This week I was called by my girlfriend Belle, a marketing guru and a sometimes on-air remote-location personality for Memphis Pirate Radio. She offered me the opportunity of a lifetime, "You are the first person I thought of," for photographing a famous comedian and actor while he is visiting Memphis with the television show So You Think You Can Dance.
Normally I would jump at the chance to show off my skills at portraiture, but this time I had to pass. My 9 to 5, more accurately 7:30 to 4, refused to let me leave a couple of hours early on Friday for a work related retreat. There is no way they'd let me off on a Thursday morning to pursue a personal passion. With great disappointment I had to turn Belle's opportunity down.
Belle and I hang up. My mind is spinning. I drive away from Bartlett and reflect about my job as the city disappears into neglected winter fields of overgrown grass. The countryside lining the left and right of Highway 51 passes by in a blur.
I want more responsibility. I need the money I am worth. It has become a necessity to work at a job that is fulfilling and offers the creative release that I crave. Currently, with the job I hold, none of those criteria are being met. I am just a glorified spell checker with the title of Office Associate; an unremarkable peon at the bottom of a totem pole.
My face flushes red in anger as I think about the past week at work. I realize that I fell for a sales pitch during a committee meeting this past October. I let my head be filled with promises of potentially utilizing creativity, career opportunities, and amazing learning experiences all in an attempt to secure an hour or two of my time as a paid volunteer for a work-related retreat.
Although I was assured by the retreat coordinator my time would be approved and she would take care of everything the proverbial ball was dropped. Although she had five months the retreat coordinator waits until the week before the retreat to sent an email notification to the Powers that Be, the conglomeration of supervisors in my office, to confirm my and another coworkers time.
The Powers that Be declined releasing me from the office for two hours because I did not request the time off as personal vacation. Taking vacation for a work related event does not make sense. Also, they did not want me out of the office while my immediate supervisor is away on vacation. It is all odd.
I understand the retreat was a last minute notice for the Powers that Be. I cannot be upset about that aspect of their decision. But as I'm driving I have a solid realization. Although my talents are verbally acknowledged, at my current position I'll never be considered anything more than a trained monkey that pushes paper in a dysfunctional department. I will not get ahead. In this I am extremely disappointed and thoroughly discouraged.
Although I just left his house I text J2, "It feels like that Christian joke where a guy is in a flood and stranded on a roof and prays to God, 'God, please save me.' As soon as the guy finishes the prayer a canoe floats by the guy. The guy lets the canoe go past because God will provide.
Is this opportunity that I'm passing up my canoe to greater things?"
He returns my text with a call. I answer, "Hey Babe."
"It could be the first step. Call in sick - go in late. Have 'car trouble.'
Photographing the famous comedian sounds like something in line with what you want to do with your life - you can always proof transcripts."
I respond, "It's not a paying gig."
"Neither was Chris Hardwick's podcast."
Chris Hardwick is a former Memphian, a television personality, a comedian, and an actor turned media mogul. He is the king of all things nerdy.
"Is it really about your job? Or do you think you are not good enough?"
"Eh, it's work but it's also that I don't have enough education. I don't know everything about photography. I'm not confident that I'll do enough." Although I'm frustrated with myself I smile, J2 knows me too well.
"Are you questioning your ability? Because I've seen your work - you are good enough."
A memory plays vibrantly in my mind. Our very first date on November 8, 2007, sitting in a quiet, dark corner at Cozymel's Mexican Grill, J2 asks, "What do you want to do with your life?"
At that time I want to be a sports photographer. When I answer the question accordingly I am surprised that his immediate response is not a veiled sexist comment, a laugh, or even wanting an explanation. Without missing a beat he excitedly asks, "How are we going to make this happen?"
To him my aspirations are valid and my dreams are obtainable! It is our first date and with his support I want to grab his hand and a pen to draw a four year outline on my napkin for becoming a photographer. I am excited! He has my back! We can face the world together! We are Jack and Rose, "I'm the king of the world." Anything is possible! Raw-Raw! Sis-Boom-Bah!
That is what it is like to be J2's friend. He is the ultimate cheerleader. If you question yourself he has an amazing ability and charisma to renew your faith to believe in yourself. I've seen him do it time and again.
Before we hang up he says, "It's up to you, but I think you should call Belle back. I think it's your canoe. Don't let it go by."
I let the idea churn in my head. It does not settle. I am not comfortable with the idea of letting my canoe pass.
I text Belle.
YES!! I have been looking for that something extra, a search for the fulfillment of being completely happy in nearly all aspects of my life. After feeling down about work and stuck without a potential prospect of leaving my dead end job I'm bursting with sheer excitement! Possibility is intoxicating! With the cheerleaders in my life, like J2 and Belle, anything is possible!
*Update: Although the photo shoot fell through my excitement and intoxication with creativity have not diminished.
On Tuesday morning The Powers that Be apologized for not granting permission to volunteer at the retreat. She also hoped that I did not waste my personal time of the weekend volunteering on campus.