Wednesday, January 12, 2022

"Don't Leave."

I wanted to quit. I was going to quit. I was deeply unhappy on this job and as much as I liked some of the people, one of them was a horrible enough person to spoil it for everyone. I wanted to leave.

I had planned on letting the Gaffer know at wrap that I was going to be leaving the show and why.* He was the one who hired me, after all, so I figured I'd owe him at least that much. But then I got a phone call during lunch that changed those plans. 

The phone call itself wasn't an important one. It was about a job over the weekend that I was going to do regardless of whether I had quit my show or not. The important part was that one of my colleagues had overheard/misheard part of my conversation and assumed I was leaving the show. 

"Please don't go," he said. "It's so terrible here, I don't know if I could stay if you weren't around."

I sighed. Fine, I thought to myself, I'll just stick it out a little bit longer and take it from there.

Some more time had passed and things only seemed to have gotten worse. Or maybe it just seemed worse because the misery had been going on for so long now. Either way, I was seriously thinking of quitting again.

This time, another friend must have sensed it was coming. He's seen me metaphorically kicked around the most and has been the main person I vented to whenever another incident happened, which was a lot on this show. But I guess he felt that this particular episode would be the one that broke the camel's back and after listening to be vent for the millionth time, he asked me not to quit. I hadn't mentioned to him I was thinking of quitting, before or now, but he still asked me to stay. He said he hated it there, too. But hanging out with me made things more bearable. So I stayed.

Some time later, surprise! Things were still terrible. I was crying on my way home from work a lot and we weren't even halfway through shooting the season. There were other jobs starting up with people I knew would love to have me that I enjoyed working with. I had to leave for my own sake. 

But again, another colleague must've sensed how bad things were getting. We were eating lunch together one day, just the two of us at catering, when he asked me not to leave. He hated it there but couldn't leave. He depended on this crew for work and didn't know if he could fall in with another as easily. But what he did know was that I made things better there and things would be worse if I left the show. He's a sweetheart of a guy to the point that I can't stand to see him sad, so again, I stayed.

Again and again, people kept asking me to stay. Some of them repeats, some of them new. All of them saying that the show was terrible, everyone was miserable, but things would be worse if I wasn't there. Apparently I would be the highlight of their fucking day, if that give you any clue to how awful the job was. **

All in all, about half of my entire damn department had asked me at one point or another to not quit. 

Only one of my colleagues said they would support me if I chose to leave the show. She saw the horrible way I was being treated. She knew I deserved better. She'd been in my position before and had to resort to extreme measures because she didn't know how else she could get out of it. She didn't want me to go through what she did. She saw me struggling and gave me her full support should I decide to walk away from the show. She said she would be sad if I left, but she'd understand why. But she didn't have it that much better on the show that I did, she just had more chances to hide from it. I felt like she was the only one who really saw the mental toll this job was taking on me, and in turn, I think I was the only one to see how much she was struggling as well. So despite her giving me permission to leave, I stayed for her sake as well. Her support meant the world to me and I could sense that she could use some support as much as I did. So I stayed for her. 

Despite coming close to walking away from this job so, so many times, I eventually made it to the finish line. Things never got better, though it may have felt that way at times. I think instead I just came to expect getting treated like shit and could predict when the hardest hits would happen, which, when I think about it, just makes it all worse. 

In the end, I learned that I'm the type of person, that despite it being one of the worst job I've ever been on, I do not regret staying in misery for half a year for my friends. I'm glad I could make things better for them. However, there's no way I can ever go through that again. If put in the same situation now as I was then, I would leave. 

I guess you don't really know how much something affects you until you look back on it. It's been five months since we wrapped and I still tear up when I think about how I was treated. How worthless people made me feel there. It took months for me to feel like my old self again on a job, and if I'm being 100% honest, I'm not really there yet. 

As much as I want to be selfless and be the type to do anything for my friends, the reality is that I need to start being more selfish and put my wellbeing before others. I can't help anyone if there's no more "me" around. I learned that I need to be selfish for myself because there's no one else to be selfish for me. 

*It's probably important to note at this point that shockingly, Production wasn't the problem here. The misery was 100% caused by people within my own department which is probably the most disappointing thing of the entire situation.

**How this terrible job ended up so terrible is another post. Coming up soon-ish.


Michael Taylor said...

That's a miserable situation to be in. Unfortunately, there are a few toxic personalities in our end of the business -- people who only seem to be happy when they're making someone else unhappy. I worked for gaffers like that a couple of times -- one a male, the other female -- and it was awful, so I made sure to never work for either of them again. I fully understand the band-of-brothers-and-sisters bonds that form the gravitational core of a crew -- and how hard it is to quit a show no matter how bad things get -- but I really hope that next time, everybody will quit. Force the asshole who's causing all this trouble try to find a new crew, and maybe eventually he/she will might learn not to be such a monster.

Yeah, I know -- fat chance -- but the job is hard enough without having to work for a complete dick. You can't endure so much punishment without getting a form of PTSD, which is mentally and physically unhealthy. It's not fair to you, especially when other good crews are out there happy to take you on.

I wish you better luck in the next show.

Phillip Jackson said...

Yeah, I'm not sure if I'd put up with it. I don't think you can be the support for the whole department when you aren't getting supported yourself. Especially if you had a good chance to jump. Hope you're finding it better out there in the new year. Maybe we'll cross paths one day in my day player life.

A.J. said...

Michael - I kinda wish everyone would've banded together and been more vocal, but fat chance indeed. And I definitely didn't walk out of the job mentally unscathed.

Philip - "I don't think you can be the support for the whole department when you aren't getting supported yourself" is an excellent point. While I don't regret staying, in hindsight, I should have left. I ended up a martyr in this situation and it was definitely unfair.

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