The First Time.

One week ago tonight, I watched a great movie with my husband in the movie theater where I work. It’s the new Bill Murray and Rashida Jones delight, On the Rocks, and I highly recommend it.

Murray and Jones play a father and daughter; she’s a writer, he’s an art critic. I won’t deep-dive into it too much, but it was really funny and charming and just a perfect little off-the-beaten path movie that, sadly, isn’t enough to rescue the film industry from sinking more deeply into the quicksand that is Pandemic 2020. (And, likely a little bit, Pandemic 2021.)

But I digress.

There were several scenes with Jones in which she was seated at her desk, or pacing around it, faced with the grossness of writer’s block. I know that grossness well. You probably do, too, if you’ve ever had to write anything ever in your life, even if that something was years in the past and you thought you’d forgotten the stark terror of facing down the deadline. I laughed every time, grateful to have work that kept me from being dependent on creating content.

On Saturday at noon, I was laid off.

For the third time.

This year.

By the same company.

I can’t tell you in words how ridiculous this is, except that it’s almost funny. For me, and for so many others, the theater industry had been home. It was the one place that we felt we fit, the place that we gave our hearts and souls and waking hours to, the place we were always looking for ways to push the envelope, to make the experience far beyond just going to the movies. We built events of all sizes: parties, celebrations, annual appreciation parties, trivia nights. The company offered movie parties, in which the watching experience became interactive, with props included that matched different scenes in the films. We had a film club, with monthly screenings followed by discussions.

When I wasn’t AT work, I was thinking ABOUT work. And I was fine with that. Having a stimulated mind kept complacency at bay, and certainly kept me from wondering how long it would be before everyone realized that I was a fraud and I was exposed, undoubtedly on a worldwide stage, even to people who didn’t know me but somehow still pitied me enough to get my number, call it, and leave a mocking voicemail.

Over-thinkers know what I mean, amirite?

So it was a blissful three years. My bosses were great, talking about movies was always fun, our guests also loved movies, our staff was a tight-knit family of 200, and all was well.

How many of you had a similar situation, or at least a pretty good one? How many of you felt that you were in a pretty good spot in life, only to have it all come screeching to a halt?

And how many of you are starting to realize that things may never be the way they once were again? Say we get this vaccine, it’s effective, it’s available, people get it in droves, curve is finally flattened, and…the economy starts to bounce back.

But it’s not just these things that have to happen, right? Maybe your small business closed, and the money is just gone. Maybe your big business closed, and the debt is too high to overcome. Or maybe things are just right, but it’s still a whole THING getting people to feel comfortable about congregating in indoor spaces. Or maybe your previous business partners or vendors don’t come back. Or maybe all of that, mixed up in a big ball of guck, which is the grossest mix of ingredients a big ball can be made of (you can fact-check that, but I wouldn’t), and it’s just a lot and wasn’t there also a study that said naps were encouraged now and why even bother?

If it feels like I’ve been talking about this forever, it’s because we all have. It truly seems like a completely different lifetime in which things like co-worker spats and bathroom cleaning duties and the stupid COPIER BREAKING DOWN AGAIN really mattered. Hell, styling your hair even mattered. Caring about what your face looked like in your web cam wasn’t as important, and we generally wore pants to work.

We’re all navigating this landscape separately, but together. It’s tentative. It feels very new. It also feels like we’re waiting for our lives to come back, or for someone to authoritatively tell us what to do. So let’s do an experiment together, want to?

Today, right now, start telling yourself that the someone who is going to take charge around here…is you.

Say it out loud, right now. And if your voice is really quiet, or a little shaky, say it again.

And if you’re not ready, read some more and we’ll practice again in a bit.

See, in every new thing, there is a first time. The inestimable musical (really the only musical I’ve ever liked, I’m sorry I just don’t get why they have to sing and dance all the time and are we supposed to believe they PRACTICED this or what?) Hamilton does a really excellent job in painting the life of Alexander Hamilton, the first guy to, well, a whole LOT of things. We all know that he was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr, but before THAT, he was, well, just a poor boy from a poor family, who became George Washington’s right-hand dude, and created the Federalist Papers, and the Treasury Department, and the central banking system, and tried the first murder.

Full stop. He did all of that. We may not even know what year he was born, but what everyone can agree upon is all of that. Can you imagine just making those things happen for the first time? Not just one or two, but all of them? Because there were a lot more than my short list.

I’m sure he was afraid, a whole lot of times, or doubted himself, or wondered what the hell he was supposed to do. But the beauty of it was that nobody had done it before – nobody could tell him truthfully that he was doing any of these things wrong, because there WAS no precedent.

There is always a first. Leading every initiative, every invention, every way of life, was a first time it worked. And honestly, guys, the first time you try something will almost never work. As The Good Place teaches us, of failure can come greatness, but first, well, there’s a lot of failure.

So while none of us may know what to do, there is comfort in knowing that, well, none of us know what to do. This is the time to try the new thing, to do the thing that you think you cannot do.

Now let’s try that little exercise from earlier again:

The someone who’s going to take charge around here…is me.

Great job. We’ll meet back here to practice again tomorrow.

Leave a Reply