Friday, April 27, 2012

Constant State of Flux

Like Lazarus, I have returned.  For the first time in a long time, I feel close to the person I thought I always was.  However, there is a issue with that: the healthier I feel, the more restless I get. 

I am a deeply flawed being and I know I am not like the many people I meet.  It has taken 5 grueling months of conditioning, rest and peace to get back to this point – to clear the collateral damage amassed over the last 5 plus years.  But now that I am so close to my goals, I find I can’t help but jump the gun on taking on more things and looking ahead.  So I thought it would be interesting to write a retrospective.

Some people would argue that complacency is just an idea and sometimes an illusion.  To them, I say: “the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.”  For me, the fear of complacency is clear and present danger – it is tangible and I am constantly afraid that there are too many things that I am missing or not accomplishing as time passes rapidly.  I spent the last 6 years hell-bent on working, learning, cooking and improving my skillset, but this year, I set out to regain all the things given up for so long.

One of the best lines ever.

At 24, I think I would have been content with my travelling job, a strong relationship and a solid income.  But in a 6 month stretch, certain prospects fell apart and a weighted feeling of dissatisfaction came on quickly.  The hollow yearly words of “I want to cook” were quickly replaced by “I need to cook.”  I think for the first time in my life, I met Urgency – and subsequently, Complacency. 

Urgency brought me to San Francisco and it has carried me up until the end of last year.  To be clear, I do not associate having a family, children, and a good means of income with a representation of complacency – those aspects of life just seem to be a different set of goals that other people (not named me) were working on. 

Being career-minded (particularly, in cooking) can be fulfilling and horribly dissatisfying all at once.  Devotion and hard work ranks among the most important facets of being a good cook and worker, but unfortunately they are detrimental to any semblance of balance.  Often what I hear or talk about with friends and cooks are their badges of sacrifice.  The typical items most likely given up by those who choose this path include: relationships, family events, dating, health, sleep, travel, social lives, friends, peace, personal space, dignity and time.

I gave up all those things as well.  When I finally got around to considering my options for the new year, I realized just how much I had neglected for work.  I had fallen into complacency with all the other components of my life.  I tried to avoid certain demons, only to run into a whole set of other ones.  I think I picked tunnel vision over balance because my fears were generally conjured over my career goals.

With time and health back at my side, I have finally been able to go out and eat again.  On Monday night, I got a chance to see Ravi at one of his fantastic Liholiho Yacht Club dinners.  We hadn’t run into each other for months (as we typically did at the farmer markets), so it was nice to get a chance to say hi.  We had a very short chat about the last few months and during which, he said something to me along the lines of, “you know Jiro in Jiro Dreams of Sushi – that guy copped-out.”  Something I couldn’t have agreed more.

I had the same sense that I guess Ravi had during the movie.  In the name of devotion, Jiro neglected the world around him for decades.  While there may be no argument as to whether he is the best sushi chef in the world, the documentary seemed to skirt a portrayal of a man who was out of touch with everything but his restaurant world.  While I loved and respected all the meticulous detail, passion and approach of Jiro, I couldn’t help but wonder about a sense of emptiness associating with chasing something that he himself acknowledges to have no endgame.   

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I can’t seem to shut off the speed at which I still approach everything.  Most of the time, I need to kindly remind myself that this is all part of the plan and that I need to enjoy this.  Thankfully, over time I have steadily channeled the madness, energy and obsessiveness of work directly into my workout routines.  To which, I will say has yielded good results.  While I decided to stay out of a restaurant kitchen, I have been writing, studying, testing and planning for new concepts and culinary projects hopefully to debut in the summer.  I have not forgotten an important caveat: no matter what you decide to do, you always have to continue to get better. 

I have some simple goals this year: get healthy, see family, see people and see the world.  And, once I am done with fixing myself this year, I can start planning to reinvent myself.