Clumsy, Messy, Imperfect
In the kitchen, that is to say when I was running a kitchen as my job, I had been accused of being cocky from time to time. Arrogance is nothing new in the world of the professional chef, but it isn’t something that is there from the start of your career. It grows, fueled by the necessities of the job; leading people to execute your vision, guiding people to hold to your standards. To avoid arrogance, you have to be vigilant, ever aware that the scales could tip from confidence to something much more toxic at any time. My philosophy then was, “If I knew a better way, that is how I would do it.” That statement alone illustrates the fine line between arrogance and confidence. Read one way it can seem like, “Wow, that guy is a complete ass.” For me, though, it wasn’t about always being right, but more about trying to understand the best way to execute a dish. I prepared the food the best I knew how and always wanted to do better, gleaning from everyone I had ever worked with or for.
It’s really the same with all aspects of life though. You can take your experiences to inform your decisions, but if you aren’t careful, arrogance creeps up. I think there is a danger of that too, in this strange vagabond lifestyle. It can offer some great rewards, but isn’t the cure to all that ails modern society. Attention can get put on the wrong part, the drastic and strange part, but gloss over the key thing that has little to do with living in a house on wheels. The reward has been in choosing a life that forces us to live with less and opened us up to new experiences every day. Living in an RV has reintroduced us to the beauty of the natural world, but those things can be done from any type of home, without upending your life. We haven’t found the way, just a way that’s worked for us.
Throughout the last few years, though, we find ourselves regularly being told, “Your life is so great,” “I wish I could do that,” or “You are living my dream.” I think this parallels what can lead to arrogance in a chef too. Constant praise and affirmation can cause you to forget the team that works so hard to make you look good. It is the skills and support of those around you that allow a chef to be truly successful. Living in an RV demands a spirit of self-sufficiency and ability to troubleshoot your own problems. On the road, the temptation is to also gloss over the privileges of a support system, but without the people in our life, we would have been forced off the road long ago. They have put us up over the holidays (or sometimes for much longer visits), been more than generous in a myriad of monetary ways, or just continued to show us an outpouring of love that reminds us we always have a home to go back to. Our life is better (and easier) because of the people we are lucky enough to have in it.
This is also a lifestyle that’s easy to romanticize. Facebook and Instagram lean heavily towards showing the best parts; sunsets, mountain tops, and the open road, but as Sara and I have been preparing to leave for the next leg in our journey, the conversation we’ve had several times is about what you don’t see on social media. Life is still life wherever you are and if you ever really need to understand that, imagine food poisoning or a stomach bug while living in an RV. There is plenty that is just not glamorous out here too. There are always same the day to day chores that need to be done: cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Plus, the new chores: emptying the sewer tanks, refilling propane, and the much more frequent trips to the mechanic. Even beyond that are the completely different hurdles to leap: living in such a confined space with another person, taking a drastic pay cut and living on a tighter budget, or missing significant milestones for friends and family back home, but life itself is always one big grey mess, wherever you are. Some good, some bad, some neither. Life isn’t a problem that needs a solution, it’s an individual course to be navigated. We surely haven’t solved all life’s issues or even written a road map. We are stumbling our way along, like everyone is, but then again, if we knew a better way, that’s how we would do it.