Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Learning curve

This is sort of a follow up to my last post.

I want to discuss the event that I feel was my steepest learning curve. It has given me my greatest success  as well as my greatest "failure". I already talked about my launching points, the feast from hell and the recipe that burned my brain. I learned quite a bit from those experiences and I continue to learn from them as I learn from other experiences and make comparisons, sometimes ya don't get it on the first try. I am going to talk about 20 year celebration. I believe I even mentioned it here, that I had been invited to redact recipes for the feast. I was delighted, elated. humbled, ecstatic, scared, nervous, nauseous and a whole other large gamut of emotion and feeling  wrapped in a tiny ball. I was sure this was going to be fun! I was going to love every moment... and then, then I didn't.

It is hard to even summarize what all went wrong. Communication was slow, when it was answered. Often I had questions and no one to ask, or didn't receive answers to the questions I was asking, incorrect information, changed expectations, all of these lead to apathy and procrastination. Along with 20 year I was also committed to cooking (willingly, I could have said no) for Accademia Della Danza and a seated Baroness. Now to put some time perspective on this, I was asked to do the feast for 20 year (a June event) at least a year in advance, actually even longer. As I was blogging about it in snips as early as May the year before. No matter, the event was to be in June and ADD was in the beginning of March before that. Originally the timeline was the recipes needed to be in the end of March beginning of April and somewhere around December this changed. It should have been OK, everything should have been alright, but it wasn't. The biggest problem, I didn't know it wasn't OK. There are times when it feels like life is conspiring against us and others where we blissfully jump into the void completely unaware. I was burning to a crisp and didn't feel a single flame. I was stressed with 2 big holidays and an event in a 6 week span of time. Then I got sick, and not just a sniffle but a " Holy hell I am going to die" feeling flu. Still I was plugging along, well more like plodding. I was not yet stressed but feeling pressure. This is where I started sabotaging myself, as I got reminders from my "boss", I would pile on more pressure and function less well. My sleep and health were starting to go downhill with every day, then the floor dropped out from under me. As of mid January I began getting "reminders" of the impending deadline and began to spiral, a week later my mother went into the hospital. I dropped everything and despite not going home at that point I just couldn't focus. A week later I spoke with her, things were looking up. Her health was improving and we were making future plans. Three days later, she died. I still didn't realize things were not OK. I kept telling myself and my "Boss" everything would be fine, I honestly thought it would be and apparently they believed me. I even said in an e mail I would try to find time to work on it while I was in the US. This was my Mother and I thought I would have time for cookbooks, recipes, redaction and meal planning? I must have been crazy! and they believed me, they must have been crazy too. I came home after a week at mid February and I tried but I was so broken. My health had gone to absolute hell, I didn't sleep or I would sleep too much and I could barely focus on daily life but by now I had convinced myself not only I would do it, but that I *HAD* to do it. There was no choice, no other way, no back up plan, nothing. A week later, even sicker, the March event looming, I am still trying to convince myself that I can and will and MUST get this done. I was supposed to bring my notes and everything I had to ADD, but forgot them, along with a dozen other items. Crap, I was going to have to mail it, but I was going to get it done, I HAD to! I got through ADD (the March event on the first weekend). Sick, tired and broken... I was fired! I was angry, and then I was relieved.

I "beat myself up" plenty over this "failure" and not just my own part in it but the part of others as well and then I had space and time, so I revisited the process so I could learn. I am feeling that pay off right now.

As I mentioned I have been given an equal if not greater opportunity and feel I am meeting it head on and better armed. Over a year ago I was asked to be the head cook for a Known World event, not just feast, but all of the food. There are less people coming to this event about half the number of those that attended 20 year but about 1/3 of them are coming from outside of our Kingdom. I will be doing the cooking in the kitchen. No not by myself but I can be hands on, an option that was not available for 20year. This event will take place in 1 month from yesterday. I have no stress, my health is good and I am prepared in case of emergency. If I dropped dead I am confident that everything would continue on with only a minor bump in the road.

Where I am at, I have a solid menu. Actually I just made a change to the menu and it wasn't due to stress or anything "bad". I just re evaluated the amount of work it would take and found it did not fit with the flow of the menu planned. One month out and I changed a menu that I had set in December and you know what? The world didn't end. I have a few more things to work some bugs out of and I am happy.

I don't think of anyone on my team as a "boss" because I am not treated like an employee. This has allowed me to be more creative I think. I was given a job and  both freedom and trust to go with it, these reduce my stress about things greatly. No stress = Happy = More productivity. I have still had "low points" in the process but there will always be low points. They are what make the peaks that much more beautiful.

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