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It’s right before launch.

I’m in the Discord for The Secret of St. Kilda, chatting with the director. I see him say that the first episode needed a lot of work to get ready for the launch. Everything I hear and feel narrows to a fine point.

I fucked up

When the episode launched to a bunch of praise from the fans, I wasn’t able to hear it. I saw the words “great sound design” and all I thought was that 80% of what I’d turned in was changed.

Next week Mick, the director, noticed that I’d been lagging on the second episode. He asked to set a meeting with him, me, and the business ops manager, Paddy. I went into that meeting prepared for them to tell me that they were going to need to find another sound designer. Hell, I was prepared to say that myself.

I left that meeting with two things: A renewed sense of confidence in my work… and the knowledge that I had no real idea how to work as part of a team.

Solo and Alone

I’ve always had an independent streak. I grew up a people pleaser and a rule follower. There was always part of me that wanted to do what I wanted or my way, in spite of what anyone else would say. I came to always need to be right, to build up grand expectations for myself, and to always fall short. That meant I needed other people to tell me how good I did to get anything out of my work.

It also meant that I came to trust no one but myself.

It’s a strange dichotomy. I had a long history of setting outlandish and unrealistic expectations for myself and then failing to meet them. I also needed other people to validate me. Any praise I got would reinforce my bad expectations and the cycle would start again. Plus, if I communicated my desires in an unclear manner, I could blame anyone but myself if things went sideways. It was a really bad cycle.

I found ways to work around it as I started tempering my expectations. I found ways to make what I wanted to because I wanted to. To validate myself. But at the center, I still figured I could only trust myself and that others must feel the same way.

True Learning

I studied to be a teacher. You’d think that I would have internalized that no one gets anything right the first time. In spite of my education, it took two kind people repeating “we’re here for you, we’ve got your back, we want to see you succeed, we’re all learning together how to do this” for me to begin breaking my bad patterns.

What I’m doing on Secret of St. Kilda is what I would call true learning. I’ve got guidance as to what sounds and moods are needed where. I’m empowered to make editorial choices and implement some of my vision for the story. After I turn in my work, two more people take it and polish it up so it shines the way they want it to shine.

That’s not them telling me that what I did sucked and was horrible. It’s them using my work to help refine their own vision. It’s true collaboration, from start to finish. Just as Naomi (the writer for St. Kilda) went through multiple edits on the script and then let all of the voice actors give their takes on the lines, I give my take on the work, revise it, and then watch how Naomi and Mick are informed by my work.

It was never meant to be perfect and done by the time I’d finished with it. My work was one more step in a process that had started well before I got the files. The success of the group is my success because I did my part to the best of my ability. In all of the projects I’ve worked on before, I’d never felt this way.

On one hand, that makes me really sad. What could have been if I’d been able to see myself as part of a whole? If I hadn’t been harmfully focused on myself? On the other hand, I’m so glad I’m seeing it now. It means I can be better in the future. That I can make great things with other people and be proud of what we all did.

Together.