Intense. Wound-up. Excited. These are just a few of the adjectives used to describe my personality. In the kitchen these traits manifest themselves in different ways. Almost acting like the flour in the dough that is, what I recognize, as the chef attitude or mentality. But in the “real world” for lack of a better term, this perpetual state of being “amped” can be quite a hindrance. It lends others to believe that I’m angry or upset, when in reality, I’m focused or serious. Where it really causes my issues is in calm social interactions. Let me give you some insight into my perspective of what happens when I get excited talking to anyone.
My pulse starts to increase, and my adrenaline levels climb. My forehead gets almost electrified as my mind starts to race searching for details, facts and stories relevant on even fringe levels. My vocal volume drastically increases while the pace with which I launch words, at whoever has the fortune (or misfortune) of being in my line of fire, climbs proportionally. At this point, which may have only elapsed 60 seconds, I’m “In the shit”. I begin to interrupt my own thoughts and sentences creating a jumble of almost unintelligible words tossed together like a pot of stew. The final product or thought might be amazing, but the preceding dialogue can be confusing and sometimes intimidating. Somewhere along this ascent, my emotions become quite overturned, and this is sometimes a contrast to my resting demeanor. Normally when I get excited this is fine. In fact, it helps further involve the participants of the conversation. But, I’m sure to some extent gives them some uneasiness as well; there are times when all of this becomes quite overwhelming to all parties involved.
The magnitude of these traits is amplified when I get frustrated. Take what has just been detailed and tune it up further by 50%. I begin to obsess, usually over the insignificant, I stop listening both physically and emotionally and as a result, my judgement lessens. I tend to become impulsive, or as I have been told, explosive. By the end, my frustration has usually evolved into full blown anger.
I am embarrassed, but grateful, to say that it has taken me nearly a decade to identify this. Partially because of my own ignorance, but I believe because it has been comfortable. “Comfortable” is an interesting word choice because it is by no means comfortable for myself, and I’m certain anyone who gets involved. I mean comfortable in the sense that it has been my mode of operation for quite some time.
As I have mentioned Pepperfield and David promote the idea of growth of body, mind and spirit. I personally refuse to allow my time spent here to be wasted because of my known, and unknown, limitations. David has observed, as have I in the past, that this erratic behavior and attitude that I demonstrate on a nearly daily basis never occurs when I cook. I have said frequently that cooking and food provides me with a rush incomparable to that of anything else. It is something where I can transcend beyond my faults and channel this state of mind into something spectacular. In fact, it is one of the areas where external pressure doesn’t matter. I am proud to be able to field problems and conflicts on the fly when I’m cooking, especially during a busy shift of service.
Using all this information I have begun creating a plan to, as the aptly named title implies, slow down and calm down. David has recommended a few things. First, that I slow down my speech, something that is naturally quick and further exacerbated when I get excited. By constantly thinking about this I can use it to remind myself to remain calm. Next, is to recognize my triggers. I can use them to warn myself that I will be interacting with something that has the potential to make me excited. This can additionally help as a preemptive measure to avoid becoming excited in the first place. This is probably the most crucial piece of advice because I have identified that I struggle to observe my responses as they build. It’s only after I have plateaued with excitement or anger that I realize what has happened. One of my personal goals is to remain constantly aware of how I feel and sound to gauge and manage my overall intensity. The final point seems like the most difficult to employ: Let time take its course. Think about a watch. The spring starts off wound extremely tight, but as time flows the, tension lessens until it is relaxed.
In some of our “Wine Time” discussions, David has mentioned how young people lack patience. Living in an age where I can research the scientific name of asparagus, play – in my case mock – the latest video of our “President” delivering a speech and simultaneously download the latest app, I have noticed patience and the respect for time have been thrown to the wayside. I, alongside my generation, live in the perfect storm of variables that breeds impatient, instant gratification seeking, entitled individuals. My excitement or intensity is exacerbated even more by being in an industry that is notorious for being stressful. But, I am no longer making excuses because I want to actively change this part of myself. My intent over the next year is to: maintain my level of intensity but manage it so it is both appropriate and beneficial; enjoy life at an appropriate pace; consciously unwind so I can further appreciate and create a future that doesn’t move at the speed of light.