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I fell asleep on the couch and woke up several hours later to Joel Osteen’s Sunday morning sermon blaring from my television. Somewhere between dreaming and waking, I had listened to him extoll the meaning of A Great Shift for the better part of 30 minutes.
A Great Shift, he said, is something that happens when the winds of favor blow opportunity into your life. It happens suddenly. It happens without explanation. Not the result of your own talent or determination, but a great force in the universe designed to put you in the place you’re supposed to be.
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At one point or another I have been a thinker, a risk-taker, a smart ass, a kiss ass, and a bore. On the search for creativity, I have questioned everything. Twice. I’ve been envious of effortlessness, hostile with authority, and cautious about the unknown. I have miscalculated. I have looked for perfection but have not found it. I have been hard on others but harder on myself. There have been quite a few times when I have cut too deep.
Punishment for setting the bar impossibly high has been fear of the ordinary. For as long as I have sought creative endeavors, this notion has driven a knife through my gut.
I have spent most of my life trying to find the better part of myself. I have chased it like a ghost. Wrestled it in my sleep. I believed I had it cornered at least a dozen times, but on each occasion it has laughed and escaped out the window.
I have failed. I have lost sleep. I have unlocked creativity and spilled it on the floor. I have unlocked creativity and lost it under the couch cushions.
In the end, I agreed over a steaming hot bowl of mussels––with a lover or a friend or a colleague or an acquaintance––that it doesn’t matter anyway. Not on the plate, on the notepad, or on the computer screen. The search for creativity is a crooked line. If you’re committed to wrestling it down, you have to be willing to bump your head.
At 25, I was living on Race Street in a high-rise loft, spending a lot of time in the kitchen slicing off the tips of my fingers. It’s a period of time I like to call Fish University because I was obsessed––completely obsessed––with fish cookery. This was before culinary school or the restaurant, so I was studying cookbooks like they were textbooks. When I wasn’t sprawled out on the kitchen floor getting busy with Mark Bittman and Alton Brown, I was geeking out with turbot, snapper, salmon, halibut, haddock, anything I could get my hands on. Friends and family pleaded for me to end the madness but I soldiered on. To hell with them. I would learn how to cook fish even if it meant mercury poisoning and slow, painful deaths for us all.
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