It’s been two weeks since I’ve left my position at City of Saints, ending a nearly year-long run as both the general manager for Bryant Park but also the interim director of retail for a couple of the shops. It was a good learning experience, as most jobs are, on a number of fronts: managing expectations, stakeholder evaluations, and doing all the long and short term P&L forecasting that I know and love to do. I enjoyed getting to train and educate a good cadre of staff, and seeing the feedback mechanisms and pedagogies, modified and elaborated upon from my time at Union Square Hospitality, and how they worked or required modification. While I knew at an instinctual level that I could do the work, it was good to have a chance to actually be responsible for the work and showcase to myself (and a degree, others) that I can, in fact, do it, and do it well.
That’s something that, as was pointed out to me, comes from my mother; I have difficulty with internal validation of my own talents and capacities. Imposter syndrome is real; and awareness of the privileges and things I’ve had access to over others can sometimes compound that, wondering if I haven’t just gotten ahead by the stint of having the right skin color or sex. I’ve often confused braggadocio and pride in ones work as one and the same, and so often, unintentionally rudely, dismiss my own work as not particularly significant or all that good when others compliment it. (Learning to just say thank you and express appreciation for the expression of gratitude was its own step, and I’ve become more graceful in it.) To be blunt, despite being bright, thoughtful, and more than competent in my works, I often have had difficulty thinking or valuing myself in that way. External validation — through hiring, promotion, or a good relationship with my mother — has been the prerequisite for affirming my ability to myself.
This has changed over the last few years; my time with Union Square Hospitality I had more self awareness over my needs and ability to communicate them with my management, who in turn were amazing being forthright with me. And in the case at CoS, I knew the value I was bringing to an organization, displayed it well, and when it became clear those skills were no longer appreciated or being used by that organization, I knew it was the time to make a clear, elegant exit. It took me into my thirties to understand fully what that kind of valuation is like, and even now, it’s still taking time for me to stock that in conjunction with a host of other valuations — my personal self, my sexual self, my social self, all of which over the last 4-5 years kind of got sublimated as I immersed myself in providing value through my work life.
Which is why the last two weeks have proven valuable — spending time in the markets, having lunch dates, developing an alt-twitter account for thottiness, and taking the occasional trip to the Guggenheim or the Neue Gallerie while on mushrooms, a talk at the LGBT Center with Alexander Chee, and just spending time with people, places and headspaces I haven’t had the opportunity to indulge in a long time, or what feels like a long time. That sort of holistic sense of self has been elusive; and spending some time to commit to re-balancing my life before digging deep into work in the near future. It’s a work in progress — I still want to have a regular shabbat dinner happening near weekly, as well as more regular dance happenings that don’t involve needing to take a cornucopia of candy to enjoy the vibe, a little more Honcho and a little less Wrecked, a little more Danny and Francois K, a little less industrial sounds I may have done combatives training to in the 90’s.
It’s not to say I haven’t been searching for work; I’ve put out a few applications, and pitched some articles; those have been good to get my juices flowing and keep my mind intellectually checked in. Been reading more, and not just in culinary work; revisiting old political economy texts and readings on cultural autonomy and agency. It’s revisiting old activist work and how it fits into the work of the now, which brings up the big project, which is, how best to move forward with Diaspora.
We only did one pop up last year, which was fine, and limited production last summer as my free time was limited for actually making jam. That said, we did a good run and the products have been awesome. But jams don’t make money; many a convo has been had about that. And while there have been a number of notions around whether or not to pursue the project, I had been on the fence, hooked in by two factors: resources and location. The former I’ve been working on — I have a number of folks who have spoken of confidence in me and I can tap onto if I wanted to launch. But the latter issue of location is harder; setting up shop means setting up roots more intentionally, and while the long-term isn’t fearful to me, it does mean making decisions that require a long-view, and the willingness to leap, like Haruman, into the uncertain with confidence and grace.
New York City is a pleasing place to me — I’ve found a home here with many good people, a community of sorts, and many a kindred in the professional and personal worlds. It is also a bit like living with Stockholm Syndrome, saying the things are fine when in reality there is a high cost to living here, ones that, with Cuomo in the governors office, are unlikely to subside quickly. Starting costs for a business here are higher; and there are certain lifestyle things that, even in the last two weeks, I’ve been unable to easily indulge in the way I’d aspire to or be able to on the West Coast (like hiking). I’m not yet decided on the thing, but it’s a question I need to answer in the next week or so, and with it, launch into a course of action, because, as Seuss put it, the waiting place is the most useless place, and there’s a difference between actively meditating and waiting for the thought to happen to you. And while not a judgment on myself, I feel like I’ve spent the last few years waiting too long for the thing to happen, instead of making it happen for myself.
With that, I have two more weeks, til the end of the month, to determine a course of action; to hear back on some actions while laying the groundwork for others, and in the meantime, building up that life that I desire to have versus the one I’ve let take over mine for the last several years. Spending some time building myself up rather than tearing my past down, and greeting things head-on, rather than responding to events all the same. Taking ownership is a process, and while I want to fully own my own what’s next, the feedback from my community, my friends, lovers, and relations, are equally important in this next step. So I hope to see some of you there, as we leap forward, hopefully together.