I started working at The Umbrella Corp four years ago, with pipe dreams of being a director, cinematographer, and visual effects artist in tow. I started as an intern and was, over four years, hired and then promoted to the lead motion graphics artist, and director of photography.
Two weeks ago, I quit.
I didn’t like writing that last paragraph at all; it fills me with anxiety and a rush of nervous despair; I guess I may be attempting to make myself feel better through exposure therapy. At the time, quitting my job seemed like an easy choice, but writing it out now, it feels like an insanely stupid decision made by an inexperienced and privileged man-child.
I had been promoted to the head of my department, I was making a decent wage, the job was pretty relaxed, easy, decent benefits, and the work was semi-stimulating depending on the day. This is more than most people have, and more than I could probably hope for at this time in my life. But there is always another side to things, right?
I had been doing the same thing for four years, constantly being asked to squash my own creativity in order to please the client. In order to get a wage closely resembling anything I felt I deserved, I had to fight both tooth and nail for almost two years, still not getting paid what I really wanted. I was head of a department consisting of three people, myself included. I had been unofficially in this role for about a year or so before I was actually promoted, not to mention being denied this promotion twice previously.
And now I am beginning to remember some things from my time there that I had forgotten. I had come to Umbrella having almost completed my Masters, starting as an intern while I finished school. When I got close tograduating, I had a talk with my bosses, and I was initially told that there was not enough work to justify hiring me full time. I realized then that my degree meant nothing to them; the fact that I had spent three years, post-graduate, honing my skills, not only technically, but intellectually and creatively. At that point, three years ago, I was ready to do what I have just done. Ready to go freelance and find my own work, make my own future. I remember at the time I was jazzed about it, determined to succeed in spite of them. But then, a few weeks later, they offered my a job, and all of that went away. And even though I kept telling myself I would only be there for a couple years, at most, I quietly enjoyed the stability, the ease, and the lack of responsibility.
And so here I am. Scared of my future. Not because I don’t think I’m good enough, because I am sure that I think much too highly of my own skills. No, It has something to do with responsibility. I worked hard to get my job at Umbrella, but once I had it, my future was not my own responsibility. If I didn’t get a raise, it was their fault, if I didn’t get the time off I requested, it was their fault, and if I was working on something boring, well they should find more interesting work. I may have been angry or spiteful, but there was nothing I could do, so I was the victim. That’s why I’m scared now; I have total and complete control over my success. If I am not being paid enough, that’s my fault. If the work isn’t interesting enough, thats my bad for taking a boring job. Being responsible for my own future, and having to make decisions about where my life will go next is something I’ve avoided like the plague for the last 4 years. Often times its so easy to take what’s handed to you, appreciatively, quietly, and let it play out. Let it happen to you until something outside changes. Last time I actively made a change in my life might have been when I decided to go to film school in 2008. 6 years ago. God, time flies.
So here I am, a freelance motion graphics artist and cinematographer. VFX artist. Filmmaker. Writer? Director? Producer? Projection Designer? Bicycle Enthusiast? Coffee Snob? Are we defined only by the activity that makes us money? Orr the one we spend the most money on? If Adobe After Effects was discontinued as a software, would I be rendered useless? In a post-apocalyptic world, would any of this time I’ve spent matter in the slightest? Should I move to portland and open a wood-working shop?