Tag Archives: Boundaries

Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Work/Life Balance

Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Work/Life Balance

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but perfectionism and “no that’s stupid, who needs to read that? no one” has gotten in the way.  So here I am. Moira, my nanny-baby, is asleep for maybe another forty five minutes if I’m lucky.

Several months ago, Dan suggested we watch this movie:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

I’m not a huge documentary watcher (Dan is), so I was hesitant. But it ended up being one of the most fascinating films I’ve ever seen. Watch the trailer here and rent it on Netflix if you can. I’ve never seen sushi look so good.

Quick Summary: Jiro Ono is an 85 year old sushi chef who is supposed to be the most talented sushi chef in the world.  His restaurant seats only ten people.  One plate costs around $100. You have to train for fifteen years just to be an apprentice.  People travel to Japan just to eat his sushi.

You get the picture.  The film focuses on Jiro’s fame but also on his philosophy of work:

Once you decide on your occupation, you have to immerse yourself in your work.  You have to fall in love with your work.  You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret to success.

The reviews in the poster above call Jiro’s “breathtaking, inspirational, and humbling,” and that’s true.  Listening to this man’s advice on work was very humbling. For me, it really put into perspective some of the complaints I had at my first two jobs out of college –that the expectations were too high, the hours too long. In some ways, that’s just what you have to do to succeed in your occupation, in your skill.

But another word I would use to describe the movie is “horrifying.” A sub-theme in the documentary is Jiro’s relationship with his two sons.  Both are in their forties or fifties and both are sushi chefs.  The first son is filmed saying (with a smile, so he must have gotten over it) “I wanted to go to college.  my father talked me out of it.  For the first eight years, I hated working here.”

In another scene, the two sons sit together discussing their childhood with the interviewer. They recall (again, laughing, so maybe this is just a cultural thing I’m not getting) waking up on Sunday mornings to find their father in the house. They would be so unused to seeing him that they would run to their mother (this is the only time she is mentioned in the film) saying, “Mom, there’s a stranger in the house!”

In this way, the documentary reminded me of another film I absolutely LOVE, which also features a highly successful… individual.


Why is no one readyyyyyyy?

“The Devil Wears Prada” follows Anne Hathaway’s character as she works the major fashion magazine Runway for the magazine’s Executive Director Miranda (played by Meryl Streep).  Though Hathaway really wants to work as a serious (non-fashion) journalist, she takes the job as Streep’s assistant because editors tell her it will be a major stepping stone.  “A million girls would kill for that job.”

Hathaway starts out frumpy and skeptical, but (through many twists, turns, and awesome makeover scenes) she comes to respect Miranda and the work that she does.  The movie ends, however, with Hathaway making the decision to leave the position because she repeatedly sees Miranda putting her work before the people in her life, and Andy (Hathaway’s character) sees herself beginning to follow in Miranda’s footsteps.

It’s a great movie.  But there’s one scene I never really got. Andy jump starts her big Transformation after a devastating (but oh so fun to watch) dress-down from Miranda for her attitude towards fashion.  Exhausted and humiliated, Andy goes crying to a coworker (played by Stanely Tucci) and tells him, “I don’t know what to do.  I’m really trying–” to which Tucci replies, “Oh please. Honey. You’re not trying.”

When I first saw this scene, I sat there staring at the screen, thinking I’d missed a line. “What do you mean? Of course she’s trying. She puts up with Miranda. She does everything Miranda says…”

But that’s not the point.  Hathaway has not “fallen in love with her work.” She hasn’t entered deeply into the craft.  She hasn’t even entertained the possibility that the fashion world could have some importance she doesn’t grasp.  There is no passion there. She’s not trying.

On the other hand, both Jiro’s and Miranda’s stories show the downfall of working with that kind of passion.  As I said, Jiro literally looked like a stranger to his own sons.  Miranda goes through her third divorce before the movie’s end.  Neither are really able to sustain healthy relationships in or outside of the office.

This whole meditation had an interesting tie-in with yesterday’s Gospel and homily.

St. Martha

Is this not the craziest depiction of St. Martha (or any saint) you have ever seen??

Our priest’s homily was actually about how it’s NOT bad to work hard! (Seems like a tough pitch with that whole “Martha Martha” thing in the background, right?) He encouraged us to look at the Gospel in light of the Old Testament reading, which sows Abraham and Sarah working very hard to welcome the Three Visitors to their home (making bread, killing the fatted calf, etc. etc.).

According to our priest, the juxtaposition of these two stories is supposed to show us that Abraham’s attention (and Mary’s, in the Gospel) to God is what sanctifies his actions.  First, Abraham notices God passing by. Next, he invites Him to say. Finally, he sits down with the Lord and listens to him. All of his actions are ordered towards a relationship with God.

So, the answer to this whole Work/Life Balance thing, according to Father Bob? Well, it’s a… balance.  Only by maintaining this active relationship with the Trinity will we know when to stop serving the Lord and start listening.


Temptations of Teaching: STOP BEING WRONG AND LISTEN TO ME!


By Rachel

Today, I had the extrovert’s greatest joy: a day full of meaningful connections after a FREAKING DESERT OF AT HOME ALONE SICKLINESS.

It was awesome.

Anyways, this brought me to a few observations about teen dating practices, based on the comments some of my students were making about Pride and Prejudice in relation to their lives. Here are my observations:

  1. Girls do this stupid thing where we imagine things into existence until forced to acknowledge the passive rejection that is “He is not asking me out.” This is bad.
  2. Boys do this stupid thing where they pretend that things didn’t exist in order to side-step the sensation of actual rejection that is “No. I do not want to date you.” This is also bad.

So what do you (or as it happens, I, their teacher) tell teenagers who are participating in or are victimized by one  of these two very stupid things…besides: stop doing that, it’s dumb.

I ask because I really don’t know. On the girl side, I have an easier time imagining what to say. I could say, “Oooh. I’ve done that. And you won’t believe me, but the just imagining thing is not only a bad and unhealthy thing to do. It is also kindof a sin. No really.”

On the guy side, I mostly want to say, “Stoppit. This does not make you look cool or mature. It makes you look like a 5-year-old throwing a temper-tantrum. Or an ostrich (head in the sand and all that jazz).”

Neither of these is particularly teacher-y. Nor does either respect the prerogative of teenagers to do stupid (and hopefully harmless) stuff and (DEAR GOD, I REALLY HOPE!) learn from it. This is the problem with teaching. Freaking boundaries and freaking knowing that some of the crap that your students do is idiotic… and or damaging.

Right now I am settling for vague statements about literary figures: “Look, isn’t it stupid when Mr. Collins won’t take no for an answer, and then tries to think of Lizzy as less worthy to convince himself that the rejection isn’t that bad. Doesn’t he seem immature!” or “Look, isn’t Caroline Bingley, by reading the second half-of Mr. Darcy’s novel in order to make it seem like they are on the same page, a little bit pathetic and begging for a heartbreak. ISN’T SHE!?!”

Not that these behaviors are limited to teenagers. Nope. No, they are not. So, I can tell you (and through this, my future self) that both of these behaviors are BAD. Reality is good. And difficult. And good… That’s what I am sticking with.



What is it about teaching that shoves life into perspective?

Occasionally, it is the welcome perspective that somewhere between being 16-year-old me and becoming 23-year-old me, I acquired boundaries.


Not crazy boundaries that prevent me from making conversations, or making friends… or occasionally saying things I shouldn’t. But the kind of boundaries that allow me to think,  “No. This person I met an hour and a half ago really doesn’t need to know every detail about me, my life, my relationships or lack thereof, and my current emotional status on all things.” It’s AWESOME!

(I realize that by typing that sentence, I am officially sharing my life, experiences, etc not only to one random person, but to anyone who happens to read this blog. Please rest assured that – unlike the rants on my High School LiveJournal, which may or may not exist somewhere in the ether – this post is a calculated thing. I have considered and decided to allow this post past my boundaries.)

That sort of decision has become a really small thing for this 23-year-old. No big deal. But have you ever stopped to watch 16-year-olds interact? Better yet, have you ever watched them interact at camp? I have. (Not in a creepy way. I am payed to teach them and serve as their counselor and hopefully waylay them before they do something that they would seriously regret.) It is terrifying. Well, maybe that isn’t the right word. I kind of wanted to describe it as akin to a car wreck that you see coming but you just can’t look away. Sometimes it is: I find myself semi-frequently mentally shouting “NO! DO NOT HAND THAT BOY THAT LONG HEARTFELT, POSSIBLY TEAR-STAINED, HANDWRITTEN NOTE! HE DOES NOT NEED TO SEE IT! AND YOU WILL NEVER FORGET THAT HE HAS SEEN IT!” and yet, being nominally an adult, I am in the zone where it is just too awkward to say anything about it.

Worst. Ideas. Ever.

But it isn’t all car wrecks and tear-stained letters. The total lack of boundaries and filters, at least from where I am standing, is also a little miraculous. Most 16-year-olds have no boundaries because they haven’t learned any better – yes. However, because of this they make friends and form bonds at the drop of a hat. Real, if slightly intense, friendships.

And it isn’t just limited to high schoolers. Watch freshmen in college in their first semesters. It is just the most exciting and intense thing. They will (and I did) stay up all night, not for the proverbial academic all-nighters, but because they are having soul baring conversations with total strangers. They will date many, probably-incompatible people in quick succession. They will (and I did) express opinions  with a fluency and confidence that would make a narcissist blush. But they will  (and I did) form friendships that truly shape them because they are so open to being shaped.

I am not sure what this post is actually about. I think it was initially just observations. But now that I get to the end, I find myself wanting to have a moral or a thought or something…


1. If you are not a teenager — be grateful. You probably have boundaries that prevent at least a small fraction of the dumb stuff you have done or will do in the future.

2. If you are a teenager — be grateful. You can get away with so much and share so much and make friends so quickly and non-superficially that adults will half-envy, half-disbelieve, and half- pity you. (Yes, I know I said three halves. Sue Me.)

3. If you have teenagers in your care — be gentle. They have no boundaries. That is dangerous, terrifying, hilarious, precious, and miraculous all at once. When I say be gentle, I am not saying tip-toe around them so they aren’t ever hurt. They will be hurt. Not only are they kind of like open nerve-endings, walking around saying “Poke me,”  it is also necessary. They have to be hurt. (Hopefully in innocuous ways.) That is how they will someday become the person who is biting their tongue off with the urge to warn against ALL NOTE PASSING. IT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA. THAT IS DURABLE EVIDENCE OF STUPIDITY THAT YOU CAN NEVER REALLY TAKE BACK!!!… I am off topic. They will be hurt. But when you are about to complain about the fact that they are unreasonable, over emotional, or just really really dumb – try to remember why. They are dumb, emotional, unreasonable, little miracles who have yet to be damaged into the shame, cautiousness, and boundaries that will someday make them socially acceptable adults. So forgive them a little. Laugh at them as quietly as possible. Protect them from the really dangerous hurts by creating and enforcing the boundaries they are not aware that they really need.

Now, I just need to go worry about what all the 30-year-olds are biting their tongue to avoid telling me because it would just be too awkward. Because I am also a miraculously dumb person, just a slightly older and more cautious one than I was 7 years ago…