On Toast

I was at a diner with my Dad a few weeks ago, and in ordering breakfast, he requested that his toast be burnt. The owner paused for a moment, but nodded, and went back to the kitchen. When our breakfasts arrived, sure enough, the toast was well done.

My Dad is so specific about his toast that this year he bought a new toaster, in the hopes of achieving toasting perfection. He knows the difference between dry toast, burnt toast, crunchy toast, and any other modifier you can think of. I have never thought this much about toast in my life, nor used the word so much in a sentence.

I grew up thinking my Dad liked burnt things — when he would accidentally burn a batch of cookies, or leave a hamburger on the grill for too long, he would laugh it off and eat it anyway. He ate his mistakes, moved on, and somewhere in the process developed a very specific attitude toward toast.

This year has been my year of burnt toast. I had something of a high school reunion at a funeral. A family member I cherished, respected, and rooted a piece of my personal story in, passed away after a long and beautiful life. I spent half the year unhappy beyond belief in a job that asked me to be something I was not, and I wasn’t even able to admit how unhappy I was. I was then laid off from said job, and spent the other half of the year unemployed and staring down a black hole of personal crisis (not that you would have guessed that, my posts on here are nothing but sunshine and rainbows).

I messed up a lot. I neglected relationships, and ran broken hearted from others. I wallowed, selfishly, in circumstance. I forgot what was most important to me, and let that confusion build a barrier between myself and others. I wasn’t honest with myself, and let friends and family down numerous times. I didn’t show up this year.

This is my burnt toast, my blackened cookies, my charred burger. Hindsight lets me see that while this year was bad, I also wasn’t at my best, and that is something to learn from.

Chatting with Dad the other night, he said “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, almost as if in passing. Never has Kelly Clarkson (she said it first, right?) been so right and has it been so clear why he prefers darker toast than most. In learning how to feed a family, switch careers, move countries, and raise children he might have ruined his fair share of food, but he also figured out exactly how he likes his toast (among other things).

I’m not making any resolutions this year. Instead, I recognize what the past year has helped me reap, and I’m going to ensure that stays constant. Never before have I been so sure of my close friendships, and I’m slowly circling in on how to prioritize those people over all other things. I get to practice that at one of my oldest and dearest friends wedding this year, and hold it as a beacon of hope and goodness in the months to come. My career is moving in a surprising, but wonderful, direction and I’m excited to build it upward and onward. More than anything though, I’m working hard. I know that I’m going to burn a lot of food, I’m going to eat it, and while I might not like it, I’m just going to keep toasting.

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