Thursday, September 6, 2007

Words, Worship, and Passion

I’m not as active in ethereal society as I once was. The newbies—the booming ranks of MySpace, TypePad, yada yada—blog like crazy; like they invented the genre. While those of us who have been around for a really long time have come to terms with the addiction. We swear we’re done, we moan that we’re out of things to write, we crow that we have lives that are ever so much more important than…this. Yet still, we come back. Not as often, not full of quite as much piss and vinegar, but we come back.

Sure, I have a life now. And it’s a life and a half. But it’s not a social life. In fact, with my closest associates being less than half my age, it’s a peculiarly asocial life. So my society is still here. Perhaps I don’t know—will never know—my friends in the blogosphere in a completely real sense. Still, after almost four years, I feel much closer to them than I ever will to the children with whom I spend the lion’s share of my time these days.

I’ve discovered that this is a great place to come when I want to leave my life behind, but not too far. On the heels of a thirteen-hour day at the café, I haven’t the brainpower to sit down and comprehend Shakespeare or Yeats, or even the most recent crotch novel on the best-seller list. The most I can digest of the newspaper is the comics, the advice columns, and quick glances at the editorial pages. But I can crank up my computer, call up my "bloglines" and click into the thoughtful essays written by my fellow slaves of the keyboard. Just deep and entertaining enough to give me something to think about before I lose consciousness.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend wrote a tiny piece that made me think. Jackie has been expanding her horizons in the kitchen lately, and finding great joy and blessings in her efforts. In the prologue of a little report on her latest triumphs—homemade granola and banana muffins—she mentioned feeling as if her kitchen were her sanctuary, and her work there was worship, rather than work.

I know that feeling. That feeling that even the dirtiest, meanest task performed in the place you love, the place you belong, is like an embrace. Just to be where you know you are the perfect fit, is a harmony matched only by the most exquisite, exalted music. Anything you touch there is sacred; anything you do, a masterpiece.

But I DON’T feel that in my kitchen. Far from it. In fact, sometimes I'd swear my kitchen is possessed by the spirit of Gordon Ramsay…  A rather startling admission from someone who has recently been laboring as hard as I have the last thirteen months at my "dream come true"—my very own restaurant.

But working with food was never one of my heart’s desires. In fact, my sisters were all willing students at my dad’s elbow in the kitchen by the time they reached adolescence. Not me. I was a picky kid, and, for the most part, could take food or leave it. At under 100 lbs. until I was twenty, I obviously didn’t have all that much fascination with cuisine of any kind.

For me, the kitchen is my job. It’s my career. It pays the bills, keeps a roof over our heads, and fulfills one of THE most important goals of my life—that I NOT have to work for someone else. Kitchen work is what I know…it’s what I’ve been doing for most of the last thirty-four years. I got into it because it was the first job I had that I liked. And I stayed in it because it was comfortable and I was good at it. The industry speaks to a lot of my natural talents, but it was never my passion.

Let’s face it, few of us end up making careers out of our passions. We can be passionate about our careers, but that’s not the same. Careers are so affected by the whims of others: what sells, what’s "accepted," what conforms to the marketplace’s ideas of good or bad. Who really wants their passion planed and shaved and shimmed to fit into some pigeonhole of public acceptance? It’s safer to expend that grand emotion on something that I can allow to take any shape, any form that strikes my fancy. As it is, if someone hates a meal at my restaurant, it’s a problem, and it’s frustrating, but it’s not a rejection of my very self. I don’t think I could handle that on a day to day basis.

So, what is my passion?

Well, this post has gone on way too long as it is. I’ll write about my passion next time.



  1. You are a tease and a half. Some might call you 'a character'.  I am interested in what your passion is and I agree that you can be passionate about your work, but not necessarily work at your passion.  I no longer know what my passion is.  

    I've reached a spot in my road of life at which words don't describe my feelings, well enough.  

  2. Ethereal society -- love it!

  3. It's like you are reading my thoughts way across America! I am in a position that I need to find a "job" but I have the luxury of finding something that I am really going to enjoy! At least I hope. I may panic and end up just "working" again. I wait in anticipation of your passion essays (I'm sure there is more than one).

  4. You don't know how much I needed, truly needed to read this.

  5. But, in the meantime you're doing the best you can with the cafe, and that's wonderful.


  6. I agree that working at what is your passion could quickly take the passion out of the activity.  I love taking pictures, but I think I love it more on my own terms than I would on assignment.  I could be wrong...

    What I've learned over the years is that passion has to be nurtured.  And sometimes, we have to give it a little space.  Even passion can grow stale or become lost in the demands of life.  I think we know it's truly a passion when we NEED to get it back.  That's certainly what I'm feeling right now....