Small town things and such

The beauty of a small town is that, as long as it stays a small town, the rhythm and cadence never really changes. I grew up in a small town. It’s a much bigger and busier small town than it was when I was little, but at heart it is and will forever be a small town. There have been times where being from a small town has felt absolutely stifling. There are other times where it has been as comforting as a hug. I have wanted to leave, I have left. I have come back. What I realize now is, that for me, this small town is an extension of my family. No matter where I go, or what I do, it will always be there, steady and welcoming.

Today I did something I haven’t done in a long time. Years actually. I sat on a bench in my small town and just breathed it in (especially the Kilwins smell because… Ice cream.) and watched people. I closed my eyes and I was a kid again. It was neat.

I’m glad that no matter where I go or what I do, I can stop, take a breath and remind myself that no matter what this psycho world throws at me I still can remember when life was simple and because of that, I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

(Who knows exactly where to get the good ice cream)


do work! or just make some bacon.

Work is such a four letter word. It is. I mean really, work is having to do something you really just don’t want to do. Think about it… if you’re doing something you enjoy doing… are you doing work? Or are you enjoying an activity? Ah ha… here you see my point. If you are doing work, you are doing something (at least according to my dictionary) you don’t necessarily want to do. You may be good at it. It may even at times be exciting and challenging. But if you don’t consistently want to do what you are doing, it turns into work. Now, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what work is. Seriously… my job was jobs. I was responsible for classifying what people did in their career. Oh and paying (or unfortunately at times, not paying) them according to what they did on a day-to-day basis. Now in my experience, there were two types of people. People who went to their jobs everyday to do work, and people who went to their jobs everyday to enjoy their career.

Now I can tell you that at different times in my 15 years of employment (yes, I started my first job at the ripe old age of 14 (my parent’s were slave drivers I tell you… or geniuses for instilling in me the sense of accomplishment when you do a job and do it right) I have both worked and enjoyed careers. Ironically, what I thought should be my enjoyable career and what actually has been enjoyable to me were complete opposites (see my post let’s start over… hi, my name is steph for a much longer explanation of this concept all you who are still trying to find your bliss).

So I’ve started a new job. Hell, I’ve completely switched careers. Well, at least that’s what it looks like on the outside to people. So far I… well, I love it. Granted, I go in and (this week) stand over a hot grill everyday, next week will be a flat top, then fryers… see, the thing is that this restaurant I work for (I am in a manager training program) wants you to understand and know the different jobs incorporated in running a successful restaurant. Ha… I’m still learning jobs. Additionally, while you are doing this, you need to be aware of the different relationships between the jobs and how the interact to provide the customer with the best experience possible. This was another aspect of my previous job in HR/Classification and Compensation. While doing all of this, I am supposed to be monitoring, providing direction, and coaching employees to be their best so that they make as much money for themselves and ultimately the restaurant as possible (and ya know… enjoy themselves as much as possible).

So the basics of what I’m doing are pretty dang similar to what I have been doing in HR. But with the added kick of having the ability, should I do my job correctly as manager, to provide the customer with an experience that will make them happy. I want to deal happiness for a living. And I can do this in the form of managing a team that provides awesome hot food and tasty cold drinks (more on my introduction to corporate restaurant management later… needless to say. some of my biases and ideas about it were flat out wrong and I’m not ashamed to admit it).

So yeah, this week I have learned some cool ass stuff:

  • How to cook bacon perfectly, and in very large quantities (I believe this now qualifies me as a perfect wife especially since I wouldn’t eat the bacon so all of it would go to the lucky hubs)
  • How to perfectly cook a steak to desired temperature (with perfect diamond grill marks I might add)
  • That some line cooks and prep cooks are some of the hardest working and kindest people in the world
  • You don’t have to perfectly speak another persons language in order to effectively communicate
  • Knife skills get better with practice (both in the kitchen and in ninja training)
  • Miscommunication is the root of a problem 9 out of 10 times
  • Working in the kitchen is Hot. As. Shit.
  • The kitchen produces the food. Customers want food. Appreciate the kitchen, the quality of the food gets better. The quality of the food gets better, you have happier customers. Win/Win (Check out the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. It’s neat)
  • I can make great Pico de Gallo… it uses tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeño, and the salt from the endless tears I cry while chopping said onions (not really, that would be unsanitary)

I’ve learned so much and still have so far to go. But every day, I go to my job, I learn something new, I have a new interaction, and I see how it all fits into the bigger picture. Then I go home (well my temporary home until training is over) and it is such a gratifying feeling knowing that I made some good food that may have made someone’s day. It’s the same reason I write in this blog (well aside from the fact that sometimes I just plain like to hear… err… see myself talk), even if I don’t know it, there’s that pride in producing something (aka my witty and insightful blog posts) that may make a difference to someone, somewhere (or at least give them a chuckle).


Like I said, if nothing else…



let’s start over… hi, my name is steph.

I feel terrible, really I do… I tried to do this whole commitment thing and to write consistently, if for nothing else than the fact that I need to be accountable for something. You know, everyone should have their thing. Well, I’ve bounced around from thing to thing most of my life. I’ve not been one of those people who finds a hobby and it’s a consistent go-to, something they can depend on to anchor them to the essence of who they are. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m flaky. In fact, I’m rather the opposite. I’m sometimes annoyingly persistent. I’ve never bounced around from job-to-job, I almost NEVER give up on a friendship (yeah, this one has bitten me in the ass a couple of times). I have a ridiculous level of loyalty when it comes to working. So I need to just remind myself that it’s going to be okay if I’m not perfect (pssst… I’m really not perfect).

So in the interest of getting over myself, here’s what we’re going to talk about today: change. So yeah, change sucks. Even if you know with absolute certainty that in the end you will be better off for it, change sucks. Even for me change sometimes sucks, and I’m one of those annoyingly optimistic, forward thinking people who, as a general rule embraces change with open arms. That does not, however negate the emotional impact that change will have. Especially major changes. You know… life-changing, well, changes.

I quit my job. Remember how I mentioned loyalty? Yeah, I have never actually quit a job before in my life. So in my defense, this has also been a highly charged experience solely based on the newness of it. They say that your career can be similar to a relationship. The phrase “married to your job” immediately comes to mind. I have been married. To my job. For 6 years. I can’t really talk about my job. I worked in Human Resources and as you can imagine, that involves a great deal of confidentiality. Hopefully, in my new job I will be able to regale you with hilarious stories (I’m going back into hospitality).

Ah there I am getting off topic again. Change. So this has been my first big change (aside from going to school… but then again, I never really even left my hometown for that one. Meh. Some things happened and I realized that I really wasn’t happy. I wasn’t where I wanted to be. So, I decided to figure out what would make me happy and how I could get there. You see, I couldn’t understand WHY I wasn’t happy. I did what everyone said I should do. I went to College, Graduate School, bought a house and started a retirement plan. I was ambitious and working my way up the corporate ladder. What the hell was wrong with me that I wasn’t content.

There was a time when I was really just in a bad place. It didn’t help that I didn’t feel well on that particular day. A very dear friend sent me a poem that I really, really needed to hear.

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Charles Bukowski

Yeah, so this has had a profound impact on my thoughts. It’s incredible really how quickly and profoundly an epiphany can drop in your brain and take over. I have spent the last 29 years of my life doing what everyone said would make me happy. Well, it didn’t work. Not really, not deep down in your gut happy. So after my migraine went away, I started listing the things that would make me happy. Here’s what I came up with:

    1. Making other people happy.
    2. Leaving work at work.
    3. Not worrying so much about how others perceived me, especially not worrying so much about what others have to say about me.
    4. Making time for hobbies.
    5. Being outside or with people I love. Or both at the same time.
    6. Trying new things.

So, yeah. My job was allowing almost none of this. I was very damn good at my job, don’t get me wrong. And I’m not bragging here. I was good because I was trained to be very good. I also was surrounded by a group of people who were also very good at what they did. But it wasn’t enough. Not for me. I started considering the things that were on my list. Then I started thinking about when in my life I felt the most fuffilled and content. Guess what… it was when I worked in a (or several) restaurants. Coincidentally, at this same time, a job working as an Assistant General Manager for a restaurant practically fell in my lap.

Kismet right?

Long story (as if this one hasn’t been long enough already) short, I’ve decided to take the job. So I quit my job. Now this brought up a well of emotions that I just didn’t handle well. I cried. A lot. Like a baby. Because really, it felt like what I would assume a break-up would feel like. Huh… married to your job, I get that now.

I’ve had a lot of reactions to my decision. The vast majority of them have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive a few have been very skeptical, and some downright rude. To the people in my life who have been supportive and awesome. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. To the others, I hope you will one day be able to understand that, to me, my career is not about attaining some predetermined goal any more than religion is a prescribed, defined “my way or the highway” road (more on that at another time). Each person has to find, and follow, their own bliss. So if this isn’t it for me, guess what… that’s ok, I’ll find another way. Because we were created for change. If we weren’t, we would be born fully grown people with fully developed faculties. Then we would immediately die because there was nowhere further to go.

And, as I sit here in this little coffee shop where I spent the majority of my collegiate experience, I am content.