Friday, November 06, 2009

i write this with the expectation of receiving ridicule, since I was only a photographer in the newsroom for less than a year. My friends are still working there, and those who have left did so with years of experience under their belt.

Even with my dismally short tenure, I have never forgotten the sense of camaraderie in that place. Of course, I realise now that I had been insulated from the myriad of flaws that come with working with a large corporation. As a freelancer, I didn't have to think about staff evaluations, about the promise of promotions, about pay increases, about claiming days off. I was young, desperate to be wanted - I would have worked every day if they asked me to.

I write this now because I just finished an unpleasant argument with someone who accused me of working too hard. It is something that people say a lot about me here, but I suppose that only I am privy to the truth.

I have learnt when to shut off, when to close down that computer, when to say enough is enough. I don't feel like i have to prove anything anymore, and I do not feel guilty when I choose not to reply that email that has been sitting in my inbox for too long.

This is something very difficult to do, as I am surrounded by people whom the title of 'workaholic' does not justice. These folks work from 8 in the morning till past midnight, and still feel like they haven't done enough.

My point is - I am not like that. I did that for the first couple of months, but such a workload left me utterly broken and useless. And so, I stopped it.

I now have to break that little pact I made with myself.

The news agency was meant to be separate - an independent entity that was silently supported by the main organisation. Due to mismanagement and a whole host of other reasons, the news agency was struggling to stay afloat. Radical changes were needed if it were to survive.

My boss - the one who had started everything - had somehow come to believe that my incredibly short work experience as a news photographer meant that I had the expertise to lead a news agency.

And I, echoing Joo's everlasting words of wisdom "Better me than anyone else", readily agreed.

My department was already struggling with the workload we had - with all my time spent on fixing day-to-day matters, I could barely find the time to plan the much needed long-term brand and vision for the department. And still, I couldn't say no.

The small news team moved in five days ago. Three young men that had miraculously continued to stay with the sinking agency even though they were paid miserable salaries to work seven days a week. They had a certain air of desperation that was all too familiar. One of them had howled in protest when I said I was planning to start putting them in shifts. The thought of not being called on for a job, and thus missing out on a shoot, was completely unacceptable to him.

And so, I now lead a team of eight and an agency that distributes stock, editorial and news imagery. Shutting off is fast becoming an impossible option.

But there is now a new vigor in the room. These boys do not leave when the clock strikes 5 in the afternoon. Inappropriate jokes, sarcastic remarks about politicians, callous comments about bomb explosions, the question "Did anyone die?", the familiar rush rush rush to get things done, spell names right, dig up the background facts -- forgive my sentimentality, but I felt I had come home.

I suppose this nostalgia will wear off in a couple of months, after the bullshit had piled up and the realisation that WE ARE NOT MAKING A DIFFERENCE has set in -- but till then, I'll be damned if I don't enjoy every last second of this.