Reality check.

It’s a privilege to be able to do what you love for a living; I try to remember that on a daily basis.

Of course, it’s one thing to know your dream and another thing entirely to live it.

It’s easy to say that ‘this’ or ‘that’ is your passion, that it’s what you want to spend your life doing.  However, when the fantasy becomes reality, when ‘dream’ becomes ‘work’, it’s important to remember that it won’t always be sunshine and plain sailing.  Just because you’re doing something that you enjoy, it doesn’t mean that you won’t feel the tedium of the daily grind or experience a seemingly never-ending working week.  It doesn’t mean that you won’t wish your days off would arrive sooner or that you didn’t have to get out of bed at 5am in the morning.  It’s not about every day being fun and different and exciting; real life isn’t like that and it’s natural to have ups and downs.  What it does mean is that you’re doing what you do for love and you’re waking up every day to go to a job that means more than simply earning an income.

These are the things that I’ve been telling myself recently, after another crazy week at work or another long shift when the mise-en-place list seems endless.  I love my job; there’s no doubt about that in my mind.  The thing is, I don’t love it every single day.  Occasionally, there are bad days where no matter what I do, it seems that everything is fated to go wrong.  Other times, I’ll land the service shift for nine days in a row, which means I won’t see the kitchen for a fortnight.  There are times when I don’t enjoy work, and it makes me feel bad because I think that I should.  I’m really lucky to be in this position, and it seems ungrateful to wish that the end of my shift would come sooner, that my days off would last longer, that I won’t have to be on ‘x’ shift tomorrow.  I’m struggling to overcome the guilt that I feel when all I want to do is go home after a twelve-hour day, rather than push on with the next job on the list, knowing that tomorrow is going to be just as busy…

I know that this is probably normal.  I’ve read countless blogs and articles that tell me ‘living your dream’ doesn’t mean that life will be perfect and happy all the time and while I’m by no means complaining or unhappy (not by any stretch), it’s true that I have my share of down days, even though I’m supposed to be living my ‘ideal’ life.  Partly, I think it’s the intense nature of the job; the work is never over, because there will always be something else that needs to be done tomorrow.  Mostly though, I think it’s the fact that my life at the moment has been reduced down to work and nothing else.  My hours leave little time for socialising, and the majority of my friends live outside the city anyway, which makes it difficult to get together without careful planning.  I literally live to work.

That said, I recently spent a weekend at home; my head chef gave me four days off when she found out that it was my mum’s birthday.  On a Friday evening, straight after work, I got on a train and spent an hour and a half watching the dark landscape outside slowly transform from city to countryside under the yellow streetlights.  My weekend was filled with shopping, dinner at our family’s favourite restaurant, a trip to the cinema to see Gravity and lots of good home cooking, all of which was a world away from my busy working life in London.

My favourite dessert at The British Larder: chocolate and hazelnut praline cremeux - 9/11/13

My favourite dessert at The British Larder: chocolate and hazelnut praline cremeux – 9/11/13

I knew beforehand that the change of scene was something I needed, but I didn’t realise quite how much I needed it until I stepped off the train back into the familiarity of home life. Yes, I love the city, but I still miss the comfort of home.  I don’t really think about it when I’m working, but the truth is that my life has become very lonely lately.  It’s easy to forget when I’m in the kitchen, occupied with a hundred different tasks, but it haunts me in the quiet evenings when I get home from work and there’s nobody to talk to.

Luckily, my colleagues – both in the kitchen and at the restaurant – are all lovely, interesting, funny and fun people.  When I’m in the kitchen, I’m surrounded by an amazing team of fellow pastry chefs who inspire me and push me to be better every day.  When I’m on service, there are always waiters, bar staff, sommeliers with ready jokes and witty comments that never fail to make me smile.

Sure, things might be kind of crazy right now especially in the run-up to Christmas and New Year, but there’s always a bright side, even on the toughest days; I just need to remember to see it occasionally and not allow the workload to bring me down.  After all, it’s is my first holiday season and it’s a reality check; this is the life I signed up for.  Time to knuckle down and push on…

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