Archive for Meaning – Page 2

A Brief Check-In

Life is finally starting to resume after the strange fugue summer, Dan’s wedding, and the new job. I lost my new confidence and found it, and in finding it feel alive again.

I realized (again) I have a voice, and competencies, and a worldview. Even the people that have been at this job for years have things to learn from me.  There are things I need to improve upon, of course. I imagine literally everybody two months into a new job has things they need to improve on. But I’m stepping up more, and people are starting to tell me it shows. More than that, I’m starting to remember the old lessons on valuing myself, and I can feel that sense of congruence returning.

Big things are coming down the tube between Dan and I. Tomorrow I start really digging in my creative heels. I’ll let him break the news (because I know it would break his heart if he didn’t), but I will say some lifelong dreams are about to come true.

With Christmas on the way, and I’m finally in the same town as my family when it happens. On top of that, I have money to spend on them. Hopefully, that will be a trend for the foreseeable future.

With any luck, this is the start of that transition from surviving to thriving that marks an interesting life.

-Austin

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s been a hell of a week. Those of you who check with us regularly will know I didn’t post on Friday. I won’t make excuses, but I will tell you that in two weeks or so, you’ll know why.

For now, I’ll let you know this much. I feel like being in New York is finally paying off. Some major life dreams are happening. Not, “almost” happening. Or, “in a few years, with the right connections,” happening. Somethings I’ve been wanting to do for, literally, as long as I can remember.

It feels good to cash your dreams. And it feels great when struggle is rewarded. But the best feeling in the world, is knowing that if time travel was possible, you could go tell your dreaming childhood self, that yes, some day you’ll get there.

Soon, dear reader, I’ll be bombarding you with links to other projects. For now, I will be glad for my good fortune and keep my eye on the prize.

-DC

Commitment

I wasn’t sure what to write about this morning when I woke up. Well, that’s not entirely true. I knew what I wanted to write about, I was just going to avoid it and half-ass something else.

See, I had gotten a bit of feedback on Saturday. My boss that I wasn’t doing enough to step up at my job. Coworkers didn’t feel like I had their backs. For a place where one of the hazards includes being attacked by mentally ill teenagers bigger than you are, that’s serious criticism.

So I spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself. After the pity party, I decided to make a change. Turns out it really can be that simple. See, inside the pity party is the implication that I didn’t think I was able to make any kind of change. Experience has proven that this is not true.

I’ve been volunteering for more. Making sure I’m the first one there in a blowout. Offering to take over and tag out for all manner of thankless jobs and paperwork drudgery. I’m only two days in to manning up, but I think I’m going to be okay.

When I buckled down and committed, it was like a bunch of puzzle pieces in my mind clicked into place. The inaction and the leaving the crises to other people were bad habits left over from when I wasn’t allowed to do much more than shadow. Action and effort suit me much better than anxiety and inertia.

I think the lesson here is in committing to a better way of doing things. Once you really go for it, things start to line up. Dan experienced it when he got back into acting and writing. Clark experienced it when he decided to take the plunge and move to New York. And now I’m experiencing it. If it happens that often it can’t just be coincidence.

So, at the risk of being preachy again, here’s my challenge to anyone reading. You know the right thing to do. Get out there and do it.

-Austin

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!

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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