Lunch in Paris

Unfortunately, this is not what I am doing, or why I haven’t been writing here. It’s the title of a wonderful memoir I stumbled across when I search “lunch” in my library’s e-book search engine. I actually wanted to read Best Lunch Box Ever (which I now realize is aimed at kids’ school lunches) so I could jazz up my work lunches–try eating sliced peppers, a piece of fruit, and some sandwich meat sans bread five days a week, because it will bore you to tears. They didn’t have it, but Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes was available. So far, I’ve read 80 percent of it since midday yesterday, and there’s still another hour and a half or so to kill before 5 p.m. today.

What has really resonated with me is Elizabeth’s desire not to be ordinary. She experienced all of the expectations that come with going to a decent college (Ivy League, in her case) and then wondering why, five or 10 years later, she and her friends hadn’t experienced the success they’d expected. “We were supposed to be famous, or at least rich by now. What the fuck have we been doing with our time?” she says.

She has a French husband, and in French culture, working above your station is looked down upon. Being ambitious and trying to do more than a basic office job–unless you were basically born into a higher or lower station–is almost offensive. She eventually convinces him to pursue his dream a la American. He succeeds in the preparation, networking, and execution, then encourages her to go out and follow her passion.

But the problem for her, and for me, and probably for many others, is that we don’t know how to do that. “What I want is to go to lots of cocktail parties with famous writers–peers, mind you–sign books, eat tuna carpaccio on wasabi flat bread, all while never having to sit down at my computer ever again.”

She was getting pieces published, but slowly. And she was giving tours of the Louvre, but for someone else’s company.

“I felt like I was doing something really valuable–sharing the love of museums my father had given me. But it wasn’t mine. Once again, I was a charming cog in someone else’s wheel. I was once again forced to confront (with the accompanying self-loathing) the fact that I had the goods, but not the discipline or perseverance to create something for myself. How could anyone so ambitious be so inert?”

THIS IS WHAT I FEEL LIKE EVERY DAY. I know I’m good at certain things, like writing, editing, and research, and I enjoy them, too. But getting myself to follow through with any kind of step past a job with someone else as a boss, where nothing is completely reliant on me, has been impossible. I know I want to do more. I think I want to start my own company. But beyond coming up with ideas and skeleton details for them, I never get anywhere.

How do you nail down what you want to do on your own? How do you get there?

A lack of follow-through

I have so many underdeveloped ideas. Most of them involve some kind of food project, perhaps a future business. Very few of them come to fruition, aside from manageable single events that involve my friends and cooking.

Here are some of the things I’d like to do someday:

  • Open a gourmet sandwich shop.
  • Open a pizza restaurant.
  • Create a business that brings together local chefs for once-monthly dinners and idea-sharing to improve a city’s food scene. (Baltimore, I’m looking at you.)
  • Develop a cheese-ranking website, similar to ratebeer.com.
  • Figure out how to create a website for any future freelance work.

Keeping Busy

About three weeks ago, I got laid off. For a while I called it “fired,” and while it doesn’t particularly matter which you say–it all means unemployed–“fired” is the angry phase phrase.

I’m still angry, but no longer seething. Let’s call it upset but determined now. It’s a long story, but they made it so that it looked like they restructured the department, and I got severance, and my boss offered to connect with anyone she knew in Baltimore and provide an excellent reference for me. I was definitely blind-sided when it happened, and I think even my boss was a little reluctant to do it, but when a client complains, someone has to pay the price. I’d been thinking about looking for something else, but this wasn’t the way I wanted to start that search.

Now I’m applying. At first, a bunch of jobs each day, but now that it’s been a few weeks, around one or two every weekday. I applied to a bunch of part-time jobs in the culinary realm, but I realized that I think I want a full-time, 9-5 job where I get health insurance, a salary that allows me to save money on top of paying the bills, and a regular schedule so I can still have a regular social life (not that I have one here now).

Job searching can only take up so much time, though. I’ve been trying to go to yoga at least every other day. (I’d bought a month for $25 at Charm City Yoga before I got fired, and I still have a bunch of bikram classes left from a Groupon.) I cook every day, and sometimes I cook more than that. I’ve made two kinds of ice cream, soups, peach and pecan cake, peach muffins, homemade spinach fettuccine and tomato sauce, homemade pizzas, and more. I ran errands I wouldn’t normally have time to do. I watch a lot of cooking shows.

I’m starting to get a little nervous. I’m okay on money for now, and I started getting unemployment as of last week (which is mostly a joke in terms of how much you get), but I have to be really careful about excess spending. Maybe eat out once a week, definitely not clothes shopping, and I definitely can’t save anything right now. I had a whole plan to pay off my credit cards by February and start saving to start my own food business in a few years (or a downpayment on a house, or a new car that I’ll eventually need), but that’s on hold for who knows how long. It’s not comfortable living, that’s for sure.

What’s Keeping Me Going?

ImageIced coffee, these days. Since moving to Baltimore, it now takes me at least an hour to drive to work in the morning, and I changed my hours so my workday starts and ends earlier in order to avoid as much gridlock as possible. I am not a morning person, so this is a definite problem for me. I need a boost in the morning, and while I’d love green tea to be enough for me, I need something stronger.

I’ve never had much of an opinion about coffee. (I have an opinion about a lot things, so this is sort of weird for me.) I’ll drink pre-ground supermarket coffee (currently drinking pre-ground Dunkin Donuts in the mornings) or fancy coffee. I just need some skim milk to stir in. No skim, only whole or half-and-half or powdered creamer? Sure, okay. I guess I can kind of tell the difference between roasts and beans and qualities, but I mean…it’s coffee. If it has caffeine, I’ll drink it.

I never needed caffeine, really. I never pulled all-nighters in college, I’ve never had the kind of job that keeps me late and brings me in early the next morning. I generally get at least eight hours of sleep.

But now that I’m getting up with the sun, essentially, I’ve been having trouble keeping my eyes open the whole drive to work. (I still do, but it involves a lot of digging my nails into my palms or turning off NPR. This has only happened once.)

I brew regular coffee the night before, which takes literally three minutes, pour it into a pint glass or a glass-handled measuring cup, and stick it in the fridge. Before I walk out the door in the morning, I pour it into my travel tumbler, add in a couple of ice cubes, and pour in some skim. Even the smell of it wakes me up. Done.

Now I just need someone to make me a handheld breakfast in the morning. I don’t think my cats should be using the stove, though…