IMG_7054I used to have a colleague, and he changed my life, although he will never know it. He didn’t even have to try- in fact, it would be the last thing he does.

Other co-workers used to know him as a kid, and described him as perfectly normal and even a nice fellow to hang around with. Until he got acquainted with hard drugs. Now, it’s pretty much impossible to find him sober. It’s difficult to have a conversation with him.

When we were working together, I ‘m pretty sure he was the most unpopular person in the company. I didn’t mind him so much because he wasn’t a bad guy per se, but others couldn’t deal with his incapability to function properly. He couldn’t help it though.
He showed up late, was utterly unreliable and a hazard to be around, did stupid things and couldn’t keep up a regular dialogue for more than two minutes.

IMG_0388-2The thing was, he couldn’t help any of that. When his wallet got stolen for the second time in a few months, he couldn’t help it because he was completely shitfaced. When he lost his cell phone so that he had to ask the company to call his neighbors if they wanted to contact him, he couldn’t help it- it could happen to anyone.

But him first. Always him. Why, though? Where are the mistakes he makes that lead to his situation?

The state of your life is a reflection of the choices you make. My father told me about a Japanese company that makes electronic parts with a quality margin of 0.1%. When a deal was made and the contract signed, the company sent their new customer a gift: A bag of dysfunctional parts, for a total of 0.1% of the ordered amount. It came free, making the percentage of broken parts in the actual delivery: Zero.
I’ll always remember what my father said:
”Quality is no coincidence.”

PHOT0096.JPGThe problems I run into on the job usually lead back to the same things: My lack of sleep, not having a driver’s license, and my forgetfulness. 90% of those problems, I could have fixed if I had foreseen them beforehand, and done something about them. I didn’t do either, because of laziness and a lack or poor choice of decision making. This is the marginality within me, hindering my progress.

Knowing this, it’s also important to know my strengths. Where I can contribute, how I can be of value. Because I can- I’ve carried productions pretty much by myself and made them work, despite my shortcomings.

Recently I’ve come to the decision that I need to update my professional self-respect. The thing is, you see, that I started out as a school drop-out and my teachers at the time, didn’t think very highly of me. They explained that without degree, I was doomed to work in the fucking coal mines, causing me to eagerly accept any and all work I actually enjoyed- usually unpaid.

Now, I’ve made my hobby into my job and it’s time for some change. If I were to be getting paid minimum wage, today, for all the IMG_1266hours of voluntary work, I’d have thousands of euros. It’s too late to complain about that now though, and I wouldn’t- I enjoyed every moment of it and if anything, I should thank all of those employers for getting me involved. But the times of voluntary work, are finished.

Mind the word ‘work’. Anything not involving stress, doesn’t really count as work for me and since I happen to enjoy what I do, I’ll probably help others for free for as long as I live. I hope I do.
But lately, the pressure to keep up with unpaid jobs is getting the better of me and I’m putting my foot down. There’s a venue I work for as a technician, who recently begun booking several bands in a single night and I don’t care if anyone else feels up to the task, but this is the kind of shit I want to be getting paid for. It’s an evening of keeping up with the clock as a stagehand, technician and artist babysit and I’m through.

PHOT037This voluntary work, to a degree, is part of the marginality that is making it difficult to grow. It’s forcing me to dig into my life savings just to pay rent, and keeping me occupied while I should be looking for work. I keep running into employers who think it’s acceptable to ask a professional to work for nothing at all, as if they don’t have bills to pay. This is my job, you know.

I feel like a dick telling those people off, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I will still do single-band nights and if it’s for a cause I support, hell, I’ll be your stagehand or cable bitch for a day.

IMG_4035Knowing one’s value is part of the quality that builds itself. Demanding to be paid accordingly, becomes a statement, that I am no longer the lazy kid that quit school. I dropped everything and joined the army to get where I am today, for Maynard’s sake. And you wanna know what I’ve learned since?
I can operate pretty much any type of cherry picker and forklift, including those enormous telehandlers. I can do scaffolding, including black steel. I am a skilled and experienced stagehand, and a good followspot operator. I am a stage technician, both light and sound. I can solder, and fix your cables and devices. I am a photographer, my photos have been in newspapers and magazines. On top of that, I am eager to learn, have what it takes to push through, and I am reliable.

These qualities are no coincidence. They are there because I worked hard for them, starting from a school drop-out sweeping factory floors to all of the above.

This whole breakdown boils down to one thing: An apology and explanation why, in the future, I’m setting my foot down and refusing some instances of voluntary work.
Can I do it? Yes. Will I? Not without getting paid accordingly. For what it’s worth, I will try my hardest to earn you back the investment.



One response

  1. Dieter

    Damn right. Respect.

    25 April 2013 at 10:49

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