Thursday, October 3, 2019

What I Learned at TIFF

It's been nearly a month since the 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival, and I've been meaning to reflect on my experience. It was a very hectic month leading up to the last day of TIFF, and I fell behind with lots of my personal projects, but I can truly say that this over-the-top, crazy-busy experience was exactly what I needed. This is going to be a long post, so let's just get on with it. Here's what I learned about myself at TIFF:

I'm much better at listening to my body. Heading into TIFF, I had a goal to watch at least 20 films. I had always wanted to fully immerse myself in a film festival and what better opportunity since I had access to free tickets from working at the festival. Including the three advance screenings, I ended up watching 29 films, so I blew my goal out of the water. During the first half of the festival, I would work my six-hour shift and then watch three films once I was done with work. Not surprisingly, I felt like a zombie during this time. The old me would have ignored the signs of exhaustion, beat myself up for even contemplating slowing down, persisted with the intense schedule, and gotten sick as a result. The current me decided to listen to my body and slow down in the second half of the festival. Instead of watching three films after each shift, I watched only one or two. That gave me time to rest, stay healthy, and catch up with my personal projects.

I love starting things and finishing things, but I don't love the in-between. The in-between is what I call the messy middle of work, and the messy middle is hard for me. This manifested at TIFF in a couple of ways:
  1. The duration of employment. When I was first hired for TIFF, I wasn't sure how I would feel about going back to work. I've since realized that I still enjoy working. In fact, I love starting a new job: the process of learning different skills, figuring out how things work, and finding my place in the organization. It's such an exciting time that's filled with new experiences, and new experiences thrill me. Unfortunately, once I learn the ropes and get into a routine, I start to feel stagnant. In the past, it's taken me a while to actually call it quits, which is why I loved working at TIFF in my very first contract position. I loved having an end date. It was a decision point, at which I knew I would have to consciously think about what to do next, and it made a huge difference in my job satisfaction.

  2. The work itself. Over the years, I've realized that I quite enjoy transactional and administrative tasks. There's something about this type of work that makes me feel incredibly productive and motivated. I believe this stems from my desire to get one thing done before moving on to the next deliverable. Projects that go on forever or have no real end goal are incredibly draining for me. I need to see the end goal, work towards it, and ultimately get it done. This is something that was lacking in my previous full-time job -- the projects and issues seemed to go on forever, and there would rarely be any real completion or resolution. I felt like I was a hamster in a wheel, constantly spinning and getting nowhere. With TIFF, I worked in ticketing so the work was much more transactional. It didn't require much skill in terms of analysis or deep thinking, but it was still highly satisfying.
I enjoy talking to a lot of different people, even though the interactions are more surface-level. Before TIFF, I thought I didn't like meeting new people or talking to strangers. I've since learned that I operate in a U curve for relationships. I enjoy talking to people when we both know we are only interacting at this one point in time. There is no expectation to get to know each other or continue our relationship. The interaction is polite and friendly, but transactional. At the other end of the U curve, I also enjoy having meaningful conversations that help to further deep relationships. Anything in-between is what I call the messy middle of interaction -- when you don't know whether you want to take the next step to being close friends so you're stuck in the world of small talk ad infinitum. I don't like this. At TIFF, all my interactions were of the former variety and I loved it. I feel that I learned to talk again at TIFF... more about this in the next point.

I love being by myself, but I shouldn't be by myself for too long. This is kind of a too much of a good thing type situation. The part I loved about my full-time job was that I worked independently most of the time. I specialized in spreadsheet analysis and report writing, and I loved this part of the job. However, doing this type of work for 18 years made me even more introverted, reserved, shy, and socially anxious. I started thinking I didn't like new people, and my comfort level with speaking out loud reduced dramatically. This was part of the reason I started my YouTube channel in 2011 -- to practice speaking out loud again. Speaking to the camera is different from speaking with people though, and I realized this with each month I spent away from full-time employment. I applied to work at TIFF to start talking to people again, and boy did I ever talk to people! It was so good for me though and I realized through this experience that I still love people, I still love to interact, and I can blabber on easily without feeling anxious. This was probably the greatest gift in my short month of working at TIFF.

Films can help you learn more about yourself and the world around you. I knew I would be entertained at TIFF as a film-goer, but I was surprised how much I learned from each of the 29 films. For my 52 memoirs project, I reflected on what I watched by briefly summarizing my key takeaway from each film, and I decided to also publish my thoughts here:

Our Lady of the Nile: If we focus on our differences, we risk overlooking our similarities.
Coppers: How do we move from assumptions and misunderstandings to compassion and acceptance?
White Lie: Manipulation, lies, and deception damage our own selves as well as those around us.
The Truth: What is the truth? How does perception influence experience?
Red Penguins: We can't fully understand an environment unless we are immersed in it.
Sea Fever: Did the creature exist or was it sea fever? When does reality become madness?
The Whistlers: A secret language can enhance communication and increase a sense of belonging.
Blood Quantum: Storytelling can be incredibly cathartic and healing.
The County: Sometimes it's better to lose and let go.
Instinct: The desire for power and control can have unintended consequences.
And We Go Green: Commerce can help bring environmental issues to the forefront.
Tammy's Always Dying: Parents express their love in the ways they know how.
The Platform: In the end, we all meet the same fate.
Bad Education: A little greed and entitlement can quickly morph into something much bigger.
The Laundromat: There is no incentive to challenge the status quo in prosperous times.
Letter to the Editor: A collection is a body of work.
Made in Bangladesh: There are times when you have to risk everything to do what's right.
The Other Lamb: It's important to look past the rhetoric and decide for ourselves.
Desert One: A failed mission is not always a failure.
To the Ends of the Earth: When we stop looking for fear, we find joy.
Sanctuary: Celebrities have the incredible opportunity to spread awareness and effect change.
Parasite: Humour and wit can only mask deep-seated pain and resentment for so long.
The Kingmaker: Money, power, and corruption can stifle an entire nation.
Marriage Story: Love can be lost through lack of communication.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator: How do we begin to reverse systemic sexism?
David Foster: Off the Record: All we need is one person to believe in us.
The Perfect Candidate: It only takes one brave individual to spark a community's desire for change.
37 Seconds: How do we evolve the vernacular from disabled to differently-abled?
Murmur: When does the therapy become the addition?
Jojo Rabbit: It's easy to hate. It's much more difficult to look past the hate to find common ground.

If you made it this far, kudos to you!!!

To wrap up my experience this year with TIFF, here are the vlogs I shared to document my journey. :)

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