We finally took the magazine to print.
This current company I am working for has the particular tradition of printing out the first draft in color and then laying it out on our conference table so that the entire team can scrutinize and practice their opinions. This was started by the previous Managing Editor, who didn’t know how to run a magazine anymore than his grim turtle face knew how to smile, but has since been promoted to Chief Editor, which just means he signs off on everything I do. I see him as sort of an antique decoration, maybe one of those tea-stained doilies, awful but permanent, since it was handed down by so-and-so’s great aunt Mildred, just there for the sake of tradition – shabby, stained, banal tradition. Many Chinese workplaces are this way: everything must go through a procedure, carefully guarded by the King of Procedure himself, crowned with the responsibility of reinforcing procedure because, well, it’s procedure. Keeps my head awhirl, anyway.
Two problems with this tradition: 1) the entire team likes to comment on the magazine as if they are the designers themselves. However, none of them have the expertise to make this kind of judgment call. Plus, the Art Director and I have set standards, reading systems, fonts, sizes, spaces, and things don’t just change because some staff member didn’t like the spacing in line three, 2) It wastes a LOT of time. I’m the Managing Editor and Creative Director, therefore it is my job to take the “book” and make the final editions. But in an illogical, ironic twist that seems to frequent certain facets of Chinese companies, the reviewing process has become all too democratic in this otherwise communist regime.
In order to retain some ounce of sanity, I have since given into the procedures that have laden this supposedly expat rag with a nice sharp, Chinese edge. But despite my hemming and hawing, giving in a little has made my job miles easier. Why fight the fight just to fight? A little forced inefficiency here and there can’t hurt that much; it’s certainly better than insisting on my way or the highway, then getting the boot because the cars they provided on my highway were all lemons. Needless to say – with my attitude adjustment, and finally, the print out of the first issue, Mr. Boss was tres pleased. Chief Dick didn’t say too much either, which is a good sign.
So, after months of banging my head against the wall, and weeks of blogging about pain of the anal sort, I won the war. We even closed the deal with an evening out, gorging ourselves on baijiu (Chinese tequila – bottoms up! x10) and a banquet spinning in front of us on a giant, whirling, lazy Susan holding the girth of a baby Redwood.
It’s already been five days since the passing of the storm, but it’s taken me that long to recuperate from the aftermath, a serene period of blue skies and unbelievable nothingness spouting out of bosses’ mouths.
And yet, after the rush of succeeding in something I’m good at, a moment when I felt like I could be the Managing Editor of this magazine forever, my mind was jolted with the flashback of a few weeks ago, when the very same people who praised me held my neck to the wire, fingers pointing, ready to make me the scapegoat. It isn't my bosses’ ability to blame and praise at the blink of an eye that bothers me. Rather, it is the realization this so called happiness is split in two, each with a tiny string that can be pulled until the rush is unraveled into nothing but a pile of caution and query.
What I mean is this.
It seems like a lot of people tend to mix up what they are good at with what they like doing. It might be true that one can be the other, but this is not always the case. Being a passionate artist may not get next month’s rent in on time; playing accountant may just kill the libido; whatever the excuse, there are plenty of real life reasons that have a way of subtly convincing people that success always equals what you should be doing, and therefore if you succeed at something, that something is what defines your happiness.
This happiness, split in two: each side is separate with its own characteristics, though if we’re lucky, not always separate in form. As already established before, the first kind comes from being good at something, and the second kind comes from somewhere deeper, a place where love, passion, yearning, motivation and tenacity are born. It seems like the latter type of happiness is the one that is idealized, the one we think we should all be seeking. And yet, when it comes time to choose a career path or a role in life, our happy-nometer starts to go in circles.
Take this magazine for example. After printing the first draft, happy boss=happy Jenny. My mood couldn’t have been further from several weeks ago, when I was near hyperventilation at my desk, ready to pack up and leave town. Because of the current and successful situation, my mind actually sees a future I can mold. But I am at unrest, because I can’t figure out if my happiness is due to the fact that I got a pat on the head for hard work on a product I am good at creating, or because I actually enjoy what I am doing. Too many people my age struggle to find their paths, torn between what they think they can survive on as a day job-possibly-turned-successful-career, and the love for a life that stems from the depths of their souls. This is worth thinking about because if the right choice isn’t made, one can end up bored and successful or passionate and poor – either leading to ultimate unhappiness.
Anyway, I don’t have the answer. I figure I should just use what I’m good at to catapult myself into doing what I love, and maybe somewhere along the way, I’ll end up balanced. But I’m probably babbling, at best.