It's been 3 years since I last used this blog, as pretty much all my thoughts and feelings have been around the world of film, so were posted on my FilmFile site. However, this year in review is a more personal one, so doesn't fit under that umbrella.
So, here's my first update in 3 years to Just Another Geek - I did intend this to be a short post, but the words just got away with me. Read it, or don't read it, that's your choice. But I needed to get these words out of my head, and it feels so much better now that I can enter 2018 fresh minded.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
2017 began with me on a high-point career wise. Coming off the back of the best two years of personal growth that I had delivered in my time at Cineworld, I was being coached for progression, and had certainly made a name for myself across the circuit – something I had done years previously as a film and marketing guru, but now it was highlighting that my knowledge stretched much further than that. 2017 would be the year that I would be all that I wanted to be.
How little did I know then where the year would take me….
At the mid-point of the year, Cineworld announced a ‘restructuring’ of the management and supervisor roles across the circuit, citing that it was to make the company ‘Fit for the future’. As other people who have experienced similar in their lines of work will already know, ‘fit for the future’ means ‘cutting costs by cutting jobs and reducing pay-grades’. Job descriptions were changed (well, the words used to describe them were, if not the actual content of the role), so everyone had to reapply for job they have been doing for years, and like with any ‘restructuring’, some people would be let go. Part of this also involved reduction in the number of Deputy General Managers over the circuit, and the introduction of a location policy, whereby you need to be expected to travel a few hours each day for work. At a time when I was pushing for promotional opportunities, it seemed the company was pushing back to reduce the chances of me growing any further.
“Why don’t you learn to drive?” I was asked on multiple occasions. Having happily spent 44 years of my life not driving, and getting by perfectly fine, why should I? Heck, even my friends who drive know how adept I am with using public transport, and how meticulously I can plan routes to places to ensure I arrive on time (usually early), whilst drivers are stuck in jams. I even demonstrated recently how I could actually get to a town 40 miles from my home by public transport faster than someone who drove. It is the ignorance of those who drive that leads to a lack of understanding about how easy it is to NOT drive.
But, still, I wasn’t intending to leave. I knew I would pass the interview for the new position, and chatted to the regional manager regarding the location policy, which put my mind at ease. The lack of potential progression opportunities was still a concern, but not enough to upset the apple-cart.
However, the reports coming back from the weekly consultations started to show, in their responses, a seeming disdain that the operations team had for any of the concerns showed that they were approaching the consultations just as a matter of procedure, and had already made their minds up on all the aspects. When some comments hinted that anyone who had been an Operations Manager for a long period of time and not progressed should really ask themselves what they are doing, it was hard to not take that to heart. So, I asked myself that very question. “What am I doing here?” I had become frustrated over the years since the company was taken over by cut-backs in support, and lack of interest in fixing issues that were long-term and ongoing. As much as I loved the site, I had lost faith in the company.
So, I handed my letter in to opt out of the process and take redundancy.
Suffice to say, it surprised a lot of people. I was always considered a ‘lifer’ and, given that I came out of the interview for the new role full of confidence that I had “smashed it” (I had), it really caught people off guard to find that I was going.
It also pleased a few people, which I had the joy of finding out when opening up the building one morning. Suffice to say, if you want to use Facebook at work, don’t leave yourself logged in, and especially not when you have spent time on the chat slagging off someone and saying how glad you are they are going. That chat window was there, on display, in the corner of the screen, and it was impossible not to see the comments made about me in there. What was more upsetting was a couple of the names involved in the chat. One person didn’t surprise me, and despite me being the only manager to argue his potential, then push for him to progress, he has always been a backstabbing gossip, and I had witnessed his two-faced nature on many occasions. No, what hurt were the two people who I genuinely thought I got on with, and genuinely thought of as people who were glad to work alongside me.
Whether that small handful of 5 people in that chat represented the genuine opinions of others or not, it helped make me realise that the place was a toxic environment, and I was glad to be leaving. Even so, I kept my focus at work for my remaining weeks, and kept a positive outlook.
So, exactly one week before my sixteenth anniversary at Cineworld, I left. The next two months I relaxed a bit, paid off some debts, and only really pursued a couple of jobs - one of which was an Aldi Management position I put in for and worked through their rather detailed stages of interviews, getting to the final one-to-one. Again, I get the feeling that not driving was seen as an issue as a good portion of the interview was them trying to find fault in me using public transport (“What if you need to get to work before the buses run?” – I would use a taxi, as I have done when doing stock counts at 4am! “What if you need to get in at short notice?” – buses run frequently, but again a taxi would be a swift option. “What if there is a problem on the bus service and it is delayed?” – in 16 years of work, I’ve been late exactly once. Fellow colleagues who drive are late frequently.) As I said earlier, the ignorance of those who drive…
I discovered, after I left, that the toxic environment there extended beyond that group of five who were glad to see the back of me, and found myself a bit of a social pariah. Attempts to converse with those whom I had enjoyed a good relationship in the past saw as much result as if I spoke to a brick wall (although at least my own echo would come back if I spoke to a wall). When another ex-Cineworlder asked me if I was going to the Cineworld Christmas Party, and then went on to explain he had been personally invited by text a week earlier, it confirmed in my mind exactly how full of crap some people are. After years of being positive in mind, and on a high, the event, as small as it may seem, sent me on a bit of a spiral down into paranoid anxiety. Hearing further that the person who sent the text had claimed that I had been invited (I hadn’t), that they were planning to tell Kerry I could come along (they had 9 shifts between that text and the party – not once did they ask her), and then that there was no text and the person was told in store (there was a text - I’ve seen it) seemed to confirm that this wasn’t an accidental oversight, this was a deliberate decision to keep me away. Paranoia going into overdrive, I took a few days away from things, had a couple of rants on Facebook (after years of bottling in my feelings and driving myself into depression, this is actually some damn good therapy), and then cut a huge chunk of people out of my lives (represented by the culling of over 65 people on Facebook). My past was behind me, my future was an open canvas.
During all of this period, I got back into contact with an old friend. We used to talk on the phone a few times a week, game online regularly, and considered ourselves family. Sadly, a few years ago, I felt seriously let down by him when I was going through one of the hardest periods of my life ever (and if you think I’m going to share details, sorry but that ain’t happening). This soured the friendship somewhat, and we spoke maybe twice over two years as a result. With my new focus on life approaching, I decided it was time to reconnect, and so, out of the blue, I gave him a call. We’ve begun speaking a bit more regularly, and are slowly working back to building that bond that we once had. It was genuinely pleasing to hear how he had started work again after years of unemployment, and hearing how he was turning his life around. Whilst I am still unsure if we would ever be as close as we were, just having him in my life again feels right somehow.
Giving myself until mid-November to get into work (I wanted to earn some money on the run-up to Christmas, and whilst I still had some redundancy pay left), I began working at Team KnowHow on 22nd November. As my first experience of call centre work I actually found it a lot better than I expected. The group who I trained with were a great bunch, and we certainly bonded over our love of films as a group. The job itself, when we actually got to the floor on the fourth week, was simple, straightforward, and the easiest money you could earn. But it was only ever going to be a short term fix.
In early December, The Light cinema advertised for a Supervisor position. The cinema had become my home-away-from-home over the months since I left Cineworld. The combination of my feelings toward Cineworld, the fact that I never received my free-Unlimited code which was supposed to be part of my redundancy, and the knowledge of every fault in every screen at the building made me not desire to return to the place. So, I went to The Light and was struck by the place! The seating is spacious and comfy, the picture and sound were awesome, the staff were welcoming, the ambience of the building was relaxed and inviting (not the flashy-lights techno-playground that Cineworld has become in recent years). So, when the job advert popped up, I redrafted my CV and cover letter and sent it off. A week later I was invited in for a chat, and was so excited to be offered the role.
So, on January 2nd 2018 I will officially start my new employment as a Supervisor at The Light cinema. I look forward to joining the team there, and bringing some of my knowledge, but most importantly my passion for film and cinema, along with me.
It feels like coming home, and 2018 will be the year I can be all that I want to be.