Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Past Came Knocking

I remember when I first moved here, everyone asked for more pictures in my posts. The publications I write for want first rights to Dan's pictures and rightly so. Plus, he has his blog where he posts a new picture every day.  I don't have any pictures for mine, so I am borrowing ones from his blog.
I spoke with my old friend John for about four hours yesterday. Luckily, we both have iPhones so we didn’t completely use up our minutes! He and I used to work together as editors, and since we left, he has become a manager. 
At first we spoke about his upcoming trip to Kauai in July. He and his wife will be spending 8 days on our lovely island, their first time to Hawaii and their first real vacation in seven years. We are excited to be able to give them an insiders view of our paradise!
We moved onto the subject of “luxury” items. When we were in Colorado, Dan and I were spinning round and round on life’s hamster wheel, striving for the American Dream. Trying to move up the corporate ladder, spending as much money as we made. Saving only in the form of a 401k, furnishing our home, fixing our yard up and relishing in short lived weekends and vacations. Luxury was having health insurance, a beautiful home, a big TV, two new cars; all the Good Stuff.
What we didn’t have was time. Time to let life in. To make connections.  We were too busy, too anchored by all the stuff to live moment by moment. We had to strive for more as a personal challenge and to pay for our lifestyle. 
Our new luxury item is time. The island works at its own pace and that pace is slow. When we first got here, we were frustrated by that pace and we aimed to change things. Slowly, the island changed us. We move slower and we like it. No more heart racing, pulse pumping “we have to get there now or we’re going to be late!” mentality.
I realized I have become a more patient person. I have learned to “let go and let god.” I believe if I do my best, the rest will be taken care of in ways I could never imagine. I believe this because this is what is happening. I’m an “it is what it is, live and let live” kind of girl now.
The conversation was cathartic for me. John is my good friend and he has always been an active and caring listener. He has heard me vent about my frustrations so many times, I am now embarrassed. When I started talking about why we left, I started getting angry. I didn’t realize how angry until he had to interrupt my rant to place his take out order inside a restaurant. I was so caught up in that past drama, I didn’t even realize he had gotten into his car and drove anywhere! Don’t worry, he uses a headset.
That interruption made me pause, and in that short time I realized how angry I still was about working there. I apologized when he got back on and we made our way to the changes he has made since being a manager and the difficulty he faces, mostly from his coworkers. John has always had a kind and compassionate heart, that’s one of the things I love about him. I remember years before he got the job, he was reading books and articles on how successful businesses were managed. Maybe he knew he was going to be a manager, he never said anything about it, and I thought he was just interested in how successful businesses did it. 
He said when he got the job, his coworkers teased him about his new clothes. It stung, but he shrugged it off (because that’s what he does) and tried to make the best of it. They challenged him to remain friends, to not be taken over by the dreaded Manager Slime. But, they broke the bond first. When he tried to join them for lunch, just like he had been doing for the past 10 years, they teased him. “What? Is it OK that you sit with us lower people?” It made him so uncomfortable, he doesn’t do it anymore.
When we got off the phone I felt bad about spending so much time complaining about the past, but I was glad to hear the changes he is making: no more 8 a.m. roll call for one. I went to bed wondering about how much anger I still had inside me for that place.
This morning I realized that the reason I had such a hard time is not because I was bad at my job, which deep down I knew since I always got good reviews. The lack of leadership, managers who are not unified and an (unconscious?) desire to set their staff up for failure is what made my time so hard there. The commonality between the managers is ego, that’s it. Everything was ego driven. Every manager looked out for himself, and gave the people they liked, and the people who were in their proximity, the “promotions.”*

I cared about my work, I cared about the company and I cared about my career. I was reliable, dedicated and hard working. When the company began to migrate to a different platform, I came in on my days off to learn it. When I told the director of the department he asked me “Why did you do that? Wouldn’t you have preferred to walk your dogs instead?” 
I was stunned but I didn’t let that stop me. I continued to invest my free time into becoming proficient in a complex, half-a-million dollar edit bay. I still got nowhere and four other guys got “promoted” into those positions. My friends, sensing my frustration, suggested it was a clear case of sexual discrimination. I didn’t want to believe it. I was so frustrated, I began applying for lower paying jobs within the company. Company policy meant that I had to tell my boss what I was doing. When he asked why, I told him. I said I couldn’t figure it out, it made no sense. An editor with 20 years in the industry, and 10 at that company, should not have this problem. When I told him what my friends thought, he took it to HR.
The director got demoted and I began a new campaign. I sent out emails to all the producers asking them to book me on the weekends (again, on my time) and my boss began telling me my name frequently came up in manager meetings, and that I “was the poster child for editors who wanted to move into DS,” the high end edit bays. 
My boss designed a new DS edit bay but was different from the rest. It was a self contained unit. The entire process; off-line editing, finish editing and audio sweetening, could be done in there. He didn’t think of me when it came time to staff it. I immediately asked for a new manager because this, to me, was a betrayal. Especially after what happened by his instigation. It was obvious that he didn’t have my best interest at heart. The new director called a meeting between the three of us, and when I told my boss that I felt betrayed, he didn’t understand.
Meanwhile editors who had less time in the field, editors who had less time on the box and editors who had been banished to the night shift because of drunken tardiness got “promoted.” (To the editor to who I am referring, I love you dearly. Until the day I die I will love you, you are one of my best friends, but it is what it is.)
One weekend morning I was complaining about this to Dan. Please understand, this happened over a course of five years and it became my life. I started doubting myself as an editor, and as a good person. I started blaming myself, and was riddled with self doubt. Dan said I should talk to a different manager, the one who was in charge of the video bays. He suggested I stroke his ego because that’s how he deals with him. He said tell him “You’re the man! You are in charge of all these edit bays. Your the one who has the power to make these decisions.”
 The very next day I was booked in DS! It was bittersweet. After all those years and all that struggle I got what I wanted. What started out in my mind as a natural progression from an outdated platform to a modern one, became a single minded goal. The victory seemed dirty. It seemed like it wasn’t mine.
Was I the best editor there? No. Was I the grumpiest editor there? No. Were there grumpy and mediocre editors in DS? Yes. There was nothing wrong with me. 
Obviously, Dan felt the same way even though he was the “lead editor.” We had different situations but the common theme was that we weren’t being heard. Which means we were not human beings but numbers on a spreadsheet, another notch on a managers belt. So, we decided to level our lives.
That conversation, and having my friend John, who is now a manager, listen, was a gift. I can write this and I am no where near as mad as I was yesterday. My pulse has quickened but I feel detached. The anger has been released and I can look for the lessons. The first being: When it doesn’t feel right, when you have to try too hard, when you feel like you are not being heard, move on.  Life is too short.
The conversation allowed me to release the bitter feelings I had and opened me up to appreciate the good things that came my way by working there; friendships, personal and professional growth and the money to start over.
Now, my “luxury” item is living. Really living, feeling and connecting to people. I also get to do something I am passionate about, and get paid for it. And, of course, I live in paradise! Everything turns out better when you listen to your heart.
* These positions were an elevation in status only, no pay or title was received by obtaining this level.