Let's catch y'all up.
Right at the top here is my health.
I had to go in and get pre-cancerous cells in my cervix zapped out with lasers on March 1st. I very much resent that I was pushed along as Patient #9673589725 and wasn't briefed about post-procedure recovery during consultation, which really-- mentally and physically-- f u c k e d with me for most of March. It is a standard, common procedure (something like 1 in 4 women will have it done in their lifetime), but oh man, therapy really heard about it. More anxiety, more depression, more panic attacks. The doctors and nurses didn't brief me about certain things that I was going to have to go without for the next little while so I didn't ready myself for anything. And these were things that I needed in my life because they were helping with the anxiety and depression, namely staying active. Post-procedure and recovery/aftercare for the next three to four weeks, I wasn't allowed to: swim (and swimming's been my primary, go-to fitness training this last little while); have sex; take baths; sit in a hot tub or sauna; use tampons. And I swear to god, the aftercare estrogen cream I was prescribed was sending my hormones into flux, doctors' contrary consolations be damned...
This thing was happening to me and my body I simply couldn't cope (lots of bleeding, lots of tears, even less sleep, less sanity), as if I couldn't feel like less of a functioning human being during my life's hiatus. Yeah, I get it, no one wants cancer. But this wasn't great either.
During this dark period, my doctor put me on a new anti-depressant and started to really keep a watchful eye on me.
This was my bottom.
I started digging deep. I started having productive, confrontational conversations with myself, asking myself honest questions that were met with difficult answers accompanied with discomforting feelings:
Q: "Why can't I balance the bad with the good in my life right now? This is hard... but I'm catastrophizing this..."
A: "Because while there is good in my life, i.e.: Matt and good friends and a family and an amazing home, it somehow isn't enough. Because I also need to feel good and proud of how I earn a living. And that is a big hole in my identity. My job/career sucks because it's not what I want to be doing. It is a massive source of dissatisfaction, anxiety, no meaning, impotence, and inadequacy, and that is zapping me, spiritually, mentally, physically even. I cannot continue burying those feelings with "good reasons" of having a steady job and steady income in a precarious economy , in a city that's hard to get by in. That's not enough for me anymore."
Q: "So then what do you want to do?"
A: "Chocolate and pastry, flat-out."
Q: "And what else..."
A: "And to have my own business. But I can't justify just 'quitting my day job' and starting my own business, it's a fool's errand that's full of failing over and over until I don't... and who knows how long it will be when I stop failing. The reality of it is is that's not sustainable, for me or for my relationship with Matt and the life we've built. I'm going to have to stick it out with a day job still. But I can't go back to my current day job. I won't. I fucking refuse."
Q: "What are you going to do?"
A: "I know what I have to do, but I'm too scared."
I had to though. I was at my breaking point. And I had actually done stuff (culinary school) to prepare for the moment of taking the leap, just so that I wasn't diving into the abyss without a parachute. But I couldn't take the leap. All I could do was just stare down into the abyss...
But behind me was a job that was dissolving my soul.
I had to make a move.
What was less uncomfortable at this point... staying at a soul-dissolving job... or diving into the abyss...
I finally chose diving into the abyss.
Time was still on my side, but not for long. Time to start making moves.
I psyched myself up by listening to Oprah audio clips, playing back my therapy sessions in my head, reading Mark Manson, everything that would help me muster up the courage to pull the trigger. And I finally did: I updated my resumé and started tossing it out to every baking kitchen, EVERYWHERE. And that in itself gave me a boost: "At least I'm trying, at least I did this, and this is a little further than from where I was yesterday. And I'm working towards what I WANT to do, and that is worth something."
Then I got a phone call...
Recruiter: "Hi, I'm calling from ______, how are you?"
This was basically like getting a call from a critically acclaimed Broadway production or a San Fran Michelin-starred restaurant or Beyoncé's dance crew or Google HR. Does that metaphor land sort of?
Basically, ______ is the Paris pastry trip you take when you can't afford to go to Paris. And it is arguably the biggest and best French pastry brand in Toronto. Everyone knows the name.
All of my organs fell out of my ass, I couldn't believe who was calling. I thought it was a mistake. I stumbled through our initial phone conversation. After the recruiter scheduled a subsequent phone interview, I had zero chill. I couldn't eat or sleep well. I cried off and on. Not over ______ necessarily, but that I was coming to terms with change that was now happening in a part of my life that had been stagnant and "comfortable" for so long. It was a scary space to be in because I've finally removed myself from this [perceived] place of comfort, but now feeling exposed and unsafe. I inundated myself with the "what if?"'s, which everyone knows is death by a thousand paper cuts. But I also couldn't turn back. This was purgatory.
Came the phone interview, I stumbled all the way through it. And somehow after that steaming mess, the recruiter granted me the opportunity for an in-person interview and to perform a stagiaire (or a "stage") in ______'s production kitchen.
To quell my neurosis, I called upon Matt's sister's boyfriend, who's a chef and has been in the game for a while. "They're auditioning you, but you're also auditioning them. Be neat, be tidy, keep in your space. And know that no one, NO ONE, EVER, has an outstanding stage."
The in-person interview was much like the phone interview where I stumbled clumsily through the whole thing. I couldn't speak. What I was saying was confusing and roundabout and didn't make sense. A thousand pauses and no endings to my sentences. It was a fucking mess...
The stage though, was this:
They didn't put me on dish bitch duty. They threw me straight into the deep end of a pool of chocolate. It was full-on, capital C, Chocolate work. I stuffed my nerves and dove in. I was surging with excitement and confidence. I fucking knew the work. I knew everything that culinary school had prepared me for. I worked with confidence, and passion, and zeal. There aren't often times where I can do something and know that I did it REALLY well. But the stage? I fucking nailed it.
But I couldn't sustain that feeling because there was still the matter of whether I got the job or not. The stakes felt even higher at this point because I was just so thirsty for this job. I was wound so tightly that I could hold a squat for a good few minutes and not collapse from the burn.
The Friday that I was supposed to hear back from ______ about whether or not I got the job, I somewhat levelled off, felt resigned, felt this weird sense of acceptance and finality, and knew that waiting around for the phone call wasn't helping me. "I'm going to go make myself feel good, if only for a few moments, I need to break away from this anxiety." So went to go have an indulgently long shower. The minute I turned the shower off, my phone rang and I answered without even towelling off. I stood there, naked and soaking, holding my phone with my thumb and middle finger, the recruiter telling me that ______ was hiring me as a chocolatier commis chef.
The phone conversation ended and I stood in the bathroom, still naked and soaking, and began to bawl--
But only for a few seconds, because I knew something big had just happened and that was my body responding. But my head hadn't caught up. It was all too big and too much to process at once. For the next 48 hours, I was legit in a state of pure shock where I didn't even believe I was hired or I felt like I was floating through the Matrix and I was going to wake up soon. For the few friends and family I was telling while on autopilot mode, they were losing their goddamn minds, screaming, ecstastic for me, but I was sitting there, in what could safely be categorized as shock.
It wasn't until the following Saturday afternoon where I started watching the new Chef's Table Volume 4: Pastry (which, uncannily, was released on the very Friday I found out I got the job) and it finally really hit me. And I mean really hit me. During one moment, Christina Tosi had said something profound or self-revelatory about her journey and it pulled the flood gates open. All of me surrendered. I sobbed so hard, so hard. I shlepped over to Matt, I fell into him, I buried my wet face into his chest and said, "This is so much to process."
I cannot believe it. Any of it.
So what are the things I've learned from this?
-I don't really have a sense of regret for how long it took me to get here-- and if I do, it's on a superficial level. Yes, I could've gotten here earlier, but I think it all had to happen the way I did, to have taken this long. Each and every lesson that was taught throughout I absolutely needed to learn and know. And for those lessons, I would not be as whole as I am now to be able to receive this.
-For anyone who has a dream (so cliché, I sound like a motivational wall calendar): you have to want it bad enough to say, "Fuck the consequences." and make it a reality. And if you want it bad enough, to the point where it makes you a crazy, you'll work hard enough and smart enough for it.
I learned to finally listen to my own gut, my own voice, when it was finally louder than anyone else's.