Stay in The Present, Young Padawan
Disclaimer: Any opinions I write about here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Meow Wolf, the company for which I work.
So the other night at work, I had an encounter with a guest that left me feeling uneasy.
A little context: When I am stationed in the Omega Mart grocery store, one of my main job responsibilities is to make sure that guests do not take Omega Mart products into the back area of our attraction. We have other duties as well, including directing guests, helping them with the interactive game play, answering questions, and creating atmosphere, but our primary responsibility in those positions is to watch all the entrances to the other areas of our attraction and make sure guests don't take products to the other areas of the attraction.
Most of the time, if guests do take product to those other spaces, they are doing so unwittingly. Unless they are specifically told not to do so, they probably don't even realize they aren't supposed to or that they will have a chance to purchase products when they eventually leave.
So I saw a guest holding a can of our Wake Up, Please! drink go through one of these entrances, and thus, I attempted to stop him.
Now you should also know that it was apparent to me that he was filming a video on his phone (presumably of him going through this entrance, which is kind of a cool-looking entrance). However, I did not know what his intention was with the video—whether it was to just capture him going through the entrance or whether he would continue going further into the space, where I would be unable to stop him.
So I followed him into the entrance, explaining to him that he could not take the drink with him. In my mind at the time, he either couldn't hear me or was just ignoring me (it turned out to be the latter, but only because he was trying to have a clean take of his video, which I did not fully realize).
So anyway, because I was calling for him to come back with the can, I basically ruined his video. He was upset with me, and said, quite tersely, "I'm trying to shoot a video. It doesn't f***in' matter. I've already been through here twice with the can."
Now if that was true, if I or one of my coworkers missed catching him the other times he went through with the can, that's on us. Regardless, I had no knowledge of that, and my only priority at that moment was to stop him from taking the can through.
I told him I was sorry if I had ruined his video. That certainly wasn't my intention. I told him I could hold the can, and he could shoot the video again. He angrily said, "No. F**k it!" and walked off.
So now I felt bad. Even though I had just been doing my job. Even though I thought he could have been kinder in how he dealt with me. It's never my intention for a guest to have a negative experience. Clearly, shooting this perfect video was important to this young man, and something that seemed trivial to him had ruined that experience, and I was partially responsible for that.
So here's the crux of what this post is really about and something I have often struggled with: I had a hard time letting go of the conversation and how it made me feel. When things like that happen, I have a tendency to replay them in my mind wishing I could somehow have a do-over.
I am a people pleaser by nature. I also strive not to hurt people's feelings. I obviously had neither pleased this young man nor created a positive guest experience for him.
So now I'm letting this experience and conversation affect my mood, and I'm dwelling on it even though I am telling myself it's in the past; there's nothing I can do about it; that my actions were justified; that his reaction was his baggage, not mine; that I shouldn't let his attitude affect how I feel; etc.
But nevertheless, I am replaying how I wish things would have gone. I should have just let him do his video. I should have realized he was just filming. Was the can such a big deal? Could another Creative Operator have caught it later?
And then I'm arguing with myself. It's literally your job to stop him from entering with the product. That. Is. Your. Job! Your priority was the can, not his video. You didn't know he'd already been in the attraction with the can or if he was even telling the truth about that. He could have reshot the video; no one was stopping him from doing that but himself. He's the one who was overreacting.
And then, even though I'm telling myself not to get upset, I am. He was rude. There was no reason for him to get that upset over a video. Who's going to care about that video? Will he even care about that video a week from now? Your priority was the can, not his stupid video.
Ah, but it wasn't stupid to him. It obviously was important to him or he wouldn't have gotten so upset about it. Whether you meant to or not, your shouts about a stupid can ruined the take. How would you feel if you were trying to shoot a perfect video and someone ruined the take because of something that felt insignificant to you?
But the video isn't my concern. Whether or not he thinks the can is insignificant—or even if I think the can is insignificant—it's my job to stop him from taking it beyond where he was taking it.
And then I'm getting annoyed with myself. It's doesn't matter. It's over! You did what you did. He did what he did. What's done is done. You did your job. He reacted the way he did. Stop dwelling on it. Why are you fixated on this?
And ultimately, it's because I had just wanted him to have a good experience, and he didn't.
Does this ever happen to you? You have a conversation or encounter that you wish had gone differently and you even try to replay it in your head so that it is different? I think we all must experience this.
I've talked in this blog about letting go of negative stuff, quieting the mind trash in our heads, not letting others' attitudes control our own, not dwelling on the past, etc. But I struggle with these things too, although I think I've gotten better as I've gotten older.
All we have in life is the present moment. The past is gone, so there is no use dwelling on it, yearning for it, or reliving it. The future has not yet happened, so there is no use fretting or worrying about it. All we have is this moment right now.
As an actor, in my own training, I have learned how important it is to stay in the moment. When playing a role, I have to behave as if I am doing something for the first time, and to do that, I have to stay focused on what is immediately happening to my character. If I am dwelling on a line or moment that didn't go the way I wanted or if I am worried about whether I'm going to forget a line or why that guy in the audience keeps looking at his watch, I cannot stay locked in the present.
And it is those times when I dwell on a flubbed line or worry about an upcoming moment that I lose concentration and when my acting most suffers. I've been the same in auditions, worrying about whether I've chosen the right song or wishing I had played a scene differently or beating myself up because of a perceived screw-up I made. I'm much better these days than I was when I was younger, but all that mind trash helps no one.
But it is a skill. One has to be aware of the tendency to do that in order to get better at not doing it. But it still is challenging sometimes.
I took me maybe twenty minutes to half hour (too long, in my opinion) to refocus and stop dwelling on that encounter. I finally was able to let it go. Here's the thing:
I'm sorry if doing my job affected that guest in a negative way. That was not my intention.
Regardless of whether either of us could have done anything different to make that encounter more positive, it doesn't matter because it is in the past. We both did what we did, and it is over.
I will likely never see that young man again, and even if we meet again, we probably won't even recognize each other. So what difference does our encounter even make?
Perhaps this encounter can be useful in the future for how I deal with other guest encounters.
I will say this, too. On the same night as this encounter, I had another guest encounter—this time in front of my manager and the general manager of our attraction. A guest walked up to me while the general manager and my manager and another coworker were speaking to each other about some positive changes that might be coming down the road for Omega Mart.
The guest shook my hand and said how much I had helped him that evening and how great I was at my job. Even if my manager and the general manager hadn't been there, it would have been a great experience, but to receive that kind of compliment in front of them really brightened my night. It lifted me in a way the earlier encounter had not.
Ultimately, replaying the past and trying to alter it is futile. Best to stay in the present. Namaste.