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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Life Lessons

The things I have learned in the past year are remarkably revealing.  They tell me as much about myself as anything or anyone else.

I owe my sister an apology for all of the times in her life she wanted just an ear and I offered ‘big sis’ advice!  When someone does offer you unsolicited advice try to remember that they really only want the best for you, even if their advice seems to contain the implication that they think you are not competent enough to take care of yourself. 

I am going to do my best to bite my tongue instead of making like a buttinski when I am on the receiving end of a story of struggle or woe.

A colleague of mine once told me of a job opportunity with a small company that was well-respected, and on the surface a very good fit with my skill set.  But, what she was not aware of was that I had interviewed with the owner of the company some years prior and been told that I reminded him, strongly, of someone he did NOT like. 

At the time I thought he was foolish to make a decision based on my surface resemblance to another individual.  Actually “crazy new age hippie” may have been the phrase coined.  And those who know me should get a good granola giggle from that.  Now, I realize that he saved us both a good deal of grief since he was unlikely to treat someone for whom he had an instant antipathy with any degree of respect or fondness.

And it is important for me (and for most people) to be liked as well as valued in the workplace.   I had to apologize to that colleague for my instantaneous negative reaction when she suggested I apply for that job.  She was only trying to help, I was in a tough situation, and this guy, and his company, was seeking someone for a position she thought I was perfect for - the same position I had pursued a decade before.  A half dozen people had held, and left, that position in the decade in between.  So he really had done me a favor by not hiring me ten years prior.  It appears that several people affect him in ways that may not be very positive.  Or maybe he causes a similar reaction in folks that have to work with him.  

Along similar lines, another professional friend suggested I apply for a job for which I knew I was not qualified.  Non-commercial (Jazz!) stations almost always insist that applicants have finished their course of study.  I haven’t.  I started working instead of finishing a Fine Arts degree.  It was an easy decision at the time – debt for a maybe profession or salary at one I was already enjoying?  Even had I finished and achieved degree status, I’m still not sure that in today’s job climate I would have been the best choice for the job she wanted me to go after. 

I thanked her and told her that while I appreciated her efforts, I was not interested for several reasons: geography, formatics, AND my lack of a degree.  And I didn’t tell her the biggest reason.  All of them paled in comparison to the fact that I didn’t want to apply for something I knew would get me a big fat “no.”  My bad boyfriend had been on the receiving end of the best I could give for more than three decades and he continued to raise his fist and beat me up.  And insult me, saying I wasn’t good enough for a long term commitment. 

Now despite his impotence, he says I am too old, past my sell-by, not hip enough and too damn expensive.  This is not a guy on whom I want to waste another thought, much less love, loyalty and affection.  So why do I keep reading his eHarmony postings?

Not too long after the divorce – it was probably within the same week – I was asked “where are you looking?” and my response was, “my heart is broken, I am probably leaving radio for good. That is unless I get interest from a non-comm.”  And you know from what I have previously shared that that is unlikely.  But it does not stop me from looking at the radio job boards.  And it doesn’t stop me from applying for jobs in the area. 

I have had exactly two responses in a full year.  The first was because I knew some people.  Several people actually.  And I am sure that was the only reason I was given the small bit of flattering attention I was given regarding the opportunity.  But here’s the kicker.  I did NOT want that job.  I did not like the market – it was too far from my family, and I need them in my life so very much right now.  And this was in an area of the country that is considered quite beautiful and very arts-friendly. 

But all I could see was the grinding poverty of Appalachian mountain people lightly sprinkled with the occasional craftsperson, which endowed certain members of the local populace with what seemed to me at the time to be an overwhelming confidence in their superiority to the rest of the region.  

Since I grew up mostly in Pennsylvania, which is a beautiful state, save for areas of extreme poverty, ugly strip mines, dead criks (creeks) and streams that run red with poisonous runoff from the coal mines, the mountains aren’t just a source of beauty to me.  They hint at hidden pockets and hollows of deprivation, and in some cases ignorance, bigotry and oppressive ugliness that I prefer to avoid.  Not to mention I went to junior high and high school in a Pocono community and was absolutely miserable as one of a few artsy misfits. 

The Rockies don’t hold the same implied psychic threat for me – they are magnificent, imposing and soaring to heaven in jagged shards of reflective minerals – facets from the mind of G-d.  But the Smokies, especially in a season other than Spring or Summer, simply seem to block the light. 

And there were other reasons I had little interest in the gig.  A matter of Eaze: Personalities, abilities and salaries.  Two were too small and several of the other was far too big for comfort.  Ultimately, I would have been answering to someone who had little confidence in my abilities despite my experience and references – and the person in between the two of us seemed to have little interest in fighting the battle for me, despite the fact that it had been his idea to bring me in. 

One of the few on-air personalities (and part of the reason for my ex’s impotence is because there are so FEW of them left) was largely inexperienced, yet seemed convinced that my thirty-some years was insufficient to help them grow – and the one comment I did make about an area for possible improvement went over like a certain classic rock band’s name.  And I was as gentle as a breeze from a butterfly about the need for brevity as well as compelling content as a necessity of a music-intensive format. 

And the pay sucked rocks.  For a job that I would have had to eat, sleep, and BREATHE.  My own life has become important to me in my maturity.  I need to have a job I can leave at the end of the day.  I have never been so relieved to hear, “Sorry, it’s not you.” 

The difficulty they have attracting adequate talent is another sign I have for relief.   Stations that constantly have job postings for management positions are not good homes for people who are tired of cardboard boxes.  In fact, they get a reputation among radio peeps as outlets to avoid at all costs.  That is what I want to say to a well-meaning person who sent me a recent company’s job site: they always advertise and they rarely have any actual positions to fill.  It’s like a threat held over the heads of their current employees.  It’s just rude.

The next opportunity was at least in Florida.  And in a lovely coastal area I would have been happy to make my home long term.  But at the end of several phone interviews I was literally told “not to get my feelings hurt” if I didn’t hear back from this program director.  I most certainly didn’t.  Only those we care for can actually hurt us.  

The lack of manners in broadcasting is legendary.  I have not heard word one from the hundreds of other applications and audio I have sent into the ether.  And yet, I still send them out.  I still check the boards.  I still Indeed.com “radio Florida.”  So when well-meaning acquaintances send me job postings in my field?  I have seen them already.  Thanks.  I either don’t want them – or more likely, they don’t want me.  Actually, it’s more likely that I don’t want them because they don’t want me.  I’d paraphrase Mark Twain but you get the drift.    

My grandmother used to ask me why I didn’t go into television.  After trying to explain multiple times that the fields were only loosely related, I finally gave up.  In her opinion I was cute enough to be on the tube and that was all she needed to know.  Oddly this was the same grandmother who thought that women shouldn’t be sportscasters.  Yes, really.  She never did understand that I liked the connection with the audience combined with the distance and anonymity of the medium.  I was a well-known close friend on whom listeners could put any face they chose (until they saw me).  I had similar experiences and likes and dislikes. 

This was always the key to that connection listeners had to radio personalities.  It was why I loved the deejays I did when I was a child.  They were why I loved music.  They were why I loved RADIO.  The bad boyfriend.  The abusive ex.  The impossible to please spouse who was always looking for the prettier, shinier, newer, younger spouse (format). 

Of course as the business changed I became little more than the voice that said “that was…(insert name of retired rock band here)” and the body at the desk that did almost everything else to run a radio station. Schedule music, merge logs, interview people for public affairs, voice commercials, download and/or upload programming, fill out affidavit reports about programming run or not, attend endless useless meetings where sales and promotions were told “no” more often than not, and communicate the on-air promotional content to the two other “live” jocks and the others who recorded their portion from other markets.  And I did make a few public appearances for businesses that didn’t realize that relatively few people, beyond one percent of the audience, gives two small brown turds about who’s on the air anymore because jocks aren’t allowed to talk about anything other than “that was…”  

Here’s the That Was that counts: That WAS my life.  This is my life now.  I am making it over from scratch at halftime.  If you knew me before, I am not who you knew, now.  What is harder for me is that I am no longer who I knew.  I am learning who I am now.  What I can do with who I have always been and who I have always wanted to be. 

Now that I have kicked the bad boyfriend to the curb maybe I can concentrate on making me the happiest, most creative me I can be.  The woman who loses hours at a time with hands muddy, and flaking bits of earth drifting like feathers on birds yet to be created swirling from her fingers.   The woman who works weekends – and holidays again because I can’t resist the extra holiday pay – at a job that is far too challenging for the pay.  And that job will eventually lead to another job within this company.  Because this is a company that understands that my dependability, loyalty and commitment is a commodity to be valued, not discarded. 

And it is a job.  I can leave it and make a bowl.  And yet, I am still considered valuable. And the benefits are way better. 

Suck on that bad boyfriend.

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