Archive for November 2014

One more time

The last two weeks I’ve posted parts of a poem. Here is part one, and over here is part two.

And now the third and final part.

Path

(Being part 3 in Walking)

I didn’t choose a path in life. A road, no matter its condition,

is a noose.  I can’t speak on the lonely highway,

nor can I tell the aim of its pursuits. I have yet to see

the grass on the shoulder on the road. The rocks there are

markers for the damned. The dead give a warning all acknowledge yet

it’s meaning is muted. No one hears the story of the highwaymen

who lie there, in their granite graves.

A traveler asked me about my journey

and only spoke of his own. He was ensnared by his God.

I laughed at his jokes and he became uneasy

as he tried to tell me, in high speech,

that I have chosen too many roads,

and thus walk none. He was kind and platonic.

He knows nothing.

I have a map. It has cities and villages

but not a single road or highway.

It is not a how, but a what. This map is the

guide to the those who never go.

It is meant for you

alone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn Abstract

A good friend of the Gold in Them Hills crew is staying at Dan’s and my house, so I’m forgoing a long post to simply say Happy Thanksgiving!

We’re so thankful for the friends, mothers, fathers, friends who are mothers, mothers who are friends, and anyone else who has played a part in blessing us so abundantly over the last year. You are truly worth celebrating.

Now go be with your loved ones!

Priorities

I chipped a tooth last night. I was flossing and a piece of tooth just fell right out of my mouth. I don’t know why.

You know those dreams where teeth fall out? I think it taps into that weird tooth paranoia those dreams create. I’m actually pretty worried about it. Like, more worried about it than most of the new job problems I’ve had over the last couple months.

Looks like I’m more vain than I thought I was. Oh, helping treat mental illness in kids? Pshaw. A small dental problem that can be fixed in an hour? Stop the presses, my life is about this now.

I feel a little guilty. When instinct reveals my priorities, they’re always so selfish and petty. Heck, usually the biggest impact on my day isn’t the strength of my lofty ideals, but what I’m planning on doing when I’m done with my shift. I literally care more about my X-box than improving the lives of children.

I can talk a good game, but I’m as much a monkey as everyone else on this rock. I’m not the person I say I am, I’m just a selfish asshole that puts talk before action. Here’s how I know. All the talk I’ve done about wanting to help people? Clearly not, If a chipped tooth is instantly at the top of my list.

Ir’s a silly rabbit hole to go down, I know, but this is where I’m at as of press time. I want to be a better person, but right now I want my tooth fixed more.

On the road again…again…

Last week, I posted part one of a three part poem.

This is part two.

Road

(Being part 2 in Walking)

He has cast iron eyes.

The tears that fall onto the road

are smolders. This water dimples the paving stones.

He cries because he is trapped on the highway.

Made to shuffle between purgatories in a track laid down by

the ones who reached paradise and put up walls.

Lost on the shoulder, he is chipped. Tell him, where

is the heaven on the rise? He might have known were

the years not grass, his hands not cracked, and life not chalk on his tongue.

There is a pond at the left shoulder. No, it is a lake.

He would gaze upon it, but he lacks the company,

and the temple of the one true God  is in ruin on the right,

burning like a whicker idol. He does not feel the flame.

Trekking in ruts like canyons, his limbs will fail. And soon,

the only notion of his life will be gone from here. He passes many on

the road. He will not stop, and it will not end. There is nothing behind the

curtain, and his feet will rub away until his legs stop moving.

 

Outta My Shell

PaintedTurtleWeb

I’m starting to get more comfortable with my coworkers, work expectations, and management team. As a result, I’m starting to behave more and more like the silly, stubborn, eccentric Clark I am. Good news: my new friends still like me, and I have a couple coworkers that want to spent time with me outside of work.

I’m elated.

I had been worried that my Western outlook would fare poorly in a big city. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. My slightly slower, more personal approach to customer service rewarded me with a company-wide shout that was forwarded to many of my company’s managers. My general manager printed the email out and taped it to her door like a proud mom with a finger painting. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I was a bit giddy at the time.

I set the bar high, and now I need to work hard to raise it even higher. It feels great to work hard, and it makes the hundreds of NYC inconveniences seem a bit more bearable. It feels great to finally start coming out of my shell.

Upper Management

One of the first things you have to realize is that you can only ever have agency over yourself. No one else in the world is going to do what you want all the time. The trick is to communicate clearly, and work with what the other person gives you.

When I started work, my boss told me that trying to manage individual kids would drive me crazy. Instead, she told me to manage the milieu. In other words, the kids make their own choices, like every other human being. The mark of competency in this job is to steer them in the right direction by using the environment. If someone looks like they’re about to go off? Start putting away the breakables. If someone isn’t listening to staff? Send in one of their friends to talk them down. If they start making better decisions, they get more privileges.

Take for instance what happened a couple days ago. A bunch of the kids wanted to play cops and robbers in the living room. My first instinct was, no, this is a treatment center and I don’t want you to run around here yelling “bang, you’re dead.” But they were all pretty well-behaved that day so I figured as long as I set some ground rules we could see how it goes. So we told them no running, no yelling, and that they were to play with “paintball” guns. Not only did they meet the expectation, they got along for the day and played that game for a good five hours.

Here’s where it gets interesting. I noticed that the game they were playing was basically the wild west equivalent of a trust fall. One kid emerged from cover to say “bang, you’re (paintball) dead”, and then had to trust the other kid to play along. Entire rule systems rose and fell to tighten or loosen this honor system. The kids started to manage themselves, but also started to try and structure the environment just like the staff do. All the while, I could kick back and let them have fun.

I’m learning this job, slowly but surely. It may be a while before I really figure it out, but in the mean time, I’m learning to count the little victories and insights I find. Even if that insight is that there’s a time to let them play cops and robbers in the living room.

-Austin

On the Road again!

An other poem. I have been in a very poetic mood. Enjoy!

Highway

(Being part 1 of Walking)

The man Jesus was found of the highway. The roads then were

fine Roman work that lasted none the less. His lot

fallowed the word and his feet, when they felt like it, and never  truly

in step with either. Still, the Christ child went from place to place, in

the cradle of life. The road under foot was the veins from his chest.

The first of the great walkers is gone from earth. He left, and others

have tried the highway of diamonds, but no it is deserted.

There are no travelers, only the four, the horsemen,

it is their turf now. Only the blind come near these places.

Still, the flood will come. No one will know

the horror of the fallen man. The record of our

failure in this course will be a permanent scene

in the sediment of the eastern Eden.  No one

will hear us, no one will see a shield barring our

face. The death of my people descends

and all we do is walk toward it.

Bird’s Eye View

Birds of New York State

As some of you know, I’m quick to get tunnel vision and freeze up when I’m feeling overwhelmed. With a new job, new city, and new friends, the odds of me getting anxious are pretty high.

So as a small exercise, I’m stepping back from the hurricane of new information to look at the last month from a bird’s eye view. Here goes:

 I survived a month in New York City. I have friends, old and new. I found a job within 30 days of landing. I’ve learned a lot of new information, and I’m retaining most of it. I have events to look forward to, and interesting stories to tell. I have a loving family, and people from all over the country that care about me. I sleep at night, paint every day, and go to the gym a few times a week. I’m healthy, hardworking, and energetic.

To many, this may sound like some sort of humblebrag. But seeing these facts written reminds me that I’m capable of adapting and learning in new situations – that I’m never truly stuck. My life can be better than ever- physically, spiritually, and intellectually. I have no reason to feel trapped or hopeless, as I sometimes do when met with hardships.

I hate to be a Polyanna, but from a bird’s eye view, life is pretty darn good.

The Peanut Butter Incident

Like I mentioned earlier, I try not to give out details for confidentiality reasons. So, here’s the HIPAA compliant outline. There was an incident at my place of work from which I gleaned much professional insight. It starts with me being a hard-ass. It ends with peanut butter being thrown at my head.

When I started this job, my supervisor recommended I start off very strict with the children, and then transition to being more lenient once the precedent was set. Good advice. Then one of my coworkers saw me try to put it into practice. He told me “Dude, you’re getting into power struggles with these kids. The other kids see that, and know that they can mess with you.”

So, I learned that there’s a time for being strict and a time for giving them a break.

And then I learned about the peanut butter. It turns out that we try to keep at least a couple jars of the stuff in the building at all times. We don’t deny them food, and kids, as they get older, are hungry all the time. As a compromise, they can request a spoonful of peanut butter at pretty much any time.

The astute reader may already realize that this is a privilege that is easily abused. As a result, I chose to be a hard-ass about this particular rule.

Now, I really wish I could go into details. Needless to say, I didn’t read the situation right, and said no at the wrong time, and got peanut butter thrown at my head. It missed, lucky for me, but it did make a mess.

It’s not important. What’s important is what happened afterward.

The first thing I said (after a few combat breaths) was “You were right. I screwed up.” And all that anger fell away. The kid just wanted someone to hear him/her out, and that string of no’s just built up until it popped, like it would with anyone. And because I admitted I made a mistake, not only did we walk away from this as something we could laugh at, that kid learned a lesson in owning your mistakes that he/she will remember.

The moral is, I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. More than that, because I know that I’m not perfect, it gives me a shot at becoming great at this job. Mental Health is helping other people be more authentic in their lives. We teach people how to be human. And part of that is learning how to be really good humans ourselves.

That day, I learned how to be more human. In so doing, another person learned the same lesson. To me, that’s a victory.

Friends till the end

When I was twelve years old, all my best friends in the world lived less than a quarter mile away. Down the block, around the corner, or just over the hill. My favorite people were available and accessible, almost all the time. Friendship was easy.

I’m twice as old now, and friendship is a lot harder.

I have more people I care about, and less time to spend with them. I’ve had some amazing new friendships form in the last decade, and I have fallen in love with them all. But, we all have had school, jobs, cross country moves, and even marriages. And all of those adventures, while fantastic in their own rights, don’t leave much time for playing catch up over coffee.

The hard truth that no one tells you, is that the older you get, the harder it is to make and maintain friendships. I still meet a whole lot of people. But, everyone I meet has a full time job, a serious relationship, or is in the mist of an existential crisis. And all my old friends are going through much the same.

I became friends with Austin when we were seven because we were both walking the same way in our neighborhood. Later that day, he was my best friend.

I met Clark in the hallway of a dormitory. We hung out a few times, lived together for a year, and then became real friends.

My friends live in Montana, Washington, and Bulgaria. And now, after ten months, I have friends in New York. Everyone is just a phone call or text or subway ride away. It’s easier than ever to stay in touch, and yet I feel like my friendships, old and new, are slipping through my fingers.

I would say it’s just been a tough week, but I know better. I’m afraid of losing my friends through apathy and distance. But my biggest fear, is that in twenty years, I won’t have anyone to call.

As our lives provide us with more hardships and obligations, it seems like we give ourselves more excuses not to reach out. But, the more complicated life gets, the more that’s exactly what we need.

I’m going to try to make more time. Because lord knows, if we want to make or keep friends, time is the main ingredient.

-DC