Happy Fourth of July! Today at the inn we’re working on a burger special to celebrate at dinner tonight. A recap of developing that is coming soon, hope you enjoy your holiday!
During this past year in school, I was part of a book club called The Happiness Project at Yale. Led by a professor of sociology, we read The Happiness Project, a book written by Gretchen Rubin that follows her yearlong journey to increasing her level of happiness. She focuses on one aspect of happiness each month, ranging from love to friends to money to spirituality. While we read and discussed the book, we also tried to adopt similar principles in our lives, one step at a time, to see how they affected us. My roommate and I participated in the challenge together, and we took to telling each other what made us happy that day every night before we went to sleep–our “happiness,” as we called it (it was actually extremely effective).
Happiness, work, and play are also closely tied. We talked a bit about a concept called “flow.” Flow, christened by Hungarian psychologist Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi, can be found in your career or a hobby, and is characterized by a loss of self-consciousness in the moment. “Losing yourself,” as it’s often thought of, in an activity that you enjoy that also provides an attainable level of challenge. We’ve all experienced this at some point–you start reading, or going to soccer practice, or volunteering, and all of a sudden three hours have passed in the blink of an eye. You’ve found your flow.
On Wednesday, ten hours of my day flew by. I headed to the kitchen a little after 11 am to start gathering ingredients for the salted caramel brownies and ice cream Chef Sadhana and I would be making for afternoon tea that day, and then bam: it was already 3 and the dessert was set and we were moving on to the pupusas for that night’s dinner (yeah, I’m basically a pupusa pro at this point ). All of a sudden it was 5 and I was taking a fifteen minute break for staff meal before heading back into the kitchen to finish up the pupusas and move on to the next day’s dessert for afternoon tea. Sadhana and I made nectarine-apricot-blueberry pies, which was my first time making a pie crust from scratch (!), and worked on a new burger bun recipe the kitchen is experimenting with for a special this weekend. And all of a sudden it was 8 and we were taking an hour-long break while the dough for the buns rose and the pie crusts chilled. Then we were back a little before nine to assemble and bake the pies and and buns. And then it was 10:30 and we were cleaning up and heading out (with a few bites of food to take along with us, of course).
Somewhere between the berry-chopping and masa-making and brainstorming dessert ideas my day went by. And for those ten hours, all I knew was the whether the crusts I was forming were staying cool enough, or what the stickiness level of the masa was, or whether or not my salted caramel sauce was sweet enough.
And it felt incredible. Incredible to lose myself in a single room, senses heightened to everything going on around me, not ruminating on the future or the past, totally focused on what I needed to accomplish in that moment (sounds a bit like mindfulness, huh?).
Yesterday isn’t the first time I’ve felt that way while working alongside Jen or Sadhana on whatever dessert or entree or amuse bouche of the day. As an almost-junior in college, I often wonder what my career path will be, or what kind of job I’ll look for upon graduation. It’s more curiosity than concern, it’s not something that stresses me out right now. But every experience I have, class I take, and skill I learn puts me that much further in getting to know myself, and by that token having an idea of what I would like to pursue.
Does the fact that I found flow in the kitchen mean it’s a career path I should follow? Or is it simply a hobby that will provide me with an extra dose of flow outside of work? I love the buzz of a kitchen with people to feed and things to get done, and the domesticity of cooking at home doesn’t exactly lend itself to that. I love the salsa music that plays in the kitchen, and all of the line cooks and us doing our own things, but for the same purpose. Though at the same time I don’t see myself going to culinary school and forging my way as a professional chef.
Of course, the rest of my life certainly isn’t anything that I need to know right now, and if anything The Happiness Project only affirms my need to remain in the present rather than obsessing over the future. But finding that flow isn’t something that I’m going to ignore, either.
This article was written by monica