Archive for My Life – Page 3

New Job!

Today I started work at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch. I kept it under wraps because, well, don’t count on anything until the check clears.

About five things off the Life Stressors Test go into a new job, from taking on new responsibilities, to the pleasant surprise of finding my net worth going up. You know, instead of my usual debt spiral.

Good stress is still stress, and I can feel the initial numbness of shock starting to wear off.

I seem to have a bad habit of putting myself into make or break situations. Going to grad school in a strange land. Taking what people told me was one of the hardest internships in that strange land. And now working with the population that I swore I would never work with? Forgive the humblebrag, but after kicking my own butt for going on two years now, I think I’ve earned it.

This new job is equal parts exciting and terrifying. Before two weeks ago I had never imagined working with any kids, never mind kids in need of a residential treatment facility. The color of my life has changed drastically overnight. I remember what one of my mentors used to say.

“Whatever you don’t want to do, go and do it.”

I was squeamish about the idea of working with kids, in part because of how tough my own childhood was. And once again, my old mentors have a point. If I want to grow, I have to step outside of my comfort zone. In the Austin Logan way of no half-measures, I took that step and turned it into a flying leap. Let’s hope I land on my feet and not my face.

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

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

Past and Present

 

One of the most stinging lessons I’ve learned is just how easy progress can be undone. Moving back to the town where I grew up has brought out old habits. I’m a different person, but old pitfalls are trying to creep back in.

As I’m rediscovering, nothing makes you backslide faster than coming home.

I remember high school, when it was much easier to spend weeks at a time in the basement of my parent’s house, leaving only for food and scarce contact with the outside world (read: Dan). And while I think I’ll never get that bad again that bad again, I have been putting off job applications for a couple weeks now.

Luckily, My friends have kept me from getting anywhere near my previous level of shut-in. Hell, last week I saw a Beatle live. Take that, past basement dweller me!

Of course, it isn’t fair to judge teenage you by present you’s standards. I think a lot of people make themselves miserable when they compare themselves to the past. It’s important to keep moving forward, so that I don’t backpedal into an identity which is not only limiting, but also doesn’t really fit me anymore. Good thing too, because the things I got away with at 16 will definitely not fly at 24.

A 24 year old with no job who lives in his parent’s basement is not an identity with much dignity.

Now for the tricky part, I have to find a way to translate that new self-concept into something that meshes with my hometown. Without the laziness, lack of self-concept, and general “meh” that haunted my teen years.

So, I’ll keep moving forward as a person, get off my butt, apply for jobs, and bring all I can offer to Billings. After Dan’s wedding, of course.

-Austin

 

Compass

I’m back in my home town with two more degrees than I started with. I find myself asking; what now?

I already have quite a few plans for the next month: a Paul McCartney concert, planning for my best friends wedding, loan repayments, job hunting, apartment hunting, and helping my parents repair a house which had been befouled by years of incontinent cats.

Funny thing is, I never really planned for anything past Grad School. Part of me must have thought that the minute I got the degree, I would fall down dead, my life’s work complete. A month later I think I can call it. Not dead yet, with my whole future ahead of me.

Oh crap.

There’s no real compass for life other than what we give ourselves. Other people may weigh in on what they expect from you, but at the end of the day you only have yourself to answer to. My compass, and for the most part society’s, has been “get some schooling” for about as long as I’ve been alive. Well, mission accomplished. School gotten.

Which leaves me between life goals at the present. “Help others” is a good start, but its just vague enough to be restrictive, and so doesn’t really point me where I need to go.

But then again, and like my itinerary for this month implies, life never really slows down. I had the good fortune of attending Gonzaga, and that turned out pretty well. And like I mentioned before, sometimes lives can be changed by things we could never see coming. I need a plan, sure, but for August, I think my plan is to do all that stuff at the top. I may not have a compass yet, but I have a laundry list. It’s a start.

Mud and Blood

Last Saturday, at a Motocross park South of Washington DC, over 700 people ran a 4 mile Spartan Sprint. This is the entry level Spartan. It is the shortest course, with only 15 obstacles. But even though it was the “easiest” Spartan Race, no one finished in less than 55 minutes.

That’s over a 13 minute mile average. Not bad for a 26 mile marathon, but for a four mile race? Obviously, this was not easy.

This race was a challenge unlike anything I have ever done. I haven’t played sports in years, I have never owned a gym membership, and I have never run any sort of race. So, as the buzzer went off, I was freaking out.

In the first mile, I ran through mud pits, crawled under barbed wire, climbed up hills, carried a 50 lbs sand bag, and had a rotted tree break over my head. I was bleeding from cuts on my back and knees. My shorts were waterlogged with pounds of mud. I was dehydrating quickly. And most of all, I was grinning like an idiot.

With my sister by my side, and scores of friendly fellow spartans, ready to help each over walls and cheer each other on, the race felt more like a family reunion than a cutthroat competition. And though the camaraderie lifted us all along the way, I found myself alone in the forest of Maryland for a few long stretches. And in those moments , I was hoping I would have some brilliant moment of clarity. Some big moment to go along with the big challenge.

 But, honestly, I just enjoyed myself, blood, mud, and all. Which was sort of my take away from this whole experience. It was fun. I set out to do something I didn’t think that I could do, and I did it. Laughing, cheering, swearing, and spitting up mud while I did it.

The challenge was immense, the company fantastic, and the dirt was everywhere. And I will be doing a 4 mile and an 8 mile next year.

-DC

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

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.