8.08 - Eight Years & Change
Updated: Aug 22
Eight Years & Change (lots and lots of change)...
Wow. Let’s start with a fun fact: this was a storage closet.
You can tell by the ginormous shelves that had to be taken apart to be moved. This storage closet was my office from Jul 8, 2013 - until 2 days ago (August 8, 2021, when this was originally written).
I’ll never forget my job interview where one of the four panelists did not say a word. I thought for sure I didn’t get it and proceeded to apply for unemployment since my job before had just been eliminated.
Pause: But don't feel too bad about that. I didn't - eliminating the position was my idea. Another story for another time, but the gist was that I looked at the bigger picture, saw they needed 3 people instead of 1 and by cutting my role from the org. chart, you could get 3, and in turn, better serve the mission and goals of that non-profit organization.
Play: So I got a call from Simon, who created my job, and because I couldn’t understand his English accent, I thought he offered me an internship when he had said ‘interim.'
Knowing that I qualified for unemployment, I honestly considered it for a minute.
But it’s not often if ever you get to introduce yourself as the HOT Marketing Director and (to this day) I loved the potential of a company that reached almost 25,000 kids throughout the islands, where I was born and raised, and let’s be honest, I knew nothing about Opera.
If anything would be an adventure in service - this was it!
Simon didn’t care about my background because the company needed what I could offer in the digital arena (and got more than they thought in others, of this I'm sure) and I’ll never forget being told by Simon, though other candidates looked better on better, "I had a good feeling about you."
Pause: Another thing I'll never forget was his saying that hiring me was the best decision he made as he took his exit, which gosh, I don't know if I'll every write about that story unless there's space in Adventures in Urban Mysticism (AUM) Vol. 2: Redemption - shout out to working project manuscripts!
The internship that was interim became permanent two weeks after I gave a presentation to the Board. Talk about nerves and pressure!
Shortly thereafter the colleague, who said not a single word during my interview, talked to me and said she admired that I eliminated my position at my last stop.
I didn't have much time to pick up my jaw from the floor because I was thrust right into Opera Season where according to one colleague, everyone is nice until the Season, because at that point, they get crazy.
I will not say such but considering they "paid me not to sing" (shout out to Henry Akina with that mic drop media gold), I will say this: at times there was more drama off then on the stage and leave it at that.
Oh, wow, oh, wow!
I remember the first production of Turandot, walking backstage for the first time, seeing the lights on the floor as they were being set up by the crew.
In that moment, I understood why they say there is magic in show business.
I’d recall this and chuckle years later as I watched singers dance in their period piece costumes from a production of La bohème, then use their modern devices in the shadows. There was even a fist bump or two exchanged while waiting in the wings for the prompt from the stage manager to return because the show must go on.
Behind-the-scenes, again, remember they paid me not to sing (!), I did what I could to grow the brand in the way that felt pono and develop a system for consistency using the pieces available to work with, and advocate for reaching and making space for more local audiences.
It was bananas at times.
But here's the thing:
the peels that caused the many slips one day won’t be remembered.
I can recall a great many of those mishaps today but someday, I know in my Heart, that I'll look back at a Life lived and loved fully and that includes every chapter.
When the twilight finds me, it'll be memories like closing down the Cooke Street warehouse where we staged a modern production of Siren Song. I remember it because I knew that day, while sitting there as the last one to leave on the final night of the run, and all I could think was:
This crazy cast of misfits did something that hadn’t been done here (in Honolulu) before.
And that's the thing, along with the bananas in, it can be pretty cherry too. So perhaps instead of feeling split as Life does its thing, perhaps the slips of Life are but scoops of a banana split of delicious experience that we're here for.
Note: It is. My teacher, Adya, would say as much. Actually, Adya would say something in her Jamaican/East Coast/30 plus years of Hawai'i accent: "It's all an experience my Dear. You're here to remember who you really are. We all are and you're going to tell people that."
Most recently and perhaps why the finale had to be as it was, I got to see the company do things in places it hadn’t (but made sense “from a marketing perspective”) like The Barn at SALT in here in Honolulu.
And most fitting, there was Opera Kanikapila - the only fruit from the Hapa Opera Project seed I planted and more fitting, left behind, as a way to bridge gaps and reach new audience. Now that was as much marketing as it was my seeing the world in the need of our local culture as a filter in the form of art.
Now let me tell you, we shot that about nine months ago and, ho, Brah, the chicken skin! Adya: Nine months, you say? Well it sounds like you was ready to give birth and move into something new, Dear.
That night it was recorded, I was tasked with taking pictures. I remember walking in, feeling much like I had over the years as someone from outside of opera, but that evening, in my element.
"You look like a photographer." One colleague said.
And I owned that because something transformed amidst the trek from day one of my "interim" appointment to eight years, change, and the pocket lint later. From outsider to being in my element as a creative, an artist, seeing the vision, the seeds planted, tended, and somehow all lead to a season of harvest, and a healthy one at that.
Little did I know that would in essence be among the last production sets I'd step foot on. While I often joked with another dear colleague that each opera was our last, who knew this morphed by the pandemic once live, then digital season in fact, would be my last.
That night, as Quinn Kelsey, the Native Hawaiian opera star who's like the Bruno Mars in that world from the 808, who I've gotten to know over the years, and I talked about the loss of a parent for the first time, reflecting on the impact it had on us, my mind bounced around as I focused on the DSLR that I had never used before. I recalled the words of a shooter we worked with before, who said, it's not about the type of camera, it's about what you have on you.
Much like writing. No matter if I have a pen, pencil, crayon, phone, tablet, keyboard, my fingers in the sand, I'm a writer, I write. And so it is with any creative medium for an artist, I'm all of the above, I got this. And so do you, whoever may read this words, you got this, because the Higher Power, got all of this and us. So just Be the Flow.
And it flowed for me that evening. Taking photos of the recording despite the covid protocols in place, I felt so awake, so present. I watched as the 'ukulele phenom Taimane practiced with her guitarist, saw the human behind the artist that the world sees.
Then the two world-class artists came together, she with her trancelike performance, and he with his remarkable confidence in his instrument, housed in his body, I was overcome with gratitude. Gathered here, in the 808, in hopes that we'd introduce more people to this company in the middle of the Pacific, to share that filter of the local, island perspective, with which I've grown in myself, with the world.
Pause: Beautiful. Just Soul Beautiful.
And just lidat, it's pau. Eight years, so much change, so much life, a fair share of death, all of it, now in the rear view. I've given you snippets but if I were to stitch together a story act, it'd be something like this:
Act One - the outsider stumbling about to find the lights on the stage and Life, like the magic of theatre, when you take a Light to the darkness, transforms everything and you can see.
Act Two - the 'Big Ass' brand fan overhead as our protagonist sat alone in the empty warehouse because the show was over, yet the fact that it had been done, was all that mattered. Cause really, the one long moment is all we got, so cherish it.
Act Three - the seeds, sown so long ago, there they were, alive...
Curtain - Pinch me, I'm dreaming!
And there you have it my friends, FIN.
Note: If I do publish that manuscript of the second in the AUM Series, this would be Closing Time, my theme of outtro essay title I've used to tie the know on the packaging of each book I've ever written.
Wow, all the wow. Oh wait, is this like the scene in Step Brothers, where they realize they're best friends? Did we just write a book these past eight years?!
Jk. There's been so much heavy sh!t the past year and half, especially considering that the 1.5 yrs. of Dad's soul flying free is coming up, we gotta enjoy the view. And why not the cosmic joke while we're at it?
Mahalo, much mahalo to everyone I had the honor to serve at HOT, to my many colleagues, those who came and left before, and those who remain. Y'all really are crazy, but in that it's family kind of way. Thank you for all you gave me. Aloha - jmaw