die hot summer sun.  I had to make appointments to see my roommate.  I saw my boyfriend while he slept, and he kissed me goodbye while I snored. Hell, I even miss myself.

It’s been one hell of a year.  I have two jobs, two homes, a boyfriend and roommate/bestie situation.  Life lately has been bananas and so detail-oriented my brain feels like I am constantly holding a plasma globe.

Yet, these are small sacrifices for the amazing feats that 2016 brought to me personally. 16 has always been my lucky number.  Ever since grade school, this auspicious number has been a good luck charm. For me, 2016 was a very lucky year.

January 2016 was greeted in South Africa.  The year started with a trip to a country that I never thought I would actually experience.  That feeling was a carry-over from 2015 when I rang in the new year in India.  I never thought that I would be lucky enough to travel to either country- and yet within one year I got very nice introduction to two very different cultures.

I have spent everyday of the entire year utterly in love.  Love is something that I never take for granted; it was not something that I was expecting to come to me.  Love is very special, and I feel extremely lucky to have found it.

Last year I got a promotion.  I got to be part of opening a brand new restaurant, and with that came the opportunity to run 2 pastry programs, simultaneously.  Much against my constant fear of failure, the new pastry program has been going better than splendid.  One might even call it a success.  We sell a butt load of dessert, I have received all good reviews from Chicagoland critics.  There has not yet been one flop.  The dish that sold the least made it in the top 131 things the MIke Sula ate that year (number 45 the Argentinean Float).

I got nominated for rising pastry chef of the year award- local but still legit.  As it turns out I did not win, but the nomination was very flattering.  I went to the awards, I wore a lovely emerald green dress, and my whole family went to support me and my growing career.

I was on television twice.  Local news- one was aired live, the other taped in one sitting.  I said “ummm” too many times, but I felt confident, I felt comfortable being me, being taped, being in high definition.

I almost got to meet Obama.  Seriously, he almost ate at one the restaurants.  How cool is that?

January 2017, started in tears- shockingly.  It was the chef’s dawn (9am) when I broke open my eyelids like two cold eggs- with a feeling of peril in my gut.  I woke up with a profound sense of dismay- of having to start the year over again- to have to experience everything that has to happen, again.  It’s a scary thought, to revisit the hardships and fears, the emotional roller coaster that was 2016.  Yes there were many positives that came out of the year, but it was a very challenging year at the same time.  It was worth it, but the thought of having to go through that process again, from the beginning, is terrifying.

I don’t want to have to face that caliber of a struggle again, even though I do.  I create my own struggles and my own wars, because they are a necessary side affect of my accomplishments.

Maybe 2017 will be just as magical as last year, maybe it will get easier with time, maybe I will find my artistic voice again, maybe I will not be so afraid of failing, maybe I will have time to dance.

Resolution Rehash

My friend has mantras instead of new years resolutions.  I saw a quick post on facebook, in January, but it stuck with me.  I can’t do an epic new years resolution that supposedly will last all year and make me a stronger and improved human.

So in the same spirit, a mantra or two:

Be a better person to yourself.

Do things that make you feel better.

Water is delicious, always.

Eat the way you want to.

Do yoga everyday, even if its 10 minutes.

Have some tiny balls, at the least.

Dont give up because you think you are dumb or wrong- the times that you are right make up for the times that you are wrong.

Stop being so stressed out and vent your issues in a constructive and non-intrusive way.

Marigold has been ignored for long enough- time to make time for her, and for art.

Don’t be afraid to do things for yourself.  Be more selfish, tell people what you need them to do for you.  STOP doing everything all the time- it’s not fair to anyone.

Be positive, be happy, feel the love.