Saturday, January 13, 2007

It's not you, it's business

tick tick tick
The sound of heated metal. It goes tick, tick, tick. Usually at 2am—when my apartment drops a few degrees and the thermostat kicks on those damned baseboard heaters. It is this very sound that awoke me from a deep sleep this morning. A long deep sleep at that. It's not uncommon for me to sleep for long periods of time after being emotionally drained. I passed out around 7:30pm last night. I slept a full 12 hours through the night, only to wake up this morning still fired up about my week. I can't shake it off.
Growing up, I remember finding myself in lots of childish fights with my younger brother. No matter the situation, he would not let up. I would storm out of the room, slamming the door behind me and he would open the door and slam it again—stealing my thunder. I always thought that as I grew older, this would not happen. I would have my thunder and those around me would admit their defeat. One thing I have learned is that some people can not see when they are wrong. Their blurry eyes see the world in a tunnel where they are always correct. If something goes wrong, there is always someone they can blame.
For the last few months, I have been working part time at a design studio. Every morning I went to work at the studio until noon and then went to my other design job in the afternoon. Although I was a graphic designer at both of my jobs, I had a completely different experience at both. The studio job was a very controlled micromanaged environment in which I was given very few responsibilities and no independence. Then in the afternoons I was basically my own boss. I had complete responsibility and total freedom. I was trusted and respected and worked on a large variety of projects. Although both jobs were like night and day, I really enjoyed the variety. I felt I was doing well at both and doing so much made me feel like superwoman. I like to conquer challenges and feel invincible. Plus I felt I was learning so much.
My mornings where usually very tedious. I spent my time dropping copy into a template another designer had designed. Then I would go through the copy and make adjustments. Superscript the ®'s, the %'s, and the TM's. Kern that lower case "l". Italicize where needed. Change dashes to em or en dashes as needed. Find and replace extra spaces at the beginning of a sentence. Apply the appropriate styles to the text. Remove widows and hanging words. Read through it one last time. Hit print. I would then take the print to my boss and he would look it over. He always found mistakes no matter how hard I tried to make it perfect. It actually seemed like the harder I tried to make it perfect, the more mistakes he found. There were other projects as well as the copy heavy books. I really enjoyed working on print samples and flash animations. Somehow I always found myself anticipating the moment I could leave. Leave to go be free and do what I love.
So this week I was faced with a decision. My afternoon job offered me a full time position. This meant I would have to quit my morning job. I was hoping to continue at both positions for another 6 months or so. I wanted to have that studio experience under my belt and I still had not proved myself there. I didn't want to leave until I had proven my talents. So the next day I went into my morning job to discuss this with my boss. He offered me a full time job. I was a little shocked by this offer because I was under the impression that he didn't really like my work. So I told him that I would think about it.
At some point during my last semester in college, I went to speak to one of my instructors. I wanted some advice to help me decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life. At the time I was working as an intern at the job that is currently my afternoon job (in house designer). She asked me what I wanted to do as a designer. I told her I didn't know. I remember she looked back at me a little surprised and said, "I think you do know, because I think your already doing it." I thought about this while I was deciding between these two jobs. I have always loved my afternoon job. Although they could not pay me as much, its a better environment for me and I promised myself I would never make decisions based off money—as long as I was paying rent and not living on the streets. Suddenly the choice was easy.
The next day I went into my morning job and told my boss my decision. I told him I would finish all my projects and work until the end of the month. He told me that he understood my decision. Then he asked if I knew anyone who would want that job. Then something unexpected happened. He sat down and looked at me through the corner of his eye. Then he said,"I want someone with experience, at least three years."
I cocked my head to the side a little surprised— in my head I counted back the nearly three years of experience I have had.
He continued,"Your just too inexperienced. I have to watch everything you do. You don't know what to look for."
I starred blankly back at him, unsure how to respond to this attack, It was only a day ago that he told me he liked my work and offered me a full time position. So I just said "okay..." . Then I turned around and went to my desk. Still stunned, I watched as he called his partner into his office and closed the door behind him. I could hear his voice was angry and I knew I was the focus of the conversation. The office was old, long and narrow. I pretended to print something and walked down the hallway to the very back where the printer was located. I leaned my body against the printer and starred out the window. Tears began to form in my eyes. I felt as though I had failed. I wondered if I had it in me to be a designer. My boss has ten times the experience that I have had and he had just told me I didn't have it in me.
I left the office sad and defeated. I went to my afternoon job and my mood was obvious. Everyone was concerned about me and I couldn't even talk without my quivering voice and teary eyes getting in the way. I felt like I had just been kicked out of a bad episode of the twilight zone. I talked to my afternoon boss and she reassured me. I began to feel better and found comfort in the good experiences I have had as a designer.
Then I did something amazing.
The next morning I got up and went to my morning office. I walked up the stairs and straight into my boss's office. I told him I wanted to talk. Then I said:
"I really admire the work you do here, and the opportunity you have given me. When I took this job, I was so excited. I wanted to work with other designers and learn as much as I could. I think that it turned out a little different than what I expected. I was always top of my class and I have always done very well with everything I have done. I am a good designer. What you said to me yesterday was uncalled for. The only thing I did wrong was not having enough confidence in myself to tell you to let me do my job."
My eyes were turning red and my voice was shaky at this point. He disagreed with what I said and told me again that he thought I was inexperience and had an inability to work with deadlines.
I then told him I had no reason to finish off the month and I went to get my things off my desk—only to remember that the only thing I had brought was my umbrella. I grabbed my umbrella and turned around and faced him. Then he said, "It's not you, it's business. You'll be fine." I turned around and walked out the door.

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