9/15/2005

Sympathy for The Devil's Kitchen

The hedonistic, abrasive but usually good-natured Edinburgh graphic designer who cooks in The Devil's Kitchen has posted an entry today which, if it is not actually a cri de coeur, is certainly a telling insight into the pressures faced by young men at a time of life when they seem to be at their most fragile - their late '20's.
One fully sympathises with him, as reading it was eerily reminiscent of my own state of mind at the time I abandoned legal practice, aged 28.
DK, who has had more than his fair share of dodgy business partners and has found himself standing in the rubble of collapsed 'great opportunities', now runs his own business, and wrote,
"So, here I am, with two employees. No one to sell for us. A workload that is massive but unprofitable. I am working 10, 12, 16 hours a day every single day... and I'm shattered. I meet no one new, and wouldn't know how—or have the time or money—to do so. I am running a company (which I always said that I'd never do, since I've no motivation) without any idea of how to run or sell a company. I am responsible for people, yet they take no responsibility for the company. I do not want to fail, and yet failure seems inevitable (not yet, but soon). I have a girlfriend who I've seen for six days in the last four months (and she'll probably be gone for ever in less than a year). I have the weight of other people's expectations on my shoulders, and no idea what I should be doing to justify this, or to make it work. It becomes increasingly difficult to bolster the confidence of others when your own is becoming so rapidly depleted.
But, most importantly, I hate my work. If I have to set another invoice form, I am going to scream. The hobby that used to be enjoyable job is now a millstone around my neck. Where are the beautiful artworks that I used to create: dark, but beautiful too? I work full-time on design, then try to administer and sell the company. I have no support and I hate what I'm doing. My flat is an office, and solace in the pub is the only way that I can get away from the incessant hum of the computers. My friends are too young to understand, or too settled to care. Where, then, can one go? What does one do? I have no idea what I'm doing and, most importantly, why I'm doing it."
One can only hope that he is not suffering physically - during my last 12 months in practice, I could sleep only on alternate nights, and there ain't much that's good on TV at 0400 hours in Scotland. I developed morbid fears, in particular a wholly unfounded and unjustified fear of, of all bloody things, being sent to prison. My weight, which has yo-yo'd up and down over the course of my life, went right down, making me resemble a matchstick with eyebrows (I'm in beachball mode right now, and if one other person says fat people should be jolly by nature, they don't want to run into a Gnome in an alley on a dark night...). At one point, I took to smoking absolutely foul Egyptian cigarettes, of which my then neighbour's partner had imported his maximum duty-free allowance. She didn't want them, so I must have got 100 packets.
Egyptian tobacco is a commodity to be avoided at all costs, and trumps whatever else DK has pumped into his system over the course of his life.
Certainly, DK seems more fiscally aware than I've ever been - my idea of long-term savings is a jar full of penny pieces in my desk drawer (I found 18 pence in coppers at the bottom of the wardrobe yesterday -WOO HOO!).
However, when one sees a fellow human being who's honest enough to publicly admit that everything is not all right, and who doesn't speak as if their approach to life has been moulded by self-help texts and Amway manuals, one's natural tendency is to try to say something which we feel might provide some comfort to a person who is in a state of, let's say, anguish; 'Don't worry, everything will be all right'; 'But tomorrow's another day'; 'All this will pass'; and my personal favourite, 'It's always darkest before the dawn' . The naked truth is that nobody but DK knows whether everything will be all right; however, from what he writes one is sure that if his efforts do not ultimately succeed it will not be for want of trying - so good luck.
He also mentions the curative power of blogging. This is something that psychologists of the future will win awards for writing about. My father and brother have a joke that I spend too much of my spare time at the computer, 'hunched like a gorilla'; yet at the same time if there were no outlet for the frustration which builds on account of not being able to tell customers that their problems would have been avoided if they had first read and then observed the contracts they had freely bound themselves to, then I might very well be on the slope again. This medium is the most dangerous thing ever invented, because it enables the free flow of ideas; in a world where human resources officers earn more than lawyers, admitting to having had an idea is almost as great a solecism as admitting to holding opinions.
So the chef from The Devil's Kitchen has our best wishes, and may he have good health and peace of mind to enjoy them.

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