Archive for October 2014

Happy Halloween!

As with all holidays we love, we’re taking the day off to eat, drink, and be zombies.

Have a wonderful halloween, and stay safe out there!

PaintMo

With November around the corner, several of my friends are preparing for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Starting November 1st, they’ll write an average of 1,700 words a day, resulting in a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month. An impressive feat by any measure.

The NaNoWriMo community is very friendly, and there are several incentives to making it to the end of the month. However, I will not be writing anything this year. Instead, I’m kicking off my own Painting Month (PaintMo) in my Brooklyn apartment.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 30, I will make a watercolor painting every day. I’m choosing watercolors because, well, they’re all I could fit into my suitcase during the big move. However, I see a lot of potential with the medium, and I’m looking forward to seeing what techniques and experience I can gain from 30 days of daily painting.

To celebrate a month of painting and experimentation, I’ll post my 4 favorite paintings every week with a brief description of my progress. Feel free to offer advice or criticism. I’m still an amateur with watercolors, so I need all the advice I can get.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the paintings.

Writing About Writing

It has been getting harder of thinking what to write about these last couple weeks. I try to stay away from the preachy “Let me teach you stuff” posts, because I don’t want to be a holier-than-thou jerk. I’ve gotten away with posts that are, in my opinion, good enough.

The stress of a new job, especially one working with kids, is disrupting. So I  gave myself some leeway. And so did Dan and Clark.

Then there’s the whole confidentiality thing, where I can’t talk about anything specific. Let me give you an example. Say I don’t even use names. Something like, “a kid at that place I work did a thing.” If the parents of that kid stumbles across this and knows the thing I’m talking about? Bam! Sued. So I keep it vague on purpose.

And of course, there’s just pure, old-fashioned laziness. The part of me that only wants to do the bare minimum. Go to work, do my job, go home, go to sleep, repeat. Especially now that I have an income that can let me buy things that cost more than five dollars.

It’s tempting, but it’s no way to live a life. Mediocrity does not leave a legacy.

So if it seems like my posts have gotten a little stale lately, that’s because they have. Phoning it in to get used to a new job is understandable, sure. But like my friends keep trying to tell me, just good enough isn’t good enough.

This is me promising to get back on track, with this post, and hopefully with life, period.

-Austin

POETRY!

I wanted to post a poem this week. The following is that poem.

The Ziggurat

A spire on a tower in steel is the work

of man. The base was made from sweat

and iron in a plot laid out from the vision

of mortals and stretching to the sights of

Gods. The track the beams follow, goes

from the sullen earth up to a bolt and rivet

vanishing point a quarter mile high.

Men worked on this titan for a three year stretch,

or so claims a brass marker base plate. The foundry

where it was made saw many of the same men who

built the tower. The sweat was the same. Names changed

with the jobs, but the blood was still the same.

The window of opportunity was a few decades short.

Men capitalized, and this tower is their gain. The sky was torn,

not scratched, and the men stared at their beast. The spire is the grey iron of Jehovah,

and for that some thought these few madmen. Someone couldn’t allow this

pyramid of rebar. No one permitted a monument of this scope to exist,

and no one would let it be achieved. However, man has never

needed permission to create.

A window, scores of stories in the air, is the vantage of this flight. Never,

has work like this so soared. The giants of before are an urban prairie beneath

the weight of this hulk in the sky. How was it made and who could have seen it

are not questions to ask in the presence of this requiem in steel. This rapture was

raised in spite of no one letting the men build. No need for allowance, they birthed

a silver leviathan because not one man could stop them.

Be Prepared

Living in New York requires a lots of planning. If you don’t check the weather in the morning, you may find yourself cold and miserable before you get home. There’s no option to keep a coat in your car, or to drive home to retrieve a forgotten phone charger. You only have what you carry on your person, and it may take hours to go home again.

This is tough, and it applies to far more than just comfort. Preparedness extends to jobs, social obligations, and shopping. You have to be ready for anything.

And right now, I’m preparing to work in food service or retail for a while. Not the glamorous New York debut I had hoped for, but life works in unexpected ways. I’m disappointed that my original plans haven’t panned out yet, but I’d be more disappointed to let my pride prevent me from work experience in the city. After all, there’s something romantic about working in a New York cafe.

So I’m continuing to apply for jobs in every field. Maybe a web design gig will work out, maybe I’ll work coffee for a while. I certainly have a preference, but if everything always went exactly to plan, this wouldn’t be much of an adventure.

Disappointed or not, I know the next few months will be one crazy ride. In an ironic twist of fate, the only thing I can predict is the weather.

Whiplash

People with thought disorders are like a box of chocolates. There’s always one or two that are filled with that weird half-toothpaste/half-coconut flavor that you never eat.

I remember at my internship, there were always a couple that you never knew what you were going to get. One day I was the scum of the earth, and they swore they would never come back. The next week every word out of my mouth would be a breakthrough. Which is annoying in it’s own way, but at least it’s flattering.

At my new job, the same principle is at work. One day a kid might be a perfect little cherub, the next a downright demon. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting whiplash just watching mood swings.

It’s a chaotic environment, and one that many people can’t handle. This time last year I was doing a whole lot of soul searching to figure out whether or not I was that kind of person. Knowing your limits and choosing to avoid the chaos is all well and good. The sad part is the people causing the chaos can’t really handle it either.

Which is not to say it isn’t worth it. When you do good in mental health, you do real  good.

Here’s how I try to think of it. The behavior isn’t the person, it’s the symptom. The cursing, the yelling, the insults, those are not the extent of the person I’m talking to. Instead, I try to look deeper. To date, I’ve always found something in that depth worth preserving. The trouble is the patience it takes to get there.

This job is hard, I knew that would be the case. Any kid with behaviors bad enough to be removed from the home for any reason is going to be a handful. And now that I’m starting to get a taste of how much of a handful they can be, I need my past experience and my ideals now more than ever. But the strange thing is, I haven’t doubted for a minute that the experience will will be worth it.

Well, okay. Sometimes I doubt it. But that’s part of being human.

Another Piece

I just finished an 11 day work week. 7-10 hours, every day, for 11 days. When you add commuting time, it tacks on an average of two hours to my day. The hours add up, and so does the money. But money isn’t everything, and something is missing.

What I learned from my most recent bout with extended hours, is the importance of rest. Taking time to sleep, eat, and unwind is hard sometimes. But, you have t force yourself to make it happen. Without taking time to recharge, your productive hours will be less effective, and you start to wonder why you are working so damn hard.

This is not news to anyone. It’s common sense. But, I have come out from the this hell of a work week, realizing that rest is not enough. Because, no matter how tired I am, if I go a day without pursuing my passions, it is a day wasted.

I am auditioning on Tuesday to get into an acting class, and I have started writing a new story. Not because I “had to.” Because I need to. Because no matter how good I job is, or how much I am paid for it, my passion cannot be fulfilled by mixing drinks for strangers.

As my resolve improves, so does my time management. And with the help of my wife and friends, I am beginning to get back on track. So no matter how tired I am, I can still work on my art.

Stay tuned folks. I believe I am on the verge of a comeback.

-DC

Give, Give, Give

Applying for a job is scary. Whether it’s online, a phone call, or Craigslist. Applying for a job requires exposing yourself to employers, and letting them look you over to see what they enjoy.

This week alone, I’ve been asked in-depth questions about my skills. I’ve also been asked about times I’ve been challenged, and my goals for the future. It takes several months to broach these subjects with friends, yet it only takes a couple clicks on the an online application. I’ve found myself giving my time, contact information, and a list of my abilities to dozens of anonymous employers over the last month, only to be met with form letters and silence.

I knew finding a job in New York would be difficult. After all, there are thousands of people applying for every position. What I didn’t expect to be difficult was the process of applying, itself.

Talking about oneself constantly is a bad way to make friends, yet it’s a necessity in the world of job chasing. Employers want to know what you can offer them, and they have no obligation to respond or show interest. It’s like going on dozens of blind dates where the other person simply isn’t interested in carrying the conversation. Talk about exhausting.

I have to remind myself not to take any of this personally. In the city of opportunity, employers have every right to wait for the perfect person to fill a position. Heck, I’d do it if I were in their shoes. But, despite believing in myself and my abilities, it’s hard not to feel self conscience – to worry that I’m doing something wrong. In reality, I’m just not in Montana anymore. I can’t rely on old connections to help me find a career.

I know there is a company in New York that will hire me, and we’ll both be better off for it. I have the passion, work ethic, and creativity that NYC values. The hard part is dealing with the uncertainty of an empty inbox.

Gone Viral

It has been a week of warnings for me. Taking away autonomy from children is delicate. It goes against every healthy instinct a human has. But the one warning I did not get is the one I think I needed the most.

Children are reservoirs of disease. I caught a bug from a kid who caught it from another kid, ad infinitum. So, for my sake, I’ll keep it short.

Even from what little I’ve seen so far, there have been times where I’ve gotten glimpses of the sickness that brought those kids to where they are. Most of the time they could pass as normal kids. When they snap, though, and that sickness shines through? It is always shocking.

Maybe that’s why the burnout rate is so high.

I was warned, during a therapeutic holds training, that this job has an effect that few people can predict. In particular, I was warned about dreams that most people get after they start working at YBGR. Though mine have only been fever dreams lately, I can see why it makes sense. Power over others has an effect on people, especially whenever children are involved. Becoming an advocate, and not a prison guard, is going to be crucial.

For now, though, I’m going to finish off this bag of cough drops and take a nap. It’s important to start small.

-Austin

Back in the saddle

On Tuesday, I had the extreme pleasure to attend my first New York acting class. It was, in a word, awesome.

I haven’t been in an acting class in several years. While I have been making the rounds as professional performer, and I have a fair amount of experience, I haven’t been on stage in six months. Needless to say I was nervous when the teacher informed me I would  be reading a scene at the end of class.

I came to watch, and I was made to play.

The three hour class flew by. It was a a whirlwind of insight, passion, and free expression. But, as focused as I was on the beautiful work going on in front of me, I was filled with anxiety. Anxiety over my coming performance.

Finally, my time came at the end of class. I was not memorized, I had not read the play, and I had never worked with my partner before. I was more unprepared for my scene than I ever have been in my entire history of performing. It was terrifying.

As I began to speak my first line, the teacher stopped. He told me to look at my partner, and find the thing I could love in her. He couldn’t have cared less about the script, he didn’t want me to “build a character.” He simply wanted me to be in the moment with another person and experience our relationship together.

It was thrilling.

The work he was having me do, was something my teachers before only hinted at. Only after we had researched and memorized, and worked and worked, until we had earned our moment on stage. But, this teacher told me to let go of everything in my life and just be here, now.

I had a great time working in this class, and I am now in talks with the teacher to join as a full time student. Because, in a one twenty minute block on stage, this teacher peeled back the veil and let me play. And I played in a way I have missed, so dearly.

I’m not back on stage yet, but I know I’ve taken my first step to get there.