Saturday, March 31, 2012

Life goes on

After months of ups and downs, Paul has finally decided he's had enough of the film business (for now). He launched his wedding photography website this week. So far, he's already received some casual enquiries. That's a good sign, right? I told him the first year - hell, the first 5 years - will be an uphill battle, but hoping someone will have the decency to pay you for an honest day's work isn't a sure fire way to live your life either. He's talented, but he needs to exploit that for his own gain rather than someone else's.

As for my job, my contract will be extended once more. I'm really enjoying the transition to supporting the (now) senior vice president of production. She manages all the creative aspects of running an animation/VFX studio and I've been allowed to see and hear things rarely accessible outside the inner circle. It's been a real eye-opener.

Although I get paid a decent salary (i.e. enough for me to own a home - with some help - and live modestly in an expensive city like Toronto), it's the mentoring opportunities that's really keeping me interested. I've rarely encountered someone in this job market willing to train from pretty much the ground up. In fact, my boss never even looked at my resume during my interview (I found it last week stuffed in her drawer with a coffee ring on it). She went with a gut feeling, recognizing that perhaps my freelance background mimicked her own career path. In any case, she has been promoting a philosophy of promoting from within. I've seen many people transition into different roles during my short time here and I strongly believe there's room for me too (although I really enjoy where I am now).

A lot of friends are getting married lately and some already have or trying to have kids. Most of our friends are either in their early- or late-twenties, so I've seen how the economy has prevented them from escaping the tail end of an already extended adolescence (including me). We have trouble securing a first job, we take longer to settle into a career, and we wait longer to find partners and, eventually, have children. I told Paul he no longer has the luxury of securing something he loves -- he needs to create his own opportunities and git 'er done! There is no perfect job; just gelling with your coworkers is enough to be happy. I tell people that my teenaged self would've told you that I wanted to end up in something creative, but I resolve challenges everyday in creative ways without ever having to hold a paint brush or carving tool.

I think I'm just more realistic about where self-contentment comes from. Until you're confident in yourself and genuinely appreciate your own contributions (to society, life, relationships), you'll always feel like you're undeserving of big dreams. It's why children from wealthy families end up successful. Sure, family connections and nepotism might be at play, but these folks don't stay relevant for long (for the most part). I've read that children who grow up in comfortable or affluent households rate their abilities higher than they actually are. This confidence, misplaced or not, is the root of their self-determination.

I see it in my and Paul's vastly different upbringings. His parents, like mine, came to Canada with the expectation of a better life. When that did not come as planned, they followed the rules and tried their best to assimilate. His dad had to go through medical school all over again only to become what he already was in Soviet Russia. Paul was a shy kid and his parents sheltered him from discomfort and potential pain. Taught him to be polite and never impose, especially on strangers. So he never imposed and shied away from attention because that was the "right" thing to do. He was told that school was the path to success, so he enrolled in another four-years of university again. His parents didn't want to see him disappointed, but they also didn't offer him alternatives because, frankly, as part of the intelligentsia (four generations deep) they didn't know of any. They're pragmatists, not hustlers. They need all the information before making a decision.

My parents also came to Canada and toiled for many years, but by the time my siblings came along, my parents had instilled in me the belief that with hard work, nothing was impossible. (That, of course, was just another narrative delusion.) They're lifelong entrepreneurs, not intellectuals. My dad's the king of "faking it until you make it," the ultimate salesman. For instance, he once talked his way into being a cobbler without any experience mending shoes. When his employer confronted him, he said, "That's how my last boss taught me. Why don't you teach me your way?" He was also offered a job as a bus boy at a Chinese restaurant after he'd already opened a chain of stores just to fuck with the maitre d', who had mistook him for someone fresh off the boat. My dad played along and acted so grateful and the maitre d' was quite pleased with himself, having offered my dad something like three bucks an hour. Later, the restaurant owner told the man what my dad actually did for a living and had a good laugh at his expense. (As for my mom, she's a real hustler: she might not be able to debate the finer points of geopolitics, but she can squeeze out a dollar every time she takes a shit.) Anyway, instead of telling myself someone was better than me at doing something, as a kid, I'd ask, "Why not me?" During a trip to Italy at 17, I had no trouble talking to a pair of retired chemistry professors while my mom's friend shirked away, embarrassed by her own lack of formal schooling. Due to my uninhibited socializing, I met a range of people from all walks of life and these contacts became invaluable in my job search because I felt like, yeah, I can easily sustain a conversation with these successful people, therefore I can be successful, too!

So I dream big because I've been in its periphery, but nowadays, I just want to get on with it. I wish Paul had more confidence in himself because I know his talent can only carry him so far. If he had it his way, the rest would be up to me.