Apologies for the loooong gap from my last blog post. It’s yet another long story to tell. So almost a year ago, I decided to put myself in a situation where I can push myself to be the best of what I can be. For those of you who doesn’t know yet, I am a Chef Technologist slash Cake Decorator slash Travel Writer slash Travel and Food Photographer slash all that comes in between. In the pursuit of trying to upgrade my skills and finding what I really want to be, I left my start-up Pastry Business in Manila (and all other “rackets” for that matter), packed my bags, flew to Australia, took a course in Advanced Patisserie and basically, it all started there. It has been crazy for the past couple of months. I have been shifting through different kinds of jobs while studying, and finally I landed at an Italian Fine Dining restaurant as a Pastry Chef. Whoooott!!! Goals unlocked.
LIVING THE DREAM
PASTRY CHEF – It has been my ultimate dream (or so I thought). The trial was not easy. I had to bake some bread, was asked to do some sugar decors, and plated for ala carte desserts for the first time. I even thought I wouldn’t get the job because first, I have no experience in a Fine Dining Set-up. Second, I am holding a student visa with limited work rights. But then after 24 hours, I was at the train station with my best guy friend and I received the call. THIS IS IT! I got in! My first days as a pastry chef was a bit of an adjustment. It was a very fast-paced environment. But, I didn’t mind. It was Fine Dining right beside the lake. The set-up was soooo good and I knew I would learn a lot from this place.
Of course, the title comes with responsibilities. My head chef would always tell me that she will train me to be a kick-ass pastry chef, as if the kitchen is a “survival-of-the-fittest” jungle. It didn’t come to me in an instant, but eventually, I have learned that it was! As a pastry chef, I have to bake the Ciabatta Bread for service the moment I step foot in the kitchen. I also have to do some preps for Ala Carte and functions, and at the same time I have to do the plating during service period as well. It is an enjoyable job for me.
Nothing excites me more than plating desserts. I always get this relaxing feeling every time I put something on the plate. But plating for more than 100 people is a different story.
My job as a Pastry Chef includes plating for more than 100 people during functions and plating for ala carte service as well. There are times when I am by myself at the Pastry Section and looking back during the past months, I have no idea how I kept on surviving each function (thanks to my co-workers for helping me survive each day).
WHEN YOUR JOB GETS TOO MUCH EXCITING AND YOU FORGET YOU’RE ALSO A STUDENT
So for months, I was enjoying it. I didn’t mind the long working hours. Most days, I just go home to catch some sleep, take a shower, and get changed. I spent most of the time in the pastry kitchen. Realizing at some point that I was way behind my school works, I was doomed. Being a student is… well, we’ve all been students, but being an International student taking up Advanced Patisserie is another story to tell. We have to meet deadlines, we have to pass every subject, we have to come to kitchen classes, we have to undergo assessments every now and then. Why? Because there’s the chance of getting your Australian Visa cancelled if you fail to meet the requirements. Damn! So here goes cramming. In between my shifts, I had to do school works. I come home from work at around 10:30 to 11 in the evening, I turn on my laptop and try to get some school work done.
PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY DRAINED
At some point, I realized how tiring it was to be doing school and work at the same time. There were times when I had to miss classes because I was too tired from doing functions the previous night. It was a balancing act to begin with, which I didn’t handle effectively. The thought of living the dream as a Pastry Chef took the best of me, and suddenly I started feeling sick. I started losing weight. I started feeling weak. Until one day, it all came to me. I had this terrible headache which didn’t go away for days, I started feeling numb and dizzy, and I had pins and needles on my hands. I started losing sensations on my hands and started dropping things. WTH! This wasn’t what I had in mind.
I don’t usually go on sick leaves unless I’m really sick, but this time it was different. I had to call in sick, but at the back of my mind, I was worried about my Focaccia Dough. I was worried about the upcoming functions. I was worried about a lot of things that was work related. I didn’t even worry about how I was feeling until I had to get myself checked. My superiors were very kind and understanding and it was them who told me to take a rest. “HEALTH AND FAMILY COMES FIRST. REST IF YOU MUST. DON’T WORRY ABOUT WORK.” Those were the exact words from my head chef. OK. So the verdict comes next.
SLOW DOWN, TAKE YOUR CHILL-PILL
I went to a Physio-Therapist thinking it was just my Scoliosis acting up on me. But apparently, it wasn’t the issue. There were a lot of things going on so he told me to consult my GP, request for a Cervical Spine CT Scan, and he gave me a slip that I wasn’t fit to work. WHAATTT? -_-
So I went to the GP, told him my symptoms, and he seemed calm. OK. At that point, I was calm as well. But then he suddenly told me… “I see the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Aside from your CT Scan, I would like you to visit a Neurologist. Just to be sure. Because, MS doesn’t show on the scans.” He started explaining what MS was and my brain started to become a blur. Multiple what? So… I am undergoing therapy for my nerves and still finding the time to visit the Neuro as of this writing. I’ll do it this coming week. So help me God.
LESSON LEARNED: WORK HARD, BUT WORK SMART. LEARN WHEN TO TAKE A REST.
I must admit. I have been a workaholic. I have been abusive. I made my body work so much, in the expense of my health thinking I was just pursuing my dream. All I ever thought was working, paying bills, paying rent, having the means to live how I wanted to live, that I forgot the essence of living. As the cliche goes, we weren’t born to work, pay bills, and die. It wasn’t worth it. I took a leave from work, which made me terribly sad and frustrated with myself. But I am indeed thankful that my superiors were very understanding about it. It’s not like I had a choice as my doctors told me I wasn’t fit for work at the moment. Even my Physio is worried with how my nerves are going. “Barbara, don’t work too much for now, but get your work done.” It’s hard for me as I got used to hustling, and all of a sudden everyone wants me to take a rest.
I have the time for myself now, not because I want that time, but because I need to find the energy and strength to go on and pursue again. At least I still have the chance do pastries in school.
Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a rest. Feel what your body is trying to tell you. There is a fine line between resting and quitting. I shall update you with what happens next, but for now… I’m gonna catch some shut-eyes. Student mode on tomorrow. LOL.