Work and Personal Life: One and the Same For Me

In theory I agree with the notion of setting aside private time separate from work time. I think I should be able to go to the beach on a weekend day in the summer, jump over the waves, and read a captivating novel that transports me to a place far away from my never-ending list of daily tasks.

But here’s why that philosophy is so hard for me to live: Everything I do, everything that pops into my mind, is a story. That is how it has always been for me, since the time I was a little girl. I imagine details about the lives of people who walk past me in the streets or run with their dogs in the park. I wonder about the history of buildings with interesting architectural details. I try to envision all of the steps that go into the manufacture of my smartphone or a jar of salsa and all of the diverse individuals who played a role in those items finding my hands or refrigerator as a final destination. I think about these stories even when I’m swimming at the beach or peering up from my compelling book as I sit on a blanket in the sand. It’s just the way I’m made. It’s also what I do for a living. I record stories through video.

Sometimes the stories are major documentaries, like one our company produced that is currently circulating around the film festival circuit called Delicious Peace Grows In A Ugandan Coffee Bean. It’s about interfaith Ugandan farmers building peaceful relationships and economic development through a business endeavor: a coffee cooperative. But often the stories are much less global, yet equally interesting to those of us who love to imagine, then show and tell.  Through our corporate video business, Voices & Visions Productions, we had the opportunity a few weeks ago to tell the story of a company in England producing a biodegradable formula inserted into heating systems to prevent corrosion without harming the environment. Last week we created short stories about an ergonomically superior scissor for hair stylists. This week we will be updating a video about the way some people with incomes below the poverty line have turned around their lives as a result of a supportive housing project. Next week we will shoot footage showing tangible benefits to over a million people of a major retirement system. In each case we get to peer through the windows of people’s lives and ask questions that pry open stories.  It’s my job to ask (how lucky is that!), then their responses bring more inquiries followed by more answers followed by more questions, and the floodgates of information tinged with emotion frequently open.

It’s usually way more than we need to produce a corporate video for which we are hired. But it’s what I need to satisfy my imagination, and it doesn’t cost the client anything extra since we are at the location anyway. In fact, it often boomerangs to the client’s benefit: the extra sound bites occasionally come in handy down the road when new ideas blossom on the client’s marketing horizon and the quotes that have collected dust on the “video library shelf” find usefulness.

When I read in the news about a grant that a nonprofit has received to create a fantastic project, I want to be involved in videotaping it, to watch the idea transform into a reality that affects people’s lives, and then to tell the broad story as well as all the human puzzle pieces inside it. Private equity or hedge funds buying new businesses and investing in their growth? I can hardly contain my excitement – I see job creation, corporate creativity, economic hope through small business – and I really want to shout out the story. Then there’s the new and exploding “green” field, in which there isn’t a single program I hear about that I don’t want to dive into with our cinematographer, as if I’m on a quest for some hidden treasure.

So it is that I can’t separate my personal time from my work time. They are really one and the same to me. Tomorrow my husband and I will be attending the wedding of the daughter of good friends of ours. She and her fiancé are getting married on the Jersey Shore. “Come early, stay late!” our friends implore. “We will celebrate at the beach!” There will be waves and sand on the sunny, 80 degree day. But my brain won’t be able to just give itself over to thoughtless joy. It will dance with the wonderful story of how our friend’s daughter and her husband-to-be met, and it will revel in the stories about the collection of people who are there – some of which I know and others of which I have yet to learn. And undoubtedly there will be some unanticipated thing or person I will see at the beach that will spark my imagination. All good stories. Tomorrow I will have to enjoy them without reaching for electronics.

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