August 29, 2010

Take a Stand

Today I've got something on my mind that I'd like to share:
"Take a stand."

Stand up for what you believe in.
Stand up for what's right.
Stand up for yourself.

If you don't, you'll never be happy - and eventually you'll get to the point (as I have) of kicking yourself for every time you should have taken a stand but were too shy or scared to. I pride myself on never (or rarely) making the same mistake twice, but this is one lesson that it took me a long time to learn. Maybe I can help some of you avoid learning the hard way.

Before I continue, a disclaimer:
Some of you will know the people I'm talking about. Feel free to talk among yourselves, I really couldn't care less (I'm sure there are already worse things said about me than anything generated by this blog post). However, if anyone mentions any names here your comments will be deleted. I purposely left out the names to avoid calling anyone out. These are all basically nice people - some of them just let power get to their heads, in my opinion - and I hope they also learned from their mistakes.

The story:
A couple years ago I was in college for theater production. I was the assistant stage manager for the play we were working on - and a pretty good one, if I do say so myself. I'm insanely dedicated to shows when I'm working them, and this particular one had rehearsals scheduled on days I was supposed to be working. When I mentioned that I might miss a couple rehearsals before I could re-work my work schedule (or just quit the job for now), I was told not to by the director and the stage manager, even though this meant I would be missing 50% of the rehearsals.

One day, as I was preparing to go visit my parents (a trip I had cleared with the SM months ago), I got a text message from the SM that said "Don't bother coming to rehearsals anymore." No explanation, just that. I knew they were in rehearsal, so I didn't call back - after all, she knew I was going home, I'd check in when I got back.

Anyways, I get back and confront her about it. Apparently, I was kicked off for missing so many rehearsals, and that night when I had gotten the text had been the last straw. When I reminded her that I had been allowed to miss half the rehearsals and that I had told her I was going to my parents' place (it is part of the SM's job to keep track of everyone, after all) her response was basically "well, I can't change it now".

Now, I know that this person (and all the second years) had a problem with me. I never would have been put on the show if anyone else had been interested, because she "hired" me. The reason I think she was upset at me actually had nothing to do with her. But that's another story. The point is that I really did nothing wrong, and the other ASM missed more rehearsals than I did with less notice and never got kicked off, so I knew it must be personal. The other point is that none of this was cleared with any of our teachers - including the one who was directing.

My fiancee, convinced me not to make a fuss (he later admitted that it was because he didn't want the stress of the show on me while I was pregnant - but I swear they don't stress me out, it's just an adrenalin rush, I live for stuff like that). So I stayed quiet, and I've been kicking myself ever since.

What should I have done? I should have called the director when I got the text - because I knew it wasn't cleared with him before hand. Or I should have called the SM and demanded an explanation - and called her out on not doing her job properly. At the very least, I should have gone to the director when I got back instead of just quietly pulling the SM asside.

What did I do? I stayed quiet. I stayed quiet until the very end of the year. Then we had a mini pow-wow with a few of the teachers, all the first years and a few of the second years. The teachers were looking for input - what we did and didn't like about that year. Then I spoke up. Then I told them all of this from my point of view, in hopes that it would make up for my earlier shortcoming.

Of course their reaction was "you should have spoken sooner". But I wasn't speaking up for myself. I was speaking up for what's right. I was speaking up for future students. I had already tortured myself about this for the rest of the semester, and I hoped that by speaking up then - in front of my classmates and teachers - it might change something the next year. Maybe when these first years became second years they wouldn't be such asses. Maybe they would learn to separate life from work, and maybe they would follow the pecking order they were supposed to follow. Maybe, if they learned all this, they could make it in the real world (because, of course, this behaviour would never be tolerated at a real theater).

But it was too late. I wasn't with them for their second year, but the tidbits I've heard make it sound like the first years had just as hard a time as we had, if not worse. Maybe if I'd spoken up sooner, made a bigger stand, they would have considered their actions more. Or maybe not. But at least I could say I'd tried.

Lessons learned?
1. Stand up - for what you believe in, for what is right and for yourself.
2. Timing is everything. In reality, you might not change anything - but you have a much better chance of causing change if you act on it sooner rather than later.
3. Separate your private and work life. I wasn't happy many of the second years after the untold story, but I walked into the school every day ready to do my job and connect with them as much as I had to in order to do that job. If that had been a real job, I would have gotten it back with a quick phone call to the labor board.
4. Don't just follow the group. This is another part of the untold story. The unexplained reason why everyone was mad at me was just them all following each other - to this day none of them have asked for my side of the story, and there is really only one person who should have been upset.

And for all of you out there saying "I'm too shy" - get over it. You'll never be happy if you don't. Those who have known me for a while know that I used to be one of the shyest people you'd ever meet. Those who know me really well know I still am. Just tell yourself that enough is enough, get yourself all riled up about the subject and go. If you're the type to cry at everything (I certainly am, I have to squint to see the screen right now), don't worry about it. Just ignore the tears and keep going. Believe me, you can still make a point through those tears (heck, sometimes the tears make the point).

And if you've kept up with me for this long, thanks for reading, I'd love it if you'd comment. For those who just skimmed down to this part - go back to the top. You probably missed something, and it will be obvious if you comment.


  1. This is so relevant. You know that's precisely the reason our country isn't progressing but going backwards day by day. Because even when we know what's wrong, we don't speak up. We stay shut and let people do what they're doing and just build and imaginary wall around ourselves.

    We have to start caring enough to let our tongues speak what our hearts believe in.

  2. Thanks! That's exactly what I've been trying to do more. Sure, it sometimes takes me a while to build up the confidence, and I now know from experience that sometimes nothing's going to change no matter what you do. But I firmly believe that you have no right to complain if you don't try to do something about it... and really, if nothing else, people will respect you for trying to do something.