In my early 20s, I moved to San Francisco for about a year and a half. I had a short opportunity to work as a cook on the line at Mc2 Restaurant with the chef, Yoshi Kojima. On my first day, I was charged with filling a pan of ginger brunoise. The ginger had to be peeled and cut so that each particle (as they'd become at that point!) was a perfect 1/8th-inch cube. I worked for thirty frantic minutes on this project before the chef came over, grabbed a small handful of my work and slid it across his fingertips. He shook his head at me and threw the whole container away. "Some of that wasn't totally square," he reported. "Do it again."
I grumbled and started again, but I felt somebody watching me. Great, I thought, as if it wasn't bad enough already. I looked up into the separate part of the kitchen where the pastries were made. The assistant pastry chef, a young woman of about my age, stood there smiling in her white jacket. I remember her standing next to a large amount of fig ice cream, though it could have been any version of the spectacular flavors that she used to put together.
Her smile was a softening force to the minor insult I'd just taken. Gianina Serrano invited me up into the cocoa dusted pastry kitchen and introduced herself. After I told her my name and we chatted for a minute, she told me something else. "Whenever I walk into a room, it's my goal to make sure that everybody there feels popular. Everyone should feel that way. It's one of the most important things."
I instantly decided that I loved this person. I returned to the line to finish the brunoise and get on with the rest of my laboriously perfectionist food prep (which, granted, Yoshi turned into small miracles on his plates.)
In the sixteen years since I met Gianina (who now owns the Sixth Course where she delves into small-batch confectionery that will make you drool on your keyboard), I have remembered her words thousands of times. She is one of the bright stars along my path in this world that have helped to teach me what true healing really is. Of course it's what we eat and how we exercise and all of that. But more so, we need to want to eat well and exercise because we believe that we are truly worth it, that we are valued by our community and that we are absolutely loved. It really is one of the most important things that we touch each other with our words, that we reach out with love and that we hear that same love when it's given back to us. Our hearts blossom with this and the rest of us follows.
May you truly feel popular (beloved, notable, well-liked, in demand, praised, preferred, all the rage, accepted, embraced) today and may you pass that same feeling along to a few others as you make your way through the week.