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I’m just saying

When I was in college, I studied abroad in Athens. One day in Greek language class we were practicing vocabulary words, and we all had to say what we wanted to be our profession. I said “actress.” My dad used to tease me that I could be a “doctor on TV” because I loved science, but was very bad at it, and I liked theater and acting. I really wanted to go live in Ashland, OR, and work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I never really knew what I wanted to do.

I really wanted to make theater, but I never settled on one specific role in there, or goal. I wanted to make theater, or work at a theater, and work with my friends, but also work with cool artists. I started out working at a box office and stage managing shows and worked as a business manager for a small theater part-time. It was really fun. I was really broke. So I took a day job with health benefits. I still worked on shows at night, but I completely stopped acting. Eventually, I stopped doing theater completely. Then I went to graduate school for arts administration, thinking that would be a creative career for someone who didn’t want to be in rehearsal all the time, subsidizing a career in stage management with a day job I didn’t like.

Anyway, here I am 5 years later. I worry that I don’t have a dream, or that my dream is really not a dream at all, but rather some kind of functional self-preservation thing that I am doing because I like to buy shoes and go on vacation more than I like to get yelled at by directors and doing show laundry that smells like weed and sweat. I knew that I was never going to be a professional actress when I was 22–I can’t sing and I look terrible on camera (I was even too embarrassed to get head shots, and I look like a freaky monster on film). But performing was so fun, and so easy. Stage managing was harder, but I still got to be in the room, to make suggestions and observations, and to see a lot of beautiful work. It seemed like a good compromise. In a theater scene where nobody got paid, I would get paid a couple hundred dollars. One stipend paid for my vacation to see my boyfriend who was teaching summer camp for gifted kids in upstate New York. But it wasn’t a living, and unless I stopped working with the artists I liked, it never would be.

So arts administration was my new dream, and graduate school was my way to escape Chicago and find a place that was “more serious.” I love arts administration, in contexts where I am not treated like I am a dumb idiot. It’s fun, and challenging, and I think I’m good at it. Also, I’m not working in theater anymore, I’m working in dance, and services for artists. So is this really my dream?

I ask not because of the Les Mis song that I have been listening to nonstop for two weeks, but because I just watched Sleepwalk With Me which I loved, which is a movie about a comedian trying to launch his comedy career while his relationship falls apart and he develops a serious sleep disorder. It’s wonderful, and available on Netflix streaming. It’s a movie about being an artist, and sacrificing (not in a good way) for his art. It was sad and funny, and honest. When I see movies, plays, art, literature that tackles this subject of why artists create, I get a little sad. Sometimes I think I need a new dream, or that I need to just think of having a dream as more of a goal for having a complete life (you know, a job and a boyfriend or maybe a family,  a house, a hobby, travel, a pet, whatever).

Oof, this is weirdly personal. But I think it’s important for me to think about it.

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The amount of support that I have gotten from everyone who reads this blog and who talks to me in person about my job search and my passion for these issues of human resource, work-life balance, and maintaining mental and emotional clarity while working in nonprofits….you guys, it’s extraordinary.

I am so touched by your support, and your love and friendship. I never thought this blog would be anything other than a boredom-induced vanity project, and I feel that it has become so much more because of its amazing readership.

Hugs, you guys! I truly love you a ton.

Hey ladies!

Since when are stripper shoes acceptable office wear? Yes, I am being intensely judgmental. But this is serious, as I take shoes very seriously. I am constantly shocked by the lady business shoe with the four inch heels and one inch platform. As we move into winter, I am less angered by the craziness I see below the ankles of the Midtown ladies, but still…it’s not okay.

Anyway, I say this in advance of a big work-related party tonight because I am going to be on the lookout for all these scary work-inappropriate shoes, and I am going to make a list of all of them, and then tell you about how much I hate them.

Oh, man, you guys. I just had a good old-fashioned complain-a-thon with some people I will not further describe or identify, out of deference/privacy.

I have had this conversation many times before, but never with so many sharp, decisive young people who are so totally not interested in being mismanaged. They have some very high expectations. The refrains I heard most often was a desire to not be micromanaged and a desire to be allowed to “take ownership” over their work.

It was fascinating. These young women are too smart to be treated like underlings who are treated as totally replaceable (and openly told they will have opportunity to advance). It’s so interesting (and heartbreaking) to see how much they want to contribute, and how little they feel heard. They have ideas and are really passionate about sharing them. But the frustration they feel at not being allowed to implement new ideas is extraordinary. Their desire to produce work that is not edited or approved by (a chain of) other people is extreme.

They are also keenly aware of the “brand” of the organization they work for. They see organizational dysfunction as deleterious to that brand and to their careers. They see themselves as untapped resources that are being ignored and wasted, and they do not feel that they can have a positive impact on organizational culture.

This little “focus group” was so fascinating. Oh, wow, I am going to be thinking about this for a while. This is why we can’t always have lunch at our desks, you learn too much when you go outside the office.

 

If a manager is so busy that they don’t have time to prioritize and delegate, then the support staff for that manager cannot be held responsible when things go off the rails.

When you need help, ask for it, and be specific about the task you need done. Help isn’t helping if you just stand around waiting for instructions.

An assistant isn’t someone who just watches you work.

To Read:

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Life Meets Art, Jersey Shore Edition

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All Our Tragic

By Sean Graney. 32 Greek tragedies adapted into 1 play.

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from scratch. all the time.