9/2/13

See you later sounds less final than goodbye.

I feel like it was just moments ago that I walked into Sacred Chow for my interview. I was nervous, not because I badly needed employment (my husband was making plenty of money for both of us), but because I wanted a career in a restaurant. I wanted to know if my food was good enough that people would pay their hard-earned money for it, and enjoy it. I wanted to see the inner workings of a business, and maybe even have some small part of steering the direction it'd go in the future.

Regardless of what I wanted though, I had no experience in a restaurant. I did have drive, and a published cookbook in hand. I had passion for food. I also had the ear of Cliff for an hour and change, as we talked about our families, our passions, our likes and dislikes. I cooked food. I washed dishes (once in a rare while, and only after I'd used them). I helped put together catering orders, and special requests. I waited tables for a while.

It was while I was waiting tables that I realised that I could do more for the company than earn all this money to wipe tables. It started with the menu and the website. I wanted to make them better, more simple to use. That branched out into helping to hire and train new waitstaff. That then expanded to sitting in the office, reading the riot act to one of the cooks, who was asking for more money while she was spending half the day on the phone, and burning food on the stove (which I'd then go have to remake). If a person is hard-working, and on task, and shows up on time consistently, of course we'll give them more money. But then coming in and demanding a raise, when I've had to clean up your messes is another thing.

The bookkeeper at the time had health problems, and had to move on to take care of herself. The other waitstaff were slowly replaced, one by one, by new people who were more on-task than the ones we had before (who would spend the time on the floor reading books, and entertaining personal friends, rather than attending to the customers). The second bookkeeper had to move on. Before long, the only two left in the business who'd been there the longest were Cliff and me.

When you spend five to eight hours of every day with the same person, you become friends. I took him to visit my family in Virginia, who immediately embraced him and his son with wide open arms. We ate, we laughed, we visited the air and space museum (don't judge; it was a mob of five children who needed to be entertained!), we came back and relaxed before going out for Ethiopian.

Then there were the times Cliff and his son would come visit us at our apartment over by The Cloisters. We would have more meals than is decent for any group of people, talk about work, talk about family, talk about friends. He'd text me on weekends to keep me up to date on what's going on. (I'm better on the phone, where I can hear someone's voice, so I tended to send either a short reply to let him know I got it, a picture message, or I'd call him back.)

Around two months ago, things started to align just so. Our lease would be over at the end of the year. My husband would be able to move into the dorms, where the rent would cost half of what we're paying right now. My mother has been asking me to come visit with her in their home in Phoenix, AZ. I started feeling the drag of the city. I still love New York. Every time I walk out of my door, I'm reminded of why I wanted to move here in the first place.

There's this rhythm to the city that is unlike any other I've been to. There's a pace that I love being around. Whenever I visit friends in the countryside or the suburbs, I feel lethargic, and tired. The pulse there is much more subdued. The moment I step back into Manhattan, I feel my step spring up faster, and my body respond to the speed that we love so much.

However, after living here for a certain amount of time, and looking at your bills every month, and then looking at the spectre of the student loans looming over your head, and realising that you're just exhausted all the time, you realise it's time to make a change. Every job I've ever had has always lead back to teaching. Whether it be teaching other staff at that job, teaching the customers, or teaching privately, it just leads me back to that path, no matter how much I like to think I'm doing something different.

And I'm good at it.

So, G-d willing, if everything continues to fall into place correctly, I'll be leaving the Sacred Chow family in December, to go to Phoenix for a couple of months, to stay with my mother. Then, after I've had that time with her, and the school year begins there, I'll be moving to Korea for one year to teach English. It's something I've always wanted to do, and I don't know why I've waited so long to pursue it.

If there wasn't enough of the universe pointing me in this direction, I checked the cost of flights from Phoenix to Seoul.

$600 each way. From New York, the most reasonable priced were nearly $1,300 each way. My mother has found multiple tickets from New York to Phoenix for around $150 each wait. This was cheaper than the flights from California itself (even though the flight from Phoenix has a layover in California!), which cost about $150 more. I'd be saving somewhere to the tune of half the ticket fare by doing exactly what I wanted to do in the first place: spend time with my mother before embarking on a new phase of my life.

Over my time here, I've learned a whole lot about myself, about running a restaurant, about cooking, about making food more appealing (even when you're using the humblest of ingredients), about becoming more mature, and having confidence in myself, even when I don't believe that I can do it. I've learned that even at your lowest points, when you feel like the entire world is against you, that your friends will be there to hold on tight, and say, "This will pass. It will turn out OK. I'm here." I've learned that it's OK to experience emotion, be it good or bad. I've learned that when someone hurts me, or says something mean to me, my immediate job is to say (calmly and rationally), "Please don't speak to me/treat me in that manner. I don't appreciate it, and it's not coming from your best self." I've learned that an immediate, unconditional, "I'm sorry", can heal wounds.

Note how I didn't say, "I'm sorry you're feeling upset." That's more condescension and nastiness. It's two words. "I'm sorry." I've learned that a hearty bear hug can turn a horrible day slightly better. I've learned that I'm worthy of kindness, of compassion, of love. I've learned that other people want me around (I'm especially learning this as I'm telling my friends about my plans). I've learned to say no.

I've learned to say yes.

I'm not saying no to Sacred Chow; I'm saying yes to my needs. I'm not abandoning New York. New York will always be my home, and the place I return to when I need that little jolt of energy. I'm not abandoning my friends. They'll always have space in my heart. And no matter how long we spend between conversations, when we do pick back up, we will wrap each other in comfort, and pick right up where we left off.

I'm saying yes to me, and the things that I can offer to others.
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