Nitty Gritty Sweaty Summer Night Update

I hate to say this outloud in the wide world web and somehow jinx it, but I can’t believe how good my life is right now.

By good, I don’t necessarily mean easy or constant pleasant sensations.

More just that I’m resisting myself less and less each month. In that mulchy, juicy process of abandoning words like “should” or “success” or “supposed to be” all sorts of beautiful things are growing.

This time last year I was scrambling to hold together a relationship I was surrounding with a barricade of those words and phrases, coping with my mom’s health uncertainty and crying to strangers in airports on my weekly flights to Florida, and crying over print deadlines at work and then crying again over the fact that they made me cry. And totally artistically uninspired.

But let’s skip the contemplation and get to the nitty gritty.

Did I win the business plan competition? No. But really and truely I was fine with it. I’ve already raised half the amount of money I would of gotten from it (which was $10,000 split between 9 people it turns out, not $10,000 each) in business sponsorships for the season. I have a solid business plan. I have what I want. And, there were really good cream puffs at the dinner.

Did I find a job? Yes. My dream was to never have to leave Mt. Airy during the day. And I got it! I have two part time gigs that are both work from home with flexible hours. And, it turns out, that I’m getting paid well enough between the two that I’ll be making the same salary I’ve been making at Bread & Roses, but spending less with no commute and being able to eat from home. What? What.

One job is working part time for Independent Television Service (ITVS)–which you probably know for their films they screen on PBS on the show Independent Lens–coordinating their community cinema program.

Coordinating film screens for pay=dream job.

Dream job=current reality.

The other job is working part time for Digital Divide Data, which you may have read about it Thomas Friedman’s book. The people are great. It doesn’t hurt my brain or my heart. And I get to work in my pjs if I want with very flexible hours.

And my other job, which I’ll hopefully get to pay myself a tiny stipend for this fall, is my business, The Flickering Light.

I’ve also been hustling all the ways  I know how as I transition out of Bread & Roses and into these jobs, getting paid while babies sleep and scooping cat poop out of litter boxes while their owners are gone.

Did I make it to the final round of the Leeway Foundation Transformation award? Yes. $15,000, unrestricted. Soon, if I’m lucky.

Am I feeling like my “artist self” is emerging? Yes.  Non traditional relationship. Non traditional employment. This is SO much more me.

What I mean by that, is inside I feel so much more whole. At the risk of sounding like a self help book, I have to say that caring increasingly less about how it looks from the outside has allowed me to finally settle into that peace and wholeness within.

I think you get to lead a creative life, or a life where you care what other people think of you. But never both.

Event management and not feeling like you are 11 years old.

Event management is all about attention to detail, juggling multiple tasks and pieces of information at once, and good marketing.

It’s also about not feeling like you are 11 years old.

Unless you were popular when you were 11 and never experienced the terror an hour before the party your mom made you have about whether or not people will show up.

If that feeling never happened to you, it’s probably not worth your time to continue reading.

But, maybe you should consider going into event management.

Hosting events is both joyous and excruciating for me. Given that I just resigned from my job to pursue my dream of hosting film screenings, I need to work on increasing the joyous part of the ratio. Or, learn to endure the physical tension and mental stress embrace the excruciating parts.

Here are some of the things I came up with on my list, which I think is called:
“List of Things To Remember When Putting On Events So That I Don’t Forget That I’m a Well Loved Adult and the World Will Go On No Matter What”

1. At least you tried

My newish manfriend often says this phrase to me, and some wolf like part of me wants to bare my fangs and snarl each time he does.

Her directive? Kill anyone who suggests not being “the best” is okay.

Pretty vicious, I know.

If I’m not directing a feature length film going to Sundance, I’m not a filmmaker. If I don’t sell every seat in the theater, my screening was a failure.

Like that.

Last fall, when my mother got diagnosed with cancer, I had a moment of lucidity. Four of my closest friends have had a parent die in the last nine years. In those scary moments of lack of information and certainty that is so common to the cancer experience, I developed such sincere admiration for those friends.

I think it is a triumph that they get up in the morning, much less that they get PhD’s or run foundations.

All of that is to say that I think we all probably could stand to celebrate just being alive more. Surviving. Anything else beyond survival is incredibly admirable.

I’m getting stuck in this feeling that I haven’t done enough publicity for the next Flickering Light screening. I’m pretty certain at best 20 people will show up (usually there between 60-100).

Can I be okay with that?

How much is actually enough for me to willing to forgive myself for not filling the house?

2. It’s not about you. Sorry.

If 20 or less people show up at the next screening, what happens?

  • My friends and family feel differently about me? No.
  • I lose money? Barely. For now, I’ve purposely set it up that I’d have to have this low of turn out at least three times in a row. In three more screenings I’ll have a bank loan (hopefully) and be working on this part time.
  • I’ll taint or ruin my public persona of being so “together” and successful. Surprise! Sometimes, I’m not that together. Often, I’m a mess in fact.

Event management is so volatile and unpredictable. Yes, there are best practices for marketing. Sometimes weather or pure chance can drastically affect your turn out. Sometimes we stumble, evaluate, and then readjust for the next try. (Those were 11 incredibly challenging words for me to believe when I pieced them together just now.)

Ultimately, it’s not about you as a person, really.

3. It’s okay that there’s no sound.

What’s worse than event management for me? Relying on technology to function in front of a group of people (which is funny, since what I want to do with the time when I’m not putting on events is teach video produciton.)

Every screening, no matter what kind of sound and projection tests I try to do, there’s always some small thing that goes wrong.

Last month for about 30 seconds there was no sound.

I beelined to the back of the theater, cursing high level profanities under my breath.

My super calm A/V pal quickly switched out the lines and saved the day.

Afterward, I reflected on the moment. How silly of me to expend so much energy getting so stressed. So people were uncomfortable for 30 seconds. Maybe even frustrated or angry.

In that moment I was my 11 year old self.

It’s all old stuff. Feeling friendless and unloved. Scared no one will come to my party. Failing to be fun if they do.

I’m thinking that the key is remembering in those 30 silent seconds that there’s nothing but love for me in that moment. Nothing but love.

4. There’s nothing but love.

“Who leaves a steady professional job in the middle of a recession?” or “How I followed my creative desires and made a brave decision.”

Good Guys vs. Bad Guys
For years I downplayed my family’s financial status, mostly influenced by the culture of political activists I was surrounded by. When you are immersed in an “us vs. them” where the “them” is people with financial wealth who oppress and plunder, of course your inclination is to do everything you can to distance yourself from the bad guys.

Now the days of self-imposed poverty are gone. I realized that I wasn’t doing anyone a service by denying the access to social and financial network that I have. Not facing financial priviledge does not get rid of economic disparities in wealth distribution in this country.

And, I don’t believe in good guys or bad guys any more, just people. People who are complex and damaged. Which is why I hated The Kite Runner but loved Shalimar the Clown. But musings on the representation of relgious hardliners in the Middle East is an entirely different blog post.Hopefully one I’ll write soon.

Saying it Out Loud
So even though people say it a million times a day on TV, and in conversation with each other and it’s one of the fundamental story arcs of every movie and song, I still have a hard time publicly admitting:

1. I want to start a business.

2. I want to be financially successful.

3. I want to run it as the sole owner, for now.

Clearly,  I should not have been awarded that American citizenship status when I was 18. Because what’s more American than wanting more? Than wanting to be rich?

I seem to have a lot of challenges connecting with a basic value that’s all around me. And I think it’s overly simplistic to blame it all on the years that I was surrounded by scruffy burn-the-rich punk rockers.

I thought the process of starting up this business was going to be a cerebral one of getting over the hurdles of learning about marketing logistics, learning to use computers and things I could train myself in.

But turns out it’s been mostly about:

1. Peeling aside all different shapes and forms of guilt that cling to me for a variety of reasons.

2. Feeling like I deserve it.

3. Feeling like I’m capable of it.

4. Being okay with making mistakes and falling on my face a few times along the way.

Number #4 is the most debilitating. Because one small sway of feeling like I might not be 100% “together” and on solid ground triggers every story of failure I have about myself in about a nanosecond. Is that how fast the Enterprise travels at warp speed? It’s that fast. Except instead of some good looking captain, it’s like some stinky, putrid sharp tounged monster giving orders.

“Make it so.” (That’s what Captain Pickard would say when he gave orders to his crew)

And then I’m back to believing I can’t pull this off successfully.

Finally, The News
A few weeks ago I told the lovely people at my paid day job that I am planning on leaving by the end of the summer to go back to teaching film and video production and to build The Flickering Light into a viable business and create a part time paid position for myself.

I entered my business plan into a local competetion earlier this year and recently found out that I’ve made it to the third round as a finalist. I have to go make a presentation to the panel of judges in a few weeks. If I win, I not only get a chunk of money, but I get a stamp of approval that will allow me to walk into a bank and get a loan. In otherwords: I’m incredibly close to making my dream of five years come true. eek.

Here I am in the meantime in crazy limbo. Full time until June 30th, part time the rest of the summer, a mortgage and student loans hanging over me, with no solid work lined up, yet. YET. And holding frequent negotiations with monsters so I can not feel “bad” for wanting to be successful.