Sometimes, we don't understand the things we do until several months later. Sometimes, the decisions we felt so compelled to make do not explain themselves until years have past. I don't know about you, but there have been a couple of experiences in my life which I have yet to understand.
One of those experiences was my nine month stint at an international film financing firm in Beverly Hills. It is hard for me to even reflect on it. I think this is because I feel the tension of something that has yet to be processed, has yet to be made clear.
When I first met JP, the man who hired me, I told God "I can't handle another rejection. I have wanted to be in the film industry for so long. I can not handle another 'no.'"
This time, I got a 'yes.'
On September 1st, I drove to Beverly Hills, my stomach a sting of nerves. I parked the car in the wrong part of the garage. I took the wrong elevator to the office. I wore the wrong shoes, but I started, none-the-less. I got along very well with the five men in the office. They liked working with me, and I like working with them, but I still hadn't met my boss, the owner of the company.
He was in Europe when I was hired, and it was another three weeks before he pushed his way through the door, flinging it open in a particular way that I would come to recognize as his "entrance." He sped across the carpet, dragging his Kiton heels in a determined way, which was his signature walk. It was as if he would rocket into flight if he didn't keep his feet pinned to the ground.
JP leapt from his desk, and handling David with agility, turned him toward me. "This is Christin," JP said. David's hand jutted out from beneath his jacket.
"Welcome. You must have really impressed these guys! They're hard to please." I was mute with intimidation. I mumbled an answer, blushed pink, and flopped back into my chair. I was relieved when he turned his direct gaze from me back to JP.
My learning curve started immediately. David called me into the office, "I need reservations with S--- at Matsuhisa. The German investors are in town next month. Find me something to do with them in LA. Get my mother reservations at Le Meridien or the Peninsula. Take my car to the car wash, but I need it back by 12:30 for my lunch with P-----. Oh, and get me directions to The Ivy. JP does those little buckslips things. I like them."
I was thrown head first into a world of fancy restaurants, hotels, international travel, and expensive entertainment. Two or three words were enough to spin me into a frenzy of work. Half the time I didn't know who he was talking about, or how to find the places he asked for.
In just a few months, I learned that being an executive assistant is one of the hardest jobs around. To be a great assistant you must push the boundaries of your personal life out and out until they encompass your employer's world. There is no going home. There is no leaving for vacation. Your time is his time, and your energy is his to spend.
On Valentine's Day I ordered flowers for David's wife. On my vacation home to Indiana, I got a call from David in France who was in a fury over his Cannes Film Festival registration. I did everything from wrapping Christmas presents to making his daily coffee. It is so hard to be perfect, but perfection is the lowest common denominator as an assistant. It is simply a MUST. No questions asked.
And still, in the middle of this frenzy, I never quite caught on to what was expected of me. I wanted my job to be an office job that I could leave behind when it was time to go home. I wanted it to fit neatly into a 9-6 schedule and to stay tucked away when it was time for me to do homework, or spend time with Dwayne. This is where the trouble began.
In May of this year, I walked into David's office and sparked a conversation that made the next several days of my life click out like dominoes. I could tell he was upset with me, but he wouldn't to tell me what was wrong. Finally, in the quietness of his office he leveled with me.
"In the first few months you were doing great. I thought you were really going to catch on. But now you've hit a plateau. I need someone who can run with the ball, who can see into the future and anticipate everything that's going to happen. This company is growing, and I've got to manage these guys and a lot more pressure. I need someone that can manage this office for me. Free me up."
I sat quietly, letting his words pour over me like hot lava.
"I'm just not sure you're the right person for the job. There are a lot of things you do well and we don't need to go over those things, but my two biggest critiques are that you're too hesitant and too needy."
My future at SCC opened up before me like a movie.
"I'm not looking for a change," he said, but I didn't believe him. He had been so blunt with me that I assumed he was done with me. I found out later, that I was wrong. Somehow, David was trying to motivate me, but the dominoes were already falling. I understood something in my gut that I haven't been able to articulate until now.
I wasn't willing to let go of the quiet places in my life where David couldn't reach me. I wasn't willing to make SCC my priority, and for that reason, I needed to leave.
At a recent interview, the employer asked me, "What has been your biggest failure." I couldn't bring myself to tell him, but I knew the answer in my heart. SCC has been my biggest failure. It was the first job I ever took that I didn't finish to completion. David has been the first employer that I've completely let down.
"This makes me sad!" David said, when I turned in my resignation. "I hope I didn't chase you away." I could only shake my head and say "This is my decision."
I can still see David's Kiton shoes and hear the way he used to drag his feet across the carpet. I used to jam my feet into all kinds of uncomfortable high heels and leather shoes when I worked there. It has been a singular relief to go back to flip flops.