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.