Archive for Optimism

Blerg?

Well, this is embarrassing. After all the hullabaloo I made about posting stuff, I almost shrugged off making a post today. The only thought I had this morning was a rather childlike “I don’t wanna.” It’s a thought I’ve been having a lot lately, between applications, doing my taxes, and slowly fixing up the house.

God, growing up sucks. You think it’s going to be all staying up late and bacon whenever you want it, but it turns out to be bills and the slow, inexorable hands of mortality and death haunting your every waking thought.

Am I right?

Though, I am feeling better day by day. I’m reading again, and it’s slowly bringing back the creative parts of me that got burnt out over the last six months. Hell, two days ago my friend Kevin and I tried to write a rock opera. We even made it through half a song, a cigar, and two whiskeys before we got bored.

So, slowly getting back to baseline. That’s the cool thing about us humans. Give us three weeks, and we can get used to just about anything.

-Austin

It’s Over 9000!!!

I haven’t slept much this week.

I’m not complaining – my sleep deprivation is actually a good sign. I’m starting a new project, and I’ve been too busy daydreaming and researching solutions to sleep. I’ve found something that interests me more than sleeping, which is really saying something. Like I said, this is a good sign.

A couple months ago, my wonderful mother sent me a link to a podcast named “You Have One Life – Set Bigger Goals” by designer Sean Wes. While I don’t agree with everything Wes says, I agree that it’s important to set huge, ridiculous sounding goals – to Dream Big. Sure, I haven’t fulfilled 90% of the goals I’ve set in my life, but that’s no reason to give up hope.

So, without further ado, here is my big goal:

I will gross $20,000 in sales with my artwork in 2015.

Sounds crazy, right? That’s a lot of paintings and marketing for someone that can barely find motivation to write a blog post. $20,000 requires lots of paintings, and lots of buyers.

That’s where the project comes in. I’m currently working on a licensing agreement with a designer in Germany. If everything goes well, I’m going to start raising capital for an art-driven, self-run business that I can run alongside my current job (or a new job, who knows?). If all goes well, I’d like to eventually go part-time on my current job and focus on my new business full time.

I’m not going to say anything more about the product I’m creating, but it’s something that would capture my art style and interests perfectly. I could make money from my passions, and use my skills and profits to help benefit others. I’m really excited to see how this whole thing plays out.

So there’s my sky high, ridiculous goal, and very few specifics on how I plan to reach it. As much as I wish I could tell you more, you’ll just have to stay tuned for updates, and hope that I have good news on my next post.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Some Kind of Medicine

It’s been two weeks since I left my job, and it still stings. Fiercely, if I’m being honest. Most of my time and mental energy is spent staving off the unhealthy. This is on top of my grandma’s failing health, car trouble, money trouble, and who knows what else. Understandably, I’m a bit overwhelmed right now.

But let it never be said I can’t take my own medicine. I’ve worked with people who were in situations as crappy as the one I’m in now. Crappier, even. I have a new appreciation for what they went through.

There’s something I used to tell my clients who were down, out, and unemployed. Coming back from something big isn’t something that happens. It’s something you do. It’s a habit you create. Right now, the dark thoughts and the listlessness, those are the things I have to fight. Not letting them get a foothold is a habit I’ve used before, and will use again. It’s a bigger job than I thought it would be.

That said, I’m taking a couple weeks, before I start looking for work again. I think I’ve earned that much simplicity. It might be hypocritical, it might be spot-on. I’m not sure.

I’m trying to stay busy, at least in spurts. Dan and I have big things coming out this week. In fact, there are going to be a few announcements this week explaining that better. And it’s going to be something We’re very proud of.

So there’s a silver lining at least. Stay tuned.

-Austin

Grit

I left for work with writer’s block, and I came back exhausted. So I’ll be brief again.

The idea of grit has been on my mind for a while. They mentioned it in grad school, and it has stuck with me since. Not just courage, but aggressive courage. A challenge, a dare to the situation to become more difficult, So that you can rise to it more. Not just perseverance, but worldliness on top of it.

It’s certainly something I’ve needed a lot of since starting my new job.

My heart goes out to these kids. Less so recently, I’ll admit, because mentally ill children are insufferable, and I get paid to suffer them. But still, all of them come from terrible situations, and living at the ranch is more punishment than opportunity. But, sympathy and mercy won’t help them. What they need is accountability, character, and some of that same grit I use.

So I’ll rise to the challenge. Again and again. Until I prove to myself and the world it can be done. Then I teach it to these kids. Maybe then I can start making that difference I set out to make.

-Austin

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

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

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!

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.

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.