Pitfalls…….Working for love

Common Scenario # 4:  Have you ever had that wierd conversation with people, where they assume that your work is not really work?

Some years ago, an artiste friend of mine told me that she as a dancer and dance teacher was asked quite frequently if she or her students would like to perform. It could be a community event, a function or a festival, temples and once even at a dinner party for a visiting diginitary.  When she has asked some of the people who came to her with these requests, if there was going to be a renumeration for the performance- the usual reaction would be utter shock! Shock that she had actually asked for any compensation at all!
The general feeling being that the opportunity to perform in itself its reward and why should she expect any MONEY??
When she’s asked if there are any arrangements for taking care of expenses, like travel or parking- the response is even greater shock- Really, you want us to pay you a few dollars to cover petrol?? You’re that cheap?dancer

This is not an isolated experience of one artiste, several have told me- usually ruefully. It often happens when they are building their careers, and in a bind. They need the opportunities, but also need to be able to make a living. Art forms need both passionate engagement and devotion and time. A hungry artiste is not going to be good for long, and encouraging new talent will only happen if there is an avenue to make a living.

There is also a distinction in doing something as a passion and doing something to make a living.  I come across this more times than I can count. As a social worker, you constantly getting questioned about expecting a decent renumeration “wouldn’t it be better to put that money into helping people” or “if you are getting paid, then why call it social work, that is what volunteers do” 

Seriously, no social worker I know has made it into any rich list. We too have families to support, bills to pay and holidays to take. We just choose a profession that rocks our boat. And no- it’s never going to pay as much as a doctor, a banker or a lawyer and I don’t see too many people questioning a surgeon if he should really be charging $350 for a 20 minute consult!

Why did this come up today?

I had a number of calls over the last few days, asking me to quote for work. Most people were quite open about budgets that they have and the work that was expected. And I respect that immensely- if people are clear and upfront, its easy to work with them and I have routinely adjusted my costs because I believe in a project. A few have been very surprised that I would expect more than petrol & mileage.  That is disappointing, since it shows very little regard for the over 20 years of study and professional development that I have invested in to get to where I am today. And expecting someone to “work” for free, because others volunteer is unfair.

But on a happier note, a dear friend asked me to volunteer my time on a project that would feed a major passion of mine. She was both open and understanding and her reading of my passion was spot on…..

And it crystallised my thoughts on what was bothering me – we need respect for both our work and our passion.
My various artiste friends…..I finally get your frustrations and so in awe of the time and energy you spend in constantly improving your work!!! Hurrah to ya’ll!

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Pitfalls…..The smile that does not reach the eyes

Common Scenario #3: We see, but not beyond the obvious. We judge without a pause. We move on, without giving enough time.

The house is perfect, the floor sparkling, the dinner sumptuous and welcome perfect.
The children well behaved and the hostess elegant.
The host benevolent, proudly touting his family’s many virtues…….but the smiles don’t reach the eyes.
eyes3.jpg
She’s always gets into work the earliest, often the last to leave.
She’s never says anything when they pull her leg or diss her ideas.
She takes her boss’s ribbing and her colleagues comments with the right spirit and roll of the eyes at their infantile behaviour……but the smiles don’t reach the eyes.

She’s the life of the party, the one who gets everyone on the dance floor.
She loves an adventure and doesn’t actually mind hanging out with his friends all day, every day and the weekends as well.
She missed her mum’s birthday because his sister wanted to do dinner that one day, but she’s okay with it, really……but the smiles don’t reach the eyes.

She is always busy looking after everyone, but him most of all. 
She somehow manages to make sure eyes.jpg everything works out the way he likes it, all the time.
Its been so many years, so many- but nothing has changed for him- she makes sure of it. 
She never complains, though she’s never got time for herself, she’s getting older too.
She just soldiers on…..but the smiles don’t reach the eyes.

Look behind those smiles- the one’s that don’t reach the eyes.
Look out for what the eyes want to say, without saying it out aloud.
Offer support, not judgement
Offer time, not advise
When it is the one closest to you that inflicts the wound of any kind, it’s the hardest to confront. 
For the known devil is easier to deal with than the unknown.
But if your smiles have not reached your eyes in a long time, 
It’s time to look in the mirror and see what the eyes are really trying to say.

As I prepare to deliver a leadership program for emerging community leaders on the Prevention of Violence against Women along with Dr Peter Strekker, for AMES Australia, one of the most critical things that I’d like the 30 participants to take away from the program is the ability to support unconditionally and give time unreservedly.


The Pitfalls is a series that I have been working on, based on some of the common scenarios I have seen in my work over the last many years. Some of them have left me very angry and frustrated. The line between immense frustration and intense anger is so fine, you nearly always miss it and feel terrible afterwards. With this series, if a few become more aware, it would go a long way in making me feel a bit more hopeful