Comfort zones & currencies.

It was early January, 2017. I was so inspired by a trip to Thailand two years prior, that I decided to expand my horizon, again. This time: Spain. It was my first trip to Europe. I had been exposed to Spanish food for some time, and now with my ever advancing curiosity of foreign lands, their history & culture, and of course food, I couldn’t wait to get there and get going.

I miss it. I miss traveling. I long for the day that this world doesn’t necessarily return to normal, but to a state where we can again live our lives,  share moments, and make memories with those in other places on this Earth. 

That said, back to the subject. Arriving in Spain wasn’t easy. Under-slept, after a quick layover in Ireland (just long enough for a Shepherd’s Pie), my enthusiasm was spent in a quick burst of adrenaline. A quick check-in to the hotel, and off for my first tapas experience. Gathering a few of the small bites Spanish cuisine is known for, it was all enough to keep me motivated. Then, reality set in. A similar vibe to when I wandered down Khaosan Road, Bangkok, Thailand, at 4am after 24 hours of travel, to be appeased with a bowl of Panang curry before surrendering to the exhaustion & near regret I had as I felt lost and out of my comfort zone, wondering, “What the hell did I get myself into?”

Luckily, I was able to remember this mindset. I was able to recall that even with doubts that I had, more or less, jumped into a completely foreign land knowing not a soul, nor a plan written in pen, that after regrouping & resting, I would again be back to a place of joy. Comforted with this experiential ideology, knowing this too would pass, I felt my feels. Soon after, my trip was back on course. What a couple weeks it was. I hadn’t traveled much growing up. A quick trip down I-5 to Disneyland with the family was our every year or two trip. No planes, no foreign languages, no solo missions. Even when I did begin traveling further, it was often with others, and within the language confines where I could always find my way. 

But solo traveling? To a place where the words are different, as is the currency? Not to mention, well, everything else? To step out of the bubble we call our everyday lives left me in a place where there really was no turning back. I was here, with a return flight not scheduled for weeks. And learning that I needed a transition period in the first day or two, to openly accept that experience is huge. But being by myself meant I had to talk to others. I had to figure out a way. Whether they spoke English, or butcher their local dialect decent enough for some direction, you just make it work. 

Increasingly, that seems to be what the day to day is becoming in this world of ours. No matter where I am, you just make it work. Ideas & preconceived notions can be great, as long as the attachment to those results aren’t greater than your understanding of plans changing, and being willing to adapt. I’ve occasionally thought that I’ve known what I wanted in life. Maybe a goal here, a daydream there. But, for the most part, the journey I’ve had has been full of surprises. Some welcomed, and at times, some not so much. Regardless, where I find myself today is in a flow of moving it along. Fulfilling my spirit in the day to day, taking my chances and listening to the things that my soul asks of me. I believe this is what makes me a creative being.

I’ve spent nearly 20 years in the kitchen. And, I’ll most likely spend many more, or not. Who knows? What I do know, is that every time I’ve based a life decision regarding my career, a project, whatever, on the financial aspect, or the idea/illusion of safety or comfort, that thing inside me becomes dull. My yearning for “it” silences, and in turn, so does my inspiration & motivation. I’m best at my job when it’s a challenge. My response to given situations that require creativity, solutions, for me to be me? That’s when I awaken. So much so, that I’ve found myself, at times, making less than I did the day before, twice as happy simply due to what’s being asked of me. Not by a boss, per se, but by the Universe. Heck, there’s even time that I spend “working” without even a dollar coming my way. Yet, I sleep just as well, if not better. What gives?

An old friend recently shared something with me that may have seemed pretty obvious, if I had been paying attention and not distracted by shiny objects. He talked about one of the most, if not the most, form of currency: time. This sent me in a spiral. Not necessarily a rabbit hole downwards, but more so in a seeking of what this acknowledgement could mean in possibly improving my experience. 

Time. This thing that often we don’t feel we have enough of, or sometimes are misled to believe we have enough to spare. Something that allows us the freedom to follow our dreams, or a dread that keeps us in a fear that we should simply keep our heads down and continue pushing forward, no matter the cost. Yet, an occasional regret having not started something earlier, or wishing there was a pause button to buy us just one more hour in a day… It all re-enforces the fact that time is something that cannot be replaced.

In knowing this, I am not oblivious to bills. The expense of living, the shiny objects, the next new toy, I’m not resistant to any of it. I still have to search for that balance that will allow me the freedom from life’s unnecessary stresses, while not paying for it with my inner happiness & joy. I get it, things have to happen in this world. Many jobs & career paths are those of necessity. Without them, stores wouldn’t be open, hospitals couldn’t tend to those in need, and who would be there to extinguish the flames if firefighters weren’t around. For these people I am grateful. But these aren’t the people I am addressing & empathizing with. I’m talking more so to those people that are almost paralyzed if they feel limitations in their ability to create. 

I’ve even wondered if my decisions & choices could be deemed “selfish”. Having opted for one road vs. another based on what would fulfill me the most. I’ve tail spun to the point where I’ve said “yes” to things when my heart meant “no”. And to that, rather than feeling selfless, I wasn’t whole, I wasn’t present. That isn’t fair to myself, nor anyone around me. If I steer away from my gut, overthink how I may be perceived, or flat out, for lack of a lighter way of saying it, gave a shit of what everyone thought? I’d be alone. Frozen outside of what calls me. I wouldn’t have a chance to give this world the only “me” that it has. If I don’t make the time to have my experiences, then in turn share those stories, embrace my perspectives, make my food, create the photographs the way that I see them, and tell my story, then who will? I have found the value in who I am, and I know what the currency of time means to me. It is not something I plan, or even attempt to stock up on in any sort of way. Although, my mindfulness around in which the way it is spent has come to the forefront.

At the end of the day, I notice a few things to remain true. If I have done the things that keep me whole, made the effort to be the best version of me I can be, not only am I fulfilled, but so are the ones closest to me. If I stop talking about the work, and do the work (even if its just a small chunk to make progress), I feel I have placed value on my time. For someone like me, which you either may be similar to, or at very least are entertained by the way someone can just keep trudging along, my interaction with this world is a constant two way street. I don’t want more from the exterior than I’m willing to give. I’ve simply come to terms that the one & only way I can make any sort of impact on this one chance I have, is to find the outlets that allow my inner self to shine the brightest way possible. The affects & results of these efforts are beyond my control. So, I’ll just focus on my work. Left foot, right foot… Oh, it all sounds so simple.


Think, but don’t sink: Avoiding the Sunken Cost Fallacy

I had just began culinary school. Some conversations were had prior to with family & friends, as I was seriously contemplating a career that would more or less eliminate any personal life. Weekends & holidays would probably be shot, and I’d be a passing ship in the night to anyone who didn’t live a work life like mine. I had held a few jobs in my experience, but none that went along the lines of a career. This wasn’t just a potential job scenario, this was a direction.

I recall speaking to one of my chefs. He shared with me a few stories from over his 15 year career, and all I could hear was “15 years doing anything, consistently?”

Hey, I was in my early twenties. What did I know about anything long term? Looking back, I remember my father returning home from work one night, blinging a new gold watch he had received from the bank in which he was employed. 30 years of commitment, and he was rewarded handsomely. All I could think was “A gold watch? For free?”

Not considering he had returned to the same office, day after day for a number of decades, spending his only life in the same surrounding, doing what some people considered the norm for a good amount of time. With this perspective, a gold watch doesn’t have the same “bling” it did when I was a kid. But that was life, working to live, and pretty much living to work. The hamster wheel, the longevity, the Mondays. In comparison, 15 years for the chef I spoke of earlier wasn’t as long of a streak, but it was impactful enough to be remembered all these years later. Especially, since I’m closing in on 20 years as a trained chef, myself.

And what a journey it’s been. All of the years of trying to know more than I did, the lessons, the things that went wrong, and the miracles that went right. The memories of the growth I hadn’t realized was taking place until I was mature enough to look back and see the progress. The dedication I’ve given, the constant learning, whether through experience, research, or simply looking to be inspired. Every waking moment had something to do with bettering myself as a chef, even if it was deciding where to travel, and what I could learn about their history & cuisine. Of course, yes, I also lived. Scuba diving, hiking, turning up the music and driving with no destination… But, more so, every meal I ate, every time I cooked in a foreign land, and every step I wandered in markets or cities elsewhere, was perceived in my mind as a way to become a more versatile & knowledgeable chef. Although, if you were to ask me, sometimes I focus more on what I don’t know. Hey, I’s a work in progress.

In a previous writing, there was a reference to looking for inspiration to the point of procrastination. And, although I am guilty of not always choosing the most productive path if I was to compare, this journey has given me what I need to be where I sit today.

So, where is that? I mean, where am I? Well, literally, I’m in front of my iMac. We’re shut down. The world around me has altered the belief I had that the food biz was bulletproof. I mean, people will always have to eat, right? Well, I guess when a majority of what you do is based on a social aspect; music tours, large events, yachts on charter, etc., nothing is indestructible to a pandemic.

Although, even before the shutdown, I had been curious of a few things. I enjoyed writing, although sitting still was never my thing, and well, I still haven’t learned to walk and type. My iPhone’s camera was pretty cool, and I found myself in awesome places, so some great shots were created. Knowing there was more to capture, I picked up a camera and began to learn what the hell an aperture was, and why light matters in composing a shot. But, I’m not a writer. I’m not a photographer. I’m a chef, right? 20 years isn’t 30, so I better just stick to what I know, it’s my career. 

So, wait. Where does this theory come from? Why should I only stick to that aspect of my life? Growing up in a time where the people close to me were identified by their careers, and having a driven force in myself to want to be the best, I’ve been consumed. I know this. When it comes to spending any additional time away from bettering that aspect fo my life, I begin to wonder if I’m wasting my time. If I should fight any desire to do anything else, and just buckle down, ignoring a parallel passion or curiosity. Staying true to the inspiration vs. procrastination theory, I don’t feel my energy is being wasted. So what gives?

My time.

Well, hello new fear! Seems that when I exit that comfort zone, yet again, even with knowing what growth can take place outside of said bubble, it’s never easy. I mean, if I move on to something else, or simply add to my resume of life, any moment spent away from food must translate into my time to this point was a waste, right? (Disclaimer: I know the level of crazy this sounds from an outsider perspective.) At what cost could even considering a different direction take?

I’ve fallen for many things in my life that later proved to not be as it seemed. By definition, a fallacy is a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument. When I was introduced to the theory of the Sunken Cost Fallacy, I was a bit relieved. Turns out, there is actually an observation that already exists over some thought processes I was experiencing first hand.

The concept of this mistaken belief, is that sometimes we opt to not move to a different trajectory, follow a new vision, based on the time we have already invested on our current course. Whether it be a job that no longer serves you, a relationship beyond joy for either taking part, or anything where the choice to continue is based solely upon the notion that to alter or end it, would create a perspective of previous time wasted, is all make believe.

I recently listened to a podcast called A Beautiful Anarchy by David Duchemin. In Episode 40: Feed The Fire, he speaks of keeping our creative fires lit. And how just because we might step away from one fire to stoke another, it doesn’t mean the original ambers don’t remain. Continuing on, he references that sometimes we just need to walk away long enough to gather the wood. Otherwise, how can we continue to fuel the fire. The takeaway for me here, is that my fire is the creativity, not the outlet. And that is what I seek, whether in the kitchen, out in nature armed with a camera, or at home in front of the screen as my fingers try to keep up on the keyboard as my mind speaks loudly & quickly. Shifting my mindset elsewhere doesn’t mean I’ve wasted anything to this point, for I wouldn’t have the experiences to share if I had done anything differently. I believe feeding one passion not only provides fuel towards another, but certain characteristics, traits, and lessons can be carried over from various aspects of my life to enhance those other experiences. 

Through this, I can see & hear, touch & taste, and soak in this world for all that its meant to be.

Grateful for my own permission to live what I dream.


Wait until now: Seeking inspiration through clouds of procrastination.

It would seem only fitting that with both a career & hobbies that are both deemed creative, that one would seek all of the inspiration that they could. Researching, reading, seeking… whether it be another article in the latest food publication to inspire a menu, or a YouTube video with some pointers on where I can point the camera, I had to realize that, at times, reading someone else’s writing was simply my justification for not doing my own work. And, I believe that’s where this has once again rounded its way around the track to find myself at a familiar land. The one in which I remember, nothing can replace doing the work.

Here we sit, in seemingly Year 6 of the Pandemic! Coronavirus has had us sheltered, divided up amongst those who are essential, and those who simply need those essentials. All the time in the world, and yet, if I was to compare where I could have been at, should I have held myself to a productivity standard through one of the most uniquely strange, challenging, & fear inducing times of my lifetime, I may believe I “should have” done more. So, before we go too far from here, let me throw out a disclaimer: I am not subscribing to this theory.

First off, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t know how to handle a shutdown of the world. Myself, nor millions of my fellow humans know how to handle this seemingly apocalyptic time from experience. We all trudge, and hopefully fight to live another day. Secondly, any time I spend in the purgatory known as regret, reminding myself that if I had started something earlier I’d be further along, is another moment I am not present. It is also crucial to remember, if all things happen as they should, I wasn’t who I needed to be to get started until I actually begin. The reminder here is in the earlier sentiment that most of the things I work on; cooking, writing, photography, etc. are almost exclusively derived from a feeling, a vibe, a calling. When the tumbleweeds roll by, and the cobwebs form, it can become almost crippling to get out of the starting block.

Ok, so I believe the point has been stressed that inspiration is key to my progression. Alternatively, procrastination? Well, that’s a foe that has all been all to overbearing at times. What I’ve learned through countless hours, days, whatever, is that at times, I am capable of accomplishing a ton in matters of quantity. But, at the end of the day, many goals will still have not been met, ideas stalled into a state close to preconception. The amount of ‘work” I’ve actually done just to avoid doing the real work, the creative, the inspired, the fulfilling, is hysterically ironic, in a very non-amusing way. Projects I have put off for a while, or even chores, repainting the walls… all examples of things I’m willing to do rather than sit. I recently read something relatable in the book “The War Of Art”. To paraphrase, “The writer doesn’t have a problem writing, they have a problem sitting down to write.” 

This proves true, in my experince. Yes, when my back is up against the wall, I can accomplish miracles. Like in 7th grade, putting off for a whole month the science project I would start & complete the night before it was due, to receive one of my rare A+ grades. In hindsight, maybe that teacher didn’t do me any favors as I’ve seemed to develop my own quiet in the chaos. Even knowing that the last time in a given situation, I could have avoided the stress and prepared better, got more out of the way earlier, set myself up for success, given the opportunity? Amnesia kicks in and well, lets just say I’ve wondered how I’ve gotten here again. 

It could seem to some that this is simply my admission to getting distracted easily, that I sit in a place always wishing I had done more. As these are not exactly untrue statements, they are not the purpose of this writing. The purpose of this is proof. The motive behind the words you’re reading is served as the example that rather than sit here, regret not writing earlier, and opt to sit lost in my thoughts, I began to type. My desire is to remind myself, among sharing with others, that no matter how crazy the world is outside of our front door, how quickly comparisons & frustrations can set in scrolling social media, and how many things you have yet to complete (or even start for that matter), there is a simple fix. Get to work.

Don’t worry about finishing it all today, and definitely don’t let the impossibility of finishing tomorrow deter you from working today. I’m better, more productive with smaller goals, doable tasks. I’ve also personally witnessed those baby steps turn into strides. It’s also becoming more apparent that every word I type, every recipe I attempt that turns into a success or lesson, & every photo I take that I may think just isn’t worth the push of the shutter, they’re all parts to the puzzle. They become part of my experience, components to my process.

As I look up, I see the words accumulating. Another blog entry is done. I have completed a task, and I feel accomplished. You undoubtedly know that feeling, and the avoidance that feeling may have in your life could be something you relate to or not, I don’t think that’s the important take away here. But, if you have at least taken a moment to read this, allowing me to share my experience, then maybe you’ve had a slight adjustment in perspective to realize that just because you haven’t yet, doesn’t mean you can’t. So, do it. Find that passion, find that thing you’ve avoided that could bring you joy, and block off some time for you. Those around you, known or not, will benefit from what you have to offer. 

Many limitations we have are placed by ourselves. Therefore, allow yourself to break through them. No telling what may be on the other side. Best of luck!