5 things Nakate has taught me the hard way:
June 30, 2011 § 1 Comment
Remember the Devil Wears Prada? Nevermind that my brothers tell me I remind them of Miranda, Nigel has always been my favorite character. In particular, I love his relationship with Andy. His monologue in the graph room has stuck with me ever since I watched the movie as a 17-year-old who couldn’t get enough of Adrian Grenier.
In case you’ve forgotten, this is what he says to her:
Andy, be serious. You are not trying. You are whining. What is it that you want me to say to you, huh? Do you want me to say, “Poor you. Miranda’s picking on you. Poor you. Poor Andy”? Hmm? Wake up, six. She’s just doing her job. Don’t you know that you are working at the place that published some of the greatest artists of the century? Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta. And what they did, what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it. Well, not you, obviously, but some people. You think this is just a magazine, hmm? This is not just a magazine. This is a shining beacon of hope for… oh, I don’t know… let’s say a young boy growing up in Rhode Island with six brothers pretending to go to soccer practice when he was really going to sewing class and reading Runway under the covers at night with a flashlight. You have no idea how many legends have walked these halls. And what’s worse, you don’t care. Because this place, where so many people would die to work you only deign to work. And you want to know why she doesn’t kiss you on the forehead and give you a gold star on your homework at the end of the day. Wake up, sweetheart.
I’m my own boss, but I answer to a million different people – the video guy that wants his check, the stylist that needs pieces by monday, another stylist that wants them Friday, all the people at the party on Saturday night that want to know where they can find the new pieces and the woman next Thursday who I promised to ship to this weekend. I answer to the photographer running a shoot in August, and the one waiting for me to ship her gray and black shades of jewelry so she put them on models in downtown Los Angeles. There’s emails to be answered, meetings to be had – and I have to account for making sure what money goes where. Lastly, I answer to myself. Do I take a salary? How much? How about when it’s between quitting and carrying on? Moving out or staying at home? Am I doing enough? Sending enough back?
I’ve felt discouraged. I’ve had two African parasites I haven’t taken care of because I didn’t want to spend the money. I’m down for the count, exhausted, stressed and about twice a week I feel finished. I’ve been living at home so I didn’t have to take money from my project. But I’ve thought I owed my project this type of sacrifice. I’ve thought I needed to put myself last.
Today, a single tweet reminded me of something huge I had forgotten:
I forgot that when I left Uganda I left with a mission to stop asking for donations, and to find a solution. I left with an awareness that I had seen things other people hadn’t, and that made me different. Not only did that make me different, but it made me responsible in a different way. Like my friend Shannon says, “What I have seen doesn’t make me better. It just makes me different.”
I forgot that I had wanted to make a career our of partnering with women, not giving them a handout, at my own expense.
What I am doing walks a fine line between enterprise and philanthropy. I landed somewhere between high end fashion and Bono, and I’ve been trying to find my way ever since. For every woman that buys a necklace because she’s loves how it looks, there’s three that buy them for the cause. By the same token, a stylist said our necklaces were perfect for an international ELLE shoot last week. So, that makes us like any other company now, doesn’t it? Some people love us. Some people don’t. The only difference is that we send money back to impoverished women. And, that doesn’t make us better. That just makes us different.
So, I walk a balance, don’t I? Somewhere between enterprise and philanthropy, between buying because you love it, and buying because you love what I’m doing, there is a fine line where I’m tip-toeing precariously. This is something terribly different than anything I’ve ever done, and, as I wrote in an apologetic letter to a designer this week – I’m LEARNING AS I GO.
But who isn’t?
So, a few things I’ve learned as I seek to balance somewhere between enterprise and philanthropy. Here’s to hoping they help someone else in their balancing act:
1. No one owes me anything. If I start out thinking that way, I won’t get anywhere. There are people who choose to give of themselves, and that’s fabulous. But, it’s my job to find those people, not to change the people that aren’t like them. If a designer doesn’t want to do pro-bono work, that doesn’t lessen the value of their work, or the “good” in them as a person. Again, it makes them different.
2. I have to keep the enterprise between me and this project. If I don’t take any sort of salary, if there is no professional gratification for me aside from the good I have done, I will lose initiative. This doesn’t make me bad. It makes me normal.
3. It takes much more than two. I’ve started to watch as pieces of my project get given away without me even thinking about it. One person runs design and, before I realize it, they are our designer. Another person runs online updates our site and, before I know it, she’s the site manager. Someone else handles styling as a volunteer here and there and, before I know it, we have a stylist. I couldn’t do all these things anyway, and it’s right that it happens organically this way. This is how genius work forms.
4. I cannot run this project at my expense. I’ve thought I could. I thought that how much I loved these women was enough, but all my friends working in the nonprofit sector have been telling me from the beginning that it’s just not. And, I’m learning there has to be gratification in my work. There has to be the knowledge that I am carrying forward my career, and I am doing something, not only for them, but for myself. Otherwise, I’ll walk away.
5. Things must be run out of pride in a job well done, rather than guilt. My goal was to empower women to do what they are good at, and to celebrate their work. In order to keep up that spirit, I have to celebrate my own work, along with theirs.
What are you learning about your work, this week?