Being a professional is not your arrival to a level. Regardless of the field, you don’t stake a claim to professionalism, or petition for permanent residency. Getting paid doesn’t make you a professional. Neither do sponsorships, or praise from your constituents — all whom may consider themselves professionals based the above standard.

Professionalism happens minute-to-minute. You are only as professional as your last decision.

I remember a recent moment where I lost sight of that, and I made the unprofessional decision.

After being deceived and rather unceremoniously forced to close down on a production, the producer asked if I could come in on strike day and assist with closing down the set.

I had every excuse to not go in: that we had been deceived about our finances, our contracts were reneged, I was let go and it was no longer my job to close down the office, and there was nothing left for me to gain.

I had every excuse. So I took them all.

I told him sorry, I was unable to come help close.

The second I got off the phone, I knew: being in the right doesn’t make it right.

The professional decision was to close, regardless of how things fell out. The professional decision was to finish the job.

See, I made this poor choice because I let the voices of others weasel themselves into my ear. These reasonable and experienced voices belonged to people who had been involved in many more productions and gotten burned dozens of times before. They were looking out for my best interests when they told me: don’t work for free, don’t get walked over, don’t let anyone take advantage of you.

Well-meaning voices all, but they’re strangely silent now as I sit here alone, hoping weeks or months from now I’ll look back and realized I did the right thing, and knowing that I won’t

Photo Credit: Stefan Leijon

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