Archive for October 2013

Changing the Changer

Alarm ClockAs I write this, it’s mostly to burn off nervous energy. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few days, and I need to process. I mention it here, because I think it gets at the heart and soul of what Counseling is.

Counseling is change. And change is determined by you.

This is easy to accept on its face, but think about it. What I’m saying is this; you can be sexually abused from the day you were born. You could be burnt out and brain-fried from every bad decision and amphetamine out there. You can lose everything and everyone in your life and my message to you will be this- If you want to get better, its on you to pick yourself up. People like me, we’re here to make sure that change sticks. With that in mind, I’m owning my own mess.

I’m seeing how I relate to the world around me in a new way. I’m finally asking for feedback from those close to me, and they’ve all been telling me the same thing.

They can’t see me through the defenses I’ve put up.

As much as i hate to admit it, I’m a person that hides. I hide behind excuses. I hide behind professional facades and clinical monotones. Worst of all, I hide from my own feelings and my own fear, and because of that  I left the people that cared about me two states and a timezone away.

Counseling is change, and change is on me. This time, that means opening up, so here I am.

I’m scared. I’m fighting a ticking clock and a mountain of debt to try and do something I may not be able to do. I’m scared that if I drop my defenses for an instant I’ll drown in a sea of my own emotional chaos. If I’m going to get where I need to go, there’s a lot more I’ll need to own.

And you know what? That doesn’t mean I’m not a good counselor or a good person. Counseling is change, and if the changer can’t change themselves, can they do anything at all?

-Austin

Panned

ThumbsDownWeb

There are many career milestones that I have already had: my first standing ovation,my first staring role. And there are other benchmarks that I have yet to reach: my first show in New York, my first Tony Award. There are many big firsts down the the road, and recently I got to mark one more off my list.

My first bad review.

My work has been reviewed before. But, usually, the reviewer would focus on the show in general, and not specific actors. No production I have been in has ever been panned, and the play I am currently in has been very well received.

This criticism was of me.

When my co-star showed me a positive review in a local newspaper, I admit I started to feel pretty good about myself. So, with a freshly-bolstered confidence, I grabbed a copy of another local paper to see what their reviewer had to say.

They didn’t like me. Not one bit. The reviewer liked the show, but he didn’t care for me. It wasn’t harsh criticism, it was more dismissive, if anything. He just thought I only showed two emotions on stage.

My ego deflated immediately. I felt down for a bit, second guessing my performance. But, after a while my outlook started to change. And I realized that this was an actor’s rite of passage. I just got panned by a critic!

I am in a line of work that is always being critiqued. And I have now reached a level where people think what I do is important enough to express their opinion about. My work will always be criticized, and in a very public way. But, the fact that people are taking the time to go on the record about it is a pretty big deal. And it makes me think I’m on the right track.

So, never read reviews. Just don’t do it. Ever. But, I still think I am going to save the clipping of my first bad review. Not to some day “prove them all wrong!” No, I am keeping it as a memento. A reminder of all the milestones before it and the ones that are coming down the line.

-DC

Lovecraft

AbstractPainting

Two weeks ago, I met a talented artist named Trey McCarley at an art gallery featuring his work. Like any aspiring artist, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions. As I talked with him, I learned that Trey is only 25, and spends a large amount of time touring the country and selling his paintings. When I asked for advice, he told me the following.

“It’s not enough to love what you create, you have to fall in love with the act of creating.”

This really resonated with me. See, I fall in love with a lot of my paintings, and sometimes I wonder if I’ll like any of my future paintings as much as my current pieces. I feel like some of my best ideas have already come to fruition, and it would take a long time for me to come up with something new that I truly enjoy. This makes me less passionate about starting new projects because I know I’ll make comparisons in my head throughout the entire process. All because I enjoy looking at my old pieces more than I enjoy taking risks.

If Trey runs out of new canvases, he grabs an old painting and goes over it. He’s that crazy about putting pigment on paper. And because he loves his craft, he’s created hundreds of beautiful paintings and tried many different styles. He didn’t stop trying when he was “good enough” to make it into a gallery, he kept pushing and pushing until he could make a living out of it.

So I’m taking his advice. I’m trying to fall in love with the smell of paint on my hands, the sound of a brush on canvas, and the first moment a blank canvas becomes something more. I’ve only known the creative process for a couple years, but I think she may be the one for me.

– Clark

FAQ- Frequently Asked Question

Hamburger

When I was interviewing for my current Grad program, I was frequently asked “why do you want to do this?”. It seemed rather formulaic, like something they would ask whether I was applying for a Grad program or a job at Wendy’s. As long as I didn’t answer with either “money” or explosive vomiting, I was golden. My answer would quietly gather dust in a file somewhere, to be forgotten unless it needed to be lorded over me in some way.

It’s one of those questions you hear all time, but never really think about.

With this job, maybe more than any other, you need to know the answer to that question. You need to know what keeps you coming in every day, because as a counselor you will encounter the best and worst parts of humanity. All the skeletons in you closet? Your clients can see yours as well as you can see theirs. If you don’t have a handle on it, those skeletons can own you.

I mention this because my own need for growth is becoming more apparent. There are times I know I’m off the ball with my clients, and there are times when flipping burgers for a living is a pretty attractive option. If there is the tiniest hole in the dam of your convictions, this job will hammer it open and burst out every unpleasant thing hiding in your psyche.

I wish I could tell you how to patch that dam. Once I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

The bright side? Imagine truly knowing a person, an experience of empathy so profound it borders on the religious. And imagine using that place to help move a person away from pain and isolation to understanding and change. That is what this job can be, if you have the heart and the patience for it.

That is why I want to do this.

-Austin

Work is Work

HammerAndNails

In the last week, two different men, in two different fields gave me the same piece of advice: take any job you can.

Both these men are at least 20 years my senior, and both have been in their respective field for 30 years or more. One is an actor in the show I am in, the other is a general contractor I am doing some work for, but they both have the same outlook on work.

The actor told me he has never, in his 45 years, had another job besides acting. As a performer,I was envious. But this veteran told me, that while he has had some amazing opportunities, a lot on his career has been a far cry from Broadway. A mall Santa here, a local commercial there, and way too many musicals for his taste.

He told me that he never wanted to do anything but act. But, to do that he had to be open to al kinds of acting in all mediums. This is a career model I could get onboard with.

On my first day working for the contractor, I got similar advice. He told me, there was a time when all he did was build houses. But, in the late 70’s, things got hard, and no one was building. So, he had to start widening his net. A window replacement here, a shed roof there, and way too many front door fixes.

“You can’t always build houses,” he said. This hammered home the actors view on work, and reinforced my own outlook. “I only do Shakespeare,” is no way to pay your bills.

These two professionals articulated what I have always felt: work is work. Now, I am not going to take a job if it requires me to compromise my morals. However, I am not going to turn down a local commercial or a being one of Santa’s elves either.

So, I’m casting a wider net. Because being a professional performer is hard enough. I don’t need pride or ego keeping me from being able to honestly say, “what do I do? I perform for a living.”