Archive for Communication – Page 2

First Impressions

I’ve been at my new job for about a month now, and I’m starting to get a clearer picture of it. I knew it was going to be difficult, but there’s always going to be a difference between the idea and the reality. Here are a few things I’ve noticed.

First, this job is hard. Really hard. Not only do you have to worry about a group of children’s mental health, you also need to keep an eye on their physical health. Trying to teach them to make better decisions on top of making sure they don’t smack each other (or me) around takes a special kind of person. A person that I am aspiring to be, but I’m not there yet.

Living in that in-between space of ideals and competence is incredibly draining.

Next, that the mental health system really is as broken as they tell you it is in school. Everything runs on money, and there’s very little to go around. A sad sign of the times. This can ripple outward in ways nobody can predict. Where I work, I’ve heard that they have trouble hiring. Very few people are willing to do what I do. My guess is it’s a combination of what they ask for and what they pay for. The hiring trouble leads to longer shifts and higher demands for the employees they do have. I’m afraid that one day this will burn out the people that are stepping up, leading to even fewer employees, and so on until the whole thing comes crashing down.

Finally, this job should be mandatory for anyone that considers themselves a helper or a healer. This is it. These are the trenches, and this is where the world needs to be focusing its attention. I can say with a straight face that if I, and everyone like me at this job, had the resources we needed the world would be a much better place. Being in the middle of the stink of trauma and mental illness is exhausting. But it’s right in the middle of it where the most help is needed. More than that, it’s where you can do the most good.

I can only hope I can rise to the challenge.

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

Juggling

A new blog, a new roommate, a new job, oh, and a new wife: it’s a season of change for old Dan. And while I love change, one or two at once would be nice. Five or more and I begin to remember why I can’t juggle.

I love my life, and all the exciting things that are happening. I’m a happily married man, with a great apartment, and a cool “new” roommate. And on top of all this, I have finally launched my second blog. That’s right, Tales from Two Cities is now live, with new posts coming at you twice a week (with more  content to follow.)

I’m busy, and that’s a good thing.

Until, one thing goes wrong. A new catering company leads to more work, that gives me less time to write. A new roommate means navigating the city with a fresh face, and less time to relax. A new apartment means a great space to live in, and battles with the utilities companies over past balances left by the previous tenants. And a new wife means…Ok, that one’s just awesome.

For every new, exciting thing, more complications arise. I find myself dealing with repairmen, collections agents, cab drivers, and friends like never before. I’m on the phone, emailing, and taking care of things, and through all the new stress, I’m counting myself lucky. I’m only having to deal with these things, because my life is pretty great most days.

I am married! I have a great apartment! And a new blog with a dear friend!

So, in the spirit of that, go check out the first two post at Tales from Two Cities. I think you just might like it.

Being Grateful for the Sunshine

Dan and I have noticed something. There’s only a certain amount of luck in the world, and it can’t go to both Dan and I at the same time. As a result, when one of is doing pretty well, the other is struggling. And as Dan continues to wrestle with his own creative instinct, I find myself having a great week.

In the meantime, let’s hope Dan stays miserable. You know, for my sake.

One of my professors once told me that helpers were made, not born. One of the most important things that helper could do was to cultivate a sense of gratitude. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it certainly wasn’t built by one guy. Likewise, as I reflect on my good mood, it’s important to give credit to the people that helped me get there. In fact, it will be those people, my friends and my family, that will push me even further.

I was talking with Alyssa earlier today, and she was telling me about her new commitment to write more. Apparently November is write a novel month, and she’s participating. She also asked if I would join her. Funny thing is, I honestly haven’t thought about writing fiction for fun for a couple years now, and now I’m seriously considering getting back into it.

That’s exactly what I mean. My friends, like Alyssa, Clark, Dan, and I have cultivated a place where we can both support and push each other. And while now is a time for me to bask in the proverbial sunshine, it is also a time to support Dan.

I’m sure, in the way of the universe, that eventually the roles will switch, back and forth forever until one of us dies. The survivor of course, will live forever.

-Austin

Nerd Herd

Two years ago, around this time, I introduced myself to the people who would become my cohort. My first words to them were, more or less, “Hi, I’m Austin. I am a colossal geek.” I was really saying “I defy you to tell me I don’t belong here” was what I was saying. Luckily, it got big laughs instead.

Back then, I wasn’t sure nerds, geeks, introverts, and other part time social pariahs had a place in the helping professions. I still struggle with the idea sometimes. After all, what difference could one awkward nerd make?

Except, it’s not a problem unique to me, or even to all of nerd-dom. We all struggle with enough-ness, as one of my old teachers called it. I can promise you that every person in the history of creation has wondered whether or not they are enough. It took me a year’s worth of client’s and a life’s worth of self-doubt to teach me that.

But this isn’t about every person ever, this is about me. Am I enough to actually get out there and help others, despite being a bit (a lot) geeky? And the bigger question, does the helper need to figure themselves out before helping others? As I see it, the answer is a resounding “no”.

Wounded healers are still healers, maybe more-so because we at least have some perspective. The truth is that none of us have our act together. Maybe we should celebrate that instead of trying as hard as we do to hide it. So, I’m a nerd, a geek, and at times cringe-worthy. Probably going to keep that up.

Let ye who is without awkward throw the first stone.

-Austin

Ties and Smiles

So, I have some interviews this week.

I’ve always thought I was pretty good at them. The last three rounds of jobs I had I got after one interview apiece. In other words, the first people to interview me usually hire me. Pretty cool skill to have, unless you’ve recently become a lot more genuine since the last interview.

See, interviews are all about being selectively authentic. Whip out the good clothes and the small talk, and you’re half way there. It’s a game, one that’s been studied by sharper minds than mine, but one I’m pretty good at anyway.

It’s funny for someone like me, who struggles with authenticity, but the awkward barriers in an interview start to work to my advantage.

Let me give an example. Back when I was interviewing for my old internship, the lady that would be my supervisor made a mistake. She forgot she was interviewing that day, and just kept doing paperwork in her office. As a result, I was kept waiting for over an hour. When she finally remembered I was waiting, I was all smiles and understanding.

Funny thing is, I was just too chicken to leave. The (broken) moral of the story is this: don’t be yourself, and maybe a freak turn of events will put you in a bass-ackwards position of power.

Fast forward to this week. Now I’m doing what I thought I was good at, but I’m doing it with all this pesky new confidence and authenticity. I worry that these might work against me in an arena that values feigning perfection. On the other hand, my hope is that the people interviewing me value authenticity, seeing as how it’s one of the most important traits a counselor can have. The gray areas seem scarier now that I know mine better.

At least I can rely on this- my confidence and my experience have taught me that I’m a valuable person to know. Selling that like I used to is the tricky part.

Thinking about it, interviews aren’t really unique in that. Interviews are just regular first encounters, but bigger. And more formal. And the other person may or may not be giving you money in the future based on that one conversation. So yeah, just like any other day.

-Austin

Going to the chapel

10410423_751444968249149_660069517973338892_n

When I was first planning my wedding with my then fiancé, people would ask how it was going, and I would always answer the same: “if you ever get married, elope.”

It was a long and stressful process to get from the proposal to the alter. But, we learned a lot and we survived.

More than that, we thrived.

As such, my perspective on weddings has changes some, having now had my own. So I would like to share an “I dos” do’s and don’ts list with you. Based on my experience and nothing else.

Don’t-

  • See your bride before she walks down the isle. (The moment I saw Courtney was so over powering, I had to double take. And then I promptly fell apart. In a good way)
  • Let your family stress you out. (My family was pretty awesome. So was Courtney’s. But, those little things they do that bug the crap out of you will seem like really big deals when you are already stressed and strung out. Just remember they love you and want you to be happy.)
  • Trust the RSVPs. (Plan for 10 more people to just show up, and then don’t be surprised when 20 people cancel or just don’t show. Stuff happens, so plan ahead and being willing to let go.)

Do-

  • Dance your ass off. (Our first dance, our mother/son and father/daughter,  were all SO much fun. Not because we practiced, but because we really danced, as opposed to swaying.)
  • Eat the food. (Some couples don’t eat on their wedding day. They are too busy taking pictures and saying hi to everyone, and they end up forgetting, or not having time. We made time to eat. And I am glad we did. Even if you are not big drinkers, it’s an exhausting day, and you will need some food.)
  • Have live music. (My sisters and two of Courtney’s friends all played or sang or both during our service, and it was so amazing.  I can’t even tell you how perfect it was. And while we had a blast dancing to our play list, we had a live band at the after party, which was great. Courtney and I even sing a song or two with them.)

And finally, Do-

  • Surround yourself with your best friends. (our bridal party was awesome. Our ushers were incredible, and we had all the people who matter most pitching in and having a good time. We were able to involve friends in the ceremony,  and have others take over set up and tear down. They were all indispensable and a joy to be around. When you are making your list think about who you can count on for fun, logistics, and support.)

Long story short, I am so glad we had a wedding. Rather than telling people to elope in the future, I will tell them, all you need to know about having a wedding is that people love love. They want to help, they want to have fun, and they want celebrate with you. So, why not let them?

-DC

Wisdom Schism

The definition of wisdom is a bit shaky, putting it somewhere between accumulated knowledge and common sense. The simplest definition is something like “the ability to act correctly based on what you know at the time.” Most cultures value it, especially Western religions. I learned the idea from the bible, but I tend not to refer to it, as you can lose the message for the medium.

I used to picture wisdom as the guru on the hill. The goal was to be some kind of Dalai Lama with the answers to all things spiritual and material. I outgrew that idea, with the simple revelation that none of us know what the hell we’re doing, only what’s worked and what hasn’t.

And here’s where I come in. My job (and with my friends, my annoying hobby) is to teach wisdom.

Everybody has blind spots. The thing they do that they’re unaware of, or at least they are blind to the motive of why they do it.  The longer we ignore them, the more miserable we make ourselves. Wisdom is the ability to take a look at those and either make peace with them or become more aware of how they trip you up. Those and the strengths that make the blind spots less of an issue. What the science calls coping skills, or CBT, or therapeutic goals, I call inroads to wisdom.

A lot of people come to therapy for growth and guidance. A lot fewer find it, for a thousand reasons. Growth is hard, wisdom is harder, and the system is mired in red tape and dead-ends. Which means that every clinician worth his or her salt has to find their own light in the existential darkness. But at least there’s some good news in that.

There’s no wrong answer, because there’s no right answer. Well, I suppose anything that’d get you fired is the wrong answer, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Do you have to be wise to give wisdom to others? Maybe. At least I hope it’s the case. I’m smart, I can own that, but that’s only a part of wisdom. And wisdom is all about that “I know that I know nothing” stuff anyway. And because I know that, it makes me wise, right? Which means…

Uh-oh.

My Best Friend’s Wedding

When your best friend gets married, their world changes. And when your best friend’s world changes, your world changes.

Except, I haven’t really been feeling that pressure.

Here’s the honest truth. My best friend is getting married to a girl I’ve only met twice. Which means, brass tacks, I haven’t made enough of an effort as a friend. Growing up means growing apart from everyone but yourself. Figuring out how to get out of that is one of the biggest challenges of life.

Most of my friends are, or will be, time zones apart. For a while, this was fine. I had grad school to deal with.I was stressed out, so I was largely absent from the people I care about. It got better, so now I have to own up.

It’s time for me to stop putting my life on hold with flimsy excuses.

Even after Dan and Clark go back to New York. Even as I try to get a job and dig myself out of my own debt pit. Even as, on top of all this, I try to realize that work and money don’t matter, so long as I find something real to live for.

Which brings me full circle. Friends and family, which I consider to be the same thing, have to come first. I forgot that for a while.

I’m not dwelling on it, and I’m not blaming anyone. I’m moving forward to my best friend’s wedding, and I’m damn sure going to be there for the rest of his new life beyond.

-Austin

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.