Archive for June 2014

Where is the life that late I lead?

You can’t get something for nothing. Everything in your life will require you to give up on something else. You will have to forgo some wants for others. And if you have a dream, you will have to give up a lot.  Leaving behind your home, your friends, or even the person you were, these are sacrifices you just might have to make in order to chase your dreams.  But sometimes, you miss what you had.

I live in a city of 8.3 million. And of those 8.3 million, 5 are my friends.

This sounds bleak, but when you remove coworkers, relatives, and my fiancé, I don’t know a lot of people here. It is difficult to meet up with them and do anything because of the nature of transportation and scheduling in the city.

Life here is hard, and anyone who say otherwise is rich or lying.

I’m not trying to get pity or sympathy. This isn’t a cry for help from a lonely man. It’s just hard facts. I made a sacrifice to be here. I moved from a place I had been my entire life, and consequently I left my whole life behind. I went from friends by the dozens all a phone call and a 5 minute drive away, to a place where I really don’t know anyone. And what did I get for it?


I’ve written about it before, but I have a chance here to make my dreams come true. Things I have longed for my entire life that never had a prayer in Montana, could really happen here.  I am in a city that is home to Marvel comics, Random House, and The Metropolitan Opera House. Where most of my favorite actors perform, and where countless films and TV shows are made. My fantasies are all very real here. But, I am not a part of this yet.

I traded the “sure thing” for the “could be.” I left safety and comfort for a new life. And while I do miss my old life, it never excited me. It didn’t challenge me like this new life has. And this new chapter is only just beginning.

While I look back with fondness, I look forward with boldness.  I left Montana and my family and friends to become an entertainer. I made the trade, and now I need to make sure I get my money’s worth.


Call to Arms

I work best under a deadline, which is much different than saying I’m happier under a deadline.

Last week, I was faced with several big deadlines, one of the largest being a decision about my living situation. Due to a miscommunication, I found myself with roughly two weeks to decide where I’m going to live for the next phase of my life. This was paired with a more personal deadline that determined how I would divide my attention and affection between people that I care about.

These were tough deadlines that affected my closest friends, and they came way sooner than I expected. At first, I thought I was incapable of making such big choices in such a small amount of time, and I resigned myself to confusion and frustration. For the first few days of my decision-making, I was antisocial, moody, and scared. I definitely wasn’t happy about having deadlines.

But then a funny thing happened – I realized that I didn’t have time for anxiety. I didn’t have time for a week long spree of overthinking and doubting myself. I had to make a decision. Now.

I found myself with a sudden clarity. Much like the anecdote about flipping a coin, I realized what I was really hoping for when I saw the decision in the air, waiting to descend. I realized that my inspiration to make a decision didn’t have to come from an external source or a grand epiphany – it could be as simple as a light tug on my heart. With this in mind, I made my decisions and met my deadlines.

A week later, I’m starting to rethink my capabilities as a decision maker. Not because  I regret my decisions – things are actually going really well – but because I realized that I’m capable of taking charge of my life. While I’m usually overwrought with anxiety or apathy, I possess the power to live a more intentional, more directed life.

Clark 2.0 isn’t gone, not even close.

So now it’s time to start preparing for the journey. I’ll announce more the details next week, but the important part is that a decision has been made, and deadlines have been put into place. My path has been laid out before me, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Press and Gambling

Being a beginning counselor comes with a lot of doubt. I have gotten much better at managing that doubt, but some of it is just part of the territory.

Specifically, I got the opportunity to plan a group activity today. It’s for a DBT group, which gives me a bit more freedom than some of the others we have at my site. With that in mind, I elected to to teach something from my personal theory base, which is largely existential. This you-are-going-to-die-what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it way of thinking is in sharp contrast to the CBT that is usually expected, which is by far the most common and concrete, theory in use today.

I only mention this because I think the heart of it can apply to several different situations. Institutional press in any line of work will try and push you into a role that does not fit.

What I decided to present was Sheldon Kopp’s Eschatological Laundry List. Which, for those who don’t know it, is a controversial move.

You see, Sheldon Kopp was a very existential thinker, with a particularly Buddhist bent. When I was struggling in making changes in my own life, reading Kopp helped me put things in perspective, and so I’m hoping to pay it forward.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Kopp was also very outspoken in his beliefs that there is no creator and no afterlife. Some argue that anything of his is so bogged down by his spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) that to present it would be a bummer at best, and a legal powder keg at worst. Which is why a lot of counselors haven’t even heard of the guy.

For my job, the counselor that plays it safe and only presents the CBT stuff is all the higher-ups really want. You can say the same for most jobs, really.  Bosses want what their bosses want, and so on to the top boss, whose only real motivation is success for its own sake.

For the profession of change, that may not cut it. If I don’t own what I believe and put it into practice, people will start to wonder why they should believe me at all. And bottom line, I believe teaching this list will do some good.

That being said, it’s still pretty nerve-wracking. The idea of gambling on doing something new, even for something as low-stakes as a 15 minute group activity, can make me question a lot of pretty core stuff of who I am.

Maybe testing my conviction is exactly what I need to do to grow. After all, as Kopp would say, “you only get to keep what you’re prepared to give away.”


Get me to the church on time

I’m getting married in August. It is a very complicated affair.  This isn’t because we are having some lavished, impressive festival of matrimony. It’s because weddings are complicated, detailed events. This is nothing new. Hell, it’s a cliche. But, the planning process has been a bit easier for me and my fiancé than for some, due to one distinct advantage.

We work in theater.

If you think about, a wedding party isn’t that far off from a cast in a show. Everyone has a role to play in the ceremony, same as a troupe of actors. There are directions to be followed, staging, music and lines to be recited. The “production” has a message and a purpose, like a good play should.

There are also the logistical parallels. Negotiating contracts and assigning duties for our wedding has caused me to flashback to an independent production I produced a few years ago. I was co-starring and coordinating all the logistics and details. From cast and crew, to the director and the venue, I was in charge. At the time, I was stressed out and challenged every day and going crazy under the pressure to make sure the show turned out.

That show turned out to be one of on of the greatest experiences of my life. And it all came together because I cashed in every favor I could. I had help from friends and colleagues, and the support of my family and teachers. I was able to do something fun, exciting, and life changing not because I am some great artist, but because I had great collaborators.

Here I am, preparing the script, not for a play, but for one of the most important days of my life. My bride to be is “costuming” and “stage managing” the show to great success. And all the people in my life who really matter, are asking how they can help. We have been reached out to and supported as a couple for years. But, just like the independent show I produced, my wedding is shaping up to be a lot of favor asking, and the resounding answer is “of course! How can I help?”

Theatre works best when it is a collaboration. People working together to do something they think is important. My hope is that my wedding, and in turn, my marriage will strive to do the same thing.


Roads Less Traveled

I try to avoid being uncomfortable whenever possible. As a result, I’ve arranged my life carefully so that I’m never too far away from food, shelter, or loved ones. I always have fresh food in the fridge, a backup bank account, and a list of houses I could crash at in the incident of a fire or flood. This system has worked really well so far, and I rarely spend a day without a large number of modern conveniences.

Then I went to Europe. For two weeks, my comfort level was no longer in my own hands. Instead, it was in the hands of airport employees, bunkmates, and pickpockets. Any person in a hostel room of sixteen had the ability to keep everyone up all night with loud coughing or shenanigans. Any pickpocket in the city of Barcelona could have taken my wallet, leaving me completely reliant on charity until my friends arrived from Ireland. All of my meticulous flight planning went out the window after one broken suitcase and three delayed flights.

My safety nets, while still firmly in place, were located halfway around the world.

My life felt, for the first time in a long time, like it had an element of risk. If I were to get injured, lose my phone, or miss the last metro bus, I could end up in a bad situation with unclear solutions. While I had friends with me for part of the journey, we were only one wrong turn away from being completely separated with no means to communicate. My decisions had consequences, and those consequences affected people I cared about.

Strangely enough, it was exhilarating. My senses were sharpened, and I was able to remember names, places, and details at an unusually high rate. I was grateful just to have my wallet and backpack at the end of every day. Even if I had been rained on for hours and had blisters on my feet. For a beautiful two weeks, I was energetic, attentive, and grateful.

I was Clark 2.0.

So now I’m home, and I’m trying as hard as I can to retain Clark 2.0. Honestly? It’s really hard. I’m already finding myself falling back into old patterns where I get grumpy over small things like bad parking spots or misplaced checkbooks. Fortunately, I can no longer pretend that I’m not capable of more. My new year’s resolution to be uncomfortable was well placed, and I need to continue my pursuit to find new challenges and ways to grow.

And now it’s time to find my next adventure. I don’t think it’ll involve 30 hours on a plane this time around, but it will require some travel. I’ll have more details soon, but for now, it’s time for me to start scoping out new cities and saying goodbye to Missoula. I’m scared to leave the state that raised me, but I’m more scared to settle for a life of risk aversion and unfulfilled potential.

I want to leave Montana before I resent the slowness and simplicity that lends it so much charm. A year ago, I left a job that I loved, and now it’s time to make an even bigger departure.

Sticker Shock

As I continue to take my first steps outside of the grad school world, I have to pause to consider what brought me to this point.

I often imagine there are people who would think that the choices I have made up to this point are bad ones. The idea of having spent more than 80,000 dollars on what is often considered the lowest paying Master’s degree in the country strikes some people as a stupid move.

If I had known that from at the outset of my education, I probably would have agreed with them. Truth be told, the only reason I tried for a Counseling degree was because it was the fastest way to flip my Psychology degree into a paying job. At first.

But luckily for me and my clients, the program I went to challenged me in ways I could have never seen coming. It forced me to take a long hard view at myself, my choices, and the world around me which shaped the two.

We have a societal view, I think, to see a career as something you do during the day that earns you money. There’s no reason for personal growth beyond what you need to do to keep earning a paycheck. But, from this blog and from the struggles I have seen, I am finding firmer footing to challenge that view.

My logic is simple, a person will spend most of their life working in their chosen field. An existence spent in a cubicle waiting for the day to be over doesn’t leave a lot of room for existential fulfillment. Which is probably why it pays so well.

I’ll never be a rich man. This degree is the vow of poverty I’ve taken for the shot at living something real and unique. To me, that’s a bargain at any price.

Of course, this may all be me trying to cope with the shock of the price tag, so take it with a grain of salt.

My takeaway is this: a career should be something that gives us meaning, not just a bank account. At the end of the day, money just does not equal a life well lived.

Finding a deeper meaning to life, however, is the only way to live.

Risky business

I have a friend who owns his own business. He’s a commodities broker. And while the futures markets are not really like acting, or writing, or bar tending, my friend has given me some pretty damn good advice over the years. But chief among them are his thoughts on risk.

“Some people have a high threshold for risk, and some people don’t. But, everyone has it.”

In markets of any kind, there is risk. In market economies, people have to manage their risk where they can and whether it when they have to. Life works sort of the same way. You might invest your money in a product that never takes off, or you might get hurt by someone you love. Life is one giant risk. Knowing this, why not go for your dreams?

I wanted to risk my money and time on auditions in far off places. My chances of success are slim, and I am taking years out of my life that could be spend in a safer line of work. I am risking my future and my happiness on a chance and a prayer. And as terrifying as this is, playing it safe would only hold me back from ever reaching my goal.

Risk, as my friend once said, is all around. But, once you see it, and respect it as a constant, you no longer have to feel afraid of it. It’s going to be there weather you are tip toeing around it or knocking it over. Life is scary, but playing it safe doesn’t make it any less terrifying.

I’ll keep auditioning, and working crappy jobs, and better what little money I have on a career that might never turn out. I want to live a life where I chase my dreams, and all the peril that comes with it. I chose to take the risks.


Hi, My Name is…

When I started law school last August the placement office drilled into our heads the importance of networking within the legal community; that our professional reputation begins in school rather than in our career. It’s advice I wish I’d been given seven years ago when I was a freshman. At that point in time I’d never imagined myself in law school so it’s not like I’d have been seeking out attorney contacts, but that should not have precluded me from honing the fine art of professional networking.

Maybe it’s strange to describe networking as an “art”, but for those of us operating on a more introverted plane of human interaction, that’s precisely what it is. In my field introverts are not particularly common in a sea of domineering type-A personalities. We are not suited for unsolicited introductions or skilled at carrying entire conversations comprised entirely of small talk. For those of us to whom the art does not come naturally, the introduction and subsequent small talk that make up the heart of networking take the strategy and planning of a well calculated attack.

I’ve had to learn the strategy fast. In early January I was invited to and attended several receptions with professionals in Portland, hosted by some of the largest law firms on the west coast. These got easier as time passed, but the first reception was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve had in recent memory. Standing awkwardly in a hot, crowded room, entirely unsure how to approach an attorney with those words on the tip of my tongue: “Hello, my name is…”

The introduction always felt contrived and unnatural, and I was never sure how to continue the conversation after a fumbling introduction to somebody I’m sure did not want to talk to me. I was told by my career services counselor that I should just “pick an attorney and talk to him” as if this was a simple task.

Still, with a bit of experience under my belt, these encounters got easier with time. I can’t say that I’m an expert at introductions and idle small talk, but I’ve learned a few that have made these networking events more bearable, and the task of creating new contacts less daunting.

I’ve learned to do my research prior to the event. Generally you can know who will be present at these things, and most of the attorneys there are important enough to have information available on the internet. The thing is, I don’t prefer to talk about myself, so research helps me ask questions that can keep the other talking about his field, or perhaps a project he’s been working on.

I’ve also learned that despite my misgivings, most attorneys want to talk to me. Well, maybe not to me in particular, but they did not attend the event just to stare people down. Professionals, particularly those with some level of success, are excited about people who are interested in their field and are generally willing to help others achieve success. They actually want to know about your interests, and they’re always willing to make a few more contacts.

Knowing this, coupled with a little preparation, has made networking a little easier. The honest truth is I will probably never feel comfortable forcing small talk and exchanging information with strangers, but it has to be done, and as I hone the strategies needed for networking, I’m getting better at it.

(Steve Crawford is a second year law student at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. He is a long time friend of the GiTH crew, and his keen insight and quirky humor has made for many wonderful nights full of conversation.)


First, a small update. My friend from last week’s post is home and out of the hospital. Thank you to all those that sent their prayers and well wishes during this difficult time.

Now, something that’s been bugging me over the last week.

I can say without exaggerating (too much) that because of the changes I have made over the last few months, I am more confident than ever, and feel more competent than I ever have in my ability to influence others. Great as this is, I am now forced to see some things in a new light.

For instance, I may have changed the direction of the blog without really meaning to.

As a counselor, my task is to better understand people, which usually comes back to better understanding myself. Like I tell my clients, “You’re your own best tool.” Thus, my challenge became how to improve myself, as well as to be more intentional in how I view the world. Hence, optimism and more sharing my feelings and doubts.

I worry that Clark and Dan saw this, and thought growth could only happen the way I’m making it happen. This got me thinking; if my best friends can fall for it, what kind of trap could it pose for my clients? It may be new-found confidence turning into new-found jackassery concern for those around me , but it’s important that I be super clear on this. It’s easy to fall into the trap of applying other peoples’ meaning into our own lives.

 Owning my emotions in a genuine way is my challenge. But, each of us has our own unique challenge to face. Don’t try to do what I’m trying to do, rather, learn from how I’m trying to do it.

We all have to take a different path through life, because no two people start it from the same place. I can point out where the road got bumpy for me, but your path may have completely different terrain to worry over.

Speaking in Code

I have been hurt by people I love. People who have been lying to me face, failing to come through on something simple, and have shown no respect or understanding for my responsibilities. A lot of little things has lead to me getting madder and madder this week.

To be frank, I am pissed.

I wish I could write about who did what. Not because the internet needs to know who is making me mad, but because I haven’t had the guts to call them out face to face. I am mad as hell, and none of them know it.

Now, before you all start reporting me as a potential “Falling Down,” situation, I have to say that I am going to be ok and like it always does, this too will blow over. I can deal with my emotions, but anger takes me a really long time.

It’s been a problem for me for a long time. When my feelings are hurt, my trust is broken, or I am left hanging by someone, I fail to make my feelings known. I can’t come up to someone and say, “what you just did made me angry.” This is not because I am afraid I am going to hurt their feelings or that they will stop liking me. I don’t have a problem saying unpopular political or philosophical opinions in mixed company, and alienation doesn’t scare me. Besides, these people love me and I should be honest with them.

The truth is, I don’t tell people when I am mad at them, because I don’t want to be known as an angry man. I have a family lineage of people who fly off the handle easily, and I have actively tried to suppress that part of me my entire life.

Everyone I know has seen me angry. But, it is always at a politician like Harry Reid, a commentator like Bill O’Reilly, or a type of person, like those who don’t say “thank you.” I have no problem letting my friends know what in the world infuriates me. And while it leads to many spirited debates, no one goes home hurt. Public figures and ideologies are never hear or see my anger at them, and my friends never see me as a wrathful person.

So, the challenge for this angry man remains: how to acknowledge my “righteous” anger when people make me mad, but not become “the guy who’s always pissed.” Or the guy who flies off the handle over nothing.

I’ll be un-bottling these feelings for a while. I need to express my anger without being a jackass and in a timely manor so that I don’t seethe for days. This is not a short process, and I don’t have a road map to help me on the way.

But, I think, for the first time in a long time, I am finding a way to deal with my anger. I’m talking about it here, and for once, I am telling people how I feel in the moment. Or pretty close to it.