The Tall Guy’s Office Hours Are…

I had a film cinematography teacher who was a cross between Jeff Goldblum and a mid-80’s era Lou Reed. One would think that this sounds incredible. How lucky was I to encounter such a magical creature?

Okay, but imagine a person made up of all of their absolute worst-known qualities. The self-indulgence, the myopic vision of what makes things good and bad, the shunning of people who just ‘don’t get it.’ Okay, this is just Lou Reed in personality with the looks of JG. One third of the time in class was devoted to his opinion on tragically misguided Hollywood blockbusters that would turn into conspiracy theories; one third spent on wistful tales of his time as a filmmaker, including sexual exploits done with a wink because it was just so CUTE AND NAUGHTY, RIGHT!? What a mischievous scamp!!

The final third of the time, he’d walk down in front of the podium, take the two steps down to the next level where a small table and chair was, slip his shoes off, sit “Indian” style with his crotch front-and-center and pick out anyone he thought had stopped paying attention to grill them on obscure, philosophical questions about cinematography or the dreadful assigned reading for the week.

His name is lost to me…Perhaps I blocked it out because he was also super sleazy and bummed cigarettes off of the students (rotating who it was) when we smoked in the stairwell (since it was too cold to go outside and we were up so high in the building), sneering at the brand if it was anything other than American Spirits. If they were his preferred brand, he’d crouch down to sit down on a step, as he fell into silence, with his eyes closed in feigned orgasmic glee. Then, he’d actually moan.

I should remember him since he taught me how to navigate infuriating and indulgent personalities, roadblocks to any kind of success in a career, and the ability to find ways to turn those challenges–delivered via disdain, of course–into success. Smashing the demands from him when he thought I wasn’t paying attention, by answering his questions in an equally confrontational manner, delivering stellar project work on difficult-to-watch obscure movies and acing the course.

And if I gave him the benefit of the doubt? That maybe it was all a lesson swaddled around a seemingly impossible and somewhat arbitrary course. A lesson that you would encounter people even worse in the film industry, so develop a thicker hide, honey.

Sure.

But, did he have to be so gross about it?

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What I Felt This Morning

In an email to my fiance, I wrote the following re: a dream that split me in two:
 
“We were traveling to a place with a beach and I carried a heavy dress in my arms while our tour guide took us to all the places along the coast, close to our hotel, that we could visit throughout our trip.

This tour guide then took me aside to say that we had to go on a special trip for the rest of the day.  You would stay behind.

We suddenly were at my grandma’s house, empty of people and stripped of the carpet and any upholstered furniture, but full of new furniture and/or re-imagined pieces of furniture en media reas…We were joined by this man’s (who turned out to be a interior designer) assistant, a woman around the same age as me, and we slowly went through each room.
He pointed out how different the space looked; how beautiful this piano was; how glorious the light hit the hutch in the dining room; how he’d had my dad re-do the organ with stained glass pieces incorporated into not just the sides, but the keys.  Each time he’d press a key, it would glow.
It was quiet and it was life on an alien planet through some wormhole from my past.  I could see myself, as a ten year-old, reading in the smallest bedroom upstairs when we walked by it and I could see myself, as a four year-old, splashing in the tub.  We crept into the master bedroom and I saw the designer and his assistant exchange a look.

It was the bedroom of my grandma’s present.  The old dressers removed, the side tables gone and just a mattress on the floor.  Not even a box spring;  just a mattress, old comforters and mismatched pillows that were sprinkled with stale cookie crumbs.  The sight of that bed made me cry.  At the loneliness of it and the solitude she had to feel each night, going to bed without my grandpa and all of her life–via furniture–in disarray.

Obviously, in that moment, they explained that she was gone.  She was dead and my parents couldn’t bear to tell me or even talk about it.  So, now it was up to me to take care of everything.  To take care of the house, to help this designer and his staff re-model the entire house, including the furniture, and sell it.  If it turned out successfully, the next project would be in Italy.

There was a letter which explained what I was to do and that my grandmother left me this house to start the next chapter of my life.  My life would be the re-creation of space and to literally reorganize my past in order to reflect my present.  That process would develop into my future.

I don’t have to tell you that when I woke up, it took me awhile to adjust to the fact that the day had started.  And I don’t have to tell you that I cried.  Because throughout all of the dream I didn’t feel sad.  I felt that I had a purpose again and that this was a gift from my family to realize that.

So, a friend of mine from Chicago, who has now moved back to NW Ohio and created her own art-related non-profit spoke about fear.  That because she faced the fear in her personal and professional life, she experienced failure, but through that failure, she found a life she was proud of and “how important it is to have someone to push you past your fear because when you have a healthy sense of vulnerability, true happiness can be gained.”

This is probably a dream to use as a lifeline and I know that to include a space somehow for my heart in its potential and creativity to be full again.  My heart is full of you and our life, but I want it to be full of possibility, too, if that makes sense.”
It’s hard to type this at work, surrounded by a corporate specificity, but I felt as though I’d forget this delicate feeling if I didn’t get it out there…A token to keep going, to appreciate what I have and to have confidence in what I will be.

Your Eight-Year-Old Self

sun gaze

Third grade was a big year for me: the first time I was in public school after private school proved too expensive for my parents to justify on my brother and I despite the level of education and my first mentor happened to be my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wallen.

At the time, of course I didn’t think of her as my mentor. I just thought of her as my best friend. She introduced me to the world of Shel Silverstein, let me stay indoors at recess to read and write, and submitted an application, after my parents’ approval, for the Young Writers’ Workshop.

Before that, I only thought of writing as something linked to book reports during the summer reading program at a local library and an activity to pass the time during the mini sermon given by the pastor before the dismissal of the kids to Sunday School time. The book reports led to a special award created for me the previous year, at age seven, during the end-of-summer award ceremony.

“We couldn’t believe this particular little girl wrote these reports, so of course we figured out she had a lot of help from her mom. But, when we spoke to her mom, she explained that the reports were written entirely by her daughter. We were very surprised to hear that and knew we had to create an award for this talented budding writer,” the head librarian explained. I had no idea she was referring to me and felt a happy knot of anxiety explode in my abdomen when she called my name.

The stories written during church were of the most silly and innocent of topics, generally with nature such as the sun itself hiding out from the moon and twin girls I unwittingly referred to as the Andrews’ Sisters, who solved local neighborhood mysteries. Carefully drawn pictures accompanied the stories, all found in a tiny memo book, which I showed to Mrs. Wallen later during a sunny fall afternoon recess while everyone else was outside.

Throughout the school year, I tried my absolute best to keep her close to me and win her approval, as she encouraged me with kind and constructive criticism. In my previous years, in private school, I made it a point to know these teachers as well as I could. I’d play with their kids, after school, or write them letters in the summertime to “check in on them.”

The precociousness of this never crossed my mind until much, much later in the course of a career exercise meant to find your “true passion.” Yet, it made me realize that there had to be a place where I could tap into that and discover if the slow unfolding of the creativity was still within me.

Today, this blog/place serves as a welcome home and a crystal-clear sign that I need to re-discover a writing mentor. I hope she/he appreciates my candor and proves to want to be a partner on my campaign to a purely creative existence…

Hyperfocus hyperbole

A term spoken of in very non-glowing ways in the psychiatric and educational environment, hyperfocus is the very thing that saved me in the past few months.  Saved me from what, exactly?  The reality of my day-to-day existence before I re-framed this supposed bad habit wasn’t too full of any optimism; it was more ‘how do I live through this day?’ than anything else.  It isn’t meant to be dramatic, rather a comparison to the level of happiness I feel now.

Hyperfocus makes you lose yourself in the moment until that moment is a string of them and the sun sets in fast motion like a film in fast-forward.  Only I didn’t have those moments, anymore, and speaking as an artist, that was as though I lost a limb.  More dramatics!  This is how I am, though, and the melodrama is me; she keeps me warm in the brain.  Now, there are habits incorporated that help me re-direct that focus in other areas, while at the same time I schedule in the things that make me go blind with concentration…Otherwise, I won’t be able to complete the tasks I need to get done which put monies in the bank–or give me an allowance for food and beer, at least. 

When there was a lack of time spent on what made me content, despite the people around me who offered any sort of fulfillment through conversation and support, then I grew resentful and cranky.  Somehow, the moment that made it click was a perfect slurry of resolutions made good, production, events, an Adult Clinical ADHD diagnosis, counselors, dedication and the realization that my boyfriend and I picked the same night to propose to each other.  There is a tangibility to it all when we cook dinner, or drift off to a bad Hong Kong film on the couch or list off the ways we’re rearranging the space we occupy at home to spark creativity.

We have an agenda and my hyperfocus guided that into fruition.  This is where I will come to reflect on the steps, the development into who I was meant to be, as I have a second chance at that.Image