When I was in Bali in April, I met a man. I could tell you all about the infuriating way he hurt me in the end and lament the way that every time I see his face my heart still sinks into my stomach. But instead, I want to talk about what I’ll choose to remember him by, because it was something that will live inside my soul forever.
At the end of our second night together, as we sat entangled under the moonlit sky with the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing all around us, he read me a poem (I know, I didn’t stand a chance). Read it slowly, read it aloud, maybe even read it as if you were a wildly sexy Argentinian man with soul-crushing lips:
by Marc Napo
If you have one hour of air
and many hours to go,
you must breathe slowly.
If you have one arm’s length
and many things to care for,
you must give freely.
If you have one chance to know God
and many doubts, you must
set your heart on fire.
We are blessed.
Every day is a chance.
We have two arms
Fear wastes air.
Well damn. That last line took the entirety of my breath away: Fear wastes air. Wrap your heart around that one real quick. Breathe it in. Hold it on your tongue. Taste it.
Fear. Wastes. Air.
How many times have you wasted your breath on fear? How many moments have you let pass you by because you were afraid? How many chances have you squandered due to shaky boots?
That voice in your head, that ever-present critic, that asshole inside us that revels in the words: You are not good enough. You will fail. You will make a fool of yourself. Be afraid. Stay safe. Then the world won’t see what a fool you are.
Well that voice, I tell you, is just a big load of crap. It is a waste of your energy, your time, your attention, and your breath. It is a waste of the air in your lungs, lungs that should instead be inhaling and exhaling love every damn chance they get.
Now, while I consider myself pretty close to fearless at this point in my journey in many ways (and it has taken a lifetime of constant work to get to that statement), I still haven’t completely killed that asshole of an inner fearmonger. It comes rearing it’s ugly head from time to time even when I think I’ve crushed it beneath my heel for good. And that critical voice has been on a nagging loop for a whopping two years on the subject of telling me that I have no business creating video content (I know, sometimes fear picks extremely practical businesslike things). While I’ve thrived in front of the camera (man was that a giant FU to a lifetime of debilitating performance anxiety), helped create motion content for others, and become wildly comfortable creating still images, when it comes to creating video on my own I cower like a puppy in a thunderstorm. Shooting? Lighting? Sound? Editing? Blech. NO THANK YOU. Even though I had a moment of bravery and bought a fancy camera with video capabilities, I just sat and stared at it for months. And even though it comes with me where ever I go, it sits gathering dust, radiating echoes of that fear’s grating words: You will create something horrible, imperfect, ugly, and not good enough. You will fail. But oh hey guess what Fear? I’ll show you. I can’t fail, and I most certainly can’t have the world see my failure if I never produce anything. So I did just that, I simply left the equipment sitting in my bag where it relentlessly gave me the stink eye every time I grabbed my camera to take some stills.
With four days remaining in my trip to Bali this time around, I scooted over to my favorite spot for lunch, Ulekan, so I could order their epic Rijsttafel (a feast of a tasting menu that translates to “rice table”, tapas-eque, and originating from Bali’s Dutch colonial roots) before I went back to the states. As I sat and arranged my little bowls moving them a millimeter to the left then a millimeter right back to the right and tried to get my shot without standing on the table, the couple to my right stared and eventually struck up a conversation. As we chatted, I quickly learned that I was speaking to the owner of the restaurant and their operations head (so obviously I asked them if they minded if I stood on the table and when they emphatically encouraged my climbing habits I knew I had found some new members of my tribe). After I got the photo, we started talking about my new blog, and when they asked what the difference was between my new one and my old, I found myself explaining how I was looking to tell the stories of cultures through the lens of their food, and that I hoped to achieve that through the written word, photography, and creating videos in the kitchens and markets of the world.
Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret I learned a long time ago on a surefire way to trick my fear and force myself to do the things I’ve been paralyzed by due to fear’s voice. By saying out loud to the world “This thing X is what I’m doing, and I’m really fabulous at this thing X, so you should totally hire me/work with me/create with me on this thing X” (even if you are decidedly A. not doing X, B. horrible at this thing X, and C. they probably should run the other direction) somehow the simple act of saying it out loud takes the wind straight out of fear’s sails in an instant. It says: well shit, there’s no turning back now, we’ve told the universe that we’re awesome at this so we better get awesome at it real fast. And you know what? Most of the time, I’m not nearly as far away from being at least alright at that thing X. Because that nasty voice inside us, most of the time, is pretty much 99% bullshit. And guess know how you get awesome at something? We all know the answer. You do it. You fail. You learn. You do it again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. And one day you wake up and your alright has turned into awesome! and you’ve shown that nasty fear voice who’s the big bad beautiful boss.
So when the owner of my favorite restaurant says: “You should come in before you go and shoot a little video on how to make Gado Gado in the Ulekan”, instead of making a million excuses as to why I can not and running far far away, I find myself saying: “Absolutely! Can’t wait! It’s going to be amazing! Let’s do it!”
And I do.
Because fear wastes air.
Because I have committed to quieting that asshole inner voice as often and as ruthlessly as I can. So I can face this world with a brave heart. So I don’t let fear stop me from experiencing all the epic moments that cross my path. So I can fail. So I can grow. So I can breathe with lungs full of vibrant, fearless, beautiful air.
So I can kick fear’s annoying little ass.
Be sure to set your Video Playback quality to 1080 HD
(just click on the little gear wheel in the bottom right of the video once it starts playing)
(courtesy of The Good Food Brotherhood / Ulekan Bali, translated and modified by yours truly)
30 grams bean sprouts
35 grams long beans
25 grams tempe, cut into 2.5 cm chunks
35 grams white cabbage, cut into 5cm chunks
35 grams potato, cut into large chunks
40 grams Kacang Tanah (try to get the small fresh Asian peanuts), fried
2 grams Garlic, fried
1 gram Cabe Keriting (hot chili pepper, you can try your favorite spicy red from Thai to Fresno if you can’t get Balinese chilis)
1 gram Sea Salt
5 grams Kaffir Lime Juice (worth the hunt to find, it’s just not the same without. In a pinch you can use traditional limes)
2 milliliters Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce, you can find this at most Asian markets)
5 grams Palm Sugar (or dark brown sugar)
5 milliliters Water
1 half of a hard boiled egg
1 Emping Cracker
1 gram Bawang Goreng (fried shallots! Make a huge batch- here’s a great recipe)
2 grams Kemangi (lemon or holy basil)
Get everything prepped for the ulekan
Boil all your vegetables (separately) in salty water until crisp tender, then shock in ice water, then dry, then chop into bite sized pieces. You can do this ahead and store for a couple days in the fridge in an airtight container.
The way I like it: your sprouts and long beans will only take about 2-3 minutes, the cabbage about 5, and your potato about 15. Ulekan recommends 10 minutes each, 15 minutes for the potato.
Fry your tempe in coconut oil for about 2 minutes until crisp. Blot dry with a paper towel.
Fry your peanuts in a dry pan over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes until fragrant and toasted.
Fry your garlic clove in a dry pan over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes.
Fry your chili pepper in a dry pan over medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes.
Hard boil your egg.
Put it all together
Place peanuts, garlic, chili, salt, palm sugar, lime juice, and the sweet soy sauce in a large Ulekan. Start pressing and crushing until it starts to blend, then slowly add water until you reach your desired sauce consistency. All ingredients should be well blended.
Carefully fold your vegetables into the sauce and gently toss to coat.
Transfer to your serving dish, and add all the garnish!
A giant thank you to Eve Lou, Jordie, and the rest of the incredible team at Ulekan Bali for opening your doors and kitchen to me, to Ruth Allmark from The Vegan Edit for standing on a table and balancing on a high chair for a hot minute, and the talented Lars Anderson of Lars Attacks! for the sweet tunes. You are all f-ing brilliant.