Tonight also marked the end of another era: my final shift at a job I grew to love and hate over the two years I spent there (two years being an eternity in my career history). It would be impossible to express in a few words, or even in thousands, what this job has meant to me, how it molded me, and helped to turn me into the woman I am now. I thank professional cooking in general for growing me up, thickening my skin, giving me a sense of humor and callouses on virtually every part of my body including my constitution. Because of this work, I believe I'm a tough as leather bitch, able to withstand double shifts, testosterone-rich environments, language that would make a prisoner blush, heavy lifting, a mountain of dishes, and come-what-may. I wouldn't change any of it for the world. Well, maybe the world, but not much less.
These past two years have been a wild ride of brutally difficult work, hilarity beyond belief, more than a few drinks (many more,) a lot of sexual tension, friendships the likes of which could never be forged any other way, and situations so interesting I wouldn't believe them if I hadn't experienced them myself. What a ride.
Tonight was an all but perfect way to end it all. Nothing epic in any direction, just another mitzvah in another temple with another buffet of food. Driving into the burb where the party would take place, the truck filled with staff, food, platters, cambros filled with lemonade, clattering silverware and etcetera, we all laughed and joked our way to the job site. Nobody is funnier than food people. Nobody. What's the difference between jam and jelly? I can't jelly my dick up your ass.
But anyway, we arrive, and once the parking spot is situated, and the contact person, and where to make this happen, we unload the truck. The hour or two between unload and setup is tense, trying to make the show go on in a timely fashion for the host, who has high expectations. We chatter with one another, but all the while we never stop moving. Probably, we haven't sat down for several hours save for the car ride. There is really no time to stop and think about your aching lower back, your hips that seem to keep screaming: "You're not as young as you used to be!"
Once the buffet is groaning, and the glasses are iced and filled and the coffee pots piping and the silver polished, there is another short lull where we can all congregate in the kitchen. This is where the real party happens. We laugh and joke some more, hopefully someone will have pilfered a bottle of wine by now and we will be serriptioutsly passing it around amongst one another. We'll be anticipating the arrivals of guests, the needs of hosts, and trying our very best to pretend we care. We're a tribe. It's us vs. them, and try as we might to serve, I think they, the others, feel our "usness" vs. "themness." In moments like this, we are beyond friends, beyond family, and something else altogether. Only by way of the intensity of hard, sweaty, laborious work are these sorts of bonds formed. We haven't been to war together, but it's pretty damn close. These are my kindred, my people.
Will I miss this? Sure. Sure I will.
And yet, tonight, as I packed the almost-last of the boxes, I decided to pull a tarot card from my deck. Couldn't pack them without pulling one last card. The Valet of Batons. A Minor Arcana Card, at first glance, sort of boring-- not dramatic like Death, or Judgment, or The Empress. But then, I read the card:
"His freedom is so important to him that he would rather go as a peasant among strangers than inherit a fortune with strings attached. Don't be fooled by his humble appearance. He is a future captain of industry or world leader, now serving his apprenticeship. He's sometimes seen planting his staff like a flagpole into the earth, out in the wilderness where he can start fresh, without having to make any compromises. You could think of this card as a wild card."
My chosen career is filled with wild cards. People who refuse to make compromises with their personalities, their drive and passion, their realness. I'm so proud to count myself amongst them, and for the courage this industry has instilled in me. As I plant my staff in the wilderness, I'll never forget where I came from.