Gosh, if I had a nickel for every time I have heard this phrase in the last 10 years. It has been used so often that it now produces an instinctive eye-roll. The kind of instinctive reflex that was initiated when you heard as a kid and swore you’d never repeat once you had kids of your own… but you do. You know, like, “if you stick that lip out any further you’re gonna trip over it…”, “you better be careful, your face is gonna freeze that way…” or the ever popular “make sure you have on clean underwear in case you get in an accident.” Oops, maybe that’s just my “East Tennessee” showing and you did not grow up hearing those endearing tidbits of wisdom.
Ahh well, I digress – I’m quite sure none of those sayings have much to do with where I’m going with this post, other than,
“it is what it is… until it ain’t anymore.”
What does that even mean? To me, it means
- to settle,
- to accept what is presented to you,
- to give up,
- to believe there is no hope for anything better.
Dramatic or extreme? Maybe… but to have experienced the highs and lows of what I have seen exhibited by the people I am admiring in this post, they are more than worthy of being described as extremely admirable, not people who live by “it is what it is.”
The management of the facility where I have worked for over 25 years announced in January that it would be closing its doors on May 1 of this year. I drove away for the last time on Friday.
I want to use this edition of The Admiration Project to admire those co-workers and friends whose paths crossed with mine over the last 25+ years BECAUSE of this place.
This is a photo of where I began my career with Check Printers in July 1989.
I was a fairly new mom with a 17 month old heading back into the work force; and I had landed a new, flexible position that allowed me to work just two days a week. The way the story I’ve been told goes is that the programming manager that hired me asked one of the other programmers if they should hire me and he said, “yeah, we don’t have any girls.” I’m guessing if that comment from 1989 had been made in 2015 it may have been a tad politically incorrect, but I thought it was quite humorous. I also took it as a bit of a challenge — to prove “a girl,” at least “this girl,” wasn’t an “is what it is” kind of thing. Those two men proved to be some pretty great guys in spite of their reason for hiring me, and provided me with an environment in which I was able to learn and advance. I admire them to this day.
There were many other admirable and amazing folks employed at Check Printers back in the late eighties and early 90’s. I am fearful to start dropping names because I KNOW I will leave someone out. That being said, there is ONE name I cannot omit…
Jim Knight – There is no end to the number of people who passed through Check Printers, be it, the Nashville location, the Winston-Salem location or the Jacksonville location that his generosity and Southern gentleman charm did not touch in a positive way. I’d also venture to say that this man has never uttered the phrase, “it is what it is.” He taught me that nothing should ever be “settled for.” He was a proponent of lifetime learning while giving you enough space to explore a better way, but still maintaining the importance of capitalizing the word Customer.
By 1990 my two day a week part-time gig had turned into a full time career. There were people I worked with during this time that I was still working with in January of 2015 when the closure was announced… people who are now dear friends, friends that had been with me through the birth of my second child, a divorce, a second marriage, two bonus daughters, the loss of two adored Chessies and the birth of two precious granddaughters. People I admire because they know when to give you a hug, they know when to say nothing and they know what it means to be a friend.
Then there are the admirable folks who were around during the loss of our naivete associated with moving from working for a privately owned company to one that is publicly traded. The beginning of several false endings for some of us and unfortunately, the beginning of the end for many, and the beginning of the use of the phrase, “it is what it is…” These folks knew when it was time to laugh, time to put your head down and work and how to offer a hand when their work was done.
This photo shows the building after the name change from Check Printers to RR Donnelley. It was taken at the peak blooming time for the pear trees, trees that have also seen their end. They were cut down several years ago. There were no saplings of another kind to replace them, another “it is what it is” moment, I suppose.
Through the last 25 years, there have been many people pass through these doors that I admire. The reasons are as varied as the personalities. Some for the way they handle anything life throws their way, even their own end of life. Some for the extreme generosity they have shown me. Some for life-lessons they taught me, both professional and personal. Some for their ability to make me laugh. Some for their knack of giving nicknames, (mine which I will not share here). Some for upholding their work ethic when it would have been easy to take a short cut. Even some to push until I thought I would break, but became stronger in the process.
I have driven to this building to report for work for 2 weeks shy of 26 years. The only thing I have done longer in my lifetime is to be my parents’ daughter and my son’s mom. It was bittersweet as I drove away for the last time on Friday.
My contribution for this post is being made to The American Heart Association. Check Printers and RR Donnelley have had teams participate in the local Nashville Heartwalk for many, many years, and I want to show my admiration for my co-workers with this donation. If you are a former Check Printers employee or a former/current RR Donnelley employee of the Nashville facility, I hope this post has made you smile today. I hope this post will inspire you to tell at least one person who has your admiration that they have made a difference in your life.
P.S. My team now consists of 4 “girls” and 1 guy. I guess that warrants an “it is what it is.” Please know that I admire each of you in many ways.