Cardamom Cold Brew (& My Crippling Insecurities)
The past week of writing has brought to light how bad I am at writing about personal things. Sure, I can deep dive into the origins of durians, wax lyrical about laksas, and sing praise for salted egg yolks, but when it comes to writing about myself, my experiences, my feelings, my brain freezes and the usual flow of words would slow to an agonising trickle. (I can feel it happening as I’m writing this.)
It’s a small insecurity I have, as Food52’s Eric Kim can attest to. (He helped me soooo much of his help with this piece I wrote on heartbreak and black sesame brittles. Thanks Eric!) So to get better at writing about feelings, thoughts, and nostalgic heartbreaks, I thought it’d be a good idea to share even more insecurities. Specifically, three of my biggest ones. So, here goes.
I don’t know where this career is headed.
I know, I know. I get to cook and write and most recently talk on my podcast about food. It sounds like a dream job, but lately I’ve been feeling… stuck. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and I’m infinitely grateful to be able to surround myself with food every day.
But there’s this feeling that’s been niggling away at the back of my brain. This feeling that I’m not doing enough, not living up to my potential (or at least what little potential I have), not doing the right thing.
Maybe the constant flux of freelancing has taken its toll on me. Months of writing and testing recipes in isolation, without any colleagues I can bounce ideas off, of not knowing when my paycheck is gonna be, of feeling like I’m stuck in the same cycle and not setting myself up for a better future, haven’t been healthy. (The freelance life really isn’t as glamorous as it first seems, eh?)
Or maybe I’m actually not doing enough, not creating enough good in the world, not making enough of a positive impact. Seeing what other local chefs and bloggers and artists and creatives are doing, I feel like an imposter, because it feels like what I do pales in comparison to what they do. Reading about the amazing food and the effective change the people at Blue Hill and Pujol and MAD are doing, a part of me feels like I made a mistake by leaving the cheffing world, that maybe I’d be doing greater things if I stayed. Hearing what my high-achieving friends are doing, and how much they’re earning, a part of me regrets not going into engineering or consulting after graduating. At least then I’ll have some semblance of financial security. Ugh, comparison’s a real bitch.
So yes, I have this worry that I’m not on the right path, not doing the right thing.
I worry that I don’t have enough grit.
This became a real worry after I read Angela Duckworth’s Grit. In the book, she mentions how research has shown that “in the long run, grit may matter more than talent” and that “talent… matters. But effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”
And honestly, I don’t think I have enough grit. I don’t think I put in enough effort, I get scared off by tough and difficult situations, and am prone to quitting when the going gets tough. Sometimes I wonder if my winding career path has to do with how little grit I have—maybe I didn’t go into a consulting or engineering career because it seems too tough, and instead opted for culinary school because that would defer my transition into adult life; maybe I staged at Blue Hill because that seemed like another delay to actually; maybe I then left the chef life because I couldn’t weather the long hours and back-breaking work. And maybe I’m now feeling stuck because things seem hard and I’m just frozen in place by the fear of failure.
Sure, I want to be better. I want to will myself to have the perseverance to stick through challenges, to keep at it when things get tough instead of finding an easy out. But saying it is easy, doing is harder.
I fear that I’ll never find my people.
This. This is perhaps the most worrying one.
I get that this might seem like a PC way of saying ‘I have no friends’, but that would be an exaggeration. Of course I have friends. There are a few people that I’m close to, people I meet often, people I share my secrets and silly thoughts with. And to all the friends who’ve been there for me, I’m super grateful for all of you.
But somehow I wish I have people I can connect with on a deeper level, like Jon Snow and Sam Tarly, or Tyrion and Varys in Game of Thrones. Or even like the friendship shared by a close-knit group of friends, like the gang in Friends, New Girl or Brooklyn 99. But maybe these expectations are severely misinformed by pop culture and TV shows.
On the flipside, I admit that I’m also a massive introvert. Most social interactions drains me, and I’m terrified of large parties, especially when I barely know anyone and have to mingle. *shudders* So maybe the problem lies with me and my awkwardness. Haih.
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In the past week, these thoughts and insecurities have really plagued clouded my mind and brought on a bout of terribly anxious thought. I’m not sure if this is normal anxiety that every millennial goes through, or something more sinister. A part of me feels like this is somewhat debilitating, as I’ve had moments of just breaking down in tears from the sheer weight of these anxious thoughts, and having to cry myself to sleep on more than one occasion. But then a part of me feels that I’m just being irrational and overly emotional, and that I shouldn’t use the term ‘anxiety’ lightly because those who suffer from real anxiety seem to have much worse experiences.
But whatever it is—average millennial angst or worse—I feel like sharing it here would help me feel better. Or at the very least, it’ll help with my writing. Hopefully, I’ll feel better with time, and be able to find a direction in my career, cultivate more grit, and find my tribe.
But for now, I’ll soothe my soul with some cardamom cold brew.
Cardamom Cold Brew
Makes 1 litre
100g coarse ground coffee beans
5g cardamom pods, toasted then ground up
Place the ground coffee, cardamom, and water in an airtight bottle or container and mix it well. (You can use a food processor or grinder to grind the coffee and cardamom.) Let the coffee soak at room temperature for 12-24 hours. The longer you leave it, the stronger the coffee will be.
After the brewing period, pour everything through a cheesecloth and discard the coffee grounds.
Store the coffee in the refrigerator to chill, and when you need that caffeine hit, pour it in a cup with some ice cubes. (This makes quite a strong coffee so I find a little dilution from the ice makes it just right!) The coffee keeps well for up to a week.