Friday, November 08, 2013

Love the Work You're With

by Jas Faulkner

Yesterday I received an email from someone I've chatted with online since 1996.  1996.  The people born that year are starting college or careers or enlisting in the military or any number of things that mark them as grownups.  Wow.

So anyway...

She wanted to congratulate me on hitting the one year mark with my website.  (For the few of you who actually only know me from this blog...all...two of you? The site she was talking about was  She went on to say that many ventures don't make it to the six-month mark, much less a whole year. And then she said a lot of nice things that at the time I wasn't sure were actually true.

Then she asked me how I'd sum it up.


The most important thing the past year has revealed to me? It has been an object lesson in what happens when you get what you want. It has also been a year-long crash course in learning to be the grown up.

Not that it makes any sense, but my vision of creating an online magazine never included managing other people.  It was possibly my least favorite aspect of collaborative work. That sort of thing has always left me not liking what parts of my personality come to the surface.  By nature I am not a leader.  Heck, I'm not even that great when it comes to following. Still, there was no way to get around it.  If I wanted the website, I would have to learn to lead.

So I learned, not just from the editors of other sites who took the time to advise me, but from the writers who stuck by me and the site over the last year. It hasn't been without some highs and lows.  Relationships have changed.  Some of them are stronger for the experience.  Some of them revealed weak places and broke from the strain.

The highs, even the smooth places have been pretty good.

The lows were memorable in ways that will provide fodder for a future story.  I think the absolute low point for me was logging into the online press room one morning to read a message from a writer who declared that he was in charge and called the site a "trainwreck".   Four staff writers LOLed and gave him virtual high-fives.

I shut off the computer, had a Holly Hunter from "Broadcast News" crying jag, and then spent the rest of the day asking myself how much I really wanted this. It turned out that I wanted it quite a bit.  The next day I logged in to the website, ignored the conversation, and got down to the business of planning the relaunch with a new hosting company.

I had almost completely forgotten that incident when an intern who was reading the and cleaning out the message boards in the press room came across the conversation.

"What did you think when you saw that?" he asked.

"I thought, 'I suck at this and I need to quit and turn the whole thing back into a handmade goods store.' That was my first thought.  Later on that day, I thought, 'You need to go.' Then I decided to hold off and see what happened next."

"It's fucking cruel," he said.  "Say that shit in backchannel, not right there where everyone can see how you feel.  Better yet, just quit if you have little respect what someone else has built."*

I told him that the incident really hurt at the time.  It also taught me a valuable lesson about how I taught people to treat me and my work.  It stuck with me.  Going forward, I learned what wasn't instinctive about being the boss.  I also learned respect for what I was doing and how to extend that to everyone around me as a way to nurture and demonstrate what I wanted.

So the highs that came in September and October, the first anniversary and beyond, those were all the sweeter for having dealt with everything that came before.  It gave me a sense of confidence, something I need as I move forward to 2014.

Here's the thing.  You can invest everything, and by everything I mean all that you are and all that you have in the material, emotional, and the spiritual sense.  The condition is that your work has to love you back.  By that, I mean the good days have to outnumber the bad. You might get tired, but there is always some aspect of it that pulls you away from being depleted. It makes you smile, even on the bad days.  Going past not minding, you are happy to be there.  Mind boosts spirit that in turn boosts body that boosts mind that boosts spirit and so on...

A friend once explained a difficult choice he had to make as an answer to the need to take care of himself.  He said at that point, it would have to come first.  He's right.   If you're reading this and wondering if the self-care (possibly professional self-defense) you're contemplating is selfish, I'll venture a guess on your behalf and say it isn't.

No matter what perks you might think you need to offer, what bells and whistles you can add as tools, the main thing you have to offer is yourself. The nice part is, its your choice to make that person cared for and confident and ready to off care in return.

So yeah, love yourself enough to care about yourself and you'll find that your work loves you back or it ins't the right work.

*And with that, he made up for nearly deleting the whole site the day before.