In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham is the opposite of a corporate head-hunter: instead of recruiting people to fill positions, he fires them when their own bosses can’t face the music. He travels the country, office to office, and delivers the bad news. He is very good at what he does. He has an answer for everything, and he’s adept at knowing just what to say to tip the scale from near-meltdown to mere course correction. He lends dignity to an undignified situation.
In a great scene with J.K. Simmons, Bingham forestalls just such a meltdown by asking:
Simmons says: Because they screw lingerie models.
Bingham, authoritatively: No. That’s why WE admire athletes. Kids admire athletes because they follow their dreams.
With that, he defused the guy’s anger, got him thinking about why he hadn’t ever pursued becoming a chef, and walked away with another notch in his corporate belt. Job well done.
This scene had special relevance for me, having tried (pretty unsuccessfully) to juggle a full-time job along with a serious art career. After struggling with varying degrees of pain over this for the last two years, I came to the conclusion recently that these two things can’t coexist. Maybe they can for some people, or maybe some other jobs could have for me. But at this point in my life and in this position, it is just not working out.
My contract is about to expire and just four days later, I leave for a wonderful artist’s residency in Vermont, where I’ll have time to do nothing but paint. Although on the one hand, I’m stepping off a cliff, on the other, I’m able to go away with a clear conscience. The timing was almost preordained. So, like Ryan Bingham, I’m going to look at this as a dignified transition and get busy following my dreams.