If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the hardest lesson to grasp, is that everything you so desire… will always find you the second you stop caring whether you have it or not. Life is completely ironic, Alanis Morissette had it right.

I’ve spent my working life in the service industry – restaraunts, catering, events. More specifically, I ooh’d and awe’d over slingin’ pans and roasting myself over grills. I fell in love with the hard work, dedication, the blood, sweat, tears and endless burns and scars the kitchen gifted to me. In return, I felt accomplished, valued and my creative soul was brimming with joy.

It’s a love/hate industry. Add in a few personal life traumas, day to day struggles and growing through your teens to early twenties… and, well, I gave up and restarted a thousand times over. Until I made the decision to end what was starting to feel like a toxic relationship. At this point, I had a child and a heaping pile of personal issues I was ignoring that didn’t mix well with the demanding kitchen atmosphere.

I moved on. Hit restart. Went to school, went through more trials and tribulations, failed at what seemed like everything I touched. Which sent me into a deep, dark hole of self-pity where the mantra that played on repeat went a little something like, “what’s the point?”.

I quit working, I quit just about everything. The one and only thing I kept constant and alive was time and care for my son. Always, always, always.

But things turned to a state of emergency when I couldn’t pay my bills anymore. Instead of holding out for the perfect job, specifically what I had gone to school for, I started scouring for any old kitchen job. I had become so hateful of the kitchen and its atmosphere that I hated myself for having to do it. I felt like I was going backwards and I will honestly admit, my pride was hurt. I tried to make a better life for myself and Owen, and I failed.

I got a few gigs and bailed. More depression.

It wasn’t until I swallowed my pride, started taking some action and facing the things I was afraid of head on. Everything just started to spiral from there. I was signed up for a new course that had more promise and I had put in the proper research beforehand. I was feeling good and then I get a call. One of the kitchen gigs that I had really wanted phoned me after a month of silence following the interview.

I snatched the opportunity immediately, I was in no position to turn anything down. Following that, I had found out my EI claim had been approved, though there were issues and it seemed unlikely I would get it. Somehow all the stars just started aligning. So because I was receiving the EI benefits, I finally had some financial relief and this would float me until school started. Which also meant, I didn’t care overly about impressing the pants off everyone in the kitchen.

To be extremely honest, I wasn’t entirely afraid of being fired or losing the job, either. But I enjoy working hard, take pride in what I do, and I’m quite OCD about cleanliness, so I’m the employee who follows the “time to lean, time to clean” policy. So I did well. So many things I often struggled with in the kitchen, things I could never quite get a proper grasp of, just started to come easy. There was no desperation, no absolute need to impress. There was just work to be done and enjoyed.

Within less than a month I became more trusted and valued than employees who had been there for years. Chef was searching for a sous during my first interview with him, something I have never imagined I would overcome my weaknesses to achieve, has now informally asked if I would be interested in filling that position. Knowing I have made other commitments and somewhat moved on from the kitchen.

Things I dreamed of came knocking once I stopped longing for them. I stopped feeling like I needed them to be happy. You are infinite as you are. Simply as you are, nothing added. It takes absolutely nothing to be happy. You have a mind, you have a body. Breathe in… did you feel that? Hey, you’re alive! Neat, right?!

Bottom line, what I take away from this, don’t take things so damn seriously. Live each day like you’re going to die, because you are.

And on that note, gratitude. I will always preach it. It’s life-changing to spend each day counting your blessings and realize you are not entitled to all of this, you get to have all of this. And that’s frickin’ amazing. For example, I’m so grateful for my dingy little $20 coffee maker. I use it everyday, it never fails me, and I remember not everyone has this luxury.

 

Gratitude & a sense of humor. I swear by it.

 

c i a r a   l e a h

 

 

 

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