Do you promise to keep it to yourself?
Well….here it is…. I struggled and I still do. For the longest time I struggled to find the balance between the work and my personal life. How could I do my job, functioning at a level of intensity, which burns out many? How could I be the husband and father which I am required to be? How could I not let my friends and family down at social events? How would I find time to relax and be myself? How could I do ALL these things and remain my awesome self?
The truth is, trying to attack all of these issues in their entirety, was driving me a little nuts. When I think about it now, it still draws me in to a darkened place.
So what did I do? How did I find balance? Honestly. I don’t think I have. What I am trying to do is change my approach. By this, I mean shift the focus from my job defining who I am, to letting me, Brian, be the priority. It’s cliché, but looking after number one is how I am dealing with the struggle. I make sure that I do the things which I enjoy and help improve me as a person.
I’ll come back to the specifics in a bit. But before this can be done. One needs to realise that the significance of what they do in the office/kitchen/restaurant, is minimal. Busting your arse for a job which would replace you within days, should you drop down dead. They would. But your family can’t replace you. Your loved ones can’t replace you. My wife may say different! But, I hope you get my point. Being run down to the point of exhaustion, so that you can’t enjoy those moments with your own family and friends is not how it should be. At the end of the day, it’s just someone’s dinner. Unless you’re a chef on the front line, in a war zone (#Respect) or dropping of aid to famine ravaged villages for the United Nations, little Veronica and Tarquin will have to wait that little bit longer for their egg and cress sandwiches. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel by taking your foot of the gas by 5%. To carry on the driving metaphor, revving your engine in the red all the time will kill your motor eventually. Who does that benefit?
Too many websites, feeds and forums are still glorifying the aggressive, work hard/play hard lifestyle. Glamorising the burned out chef. Hollywood even cashed in on chefs on the edge. Two of the biggest films about our industry of recent years, both featured chefs “losing their shit!” Having psychotic episodes. But it all worked out in the end. That’s the Bradley Cooper effect. In reality. We all know how that would have ended. Most of us know the chefs who fell of the edge and didn’t come back.
Being a chef is sexy. It’s rock and roll. But only a few, less that 0.01% of us are in the limelight, making waves. We are mostly soaping down oven doors, trying to get home. Clock watching and hovering around the clingfilm at the end of a shift.
Get rest, get away from the noise. Spending 12 hours under the billion Watt extraction unit, listening to that constant drone, in itself can be tiring. I sometimes take the longer walk home, just for the peace. Being in an environment which is unrelated to work or home helps me bridge the two worlds.
I am by no means a saint. Only recently being told that I can occasionally be very difficult to work with due to my moods. I know that I have been very tetchy in the recent heatwave here in the UK. This is the closest I’ve come to considering a career change. Fuelled even more by the 70 hour week which I found myself doing to cover a chef’s holiday. It’s been a while since I put in those sort of hours in the kitchen and I’m still recovering now. Only sweet baby Jesus knows how I used to do that on a weekly basis. Those who know me well will tell you that I am mostly a calm, chilled out chap. But I know I am guilty of suppressing anger and negative emotions. I would then vent this pent up rage in a torrent of passive aggressive sarcasm, bitchiness and nastiness. I’m working on this aspect of my personality. But I can only afford so much therapy! My personal belief is that life is about trying to be the best you. Some say, the best version of yourself. The emphasis should be on the try. No matter what your religious belief is, if any. When it comes to reflecting on your life. You want to able to tell the world that you gave it a go.
So to summarise. Chill out. Love. Learn to switch off. Learn to switch on. Talk.
If you haven’t checked out Love Letters to Chefs, please go see the work which this site is trying to promote. The hashtag #BetterChefLife is being pushed to help improve the lifestyle, welfare, expectation and perception of chefs.