A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts –
“Resiliency, not perfection, is the signature of greatness.”
Jim Collins, author of Built to Last –
When I first began my working life as a young college grad I moved to New York and found employment as an office temp. For a day or a week or a month I would work for American Express, Newsweek, Met Life or Calvin Klein but eventually I would move on. Many offers of full time employment came to me but each time I graciously declined. I thrived on the flexibility which allowed for auditions and acting jobs and for days off when I wanted them. It was exciting never to know where I would be from day to day. There was lots of work in those days and when there was down time no one minded if I read a book. Because I never had to deal with the politics of whatever workplace I happened to be in, my employers and I were always in the “honeymoon” stage. They were always courting me but we never got married.
As wonderful as this was, it is possible that this early experience affected my ability to deal with conflict in the workplace. When I decided to become a teacher and secured my first full-time job with benefits, I was horrified to discover a few students who seemed to hate me. The fact that others loved me was no consolation and within my first month of teaching I was completely thrown. This brings to my mind the movie Kindergarten Cop in which there is a scene where Pamela Reed tells Arnold Schwarzenegger that the five year olds in his class can feel his fear. As he lies on his bed in complete exhaustion, she tells him he must not be moved or he will lose them. So he gets out his policeman’s whistle and slowly whips the little kiddies into shape.
Like Arnie, I have discovered that when you stick with a situation for a long time, things can come full circle. Sometimes it is the students who resist you most in the beginning who end up loving you best in the end. This principle applies to many aspects of life. It applies to family, it applies to friends and it applies to a career in the arts. Sowing seeds, standing your ground and all the while remaining vulnerable is an art. It is easy to get angry or self righteous. It is easy to run. It is horribly uncomfortable to stay confident and compassionate and just wait. These days when I feel like running from an uncomfortable moment with someone or even with my own thoughts, I whisper to myself, “Lean in!” Staying with the bad moment often results in a change in my thinking and it always results in more positive relationships.
Of course, this doesn’t mean no one should ever temp. Last month I went back to New York to take a Catherine Fitzmaurice voice and movement workshop. While I was there I ventured down to 100 Maiden Lane where the elite firm of Cadwalader, Wickerham and Taft used to be. With fondness I recalled temping off and on for a group of fantastic lawyers who always asked me back. It’s a residential building now but the architecture is exceptionally beautiful so I decided to zip inside to look at the atrium. Curran the security guard greeted me at the doorway with delight. He remembered me after all these years!
Everything has its own full circle.
That is so cool he remembered you.
You would be amazed by who thinks about you, Janae’! You might like this story about a New York agent who remembered me and what it led to…he’s still in my life!
Great insight! It is an important reminder to ‘stick with it,’ no matter how challenging things may feel, and to remember that most obstacles are not as bad as they may seem. This helped me to remember that my self-confidence should not waver based on just a few bad reviews or opinions.
I am so glad it helped you, Thanks, Julia!
I liked your metaphor about work as a temp and marriage.
It is very important to keep at things even when times get tough. I wrestle and find that I struggle day in and day out and without this type of work ethic I would not go far. You are very right, it is easy to run from problems but to face them it takes courage.
I really like the message of sticking to something even if you feel that it is going nowhere. It can apply to so many situations in life, now and later.
I have come to understand that life tends to move in seasons. I think this touches on the same idea. At different times, you may find yourself in the fresh springtime, with plenty of new opportunity and where progress seems natural. There may be other times you are in the bleak winter, struggling just to keep yourself going against the harsh winds of life. Press on knowing winter will always come full circle back to spring.
Thank you, Ben. That’s how I feel about the whole year. I so appreciate your wisdom, your support and some hard lessons. And now that we’ve come full circle we can sing Keith Green together!
I have had a few of my own moments of coming full circle recently. When the Warner Pacific Wind Ensemble had their year-end concert last Friday, I had my family (Mom, Dad, and 7 younger sibling) over at my apartment for supper. As I was working on the mashed potatoes, my 15 year-old brother came up to me and said that a couple of my high school teachers offered their congratulations on a couple of awards I had won. One of these award, the one I was most surprised to receive, was for my Senior thesis paper. I remember when I first heard about the award in my freshman year, thinking quite clearly, “I want that.” It was not an award I ever thought I would actually get. When the award was being presented and “Ecclesiastes” was mentioned, my first thought was “did somebody else use it?” I am right back where I was four years ago, apprehensively looking towards graduation and an uncertain future. But I have more friends and I am closer to the idea of who I am than I was then, and in that I can say I am happy.
Besides the full circle analogy, I like how you intergraded your passion for acting. It wasn’t about the job or the money, it was about your passion for acting. You realized that to get what you want you need to make space for it. I recently had to make space for my passion also, so this was a great relating topic.
Similar to what you express in your post, I do believe that it is sometimes those who you have the most conflict end up being the ones who you connect with the most. I like to believe that this is because a greater effort has to be made to meet on common group. Mutual effort and dedication needs to be made in order for any sort of positive relationship to be made. I have experienced this personally in my life and I agree with this theory.
This would is vast, but it is smaller than we think. The work we put into everyday life has a bigger effect than we realize. Our efforts to be the best person possible can be difficult, but it will leave an impression. Someone out there will benefit from a good action or behavior. You will not be rewarded for every good act you do, it is the constant attitude that is rewarded.
I like how you talked about getting out of our comfort zones. That’s something I struggle with a lot.