Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I am now forty-eight. Recently, I have been struggling with a series of ideas and decisions that could change my life dramatically. I have made some decisions in that regard. Probably all the important ones are done…anyway…I remain uneasy, though, from the opposite direction.
I was presented with an astonishing and intriguing offer, by a close friend, some weeks ago. The offer (believe it, or not) was that I become a top-tier executive for a start-up holiday airline in a US territory serving the Asia region. This offer would have nothing to do with food & beverage, but would require me to move myself and eventually my family to a new location. It would require doing all the hard things I have done before: Living apart, taking risks, going blindly and boldly where I had not gone before, thinking fast while on the run, and learning a whole new world, in every way.
At the same time, astute followers may have noticed that in the past half-year I was reaching the end of a thinking process where I was realising that the term Chef may no longer apply to me. Not so much what my heart said, but that the common use definition had become something so foreign to what both my own and the historical definition was, that I was unemployable and to some degree had disdain for the way the world had decided to pigeon-hole my vocation. That is something I have been struggling with for probably a decade, all the while having the lines of demarcation moved back…losing ground slowly, being painted into an uncomfortable corner, finding myself making “chef of the gaps” arguments, even with other chefs.
So, I was giving up on my childhood dream, and at the same time being offered entrance into an incredibly new and wild ride. Something as strange and unexpected to me as the time I casually sent my CV to a small company in a place that I didn’t really even know how to find on a map. A place called Hong Kong. The stage was set, the chambers primed for a radical and dramatic change of course. The shot was made…and the powder fizzled.
As the eve of my departure (literally) rapidly approached I got a severe case of cold feet. Pure, animal, gut instinct began to overtake the thought processes of both my life partner, and myself. A sense of foreboding started to loom in both of us. We tried for more than a week to logic our way around our discomfiture, even creating elaborate decision matrixes in excel to try to weigh the pros and cons rationally. Logically, there seemed no good reason to consider aborting the plan. But, the visceral self was unsatisfied by all such appeals to logic.
In the end I aborted the plan, and am moving back into the circle of the chef as it is now supposed to be. There was some relief in the gut, but now the logical brain, is uneasy with the decisions made. This is tough for one who tries to exercise his rational self against the inherent biases and dispositions of the more primal responses we are all heir to. It is also tough for a person who knows that there is no real risk in life. We came from nothing we end with nothing, and the time in between is fleeting, no matter what.
As Don Draper from Mad Men once said: “It’s your life. You don’t know how long it’s gonna be, but you know it’s got a bad ending. You’ve gotta move forward…as soon as you can figure out what that means.”
You were born, and so you’re free, so Happy Birthday!