"The Truth is Seen in The Mirror."
"How are you going to get home?" My date for the evening asked in a frantic panic. "I'm magic," I replied with a sneer in my voice. I'd had enough of this woman already and the night was young. I had so much more time to get in trouble before my shift started at noon the next day. Luckily, I was working the swing shifts and didn't have to come in and babysit the morning prep guys anymore. Once we got this new batch of prep cooks, I felt immediate relief, both for getting the backup we needed and because I knew that I'd get to party more, which is always a good thing--especially because Jameson didn't talk back.
"I thought that tonight was OUR night," she said holding back tears. What she didn't know is that I was already hammered at this point. I had been drinking through most of my shift that day. Not to mention the delightful mix of ganja and blow. I always loved the feeling of what I felt to be the ultimate happiness blend. Blow makes you happy and feels like you can tackle the world without pesky things like repercussions and limits. And weed mellowed me out and centered my erratic behavior from the coke. The game changer this time was the fact that I had mixed Irish whiskey in with this.
See, I liked to pregame like anyone else, but I especially did it when I felt like I wasn't expecting any fun later on in the night. And seeing that I didn't like being tied down to one person, I already knew that this night was going to suck. Plus, this particular girl bitched about fucking everything. And I mean everything. Name something, anything, and she seemed to have strong feelings against it. I don't see how the hell I got with her in the first place, really. Although she was super-hot, which made it easy for her to control a room. Shit, maybe that's how she got away with bitching so much. Now that I think about it, she did seem to get a lot of attention from other guys. So much attention in fact, that it felt like I had caught the one who got away from everyone else. Oh, how wrong I was. Little did I know that she was just another loudmouthed hoe looking for some shred of redemption and I was her latest prospect. Truth is, she never really dug me. I feel like she just needed someone to always cater to her every need and give her attention.
So, this is where I chose to sever our relationship, without her approval. I'll be honest though; she was more than a bit much sometimes. But what more could I do here? I couldn't just walk away from it. And she already jumped straight into hating me after just walking away from her at the bar. So, I figured I might as well become the monster she seemed to think I was. Isn't it funny how we always become the person we used to make fun of? All it took was that brief interaction to throw me into a downward spiral of self-destruction. A scene so hard to watch from the outside that most people would cover the eyes of the innocent. But watching someone do this to themselves is like watching a burning train wreck. It's painful, it's cringe-inducing, and yet you can't look away. And you can't do much to stop it--as my date found out almost immediately.
It's sad how people will openly pay for your drinks in the good times, but when it's time to help someone through the bad times, those same people often peace out quickly. Silly me, I thought that when you told me that we are all in this together while buying me a shot you actually meant it. Funny how that Brothers in Arms story disappeared after a few shots. Now explain to me why you're passed out on the floor of this nasty-ass bar, and I'm trying to wake you up to do more shots. It would seem that we both have a problem here. Your problem is that while you were passed out, I kept drinking and your girl just left with some guy out the back door. My problem is that you wouldn't wake up and drink with me, so I left with your girl out the back door. Don't worry though, I left some money in your back pocket to cover a cab for you. Sorry about your girl man. "I promise that we won't have a good time," is what I wanted to say, but let's face it, I'm an asshole. I didn't care and this girl was hot. Who cares if she didn't understand half of what I was saying? I knew of a party happening on a local college campus and there were a bunch of people looking forward to seeing me. So, I double dared myself to take this new arm candy to that exact party. Who can refuse a double dare that’s backed with whiskey?
I didn't feel bad anymore once she showed her true colors. And that didn't take long. We took a cab to my friend's apartment. During what seemed to be the longest cab ride ever, she kept trying to go down on me in the backseat. I didn't know this driver, so I let her. The cabbie looked back and started to laugh. By the way, cab drivers, this is the easiest and best way to make a $50 tip. All you have to do is pretend like nothing is happening. Relieved by this, I started to think this night was going to be a win for me even though it started shitily. Funny how the tables can turn when you aren't afraid to eat alone. We arrived at the party right as I was starting to enjoy myself. So now I had to deal with the fact that I was fully erect and had to get out of the cab and go into a party. She found this a little humorous as we climbed out of the back seat. I'm not going to lie, it was. So, I played along and decided it would be a good idea to swing it side to side and scream "Look at it go!" at the top of my lungs as I was walking towards the party. Little did I know that a couple of police officers saw me do this and were coming my way. " Hey, you with the hat on, put your dick away and come here. We want to talk."
This is where I'm immensely grateful for my friends grabbing me and pulling me inside the apartment building fast as they could. All I remember was feeling a bunch of hands on me as I was brought into a building and shoved into a random party on the first floor. As the door closed behind me, I gathered many curious looks. I felt like I was being judged immediately. So, I did what anyone would have done in my position. I pulled my pants up, and as I was zipping my fly I said: " WHO THE FUCK IS READY TO PARTY?!" This was met with an uproar of applause as beers and shots were being handed to my newly acquired date and me.
"Best entrance ever." She whispered to me a few beers later. I didn't have the heart to tell her that this kind of shit happens to me all the time. Instead, I just laughed and drank my beer. I could still feel my feelings, so I needed more to help erase them.
My mental instability was always my enemy when I was drinking. But the truth of the matter is that I always thought that it was helping me--the rationale of many alcoholics. In my drunken haze, it never occurred to me that while I tried to fix my life with each shot, I was really tearing it further apart. But what choice did I have? My life sucked and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it.
I mean yeah, I had attention from the ladies, and always was surrounded by people who I thought were friends. But all of that faded away when shit hit the fan. I never could understand this until my cooking career took off. I often wondered how they all disappeared when life got real. But now I get why. The how isn't the important part. The why is. That's when it finally clicked for me. Life is the same as the kitchen. Cooks know how to cook recipes. Chefs know why they are made. I knew why my friends bailed when I needed them. So, asking how they did it was pointless. Looking back now I wish I could have realized this without causing so much damage to myself and others around me.
See for the people around me, they get to move on from it. For me, however, I get to relive those horrible times every time I close my eyes. What lesson am I supposed to learn from the ongoing pain? How does a person make it go away? I tried moving to a new city to see if a change of scenery would help. All that did was cause me to miss my old life. Or so I thought. What I missed were the things I didn't do. Regrets, so many regrets. And no one tells you how regretting something can eat away at you while you try and stop the shakes at night to get to sleep. How come no one warns us of this before we go far beyond the point of no return?
The people around you only keep tally of the bad things you've done. They don't care about your healing. Once you decide to turn things around--if you're in the same boat as I was--you're going to find out that becoming sober is rather lonely. Don't worry, there will be some people there. But only the people who plan to still manipulate you. See, these people rise from the floorboards and whisper sweet nothings and words of praise into your ear causing you to put whatever trust you have left for anything into them. Then they sink their teeth and claws in and hold tight. But you don't know any better, you're just focused on getting better, when in reality you're sailing fast into another shitty part of life. The part where you have to openly deal with people using you while sober. Trust me, this hurts. And when you realize that those types of people have no shame, that makes it worse. So much worse in fact, that you are going to need to find more than one reason to remain vigilant and stay sober. You will be tested.
Trying to focus your anger during this time is the hardest fucking thing to do. Everything that you thought you knew isn't true anymore. You have to find the love you once had for yourself again. Though it won't be the same as you remembered. It's never going to feel the same ever again. Nothing will ever feel the same. That's why it's called starting over. And I just so happened to get lucky and get a second chance to do so. Why me, and not so many others out there? Well, this is where you have to think two simple words," Fuck 'em." Other people in the same place as you don't give a shit about you. So why are we so hellbent with trying to compare our lives to others when they are so blind to our plights? People are so self-centered that it's becoming the true pandemic in society today. It's sucking the joy out of everything. And it seems like the more that we try to ignore the people like this, the more of those types of people come out of the woodwork. It's baffling really how people like this exist. A true touch of madness in an already mad life.
Most people these days lack basic deduction and reasoning skills. And it's this deduction that chefs try and utilize for the love of our craft. Many others have said this before, but for some reason, it's not sticking with today's generation of aspiring cooks and chefs. See, as we try and shepherd the people with a newly found ardor for having a knife in hand, we must find a better way to warn them of the demented, depraved dystopia that awaits them. Simply projecting the lessons, we have learned over our years doesn't account for what we have lived. The burns and cuts that we have endured along the way cause scars, but do we learn from them? Or do we just allow the wounds to callous over, so that we may continue to make the same mistakes over and over without consequence?
This is where cooks separate from chefs. Cooks see the scars and burns and count them as well-earned battle scars. Chefs know the true importance of these minimal sacrifices for our art. Food is an art form that many can't see. And it's not until you're able to truly see the art in front of you that you can cook with passion as an ingredient. Which in the end makes your willingness to forgo and forfeit the last thing on your mind. You become intoxicated by success. So much so that you keep pushing forward when you should take the time to realize why we do what we do. Chefs know the importance of passion and know why we must continue to pass it onto future generations. Whereas, cooks know that art is simply there for the taking. And take it they will, without remorse, which is how our artform begins to decay over time. Those on the line just want to send it to receive a paycheck for their lives outside of the kitchen. All with the excuse of saying they love what they do. When at the end of the day, their jobs are the first things they complain about. You can't have passion without knowing sacrifices. So, tie your apron, get your Meez in order, and get ready to create your destiny one plate at a time. Make sure to pay attention to the real reasons you're standing on that line. The wrong reasons can land you with a passion that will undervalue you for what you do.
Why don't we celebrate the egg more as a symbol of passion? Eggs are the beginning of what we do. The 100 folds in a chef's toque represent the different ways to cook an egg. And we wear these as crowns as symbols of our achievements. But if we fail to see the importance of each fold and why they are there? How can it be that we know the reasons for the folds, but yet we don't appreciate the egg as an icon? That's like saying that there are 67 reasons that someone likes you as a person. But then they go on to say that you need 70 to make it worth it for them. Why 70 reasons? Why can't they just appreciate and observe the original 67? And it's this type of subliminal resonance of worry that holds us back sometimes from the ability to move forward with progress.
This lifestyle is a journey, not a cure for boredom or a path to financial gain. We are often so worried about learning how to cook something right the first time, that we miss the real lesson that we are supposed to learn. The failures are just as vital to the process as the perfectly cooked final product. That's something that can't be taught from person to person. The only way to gain this type of lesson is by actually doing it with your own hands. So, pick up your knife, and create your character. Allow your mind to calm and dilute the possibility to fail. Learn from your mistakes. Don't allow them to control your progress. Be the person you would want to learn from.
Rodney Lienhart is a Chef formerly of McKenzie, TN but is now working and residing in the Lansing, MI area. Starting at the young age of 7 years old. He worked his way through the ranks in his mom's kitchen in the hills of Tennessee. With a background in Southern, Italian, French, and Nouvelle cuisines, he uses what he knows to learn more about what he doesn't. When he isn't putting a flame on a sauté pan, he can be found reading and researching about what makes people tick. A massive overindulgence in psychology has led him here to share what he has witnessed in his experiences. Make sure to keep a close eye one his videos coming out soon. In these videos, he will be closely working with Wayhot sauce and Krystilion CBD on future recipes and concepts. You can follow his story and insight into the world of cooking food and adding the health benefits of CBD to his dishes on Facebook also on Instagram @chef_rodney_117