Creativity and compartmentalization

keep-your-day-jobMany years ago I had to decide whether to continue on as I was, resenting my day job for its necessity and having a lot of trouble getting up in the morning, quitting and risking financial security until I found something else I could get behind, or actually investing in my current job with a similar effort I put into what I considered my “real” career in the theatre. Of those, the thought of option 1 was unbearable, and the prospect of option 2 was untenable; I had a mortgage, a dog, and needed to eat. It’s another blog post entirely about why I have never seriously considered trying to make my living as an actor, but I did briefly consider it at the time and dismissed it for the same old reasons.

That left me with option 3: investment. I spend a total of fifty hours a week getting to, being at, and getting home from my Day Job, and who does it benefit to simply throw those fifty hours into a vortex of negativity and eye-rolling? One day at a time I focused on not complaining (note I did not say “not feeling”) and not blaming everyone else there for my unhappiness and discontent. With every frustration that arose I forced myself to ask, “What part of this is mine? Can I make it better?” and to actively let go of the things that weren’t mine. Expecting the office politics, the managerial disinterest, and the general bad attitudes of others to change was not rational. I could only change me,

Right away I was able to unemotionally identify the things I liked about the job: several of my co-workers were funny, caring, warm people who I wanted to get to know better, the actual work that I often got to do was creative, interesting, and personally challenging, and many of the projects my company worked on were worthy of pride and admiration (and part of my job was to showcase and highlight those projects in order to win new work). I was also able to identify what I did not like without immediately trying to solve all the problems myself. Eventually I came to understand that the things I did not like were not problems for me to solve, and if I did not like it, then I did not have to choose to work there. It always come back to the same principle of acceptance. If I cannot accept things as the really are, right now, then I must make a change. In this case, I needed to more fully understand and invest in what I was trying to accept (or not), before making a decision.

Eventually, despite the many friends I made there, I stopped choosing it. But it wasn’t until I had given it my full attention that I was able to build the confidence in myself that I needed to go out and find something better. For eight years I had lamented what I perceived to be a grossly specific skill set as not being applicable to other industries, but that was just the nonsense I told myself to keep myself stuck. An opportunity soon arose through an old boss to move into a new industry (somewhat “adjacent” to the one I’d left, however), at a company with a stellar reputation, and I won the job on the merits of a good attitude, a strong work record, and a skill set that was not as specialized as I’d imagined. My salary requirements were met and then some, and I had the pleasure of being courted and negotiated with through the process.

I’m still working with these folks and am grateful everyday to get to work with people who are good at what they do. At the end of the day, that’s what’s most important to me. Having worked for a lot of people who aren’t…well, it’s a unique brand of frustration. This job isn’t perfect, and I’d give my right arm if I never had to work in PowerPoint again, but it’s stable, challenging, and I’m well compensated. Two weeks ago I was awarded a Best of the Midwest award for support staff (though I was in final dress rehearsal and wasn’t there to pick it up). My job has allowed my husband to pursue acting and writing projects while being home to run the household (which saves my sanity every single day). I support fifteen people that I like and who I am pretty sure like me. I enjoy coming to work everyday.

But WOW, that was all just background to what I really wanted to talk about. This morning I was browsing ThinkStock for images to include in a PowerPoint (yes, I know — but at least it is being used in this case for its intended purpose and not as a substitute for a Real Program like InDesign…). We want the presentation to be clean with slides dominated by a representative image and just a few words to get the point across.

Now, I admit I am really good at finding images that intellectually represent the idea, but where I fall down on the job is in identifying images that really grab you AND illustrate the point. At the very moment I should be identifying how powerful the impact of an image is, I am over-analyzing instead. Which is odd because I’m a trained actor whose spent the last twenty-something years learning to pay attention to my instincts and responses. Apparently even though I have learned to embrace the Day Job as more than just a fact of life, I still have not given my true self over to what I do here everyday. I’m thinking it’s time for another paradigm shift — bringing myself to my present no matter where I am, and seeing what happens then.

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