When I first moved to Sonoma County, California after Hurricane Katrina, I was basically in a fetal position. Starting my culinary business again was not even a thought of mine.
I was in survival mode. I had a job lined up at a small restaurant working on the line.
It had a southern flair so it felt safe and familiar to me.
The owners were excited because they could serve authentic creole and Cajun cuisine. I was told that I would be marketed to the local area through them.
God, that felt good.
I felt approved of and validated.
I went to work everyday feeling vulnerable, but still managed to put my best foot forward. I was asked to come up with new menu ideas.
“WOW, they really like me!” I thought.
That was, until every single one of my menu ideas were discarded and I was criticized in a “joking” way.
Every night I’d cry on the drive home. There was a Chevron gasoline station along the route home where I used to have to pull in and park, because by the time I got to that point, I couldn’t see to drive.
I dreamed of going home to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was familiar and comfortable. It’s a city I knew, even though it wasn’t good for me.
That job lasted 4 months and while I was still completely vulnerable, I handed them my resignation — without another job lined up. The abuse was too much for me to deal with. Afterwards I thought, “Holy shit. What did I just do? I left my comfort zone and the security of a job…”
I took it to a cleaners and said, “I know this coat stinks. Clean it until it doesn’t.”
I picked up my mold-free chef coat and I started walking into doors of businesses.
I would say my spiel, “Hi, I am Maria Vieages and I moved here after Hurricane Katrina. I had a very successful catering business but I lost it and I came here to start again. I have one skillet but I found a commercial kitchen where I can work. I am asking you to give me a chance. Let me do a tasting for you and if you like my food, consider me for catering please. It’s all I ask of you.”
People were very compassionate and I did a few tastings but I didn’t get bookings.
I would wonder why and sit at home and cry. I kept thinking, “Why me? Why do I have to go through these hard times?”
I felt used and I guess I really was used by some people because, unfortunately, there are people out there who will prey on your vulnerability.
You know what I am talking about.
I did a tasting for a division of The City of Santa Rosa, California. They were sweet, interested and sincere. What a relief. They set up a tasting with me on February 14, 2007. I busted my ass to do my very best.
I set up chafers, then introduced myself to everyone and left. The tasting was for 25 people. I received 23 emails that afternoon saying how awesome the food was and how comfortable it was to talk with me.
One email read (I will never forget this):
You knocked the ball out of the park. Let’s talk business.
I cried because I felt accepted. They liked me and it was real. The City of Santa Rosa was the first entity to give me business and I will be forever grateful.
Now it’s 5 years later and I have transformed in a million ways. My confidence has increased tenfold. When I feel vulnerable, I am careful and I surround myself with people who love me for me and who I can trust.
Trust is HUGE.
In therapy I learned a term for someone who is not sincere and will take advantage of your vulnerability. Someone who “gives you the creeps.” It’s called, “the creepy perpetrator look.” It’s someone who will dishonor your trust and use you for their selfish needs. That is also what childhood abuse is about.
Trust your intuition with these types of people. Your gut is always right.
In order for me to feel good and confident, I have to continue to leave my comfort zone and step outside of the box especially when this time of year comes around. It’s also what God and the universe wants me to do.
Back to my soapbox of feeling stuck this week . . .
I was in the head-space of: “Why have I had to struggle so much and why do I try to do something where I keep running into a brick wall? I’m a good person. I’m an honest person and I work so hard. Why can’t I get a freaking break? I dream of finally cutting through the blood sweat and tears of doing everything and feeling like I am getting nowhere.”
Then I stopped myself and thought, “Maria, have you lost your mind? Look what you have done in 6 years! You started your life again 3000 miles away at middle age. No comfort zone. Nothing familiar. NO ONE is attending your pity party!”
So, I decided to turn on my stereo. My music choice was Alanis Morrisette. You get it. I looked in my fridge and saw a few things that were screaming to be cooked. I put them on my counter.
I went to the store and bought a thick piece of cow.
I turned on Alanis and I turned up the fire to high. I sang along with her anger and I put the filet in the hot pan.
The sizzle was almost deafening. I liked that. I turned the meat so all of the sides were nice and brown. I watched the oil pop and the meat transform.
I was still singing as loud as I could.
I grabbed some leftover red wine and I poured it in the skillet. I watched the flame swiftly rise and felt the heat of it. It was awesome. I was pissed.
The flame dissipated and I felt lighter. I threw in some mushrooms and a bit of cream.
The sauce was a pretty color against the browned filet.
I set the skillet aside and I made a salad with soft, ripe avocado, buttery bibb lettuce, poppy seed salad dressing, and bleu cheese crumbles. My outcome was beautiful and all I knew is that I wanted to express my anger on the stove.
I can promise you this…
There are millions of ways that you can feel stuck. In a job where you are not appreciated, in a relationship that is no longer fulfilling, in a place with your body weight, and living in a city where you feel lonely.
It feels safe and secure to stay where you are because you know what you are going to get — familiarity. It becomes something that seems safe, and yet, so awful at the same time.
If you keep running into a wall with your dream after doing the same thing over and over, turn around and walk another way. God/the universe (whatever you like to call it) is saying, “No. There is something better for you than this.”
Walking away from what is no longer working for you will build your confidence.
I went from catering events for up to 2400 people to doing private dinners for 10.
Large catering events were what I knew, but for some reason it wasn’t working anymore so I had to make the shift. I had to walk away from one dream to start a new one.
Most of the things I am doing now in my culinary career are not paying a cent and I would rather die than stop. It feels so right in the depths of my soul. One door keeps opening to another.
The synchronicity is amazing because I know this is where I am supposed to be with my dream.
I don’t need the approval of people anymore. It’s exhausting to seek that crap. The right people will love you for you — not for what you can do for them.
I will continue to stay on this current culinary path and if I have to be a WalMart greeter to pay the bills, so be it.
I have no doubt I can make my dreams come true, and so can you.
By the way, if you want the recipe for using anger to get unstuck, contact me and I will be happy to share.
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