Nearly Almost Had It All Career-wise

I had the opportunity come up to work on a big project that is currently being done locally. Someone from that project contacted one of the higher-ups of my organization, they recommended me, I sent in my resume and my hours that I would be available, and they forwarded that email to the appropriate person on their end. I was excited, because it’s a side of industry that I haven’t gotten to do since 2009 and it would have been my first time doing it at such a high level. Not as a creative lead, but the process would have given me so much experience that I was willing to overextend myself to make it happen.

Then it came. The email from the person that was the creative lead. And it was a firm job offer sitting in my inbox. I could have been head of the department, but I was needed for 12 hour days 5-6 days per week for five weeks. And I had to turn it down. I again offered the hours that I could commit to for a lower position, and I recommended a few other locals that could potentially fill in too, but they wound up bringing in a non-local. My town just isn’t a freelance town. We can’t clear weeks of our calendar on two weeks notice. Even when I was freelancing full time out in CA, I would run into this though. People wanting me to commit on days’ notice when I was usually booked months in advance.

There were bitter feelings on my end, for a little bit. I hate turning down opportunities. Hate feeling trapped. And my ego flared a little, wanting to say yes just to have that on my resume, just for bragging points to boost my opportunity for marketing myself online a little. But that bitterness was short-lived, which honestly surprised me a little. I have such a great blend of job security and creative freedom with the organization I’m at now that I would be foolish to sacrifice that in the name of my ego. I have a huge project I’m working on for them that wraps up when this other project would be finishing, where even if the other project had taken me up on my offer of working partial days or one to two days per week I would have been taking away from the quality of my work for my regular employer. And honestly, with wanting one more child soon, I don’t want to get back into that side of the business yet that requires me to work 12-16 hour days away from my children. Yes, I’m working days like that sometimes now, but I can do some of it from home or after my son goes to sleep. I can have him come into work with me. I fully plan on having my next child at work with me for most of the first 6 months, and my work is going to be fine with that.

There is a part of me, though, that mourns the loss of that parallel-life me that focused everything on business, just as there is mourning for the parallel-life me that was 100% a stay-at-home mom. Staying the middle course has given me so much joy and growth as a human being, but it also comes with frustration and exhaustion from the constant tug-of-war. I try my best to avoid asking “what if’s” in my life, but every once in a while, maybe when the veils thin, I feel my other selves on their paths, and I feel a longing for their experiences in addition to my own.  It’s very strange.

Anyway, I’m not entirely shelving the option to branch into that part of my field sometime in the future, and I won’t stop offering my assistance when the opportunities come up as much as I’m able to, but it will be more years down the road before I am willing to sacrifice the time away from my family. And that’s okay.

The Destruction of a Child

I went into an inner city elementary school last week with several people from my work as part of an arts initiative, and I witnessed something very troubling to me. While in the midst of working with a kindergarten class, in a somewhat chaotic situation, one of the teacher aides began yelling and berating a little boy who had started crying. This boy was sitting in his seat, sobbing, and the teacher aide kept going “Stop crying! You have nothing to cry about! Do you want to be taken out of here? Stop crying right now!” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach, as I was continuing to work with the other children, and all of the children surrounding this one stopped smiling and immediately blank faced, not making eye contact, not betraying a single emotion themselves. None of the other teacher aides interceded, and finally the nasty aide pulled the boy out of the room and got him to calm down and brought him back.

I had to walk away. I wanted so badly to slap the lady, to scream at her that she was causing possibly irreparable damage to a potentially already damaged child, not to mention the effect on the rest of the kids, but I was a guest to the school. And, had I done that, who knows what effect that would have had on the students? As soon as I knew I could speak, I did tell one of the people from our organization that is in that school on a regular basis, and she said “Well, we don’t know that situation. It could be a child that just cries for attention. We don’t know what’s going on and can’t judge.” So we went about our business and left. But all I could think is that even if a child is ‘just crying for attention’, it means that something is wrong somewhere, and shouldn’t a little effort be made to find out what was wrong? Maybe he was scared, or had to go to the bathroom, or has some undiagnosed SPD issues. It could be anything, and screaming at him isn’t helping him in the least.

The faces of the other children were what did me in. The total shutting down at such a young age. How often have they had their sense of “I am” destroyed in their short lives by those that are supposed to be caring for and instructing them? How many times have they been told not to speak or show emotion or disrupt what is going on around them? And how many more times can they take such treatment before they permanently shut down? And while I can’t help but have empathy for the aide, who is probably only repeating a cycle that was done to her, or maybe is just too run down with working against the odds in a neighborhood like that with so little resources, or who knows what, I can’t condone the treatment to those students. It is detrimental to all of us in society to allow these cycles to continue.

If I worship anything in this life beyond a generic “higher power”, it is the divine potential we each carry within us, the spark of creation and possibility that exists in our minds and souls. I think this is why I love young children so much. Up until sometime between age 5 and 8, their minds are so open to everything, so willing to soak in life and experience things on both a micro and macro level, and all of their possible future selves coexist in their beings. Then, at some point, the possible future selves get whittled down by outside forces and we become solidified into who we will become and breaking out of those walls grows very difficult. So when I see someone who is supposedly an authority over a young child abusing the position and not treating their responsibilities with care, it is a polluting of something sacred to me. And it hurts. A lot.

At the very least, everyone in the class, including the sobbing boy, enjoyed the work we did and got to be active participants in the program. They got to experience something they’ve never experienced before, and with a little encouragement and praise, they were beaming and excited. And maybe what we presented will be something that will get at least a handful of them through their difficult young lives and able to pull themselves out of the cycle they are currently trapped in. But my heart grieves for the ones that are lost already.

Project Mayhem

I am wrapping up one insane project at work before having about three days to get another one on it’s feet (I’m determined to do this in a way that gives me Saturday completely off… we’ll see if I manage it). While I managed to not have to pull any complete all-nighters, I’m sore and tired, clocking over 75 hours last week and will have put in between 50 to 60 this week. And while I will do my best to only put in 20-30 hours the next two weeks to rest up and use some of those extra hours I’ve banked, I’m in talks to take on a freelance project with an outside company because it is a lucrative offer with a local-ish company that could provide further opportunities in the future, and hey, I’ve got some spare extra hours now.

It is crazy that I put myself through this, absolutely crazy. Any spare moment that I have not been working, I’ve been spending with my son or sleeping. I haven’t exercised, meditated, done my morning pages, played any of my instruments, or touched any personal creative projects. I’m going to have to shell out for a massage because I’m so physically strained. And I only made one brief Facebook post on my personal page about Baltimore and haven’t really had any time to contemplate the earthquake, which is not like me. The company I’m working for really overextended itself on this one for the size that it is, unaware even til last week of how large the project had actually grown. And I asked a coworker why we put ourselves through this, what kind of sado-masochist tendencies actually allow us to simultaneously love and hate what we do and to repeatedly put ourselves through the blender, and her response was “Well, it’s the challenge, isn’t it?” And that is absolutely true. Someone lays out a project for me, and even if my initial response in my head is “You want me to do what?!” but in the back of my mind, I’m already trying to figure out a solution. I love accomplishing the impossible. But is it stupid that I do this? I don’t know. At least my current employer is willing to listen when I say “If we do this again, we need to do XYZ because this was almost impossible to do.” And they will provide the resources whenever they can.

I do not enjoy doing puzzles or playing a lot of games for entertainment. I would much rather be sitting at the table knitting or sketching and talking with people while they play. I think that life, for me, is the puzzle and the game, and I find strategizing and solving real-life problems in creative ways infinitely more interesting and satisfying. Again, I don’t know what that says about my personality.

Next week, if I don’t dive into the freelance project, I’ll take a couple of days to heal up and get into my own space again. And take steps for the next project to minimize some of the crazy.