Sad Audit


“It really shouldn’t be this hard to find smiling faces.”

I worked a freelance corporate project a few weeks ago, using some of my “old” skills as a TV editor. I loved the travel and it was a rather lucrative gig for me. 

The client has apparently enjoyed similarly lucrative work recently. The event was in an absolutely gorgeous location, super swank, and was all-expense paid for attendees (the employee and their partner). Idyllic really.

 Editor's View

Except for one thing. I had trouble finding happy faces for a happy-face wrap-up video. 

This is why I both love and hate my job as an editor.

Love: Seeing, as a fly on the wall, how other people live and operate— when they know they are being observed and when they don’t. I’ve learned a a great deal from the comfort of my edit chair about human interaction, what others are working on, learning, doing and about life in general. Not groundbreaking that this is how TV works but in production you get to see it all. 

Hate: When I watch something so profoundly frustrating… and then have to work with that material for hours on end.

This by no means was as emotionally hard as working on a doc-reality show about young adult addiction. Nor, for different reasons, as bad as slaving on something so utterly not my style that I wanted to quit about once a minute, every day (like the time I spent 3 weeks and 20 distinct versions on a Justin Beiber pilotish test tape).

This project was difficult because it was crystalizingly, almost beautifully, sad.

Here were these people at the height of their careers, at the top of the top of a multinational corporation, all on an amazing vacation (with a few meetings between golf) and 90% were quite obviously unhappy.


Perhaps I am more attune to this particular phenomena because of my personal history with this field but I was not the only member of the crew to notice. The quotation above is direct from the cameraman’s mouth.

The first day I sifted through registration footage where the attendees and their partners cued up and ignored each other, and staff beamed at non-reciprocating faces. I felt compelled to text my Ex. This is THE X. Of life-status-change import but also my X who went through college and Grad school to join this profession. 

The X who hated just about every minute grinding through 5 years of school to study this profession. He was on the path, you see,  following the “sure thing.” He thought that somehow it would be different in practice.

It wasn’t. 

He was miserable and we were miserable together. He actually made me promise him that if he was still in that line of work, “on the track” still in 10 years, I would leave him. Um, hi, if you are looking for a sign that you are unhappy maybe that is a good one.

After 9 long, difficult months, and with a great deal of pushing by Gutsy-Emotional-Me, Thinking-He took a chance and switched careers. 

We stuck through for quite a bit longer before finally deciding to separate but that is another story for another day. The upshot is that we are still in touch (thank you counseling and determination) so I sent him a many-years-later kudos for getting out of something that was quietly but concretely bleeding his soul.

Seeing the effects of that road-so-much-more-traveled writ large on every face, made me appreciate anew what a difference that decision made for him. Granted, he is now in computers and certainly has his days of server crashes, personal issues and other untold dramas. But on any given day I know he is happier than he ever was in those months of working and years of study in the wrong field. 

I, or any stranger, can see it on his face. 

I couldn’t say anything to the corporate types on the other side of the fourth wall so I’m saying it here now: 

Life is too blippin short for you to be miserable. And when you are, it shows.

Valuing yourself enough to find your bliss is hard. Figuring out what you want and what will make you happy is hard. Taking leaps, even from the midst of soul-sucking hell, is hard. Keeping your right course in the face of uncertainty and adversity is really hard.

Staying with the safe sure thing might be easier but it will make you hard.

You and I may never meet but don’t wish that for you. 

Do the hard thing before it makes you hard!

I hope that if a camera caught you unawares today, an editor would have no trouble finding smiles that reached your eyes.


Photos via Flickr, Creative Commons Licence: Beau Maes (Math), Jack Zalium (IMG_5947), xmatt (Happy Fisherman)

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