Sunday, May 17, 2015

Life Goals: Finding where my talents lie

In my 54 years of existence, I have tried to be a lot of different things. As a child I went through being a fireman, a pilot and an astronaut. I envisioned myself going into the military and rising the ranks quickly, because both my father and stepfather were in the Air Force. It couldn't be that hard to rise in ranks quickly? amirite?

Talents: Imaginative, but nothing concrete

As I grew older I found my personality had limits, but my imagination did not. Fantastic goals became more realistic. I found things I was better at than most, specifically languages. I took Spanish and French in Junior High and High School. I had a dream of being a translator for the United Nations. I even planned around that, asking my French teacher what school was best for tht kind of career. She suggested Middlebury, in Vermont.

Talents; Languages, spoken and written

I added Middlebury to my dream colleges of Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth. I wanted Dartmouth because my father went there. But when it came to apply and interview for such colleges, Harvard and Yale said no. Dartmouth interviewed me but ultimately said no. Middlebury was also a no-go. I even applied for the Air Force, and they said no, even though my test scores were reasonably high. That was the most unkind cut, because I was sure my fathers' being in it would help. The Army was interested, but I wanted the Air Force, and said no.

So I wound up going to Florida State University and majoring at the start in French, still that dream of being a translator in the back of my mind. But I was also learning other things that piqued my curiosity. I was told computers were a good future, so I took some computer courses and found that I liked them. This was in 1980 or thereabouts. PC's were still being perfected. I worked with mainframes learning programming. I got to the point where French had less appeal and so I committed myself to Computer Science.

Talents: Programming Mainframes

But Computer Science is not an easy major. I found the programming aspect and the logic of it appealing to my personality. I found the necessary math and science courses to be less appealing, and even downright humbling. I had found something I was not good at for the first time: Linear Algebra and Discrete Math. I had to take Discreet Mathematics 3 times before I got a passing grade. It had devastating results on my GPA, leading to my removal from Florida State.

Something I wasn't good at: Higher Mathematics

But in the meantime, I was looking for work, and found a small computer shop willing to take me on as a contract programmer. On one hand I was thrilled at actually putting what I'd learned to good use, but I was too naive when it came to contracts and ultimately, they took advantage of me and did not pay me what I was worth. It was, however, a good experience.

Talents: Learns quickly. Cons: Not quickly enough to avoid being used.

In the coming years I took jobs that had nothing to do with computers: Clerical work for an insurance company and clerical work for a phone company. During that time, I started to study electronics. It was one of those chain 'colleges' that promised more than they could offer, who told me that student loans would cover everything and I wouldn't have to start paying it back until I'd been out of school 6 months. Being as naive as I was, I bought into it.

Talents: Electronics. Cons: still young and trusting.

The long and short of it was: I was pretty good at electronics, but the training was insufficient to find steady work. Another potential career shot down, and I now had student loans to pay back.

Cons: Poor.

It took me another ten years, working sales, clerical and even at a wild-west theme park before I had my first inkling of the career that to this day I am pursuing: writing. I was in a position of relative comfort, working for another phone company doing clerical work, and doing the job well. I wrote a story for the first time. My imagination started to fire up and show me its potential.

Talents: Writing, working menial tasks. Cons: Can get complacent.

My company paid for my re-entrance into college, where I majored in Broadcast Journalism, another area where I had interest. I was curious about doing that, because I had written that story and I thought it would make a good TV series. So I wanted to see what things were like behind the scenes in Television. But the courses I took were mainly for newscasts. Given my lack on on-screen talent, I tried to change that by taking a course called 'Voice of the Actor.'

Talents: The raw materials are there for acting. Cons: I don't want to use them.

Now before we delve into that, you need to understand that throughout my life I've had trouble talking, whether it was publicly or privately, I could not express myself very well vocally. I speak with a soft voice and I stutter, especially when I'm nervous. But in that course I learned a few techniques that might allow me to perform in front of people: Breathing from the diaphragm, pretending the audience wasn't there and things like that. I performed a couple of soliloquies from 'Inherit the Wind,' one of my favorite plays and movies. I did this in front of the class, and I knew they didn't think much of my performance. It didn't matter to me. The teacher was thrilled to get me out of my shell.

Talents: Speaking softly and carrying nothing. Cons: Can't project with any kind of consistency.

I knew I would never be an actor, voice or otherwise, but the whole series of classes gave me a taste of what it would take to produce a TV series.

Unfortunately, my employer ultimately stopped paying for the classes and I made the decision to keep pursuing the 'dream' and began working part-time at TV stations as part of their news crews. I had no delusions of being a reporter, but I gave serious thought to being a director and producer. I was hired as an Associate Director at one station, where for the first six months of the job I worked the camera, the graphics (CHYRON), the audio, and editing and directing short segments. Then they put me into the morning show and really tried to train me and test my directing skills.

Skills: Behind the scenes during a newscast: Camera, audio, graphics, video editing.

All of the training I had done before did not properly prepare me for the stress of directing a live newscast. The directors I worked with made it look easy. When they put me on the live newscast, I sometimes made mistakes on air. That happens with a certain amount of frequency on most newscasts, but I made a few too many on-air mistakes, including one segment where I pushed a graphic too early in the middle of a pet segment and left the reporter seemingly talking to no one.

That freaked out the producer, and ultimately led to my being let go. Life lessons learned? The producer has the real power.

Talents: fast-thinking, Cons: Hands don't always work with the brain

After that I found work in what was a new field for me: Customer Service via the phone. I want to state unequivocally that I hate talking on the phone. But for some reason, I'm good at it. I have a soft speaking voice, and the techniques learned during that voice class paid off. So began a streak of phone work jobs that continues to this day.

Talents: Good phone voice, good computer skills. Cons: I hate it.

And yet, it's not without stress. In a high call volume call center, the stress of going from one call to another forced me to leave several jobs and vow never to do that sort of work again.

Talents: Workhorse, troubleshooting, critical thinking. Cons: No ability to relieve stress.

But the one thing in my life that has not changed throughout my lifetime is my ability to imagine things. I imagine the future; I contemplate the past and try to rework it for a better ending. I come up with stories and within those stories I can - in my mind - become one of my characters. And those characters have some of my traits, and some traits I don't have. For instance, I let my mind wander into that of a female character who is built, is brainy and can sing her heart out. In those interludes I found a talent I never had before: song writing. Because that character has that talent and she sings the songs and I can actually hear her voice singing those songs.

Talents: Song-Writing, character immersion. Cons: no other musical talent. ie: I'm not dexterous enough to play instruments.

But those moments only come when I can meditate in quiet solitude, or when I can block out everything else in my life. This is a talent that took years to develop. In my youth I could not block out extraeneous events. My brain tried to process everything around me, and I didn't realize this until fairly recently, but I'm empathic, and my brain was on overload.

Talents: Empathic, empathetic. Cons: Brain Overload

So now, when things get too stressful for me, I have the means to push it all aside, delve into my imaginary world and life, and cope with the stress better. Overall, I feel like everything is coming together in my life, to make me happier, and to let people better understand me.

Talents: Ability to cope with stress through meditation. Less naive.

I'm much calmer these days, in a job where I feel my talents are being better used, where I have time to use my imagination to create stories and songs, which I hope someday will lead me to a successful career as an artist.

Life goal: Artist.