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On Burnout, and Brownies

Ross Pollack, flickr Creative Commons

This morning, I read a post from a longtime friend and chef who wrote of his choice to leave the culinary profession. He is an excellent chef and has been for a long time. His decision to try something new was based entirely on exhaustion and the life-suck that the restaurant business creates. I could completely relate.

We work long hours, weekends are non-existent, and we don’t see our families and friends very often. Our marriages dissolve, our health suffers, and the constant stress eats your soul. We eat more meals standing over garbage cans than we do sitting at a table.

Chef burnout is real. For ten years in my early career, I didn’t play my cello, touch clay, or dance. I spent most nights after work closing down bars with my co-workers. I didn’t have health insurance. Work was everything. By the end of that time, I was fried crispy with a side of dead. I would HAVE to find some way to find some other outlet for stress.

So I quit.

I went back to college and majored in Fine Art at WSU. That break saved my life.

I’m back at it again, but with balance. I dance, I play, I read, I write, I make art. I structured my new shop so everyone there has time to explore other creative outlets. It really makes a difference.

I also do some public speaking. Last night, I spoke to a troupe of Girl Scout Brownies. The energy and interest of these young women recharged my batteries. They were so excited about cooking, about food, about everything. I answered questions, and then I took off my chef’s coat, became a bellydancer, and we all rocked out to Joan Jett.

It was awesome.