Archive for July 2014

Best Foot Forward

My last days in Missoula have been filled with boxes, bartering, and bleach rags. In order to make the trip to Billings, I’ve compacted my two bedroom apartment into two cars. In October, I’ll compact everything again to fit in two suitcases. This involves selling, donating, and throwing away a huge chunk of my personal belongings.

All of my speakers, dressers, couches, dishes, and tables now belong to someone else. Things that have been in my life for 4+ years. Things that hold memories of late-night laugh-fests, serious talks with loved ones, and hundreds of meals being cooked with roommates. It’s really weird, and I look at my now-empty house and feel disconnected.

This doesn’t feel like my house, and it certainly doesn’t feel like home.

Soon, I’ll be living in the house I grew up in – the house I call home. But I know, even with my parents and friends in the mix, I’m not going to feel at home for a long, long time. My things will be in boxes, my clothes will be in suitcases, my mind will be in NYC, and my heart will be in Missoula.

This is the path I’ve chosen to wander. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, I’m constantly fighting back tears, but at least my feet are moving. And as long as that’s the case, I think I just might be okay.

- Clark

Goodbye to Spokane

When I first arrived in Spokane, I was scared out of my mind. I was in a new city where I didn’t know anyone, starting a program I knew would kick my ass, moving into an apartment my landlords technically didn’t own yet.

I still can’t say exactly why I decided to come to Spokane. Maybe just because it was a hell of an opportunity and I wanted to see if I could. There were times I almost couldn’t, most of them in the archives of these blogs. I know I wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t have the people standing behind me that I did.

for my first year in Spokane, I couldn’t wait to leave. At times, I even saw this place as a sort of prison, a temporary purgatory on my way to something better, though I had no idea what “better” could have meant. Now, surprisingly, the place has grown on me. It’s difficult for me to leave, a thought that would have been alien even a few months ago.

Although, maybe it’s not the place so much as the people in it.

There really are too many people to thank for who and where I am. Maybe it’s just a lucky side effect of spending my time around mostly counselors and professional helpers, but the people here that I’ve come to know are some of the best people I think I’ll ever meet. I hope that in the coming years I’ll be able to pay it forward, and be for other people what my friends and teachers have been for me.

So, goodbye Spokane, and everyone in it. For as many difficulties as I’ve faced here, I’ll always owe a part of who I am to this city. And that’s exactly the capstone I’ll place on my time here.

Spokane- I came with hope, and I left with wisdom.

I’ve made a huge mistake?

I don’t like running. I hate it, in fact. When I was a kid, I had pretty bad asthma, and so I never could run more than 100 yards before I couldn’t breathe worth a damn. So, I didn’t run much as a kid. As an adult, I find every reason in the world not to work out. And right now, I am on my way to DC to do a Spartan Race.

A Spartan Race is a 4-13 race with 15-30 obstacles. Rope courses, razor wire, weight pulls, log jumps and more, all as quickly as possible. And I am willingly doing this, having never run a race in my life.

Why?

At the end of May, a friend asked me if I would run a Spartan Race with them. I laughed for too long and said no. I hadn’t worked out once since January, and while my friend tried to convince me that I was in good shape, I knew that I had been eating too many nachos at the bar to be able to compete. But, I was surprisingly disappointed. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.

 I like pushing myself.  And this race would not leave my mind. On some deep level, I loved the idea of doing some totally unnecessary physical challenge. It spoke to my inner warrior, who I thought only came out on hunting trips and at Superhero movie. I was haunted by some idiotic vision of me, covered in mud, grunting, and bursting through the finish line.

 I found another race in DC, where my older sister lives. And I decided, that I had to do this.

It a very long  “sorry if you die” waver attached. But, despite my better judgement, and having trained less than half as much as I should have, I still know that I needed to do this race.

Maybe tomorrow, I will break my leg, pull my shoulder, or pass out from exhaustion. But, I think that if I hadn’t forced myself to take this challenge, I would have regretted it.

So, wish me luck tomorrow and look for my results post next week.

-DC

Spare Parts

As I start to put my life in boxes, I’m finding lots of small items that don’t  fit into the typical “kitchen, bedroom, studio” categories. Do sponges go with my cleaning supplies or painting supplies? Do hand towels go with clothes or kitchen supplies? I’m starting to feel like a sorting hat in a room full of monkeys.

Out of all the decisions I’ve made recently, these seem frivolous, yet they still make me anxious. There’s no “right” way to pack, but there seems to be a hundred “wrong” ways. No matter what I do, I know I’ll end up with a box simply labeled “spare parts”.

I can’t help but wonder if this habit reflects how I’m currently dealing with my emotions. Leaving Missoula has brought many new feelings into my life. Discomfort, homesickness, and a sense of loss have entered my mind, and I have no idea what to do with them. So I’m stowing them away in random corners of my mind, promising myself that I’ll deal with them eventually.

But like my box of spare parts, these stowed emotions are a constant reminder that I have messy areas in my life, and they’re not going away on their own. Someday soon, I’ll have to work through the discomfort, through the loss of friends, through my desire to return to a comfortable life. It’s going to be really difficult, but it’s necessary to move forward.

Thankfully, I don’t need to sort out those emotions until my car is on I-90 headed home.  Until then, I pack, I clean, I apply for jobs. I will do what’s necessary to have a successful transition. I only hope that, at the end of the day, I labeled everything correctly.

Popping Bubbles

I’m pretty hard on office jobs. I don’t think very highly of them, and that reflects in both my writing and my choice of career. Still, if an office job is something that can make a person happy and let them live a fulfilling life, then why not?

Except, that I wonder how much meaning there can truly be in a life like that.

Here’s what I believe. Every single one of us is going to die some day. Pretty much everyone tries to live forever, no one’s really got the hang of it yet. Paradoxically, its the fear of dying that holds us back.

We don’t take risks because we don’t want to live the rest of our lives with the consequences. So we make the safe choices. We choose the career that doesn’t stretch us too much. We pick the friends that share our views. We only go to the websites that reinforce our beliefs.

In the age of the internet, it has never been easier to trap ourselves in a bubble.

And that is the core of what I believe a nine to five cubicle job can be. A bubble, comfortable and routine, but insulated against the truer, more risky meanings of life.

Look at the top regrets of the dying. Compromise and procrastination are the saboteurs of meaning, yet they are the kings of the business world in the US. I’ll never be able to support myself as an artist or a musician, so I’ll get a desk job. I would love more time with my family, but hey, I gotta put food on the table. I would love to get out more, maybe go on vacation, but I gotta look good to the boss. A thousand little compromises that slowly drain the color out of life.

For some, work life is a coping skill; they manage the chaos of their home life with the routine of a job. It’s not the first time someone replaced a bad coping skill with a different, equally bad coping skill.

Even in the best case scenario; you work a job you enjoy with people you care about doing something you find fulfilling. You’re still stymied in growing as person, because you’re stuck in a routine. Humans can’t thrive in a bubble. We need to grow, to challenge ourselves, and to use our deaths not as something to be afraid of, but as the ticking clock to make the most of the time we have.

Here’s the litmus test I use to figure out whether or not something is meaningful. I keep in mind that someday, I’m going to die. If, on that day, the last thought through my head is about this decision I am making, will I be happy or sad? Look for the reasons under the of action, and see if they will stand the test of time.

I forget who said it, it may have been Scrubs, but the quote “life is a memory before dying” has always stuck with me. We won’t be around forever, and who knows what happens next. Don’t get stuck in bubble. Live a life worth remembering.

 

And one for Elaine

On Thursday, at the age of 89, acting great Elaine Stritch died.

I first came to know Elaine Stritch as the hilarious Colleen Donaghy (Alec Baldwin’s Mother) on 30 Rock, the NBC comedy staring Tina Fey. She was truly  hilarious. Like Betty White, but more New York, more biting, and more of an alcoholic. She made me laugh so hard, from her short initial appearance on this show, that I decided to look her up, and see what else this funny old lady had done.

I soon realized, Elaine Stritch had lived the kind of life I had dreamed of living.

In looking her up, I found that I was watching a living legend. As prolific as  Angela Lansberry, and as influential as Gene Kelly, Elaine Stritch was show business personified. With four Tony nominations and one win, 8 Emmy noms and three wins, in a career that spanned seven decades, it is safe to say she was a pro.

I find her inspiring as an actor. But, there is much we can all take away from Miss Stritch, no matter your profession.

Elaine cut the bull shit. And in the acting world, this is a rare thing, indeed. She once told James Gandolfini she loved she work, and he said thanks and turned away without even making eye contact with her. Once his back was turned she said, “don’t you condescend to me, you son of a bitch.” He snapped around, and they became friends from that moment on.

She was always honest, even with her self. In this video, you can see just how hard on herself she was. But, it lead to a better product. Through her tough as nails, no holds bared working attitude, she got better and better at her craft, and left a theatrical legacy.

I say legacy, because she is being remembered by everyone from David Lettermen to Tina Fey. People across the country are having parties to watch her film and television productions in remembrance of her and her body of work.

I don’t want to be just like Elaine Stritch. She could be rude, dramatic, and at times difficult to work with because of how head strong she was. She was unflinching, and refused to change for anything.

I admire her for being herself. But, I want to be myself.

A performer I admire is gone. I know she will be missed by her fans and loved ones. I wanted to share a little context of her passing, because I think we could all stand to be a little less afraid, a little more brutally honest, a little more like Elaine.

Objectified

With just over two weeks left in Missoula, the time has come to sell and donate most of my possessions. While I have two vehicles to take everything from Missoula to Billings, I only have two suitcases to fill for NYC.

Everything must go.

This is an entirely new situation for me, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. On one hand, I’m excited to remove the excess in my life that has accumulated over the last 7 years. On the other hand, I feel like everything that survived through the years deserves a reverence far exceeding the Goodwill donation bin. I have gadgets, office supplies, and half-finished paintings that shared my space for years, hoping to someday serve a purpose. They act as a hall of fame for well-intentioned beginnings – a shrine for projects that only inspired me for a week or two.

It’s time to admit to myself that these projects will never bear fruit. This is a hard realization to face, but decisions need to be made. What stays? What goes? Simple questions with complicated answers.

Yet amidst the chaos of decision making, I find myself with a second beating heart, one that tells me to look forward instead of backward – to shed my old skin so I can grow even larger. This second heart is stubborn, yet I find it comfort in its authority. I will part with my projects because there are better projects. I will part with my objects because they are replaceable. I will make my decisions because I have a deadline.

It’s time to break the cycle of “maybe tomorrow”s, because I can no longer afford the mental taxation. I’m beginning to feel warmth from the fires of refinement, and I must keep moving forward.

The Long Wait

I notice that as we at GiTH get farther from the original purpose of the blog, the more I seem to enjoy it. What we envisioned as a young professionals blog is turning into a pretty revealing window into the ups and downs in our individual lives.

Which may, ironically, be the recipe for a good blog.

If this were truly just a young professionals blog, we wouldn’t touch stuff like poetry or personal growth with a ten foot pole. Well, maybe I would, because vulnerability is a big part of counseling, but for most folks? If it doesn’t paint me in the best light, don’t do it. Getting and keeping a good job is all about keeping up appearances, right?

You know, I was even tempted to go off on a rant about how hard it is to find work in today’s economy, and turn it into this big political thing. I’m not going to, because I refuse to beat my head against that particular rock.

Like I’ve said in the past, work is not what you do. It’s a part of who you are. And, like it always is for people trying to lead an authentic life, there are going to be things that get in the way. Some of those are systemic, and that’s crappy, but it doesn’t change who a person is in their heart-of-hearts. In fact, I would say that it is that core that determines the life a person leads. Their job is a byproduct.

I’m not one for giving advice too often, I can’t seem to do it without sounding like a know-it-all. But here’s the one thing I’ve learned about careers since I started mine 6 years ago. If you want to succeed in your career, succeed as an individual first.

I’m not saying things will be perfect. Most of the time, to do what you want to do, you have to wade through the crappy jobs first. I’ll probably have to do my time in case management before I can get back to counseling people the way I want. But the core of who I am, I can apply to any job in a way that makes meaning for me. Same goes for Dan and Clark.

In the mean time, we’ll write poetry, and we’ll talk about our pet projects, and we’ll worry about whatever is coming down the track. And we’ll be that much better at our jobs because of it.

Opening Doors

A few weeks ago, I was standing on the roof of my fiancé’s apartment building when I noticed one of her neighbors smoking nearby. He was sketching in a note pad, taking pulls from a beer between page turns. Pretty typical scene in New York City, but something about his shirt caught my eye. It had the symbol for a lesser known comic book hero on it. So, I told him I liked it and we got to talking.

Matt, as I came to know him, and I ended up discussing every area of visual media. We have a lot of shared interests, and he even introduced me to comics and movies that were previously off my radar.  This is how I my met my most recent collaborator.

It the entertainment industry, you have to constantly pitch your ideas to potential collaborators to get them interested. An “elevator pitch,” is a 30 second, bare-bones breakdown of a script or idea. It’s short, sweet, and tells you all the basic information in a neat little package. But, sometimes a pitch can be longer. Sometimes it can be too long.

That night I gave Matt a 20 minute pitch for a comic book I am writing. I told him details and plot twists I haven’t told anyone else, and he listened. No, actually, he got really excited and and kept saying “That’s awesome!” By the end of the night, we had talked for two and a half hours, and I had emailed him outlines of the story and character breakdowns.

So, what can you learn from my rooftop conversation?

Three things. #1: Talk to strangers. You never know, you might make a friend.  #2: Share your passion with people. If I have learned one thing in the year since we launched Gold in Them Hills, it’s that I work best when I share with collaborators. Not only do I produce more regularly, but their feedback makes me so much better. #3: Rules are meant to be broken. If I had given Matt the standard elevator pitch, he may have listened politely for twenty seconds before returning to his cigarette. Instead, I took a risk and trusted a stranger with a part of myself. Thankfully,  it ended really well, and I now have a friend and collaborator.

So, be on the lookout for projects from Matt and I, and keep sharing your passions with as many people as possible. You never know who might say “No Way! Me too!”

 -DC

Farsighted

My friend Lacey recently posted a poem on her blog. I thought it was wonderful, so I stole the format and made my own. 

Hers: http://laclynne.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/3-24-14/

Mine: 

“…The heavens have painted
have brushed you with angel wings.
And you know in your heart
that the farsighted see better things…”

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One that doesn’t need to talk the whole time. One who has the track list written on her heart, the lyrics etched into her bones like the trails of a termite. Someone who values the silence between tracks, knowing each second tells an important story. One who sees the road as an old friend that won’t judge you for opening another bag of trail mix and washing it down with a third cup of coffee. Someone who understands that singing Backstreet Boys doesn’t have to be ironic, and it’s okay to forget the words and drum along on the steering column.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One that believes mountains weren’t meant to be climbed in one day, and sees each wildflower as a study in color. She finds solace in the promise of eternity, knowing that we can’t see everything in one lifetime, so we may as well stop to make crowns from dandelion stems.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. Someone who doesn’t view relationships as trivia, where every detail must be extracted and memorized in as little time as possible. Someone who is content with hearing half of a story, knowing that the end isn’t always as important as the beginning. One who sees arguments as stepping stones, each one bringing us closer to one another’s eye level. One who realizes that my loyalty runs deeper than any miscommunication, I am far quicker to forgive than I am to anger. She knows that I am a stone, unmoved by the winds of temperament, unshaken by the tides of uncertainty.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One who sees me as a shelter, a place to spread out maps along the Path of Truth. Someone who doesn’t dig recklessly for my secrets, but lulls them out with the warmth and constancy of a sunbeam. Someone who knows that I literally stop to smell the roses, and isn’t offended when my attention is pulled away by a lilac bush or hummingbird.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. Someone who views sleepiness as the ultimate excuse for silliness. One who forgets certain words after midnight, creating new amalgamations to take their place. One who denies her tiredness as she sinks further into the cushions, welcoming the blanket when it’s pulled around her collarbone.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One who removes her makeup, not to spare the linens, but to invite vulnerability into the household. Someone who knows I look forward to the day when crow’s feet nest along my eyelids and smile lines carve into my jaw like rivulets. Someone who realizes that I see people’s flaws as salt upon a caramel, offering contrast and balance that reveals more of their inherent sweetness.

I have yet to find a co-pilot. One that speaks with her sighs and sings with her eyes. One whose freckles tell stories older than herself. One who doesn’t mind when my fingers run along her jawline, memorizing every curve and inlet so not even blindness can rob me of her beauty. One who knows that I’m closing my eyes not to escape, but to lose myself in her scent, to hear the timbre of each breath as our diaphragms push and pull to match each others’ cadence.

I am looking for my co-pilot.

Until then, I have my cookbooks, my headphones, my bathrobe, my coffee, and my eyes aimed towards the mountains.