WHAT’S ENOUGH?

One fateful night in Switzerland, as we rounded the bases of  Europe, a new friend and fellow globetrotter asked a serious question over a not-so-serious pot of bubbling cheese. Passing a square of bread into the abyss he inquired, “When we travel, are we searching for ourselves or are we finding ourselves?”

I had been grappling with my own existential version of this for the last few weeks yet I failed to offer an enlightened response.

Rewind to one month earlier: Zan and I were just setting out for an inspired seven week journey through Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Sicily and Italy. Armed with my sketchbook and a bundle of new pens, the plan was to be at once totally immersed while floating above myself. I wanted to record everything as it unfolded, know where every interaction would lead before it began, tuck it neatly into the next as if it were happening to some idealized, fictional character gliding effortlessly alongside me.

And though our time was filled with extraordinary moments of discovery and self reflection, I forgot to leave room for the ordinary.

Some days we moved like we were blindfolded, tripping on minor adversities like stumbling through an agitated crowd. We maneuvered uncomfortable menus and impatient drivers, hit walls of cigarette smoke, unrelenting heat and confusing odors. We strained to interpret train schedules in another language, to convert kilometers to miles, meters to feet, Celsius to Fahrenheit, 24 hours to standard time...


How could I find myself in all this mania?
When would I even have time to look?


Then I started to panic. I wanted to start over, to be better prepared. I wanted everything to be better than I could have imagined or, if not, at the very least, as good.

I wanted the journey to be more riveting than a movie, more grandiose than a photograph, more romantic than a love song.

But none of this was reasonable, let alone possible, all of the time.

I didn’t look perfect in the photographs — not taller or thinner or more elegant. I had tired eyes and bad hair days. My wardrobe was neither trendy nor timeless and most certainly not hanging on the younger, fitter body I always dreamed I’d bring to Europe. 

But this was me in the best of times, the best of places, doing my best. Moving and alive, constantly reconciling the familiar with the new. The only thing that could bring me satisfaction was letting that be enough.

One fateful night lying in a strange but comfortable bed, door open, breeze blowing patiently through unfamiliar trees, I began to sob relentlessly. I was no longer confused.


I needed to let the little things get lost in translation so that I could learn to be present, without judgement.


After that night, I planned less, relaxed more and laughed without caution. I turned off the phone, tore pages from my sketchbook and put away the camera. 

I opened up and out to others, sat at new tables and embraced my good fortune.

Was I searching for myself or was I finding myself? 

Both.

WHY I QUIT BEING SOCIAL

Lately I’ve been sharing a lot of dreamy things — our extended trip through Europe... an epic hike around the Alps... the upcoming release of an inspired collection of art and chocolate… 

And while it’s been marvelous broadcasting any and all of these endeavors, there’s one adventure I wasn’t able to share until now.


I fired myself from my company.


The decision was a few years in the making but the conversations, negotiations and legalese that made the separation official were completed just before I stepped onto a plane bound for Portugal. And while being on another continent was a welcome distraction for almost two months, I knew I’d have to tell the world once we returned. 

Fortunately, breaking the news went so smoothly that, looking back, there was no reason for a self-respecting, C-level, type-A personality like me to have Googled “How to Write a Farewell Letter When Leaving a Job” in the first place. 

Though I didn’t include warm and fuzzy gems like “I’ve enjoyed my tenure here,” or “Thanks for your support during my time at ABC company,” I’m proud to report that the top-shelf folks in my life eagerly embraced the announcement.

It was, ironically, the dialog with myself that ended up being the most difficult. 

After working tirelessly for more than 13 years to build my utopian version of a design studio, Social was the most stable, capable and creative iteration I have known. Not to mention, I was finally entering a time in my career when I could exit worker bee mode to guide the next generation of talented folks that shared my vision.

So WTF?

In short, being at the helm of Social no longer makes sense for me.

While I am proud of the collaborator, mentor and business owner that Social helped me become, I regret to admit that the years of hustling to fulfill the dreams and demands of others has left me incapable of tending to my own. It would seem I got so caught up in being Social that I forgot how to be my own person.


I crave the freedom to experiment with new ways of making, including the pressure to perform and the potential to fail, uninhibited by feeling responsible for others.


Rather than alter the trajectory of our work by bending projects to my will or redirecting the energy of our team, I learned to finally accept that I would travel this path alone. Of course, “alone” is relative when you exorcise your demons on a blog so I decided to share this here because, who knows, maybe you’re grappling with a major life decision too? (You’re not alone either, but you already knew that, didn’t you?) 

With time, I’ve come to trust that what appears to be a selfish, impetuous decision on the surface is, ultimately, best for everyone. In the event that someone should start a rumor about me entering early retirement (thanks a lot, Dad), know that I remain as curious, insatiable and obstinate as ever and I’m thrilled to be redirecting my creative energy full time into Batch.

So here’s to sometimes quitting in order to never give up. As always, I welcome you to join in the adventure.

MAKING ANEW

One Year, 12 Pastas

As I write this last entry in our pasta series, on the eve of a new year, it seems a fitting space for reflection. While the reasons for this past year of pasta making were varied, at it’s heart, the practice represented our journey of trying to lead a more creative, deliberate life.

Batch-Tortellini.jpg

Since January, Zan and I have worked hard to avoid comfort zones trying new doughs, shapes and ingredients each month. We crafted rolled pastasstuffed pastaspotato pastaspasta nests and even quasi-extruded pastas. In time, we even developed preferences — the suppleness of simple “flour, water, salt” doughs over egg-based recipes, semolina over durum flour...

But through it all, I continued to question our most basic motivations. Was it pasta making that we were so enthralled with or rather the idea of what it represented? What if we were being seduced by the type of people we thought it would make us?

As we formed December’s Mushroom Cheese Tortellini,  I considered the parallel to our making with Batch. At a time when celebrated artisans are being exposed, it calls into question the authenticity of our predilection toward beautiful things made honestly, simply and by hand.


What if we’re just hipsters with too much time to ourselves?


Yet, somewhere amidst the mixing and kneading, rolling and shaping, I drew strength from a long line of strong, determined women who, without much fuss, were capable of truly amazing things.

Though the world did not stop to celebrate my mother, my mother’s mother and her’s before her (at top) for their homemade breads and pastas or fresh canned vegetables, I have grown to understand the love and hard work that goes into caring for yourself, and those around you, through the intimacy of making.

Neither easy or glamorous, it is always rewarding and I’m proud to say that I will venture into the new year unshaken. Together, Zan and I remain ever inspired that our making will always be guided by honesty, simplicity and love.