Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself.
Since shortly after graduating from college in 1992, I have worked as a Human Resource professional. I loved it. Everyone, including myself, always said I’d have been a great lawyer. Drawn to the intense legal focus of the Human Resource profession, and the constant use of my written and verbal communication proficiency, I prospered. Until I no longer prospered.
There was no defining incident. It wasn’t an awakening. There was no eureka moment. It was a slow falling away, like leaves from a tree. You don’t really notice them one at a time, but one day you realize the tree is bare.
It was like that for me. What I had once been so passionate about no longer held my interest. A long slow realization set in that the Human Resource profession had become part of what I consider the decline of our American culture. The same forces that award mediocrity in youth sports, that teach children how NOT to cope with real life, that accuse six-year olds of sexual harassment for kissing their classmates. Yeah. That.
American corporations, through their Human Resource departments and compliance gurus, have created adult microcosms of these same cultural tragedies. Afraid of lawsuits and EEO charges, companies have sacrificed truth and genuineness to hide behind the safety of political correctness. Their risk averse cultures have actually created a snowball effect. By telling a few decades of employees what they should find offensive, employees are now, not surprisingly, offended at everything that does not please them. This includes discussions about poor performance, poor attendance, and bad attitudes. Too many managers these days find themselves the subject of workplace ethics or harassment investigations, simply for doing their jobs. And though they are usually vindicated, and their actions ultimately supported by the company and by Human Resources, much time is wasted and much stress experienced by all parties involved.
I suppose this is some sort of job security for the HR team. But really, as a profession, we gave birth to a demon seed. Our time would have been much better served counseling employees to do their job the right way, or do it elsewhere. To ask them to grow some thicker skin rather than get their feelings hurt every time someone looked at them crossly. To put on their big girl panties and play nice in the sandbox. But instead we sugar-coated every message and every nuance. We put the grown up messages into the blender and pureed them for toddlers to digest. No wonder they act like playground denizens.
I’m tired of coddling slackers. I’m tired of (my employer) being threatened with racial discrimination every time Mary Jane doesn’t get the job she wanted, despite clearly not meeting the posted and required qualifications.
Oh yeah, and I’m tired of the lingo. The business jargon that everyone hates, but uses anyway. And that most of them don’t even understand. Phrases like “identify synergies”, “vet it with (insert other department here)”, “paradigm shift”, “circle back”……Blah blah blah. So much word vomit. And if I never hear another senior leader refer to the “physical calendar” again, it’ll be too soon. How does one work her way up to a senior leadership role and NOT know the difference between physical and fiscal??? OMG
So I spent most of the last five years floundering…hating my job, but not knowing how to let it go. Knowing what I REALLY wanted to do when I grow up, but too scared to take the steps necessary to do it. I was bored, checked out, and miserable. I was lost.
Then I lost my job. I stood at a crossroads, a fork in the road. Do I continue down the same path I have been traveling for twenty years? Or do I take this opportunity to follow my heart down the path I really want to travel?
I am never going back. Never rejoining the ranks of the corporate zombies. The yes men. The people who do what is fashionable, rather than blazing newer, better trails. The people who do what is easy and safe, even when it isn’t right.
Yeah. I lost my job. But I found myself.
I always loved Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, but when I read it now, I cry. Big fat happy tears of relief, and joy.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
So, what does a twenty year Human Resource professional do when she finds herself? Well, if she’s also a competitive and private chef, a food writer, a lover of food culture and food, she buys a food truck and drives it down the road not thus far taken (by her).
Those of you that have followed me for any length of time know that my personal style is a combination of Latin/Caribbean and Texas Fusion cuisine. That is what you can expect for me to be turning out on my truck. The menu will change weekly, based on what is fresh and local, but here is an example of what means to be a Texas Fusion dish born in my kitchen.
Texana French Onion Soup (like the French classic, but with beef, booze, and bigger balls)
- 2 large sweet onions (such as Vidalia), sliced
- 2 large red onions, sliced
- 2 large white onions, sliced
- 2-3 fresh jalapenos, thinly sliced
- 1 cup sliced shallot
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4-1 lb of leftover smoked brisket, cubed
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups beef stock
- 2 bottles Angry Orchard Hard Cider (or your favorite brand)
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 12 oz shredded pepper jack cheese
- croutons or toasted baguette slices
In a 6-quart Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add onions, shallots and jalapenos.
Sprinkle with salt, and stir. Sweat the vegetables down, stirring occasionally, until softened and transparent, but not browned. Add the brisket, stock, hard cider, and water, and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for about half an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle soup into individual soup crocks or large ramekins. top with hard croutons or toasted baguettes, and about 1/3 cup cheese. Place in broiler for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted, and browning. Serve immediately.