• Julia Helton

Closure is a solo activity

A while back someone posted four questions you must ask yourself to get honorable closure. When we leave a job, relationship, or any scenario where we have to work through a lot of complex emotions it seems like self reflection is a good way to go. I know I fall into that trap, as do most WW, that this unfair event was directed at me personally . The truth is often more complex and less about me and my feelings. Rather than go through life nursing my little hurts I push myself to examine what happened and my role in it. It's not always comfortable. Sometimes the other person was self centered or attempting to hide their past, sometimes we were the myopic one. Closure is important to honor yourself, your trails, your memory of events. I am grateful for a chance to draw a line under the memories so that they may live undisturbed in the past like a whisper of fog that no longer holds sway so that I may be allowed to move forward unencumbered.

I like to keep these questions for when I am ready to face the metaphorical music of my own actions.

As many of you know I was one the first (perhaps only) season of Food Network's Vegas Chef Prizefight. It was my second reality tv show and the one that was toughest on me personally. We shot the series in September 2019. My cancer treatment was not going well. I had recently started a new regimen for fibromyalgia days before we began, the loading dose phase, hurrah. The restaurant that I saved from hemorrhaging money to profitability was sold and I wasn't sure if I was gonna have a job when I got back. I live a complicated life.

On March 12, 2020 the second episode of the show aired mere days before the whole country was locked down due to Covid 19. I was doing the lunch time show at WGN smiling a brave face. I was let go from the restaurant I helped save, cut from the show I was promoting, while watching the noon news live about a new virus that would change everything about our world and who we think we are.

The four questions you must ask yourself to get honorable closure: Food Network Edition.

What am I grateful for?

I am grateful for the friends I made within the chef community. I am grateful for the chance to spend time with some new friends in Las Vegas. I am grateful to have been selected as an elite chef for the first cast of a nationwide show on a big cable channel. I’m grateful for the change in perspective it has given me.

How was I challenged?

The early call times were no fun. Each day was so fast paced, there wasn't time to properly process emotionally what happened. Being without your people, your emotional support system was the worst. The time limits were ok but not being in a familiar kitchen was tough. The shopping with other chefs when things don’t go well was another thing. The proteins available at Whole Foods are far below the quality that I am accustomed to getting for my restaurant. Coming up with a menu without seeing the quality of the product was a challenge for me. The production team turned off at least one piece of equipment or set the unchangeable temps so low that it would eat into our time.

What am I willing to forgive myself for?

I really had a bad attitude stemming from the uncertainty happening in my professional life at that exact time. I also got the sense that I somehow outed Anne when I mentioned to a producer that I had staged with her former fiancée. I fell into playing the victim with Anne and relying on my cancer as an excuse when I fucked up. Like “Please excuse my nonsense and here’s why” was not the way to go. Anne bullied me into changing my plans with regards to cooking that challenge dish that got me eliminated. I have to forgive myself for letting her do that. I am ready to forgive myself for being so myopic. I am ready to forgive Ann for who she is.

Where do I want to go from here?

We are fully into year two of this pandemic with no real end in sight. I am not willing to sacrifice any more of my health and well-being to an industry that sees its workers as disposable. I cannot do 60 hour work weeks anymore. The trauma, anxiety, and (waves hands around) all this is just too much. I want to share my story, my massive skillset and knowledge of how restaurants can be fair and inclusive while still making money. A lot of us do this because we love it. Maybe my job now is to highlight and give exposure to those who are the new wave. I hope that they can finally make this an ethically good business to go into.

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