Good afternoon, friends and neighbors.
I’m not going to lie- the last couple months have been more than a little rough.
Between letting my side work get away from me, leaving one job, trying to make something of this whole blogging thing, and now starting another day job with a different schedule, it all takes a toll.
We are all humans- not robots, not beasts of burden, not machines. No, not even professional cooks and chefs. EVERYONE has periods where they feel overextended. Exhausted. Burned out.
“If you wish to be made whole, you must first allow yourself to be broken.”
That’s where the true strength of will and character is- not in never cracking or failing, but stepping up and trying it all again.
Easier said than done, of course- but here are some of the quotes and wisdom I have been reminding myself of when things feel a bit too deep. No particular order, and I have many more- but here are some of my favorites, and why.
#1. “Invictus” by William E. Henley
In the fell clutch of Circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
my head is bloodied, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
looms but the horror of the shade,
and yet the menace of the years
finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
-William E. Henley
This poem is one of very few I have commited to memory, and it is easy to see why.
Henley wrote this while he was recovering from a disease that claimed one of his legs, and threatened to take the other as well. A longtime practioner of classical Stoicism, Henley greeted the misfortune unflinchingly- and eventually managed to keep his second leg.
It was also the favorite poem of Nelson Mandela while he was in prison. One of my favorite cartoonists, Gavin Aung Tran of Zen Pencils did some excellent interpretations of it.
I try to remember this poem whenever I feel weak, or powerless, or out of step with what I want in life. Every single day, there are decisions you make- that ONLY you make- and can decide what happens next.
You are the master of your fate.
You are the captain of your soul.
#2. Bilbo’s Poem, by J.R.R. Tolkein
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not touched by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king.”
Not all of us are trying to defeat a dark lord, claim our birthright, and restore our rule to two ancient kingdoms of men while ensuring that the failings of our ancestors are corrected.
That’s a pretty full daily planner right there.
Most of us ARE, however, feeling a little lost and confused about where to go next. We remember being bold and confident, of making decisions unflinchingly, and charging into new challenges with a wild energy. Somewhere, somehow- we feel like we lost that, and wonder where the hero- that used to be us- went.
Aragorn hid his identity for years, his true claim as king of Gondor and Arnor known only to a few. He worked steadily, quietly, and in secret- not always to reclaim his throne, but ALWAYS toward the good and looking after others.
I read this and I try to remember:
The hero you need is still in there. Do what’s right, remember where you came from, and take heart in what you’ve learned. Go seize your crown.
#3. “We Are Not Made for the Mountains”, Oswald Chambers
“We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life- those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.”
#4. What Keeps Darkness At Bay?
Whenever I have found myself in that state, one thing that almost always helps is simply helping someone else. It might be donating to a charity, or helping out someone on the street, or offering some words to a friend in need. When you feel better, only you feel better- but when you help someone else, both of you feel like something or someone matters.
When you’re feeling down, try to do something good for someone else- it may not make your problems easier, but it will help you both feel better about them.
#5. Marie-Antoine Carême’s Advice to Young Cooks
Marie-Antoine Carême was the first “celebrity chef”, and essentially systemized, codified, and recorded the entierty of French cooking before dying at the age of 48. Abandoned by his parents, he began working in kitchens at the age of 10.
There isn’t much I can say for this quote- it pretty much covers it all, especially for students: don’t give up, be sure of your talents and skills, and keep a clean character. You’ll be okay.