I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Just Back Yourself

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about my amazing friend (who I have yet to come up with a blog moniker for) - and how I find her strength inspiring. She responded to me personally and said that when she tells her other friends about me she describes me as the woman "willing to back herself." Today I met another woman who - in quite possibly the most brave way I've ever heard of - also chose to 'back herself' and take charge of her life. To live the way SHE wanted to live. To seek new horizons (literally), to experience things differently, to just "back herself" in such a way as to turn her life around completely. 

I think we all need to remember to do this once in a while. Just - BACK ourselves. Believe. Do something completely crazy and insane which - because you backed yourself - will lead to great things. Or maybe not, but surely it's worth trying?

In talking to this woman today (hello, woman! You too need a blog moniker)...I told her about the crazy story of how I ended up going to culinary school. The story of how I backed myself because "life, the Universe and everything" basically forced me to do so. The short version is, I had reached the point in my working life where every single day was breaking a chunk off my soul. SOMETHING had to change. The long version is this:

I'd been working in a large University for a long time. Universities are wonderful places because the benefits of being an employee are fabulous as long as you never want anything actually DONE. So you get crazy good entitlements, but your brain atrophies as you realise that another year has gone by and you have achieved SFA (shit fuck all). People in Universities are AWESOME at meetings - having them, attending them, planning them, fighting in them, planning more of them and so on - but not a damn meeting RESOLVES anything. Ever.

It's very annoying.

Anyway - I needed to stay at said job (hello, benefits, and hello, husband who kept losing jobs, and hello, toddler triplets) but I hated it. The "I hate this so much I cry almost every day" sort of hating it. So I went through a (too long to talk about) very long process to get a secondment to another area of the University, in the hopes this would keep me from the daily wanting to pull out my eyelashes and make a bonfire at my desk. I got the secondment and on the first day my new boss calls me into her office to tell me that my job was non-existent. They invented the role and the project as a way of retaining their funding from one year to the next, but the role and the project were pure works of fiction.

I left a job I hated, in the hopes of making my life more bearable - to walk into a job which did not exist.


This meant I had 9 months in which to do even less than nothing, because even I could not call meetings together for non-existant projects. I'm good at bullshitting, but I'm not THAT good. My official work instructions were to, "show up late, take long lunches, and leave early. Look busy while you're here."  This is in the days before smartphones and facebook...so options for how to look busy were limited. PLUS, I would have much rather been home with my trio (at least parenting is productive) - but we really needed that money.

That same year, I applied - and got rejected from - culinary school due to there being (ironically) no funding for local students. Later that year (with my brain now in complete melt down) I got a call telling me they had last minute funding for some spots. I had 30 minutes to tell them if I wanted the spot - and I had one day and one weekend before the course started. Long story short, I took them up on the offer and then went to tell my boss that I was quitting her ghost project.

She wouldn't let me quit. They *needed* me to remain employed until the project was complete, so that they could retain their funding. If I left, the jig was up, and they were screwed, financially speaking. I tried to argue that it was ridiculous - a government funded university was going to PAY for an employee to train in another area at another school, and literally produce NOTHING in exchange. Ridiculous on SO many levels. In the end, I just threw my hands up and gave in (I suspect she would have paid me if I showed up or not). So - several days a week, I'd start the day in my corporate gear, go to "work" to piss fart around for a few hours, then at lunchtime drive to culinary school, change into chef whites, and be the person I so desperately wanted to be.

I led this insane life for a couple of months (just till the end of the 'project') and then went on to culinary school and a real chef job and so on - and life got a whole hell of a lot better.

Kitchens rarely have meetings, and when they do, it's generally fuelled by the promise of creating fabulous food, enjoying the buzz of teamwork, the adrenaline of service and, you know, actually ACHIEVING something.


This is why you need to back yourself once in a while.

Because sometimes there is just no other choice.

1 comment:

adele said...

I'm still amazed by the job that didn't exist. I think it was the multiple rounds of interviews that really got me. Paging Kafka...