Author Topic: The Rut...  (Read 6403 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Mac Calder

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 977
  • Plan for the future, live for the now
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: Live Performance Australia / Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance
  • Current Gig: Technical Director
  • Experience: Former SM
The Rut...
« on: May 14, 2019, 05:45 am »
Felt like posting a stream of consciousness/request for advice/mutual commiseration post.

I have had a pretty lucky career - where I have worked with some big names, on some great shows and generally have had a steady salary for most of my career (and generally a pretty decent salary at that) - I started by studying engineering (for all of a year and a bit). I hated it, but found theatre.

I mean I always knew theatre - used to travel to Melbourne once or twice a year to see a show - however locally I grew up in a town where the amdram society performed outdoors on an oval once every 2 years, our schools 'performing arts centre' was the canteen which had an 8m x 4m stage that we could almost squeeze the full band onto and our drama class (which was an elective we could take for up to half a year if enough people wanted it) consisted of the 4 girls who liked to make up dance routines to bad 90's girl/boy band songs (that all looked the same). So I found Theatre at uni and I redirected myself - into the amateur, youth theatre world as a technician and stage manager which eventually became paying gigs.

I did that for a year making little money and skipping uni classes for rehearsals and production meetings before getting a job in corporate AV. I managed to keep my arts going on the side, but corporate paid the bills. Then I got a job on a cruise ship doing lighting. Did that for a couple of years then came back to land. Back to corporate.

24 months in, I got an offer from my company, more $$, more opportunity and paid relocation to the other side of Australia - so I took it. Worked, promoted, worked harder, promoted. Now an operations manager, not really doing theatre because I have no contacts over this side of the country, but my work is interesting and highly creative - and still occasionally extremely theatrical.

We loose a big contract (my venue) - however there is a theatre on site and their operations manager is leaving - mild paycut, no dramas - so I agree to take over for 6 months. 2500 seat theatre as operations manager - there is so much I loved about that job - but a lot I really hated. Opted not to renew my contract after 6 months of rostering 120 casual staff using excel as my rostering tool and where I had to act as a middle man between management and 6 full time staff who had been there >20 years each and believed that overtime was an entitlement not a perk. I found my replacement, trained her up and she is still there. Currently I regret not staying in that job.

Went back to corporate. Promoted to project manager for my employers parent company - they paid to move me back home with the lovely lady I had been living with for a couple of years. Worked as a PM for a 18 months, partner wants to move back - not enjoying Melbourne. Find a 6 month contract on the other side of the country - and at a $15k pay cut - move across the country again with my partner - paying out of pocket this time. Partners parents offer us her grandmothers old home - provided we make it liveable - lack of rent payments make up for the pay cut - although my savings are blown renovating this house. 4 months of heavy renovations later and I have made a liveable house. We are now 9 months into my 6 month contract and my employer and I agree on an end date. Economy is cr@p, and I don't want to work for peanuts. Spend a month out of work before finding a new job at a $10k pay cut from my last job. Can make it work... A day later get an offer for a better job - only a $2k paycut from my last job. I take it. A month later, Partner leaves me - we remain 'friends' (aka she occasionally wants to go to 'things' with me, or do things or catch up and I torture myself by accepting). I move out of the house I renovated. She doesn't want the cat, so the cat comes with me. Have to get a place that will accept cats then - find a 3br unit that accepts cats. Furnish it. Paying rent, and full utilities now, no splitting it. Feeling the $17k reduction in income now.

Now I am here, other side of the country to where my family are, my ex is just down the road and I am hating my job. Last theatre job search turned up 1 job - got down to me and 1 other and apparently the fact that he was born and bred local but lower skillset where I tend to move every 3-5 years and was probably slightly overqualified for a 400 seat theatre, scared them a little. I got the "Sorry, you are over qualified." speech.

So I sit here, ranting, wondering where the hell to go next. My first instinct was "I could move back across the country and find something I like there" - but that is expensive - there are certainly more opportunities there - but I probably couldn't afford it at this point. Next instinct was "Maybe I could sell everything and go back on cruise ships - but maybe as a production manager instead". Next thought was "maybe I could just sell everything and emigrate?" All the while, I rock up to my 9-5, (7-4 actually, but whatever) and I can just feel myself rocking back and forth within the rut. And I know I am in a rut, but at the same time I know I am lucky. I am living in a 3br house, I can pay all my bills, I am not saving money, but I am not going into debt. I get a pay cheque every week. But frankly, I am bored, a tad depressed and just generally in a rut.

Well SM Network - I guess the question part - what would you do? would you be grateful that you were gainfully employed and just work the rut until something comes up? would you make a radical change? Are you in a rut? Been in a rut? Want to blurt it out on a web forum for no real reason other than to put it out there?
« Last Edit: May 14, 2019, 10:19 am by Mac Calder »


  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 374
  • Gender: Female
  • Learn to love chaos, then tame it.
    • View Profile
  • Current Gig: The Center For Puppetry Arts
  • Experience: Professional
Re: The Rut...
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2019, 01:24 pm »
Feeling like I'm in a rut is the reason, among many others, that I am leaving my own long-time gig in August. I'm leaving the arts for a little while to avoid complete burnout, and am not quite sure what I will be doing, come September.
I think it's okay to be in a rut if you're happy, or at least content. But if there's more you want to do, whether work related or not, that is the time to make a change. Or at least, start a plan so you can make a change. Spending more quality time with my new wife has become very important to me; hence the move out of stage management and toward a standard 5-day work week.

Summary: Don't feel like you have to get out of the rut just to get out of the rut. Get out of the rut if there's somewhere else you want to be.
Jessica: "Of course I have a metric size 4 dinglehopper in my kit!  Who do you think I am?"


  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 475
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, AGMA, SMA, USITT
  • Current Gig: Freelance SM in Denver
  • Experience: Professional
Re: The Rut...
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2019, 01:05 am »
I was in a rut in a very stable job that was tangent to stage management (even occasionally actually was stage management), but I was not happy. My father got cancer and then died, and it was finally the catalyst to ask myself what I was doing with my life, and what did I want. I have the fortune of a supportive husband who could "hold down the fort" (and we have no kids), so that I was able to go out and freelance and get my name back out there. I mostly work out of town...and no, not in Australia, so I can't compare to the job markets there. I did stay at that stable gig for several more months until I found something strong enough to jump to for two shows in a row. I don't know that I'll stay with stage management forever, if I find something else that feels fulfilling too. But I knew even if I was taking a hit financially that I couldn't stay where I was any more. I have no answer for you, and you'll figure out your "you". But I will leave you with my Dad's phrase - which we just put on a dedication plaque for him at his Hospice location. "It Won't Happen That Way." However you think you're going to plan out your life, good or bad, it probably won't happen that way. You can make choices that will help guide you better or worse, and life will take turns you never expect. Keep your mind open and see what may come. And start figuring out for yourself what it is you think you want, whether in a career or personally. What gives you a spark? A former stage manager friend of mine now runs a bed and breakfast and finds joy there.


Post Merge: May 15, 2019, 01:09 am
With the "luxury" of a 7-4 "day job" - also see what other extracurricular you can get into. Some outdoor exploring group or free music to never know who you may meet and what it may lead to, both professionally and personally.

« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 01:09 am by smejs »