Vocations, egos and the universe’s sense of humor!


Funny thing happened to me the other day…

Someone did something that pissed me off.

Eventually I realized what really bothered me about it was…

I do the same thing all the time.


There are times when I love how life unfolds, reminding me that the universe will continue to take care of me if I stay out of the way…

I’m making a transition from photography as a hobby to using my lens to tell stories as professional photographer. My intent is of course to earn some income along the way. Who wouldn’t want to do what they love and get paid for it?

I’ve been looking for ways to refine my skills and to learn new techniques. I’ve also been looking for ways to add to my portfolio, even it in the beginning it means some pro-bono work. It gives me exposure and starts to get the word out about C Todd Creations.

Last week, I spent time with Broadway’s “roving listeners.”  Each year, Broadway Church hires local youth from the neighborhood. They roam the neighborhood, getting tSo know their neighbors. They name, connect and celebrate the gifts, talents and stories of the people living here in Mapleton-Fall Creek. Here are some of their stories…

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Steve P. sharing one of life’s lessons his father taught up as a kid. It’s the same one he taught his three sons…

Click here for more photos…

Last week, we started a series at Broadway UMC, naming, celebrating and blessing the vocations of those in our community – the ways in which people choose to live our their faith in our neighborhoods, schools and places of work. We were all asked to bring along a “symbol” or tool of our trade to share at communion. This seemed like another great opportunity to “insert my lens.” So, I planned on bringing one of my pictures along to service “vocation plate” at communion. I also brought my camera to capture some of the ways in which people chose to share their story.

When my friend Mike (who also happens to be our pastor) saw some of my photos from my walk with the rovers, he suggested they be included in the slideshow projected at the front of the sanctuary before service.

What a great chance to have my work showcased. And I didn’t even have to ask.
Marketing is my least favorite business activity, so I was grateful and excited.


Then there are times when life unfolds…and I get in the way.

I still love how life unfolds.  It just takes me a little longer to get from “WTF?” to “Oh yea…that universe thing!

And in these situations where my ego gets in the way, there is usually a lesson to learn…or re-learn 🙂

When I got to the sanctuary, I settled into a pew towards the front, where I could easily take pictures during the service without disturbing too many people. The pre-service welcome slides started. As my images started to float across the screen, I recognized the Ken Burns and other effects used by the slideshow application. Then it hit me… Those were my photos…but the included watermark had been cropped out! (Remember that marketing thing!? It may be my least favorite business activity, but it’s still important – especially a new small business owner).

I was frustrated, disappointed, angry, sad…

The voice in my head started in… “Why would someone have cropped out my watermark? Don’t they respect artists? Don’t they know I’m trying to make a living from this?”

Then the committee in my head started to freak out. “WTF? They really don’t give a crap about me as a person and as an artist here. They talk all of this crap about shining a light on the gifts and talents of our members and neighbors. And, when it really matters and could have made a difference, they screw me over. What a bunch of hypocrites.”

Then that little voice started – you know, the one driven by “fight or flight” genetics, just like Darwin said. And since I was now in control of the universe, with the ability to know people’s thoughts and intentions, I did what any self-respecting artist would do. I picked up my shit, and headed out. “I’ll show them…”  I started to craft the articulate email I was going to send out as soon as I got home…

As I was walking out, a friend who I hadn’t seen in awhile ran up to me. He was only adding to the fuel for my growing road rage. We had a misunderstanding the last time we saw each other which was still unresolved. I’ve also been disappointed by his multiple unfulfilled offers to use me for a shoot on of his projects. Anymore, I’m so done with his empty promises, I discount anything he says and rarely give him more than a cursory listen. And the committee in my head feeds off this self-pity.  “He’s just like the rest of them. He really doesn’t give a crap about me as a person or as an artist. He talks all of this crap about shining a light on the gifts and talents of our neighbors. And, when it really matters and could have made a difference, he lied to me and ripped me off. What a bunch of hypocrites.”

As I walked home, with my bruised ego and growing rage, some recent conversations I’ve had with another friend Tony came to mind. We’ve watched some great TedTalks on shame and guilt. He’s also more recently talked to me about CBT – cognitive behavioral theory – in the context of life in general as well as for people in recovery. With CBT:

negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression.”  

One of the techniques used is thought tracking, where we take time to pay attention to those initial thoughts that come up in our head – that “committee speak” I refer to. Understanding those, then probing deeper with questions like “If that’s true, then what else is true?” or “If that’s true, why does that matter to me?”  

I’ve been trying this recently, asking myself a series of those questions for at least three cycles…or until I reach the deeper truth or belief that might drive those initial thoughts.

In summary, CBT is a way I can catch myself, ignore my first reaction, and “stay with my feelings” until I’m better understanding what’s behind my feelings, my impulses, my thoughts. Over time, if those underlying beliefs don’t serve me well, I can explore alternatives that are more in line with how I am wanting to live out my life.

As I probed, I realized several alternatives:

  • Though it’s possible there was deliberate intent to crop out my watermark, it’s also possible that he added the photos to a template slideshow and the appliction inadvertently cropped the picture.
    • If this were true, there is still an opportunity to share why watermarks are important to an artists (with legal ramifications / protections), and make a formal request in the future when I share CTC photos to maintain the integrity of the original photo and watermark when sharing.  But to assume malintent is unfair and with little basis in facts. 
  • With the second friend, it’s likely that like me, he is busy and human. I’m sure I’ve made offers or promises to do something, send something, ask something on behalf of someone else…and I forget or get busy and find other important tasks
    • Again, if this were true, there is still an opportunity to approach him, and discuss how I feel now when we talk about work or projects. But, I’m able to see him as perfectly imperfect (like me), bound to disappoint (like me), but generally, having pure and others-centric intentions or motives. 

So, a lot of thoughts and words to say –

take a moment, stop, breathe, count to ten, and probe into those thoughts to see what else I learn about my feelings, reactions, and beliefs.

 

And, give others the benefit of the doubt, don’t assume intent, and be gentle with everyone -starting with me.

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We’ve come a LONG WAY baby! #MYINDYPRIDE


This is the headline for this month’s The Word, a mainstay newspaper for the Indianapolis LGBTQ for 25+ years. This is from my frame of reference. I moved to Indy for the first time in July 1990 to take an entry level position at Eli Lilly. It was the era of Brother’s (now Ollie’s), OP’s (now Greg’s), the Metro and Jimmy’s (now the home of the Indiana Arts Council). I was barely 22 years old – the world was my oyster (literally, with my business travel) – and I was out and proud…slowly…everywhere…but work.

As I reflect upon my own journey from those first sometimes terrifying years in my career, worried what would happen at this “conservative, midwestern-values based career-oriented Fortune 100 Company” if they ever found out one of their top recruits was a “known homosexual?” I shuttered to find out…the stress at times was unbearable, wearing a mask and hiding who I was.

In those early years of coming out, I experience the Garage Party, the Grand Masquerade, Bill McKinley and Terry Woods at Jimmy’s Nightclub, the move/expansion of IYG into their current location, the Damien Center, the Bag Ladies, the Horny Hole / Unicorn, the 501, various other clubs that came and went, early Pride (without Corporate tables and national sponsors) and more… (Well, in my version of the past, they were all there then…)

Let’s take a “TBT” walk down memory lane – from then to now.  We’ve come a LONG way baby!

 

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Here’s me, dressed up as a Fairy Godmother for the Grand Masquerade (early 1990’s). This was taken with a dear friend, Ron Meyers – since departed, but an important early mentor of mine. To this day, they are finding fairy dust in the crevices of his downtown condo! 😉

 

Fast forward, and I’ll be back to Indy Pride tomorrow – riding with the Indiana Men’s Motorcycle Club – also known as bear-backs – I mean, the gay men’s motorcycle club. Here I am, 25+ years later, ready to be out and about again (ah, there’s another fond memory – Bruce Seybert and Out & About!)

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Here I am, 25+ years later – ready to head “Out and Proud” again in this month’s gay pride parade.  Look for me with the Gay Men on Bikes!

 

An honor to serve? How about a fair chance at a job, or housing…


Society doesn’t trust me to use federal assistance for food or school tuition, is willing to refuse me housing and employment simply and solely based on a background check with no discussion because of my criminal record, and some countries won’t let me cross their borders…

…and yet you trust me with the “honor” to be on a “jury of peers” and serve jury duty?

Really.  I find this ironic and hypocritical.  What do you think?

Shame on Hoosiers, Shame on America!  Give us a break!  (Read on to learn more…)

An honor to serve? I’d rather have a fair chance at a job, or housing…or other assistance granted to other citizens. Thanks!

 

I’ve learned a lot in the last 5 years about the barriers our society puts in place for people living with a criminal record.  I was as surprised to learn about them as many people I talk with about my experience.  I guess “ignorance is bliss.”  But ignorance also keeps the status quo in place…  Which is why I try to talk about what I’ve learned, in hopes that education and awareness might help remove the stigma and perhaps even help to change laws or rules to make re-entry easier.

So to clarify – we are talking about someone like myself who is no longer on parole or probation, but has “served the time” for his or her crime.

In my case, I was fortunate enough to not do any actual time in jail or prison, apart from a couple hours around my original arrest.  (So I haven’t experienced the “full force” of “re-entry” – of returning to society after serving time for a crime.

For a lot of reasons, including a Higher Power who was looking out for me and some “next right things” I did when I hit bottom and sought help for my addiction, I was fortunate enough to be given a plea bargain and a chance, through probation, to have my felony charges dropped to misdemeanors – if I met the conditions of my plea bargain.  I was doing well at first in 2010, but was over-confident in my ability to stay clean for the first year of my recovery (while I was on probation) – and ended up blowing the terms of my plea bargain.  While I successfully completed the balance of my 12 month term without issue, I found myself “living with” a felony record.

So, what barriers are in place for someone who has served their time, but still lives with a felony record?  In the State of Indiana (some of these are Federal issues, some are State-specific):

  • I can’t get a student loan for tuition assistance to go back to school
  • I can’t get food stamps
  • If landlords run background checks, I’m likely to face barriers securing an affordable, well-maintained place to rent and live
  • If employers run background checks and aren’t educated with new(er) guidelines related to “ban the box” and fair hiring practices, I’m likely to face barriers getting a job.  Learn more at:

http://bantheboxcampaign.org/
http://www.nelp.org/publication/ban-the-box-fair-chance-hiring-state-and-local-guide/

  • I can’t travel to some countries in the world, including Canada (note: the same is true for individuals convicted of a DUI in the US…no travel to Canada!)
ReEntry Scorecard for the Midwest (click on image for details)
ReEntry Scorecard for the Midwest (click on image for details)

 

Two overarching principles emerged as key criteria in the grading system (with 1 being best and 10 the worst):

• State and federal laws should require individualized determinations about the suitability of someone with a criminal conviction for the opportunity, benefit or right sought that takes into consideration the nature of the conviction(s), the time that has elapsed since the conviction(s), the age of the person at the time of the conviction(s) and any evidence of rehabilitation.

• State and federal laws should prohibit government agencies, public and private employers, and others from considering information about arrests that did not lead to conviction when making decisions about a person’s eligibility for employment, housing, or other benefits.

 

Note: since I completed my probation, Indiana has made some steps in the right direction.  After ~8-10 years, under certain conditions, felony records can be expunged – which makes some of the issues/barriers I’m going to talk about mostly disappear.  Records are still accessible to law enforcement of course – but issues of employment, housing, travel – largely become a non-issue.  But, it’s still 10 years until I reach that point…so around 2021.  For details, see:

http://recoveryindiana.org/documents/HB1482_Expungement_FAQ.pdf
http://recoveryindiana.org/documents/HB1482_Expungement_Summary.pdf)

 

To learn more, check out:

http://www.reentrycentral.org/
http://lac.org/roadblocks-to-reentry/
http://www.lac.org/roadblocks-to-reentry/main.php?view=state
http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/pages/welcome.aspx