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Happy solstice…or why I wish I were at Avebury with the throng.

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2013, the longest day of the year.

The Summer Solstice always makes me think of two things, one memory and one question.

First the memory:  seven years ago we were visiting relatives in Wales.  One beautiful sunny day my wife’s cousin Peter asked if we wanted to see the standing stones at Avebury.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but I`m always up to see something new.  Off we went.  On the way he explained that the standing stones were the largest collection of prehistoric standing stones in Europe…bigger than Stonehenge but for some reason not nearly as famous.  The closer we got, the more congested the small road got.  I didn`t think anything of it until we came to a virtual standstill.

The standing stones of Avebury - without the unwashed masses

The standing stones of Avebury – without the unwashed masses

Suddenly Pete let out a colourful expletive, followed by `Oh my God, Oh my God, it`s the %”*!$ing Solstice.`  That`s when I saw them.  Huge numbers of people: bikers, hippies, druids wandering with their children among these magnificent stones.  It was a sight I`ll never forget and wished I was part of . . . I`ll also never forget the running commentary by Pete as he cursed `the great unwashed of Europe` who had descended upon his idyllic plans for the day.

He refused to stop the car and I never did get to join the throng, but it’s still one of my favourite memories of a wonderful trip.  Sometimes the best adventures are the ones that are unplanned.

A few days later we got to Stonehenge where there were only a few very polite and well washed Druids performing some very beautiful ceremonies.  I preferred my day with the throng – whom I suspect were actually better washed than I was during much of this trip.

The second thing I think of on every solstice is a question:  Why isn`t this the hottest day of the year?  It has more hours of sunshine and more direct sunshine than any other day this year. BUT and it’s a big BUT, this isn’t the hottest day of the year.  The sticky hot, wish you could take your skin off it’s so hot, days of August are still months away.

NO – here’s why.

Change takes time . . . even the earth knows it.  The earth is still reluctant to fully surrender the cold that set in last winter; it lingers in the rocks, in the lakes, in the building, in the very soil itself.  It hasn’t fully caught up to the warming influence of the longer days yet.

I had a text message from a friend who’s been making some healthy choices for his body lately, he’s discouraged; he’s doing all the right things, but not losing any weight.  It’s just not shifting.  I feel for him, it’s tough and our bodies, like the earth, like our emotions, like our souls, like to linger in the past, in the comfort of the known.  There are all kinds of theories around the subject of why change takes time, I personally think it’s the universe’s way of finding out if we’re really serious.

Warmer days are coming.  Have faith; if you’re doing the right things, if the light is shining, the world will catch up, it has to.  There are going to be setbacks, there are going to be problems and some days are going to feel colder than others, but we will get there.

Dreaming big and getting clear

Holy Quarter Century Batman, I graduated college 25 years ago this week.  Funny, I don’t feel old enough to be able to say that, but it’s true.

The last week of class I had one of the most important life lessons I’ve ever had; here’s how it went:

BIG DREAMS Part 1

Final assignments, presentations and exams had all been done, attendance was low, one of my favourite teachers, came into class.

“The course is finished, but there’s one more thing I want to teach you before you head out.  Everyone take out a piece of paper.”

We did.

“Write down where you want to be in five years.” She paused “but don’t get stupid on me, be realistic with your dreams.”

We did.

She gathered up the various sheet of paper, ripped them into pieces and threw them in the garbage (she was even more dramatic than I am).  Then she looked at us like the great mother hen that she was and said:

“Realistic dreams aren’t dreams. Where do you really want to be?” Another dramatic pause “What’s the dream you don’t tell anyone because you know they’ll laugh?  Write that down.”

We did.

“Hold onto this dream.  Don’t let anyone ever take it from you.  NOW…what are you going to do to get there?”

I don’t remember what I wrote on the first sheet of paper, something very sensible I’m sure.  On the second piece of paper I wrote “Directing at the Stratford Shakespearian Festival”.

I have to admit, five years after I graduated, I was not directing at the Festival – it took six.  Six years after I graduated I was an apprentice director at the Stratford Shakespearian Festival.

BIG DREAMS Part 2

While I was at the festival, I realized I would be unemployed in 4 months and until then, I would only see my wife every other weekend – if I was lucky.  I decided I didn’t want to be a freelance director any more (looking back, I realize the decision was fear based, but this was how I justified it at the time).

What I didn’t do was get clear on what I did want.

Five years later I was answering phones at an insurance company…a great job for many, a VERY bad fit for me.

One day my supervisor told me I should choose my five year anniversary gift, it was coming up.  I was stunned; this job was only temporary until I figured out my next step.  Suddenly it was five years later – five MISERABLE years later.

BIG DREAMS Part 3

I excused myself, pulled out a sheet of paper and I was not leaving until I figured out where I wanted to be in five years.

Eventually I wrote down two things:

I want to be a produced playwright – preferably in NYC.

I want to be working in Animation (years ago I had run some acting classes at Walt Disney Animation and LOVED it).

I started writing a play that night and within a week had sent out resumes, cover letters and follow-up phone calls to every school and studio in the Toronto Area.

Within a year I was teaching Acting in the Animation departments of two of the best schools in the world (I still am) and recently one of my plays was presented in NYC (took a bit longer than I thought).  Last summer an animation festival billed me as Canada’s leading expert in the field of Acting for Animation.

BIG DREAMS Final thoughts:

I am still grateful to that teacher who inspired me over 25 years ago, I do have one BIG adjustment to her lesson, I believe small dreams are still dreams; they are valid and can be beautiful.  Don’t let anyone rip them up either.  She was pretty dramatic though and it made a statement I still remember.

Some people believe you get everything you’re clear about, EVERYTHING.  I’m not one of those people, which may explain why I didn’t win the lottery last night – AGAIN – but I do know getting clear gets you a LOT closer.  Our dreams can, will and should change, write yours down and dream big and then start moving toward it…effort counts.

Where do YOU want to be in 5 years?

WRITE IT DOWN – it makes it clear.

What are you going to do to get there?

What I know about graduating… 25 years after the fact.

I had a note from a student who will be graduating from college in a few weeks.  Graduating and going out into the job field was getting a bit threatening.

I’ve been teaching at the college for 18 years, suddenly I’m having a flashback to 25 years ago, when I graduated from college.  WOW a quarter century later.  Have I learned anything?

For what it’s worth, here’s what I know about graduating:

1)Keep the people who matter close to you. It gets a little harder to stay connected after you graduate – do it anyway.  Those people keep you motivated, supported, connected, grounded and sane.

2)Zoom in on your strengths.  At school there’s a LOT of focus on fixing your weaknesses, STOP IT.  Do what you do best.  If Michelangelo had spent all his time trying to fix his crappy his social skills we wouldn’t have the Sistine Chapel or David, Florence would have had a frustrated artist with a fake smile on his face.

3)If you’re not sure what your strengths are– that’s cool, we’re all still sorting that out, but here are a few tips:

Ask the people around you; we have a tendency to dismiss our strengths because the things we’re really good at are easy.

The next time you’re asking yourself “Why can’t they just get this, it’s so easy?” PAY ATTENTION…that’s a unique strength of yours.

4)All change is good and bad.  You decide what you focus on.

5)You’ve heard that success means sacrifice – it’s true, but NEVER sacrifice your integrity, your dreams, or your authentic self.  Giving up on those serves NO ONE!  Trust me on this one.

6)You and your dreams are going to change a LOT in the next few years.  Learn the difference between changing your dreams and giving up on them.  One is about growth, the other is death.

7)Never stop learning.  The best learning is accidental.  We were NOT your best teachers.  I like to think we were good, but Life and your own intuition will teach you FAR more than we ever could.

8)You’re not entering “The Real World”.  School is real, what you have here is real.  You’re just moving into a different place.

9)In the end, don’t listen to me – trust yourself.

Another lesson – this time from a nude guy.

He stands there naked, looking defiantly off to the left and he catches my eye every time I pass him.

I teach at a number of art schools.  Every day, I pass drawings of nudes, for some reason this picture keeps grabbing my attention.  Well, I’m the guy who believes that art that pulls us in is trying to teach us something, so I asked myself what this guy was trying to teach me.

I had barely formulated the question in my mind when I was reminded of yesterdays post…about strength and how I need to develop more of it in my life.  This picture is STRONG, and if you check out my last post, you’ll know that I’m needing a little more strength. http://animatingyourlife.com/2013/02/06/flexible-strength-more-lessons-from-the-incredibles/

The lines are strong, the colours are in strong contrast to one another, the body of the model is strong and his attitude is strong.  Seriously, what is it he’s looking at off to the left?  This guy, and more specifically Leanne’s drawing of him, is another teacher, reminding me to keep getting stronger.

We’ve all heard that when the student is ready the teacher will appear, I’m starting to question that wisdom.  I think the teachers are always there, when we’re ready we will notice them.

The picture was drawn by Leanne Mohammed and used with permission (Thanks Leanne).  Check out the link to the original below.

Flexible Strength-More lessons from The Incredibles

After my last post about the Incredibles’ incredible romance, http://animatingyourlife.com/2013/02/05/the-incredibles-incredible-romance/

I can’t stop thinking about the mix of strength and flexibility that Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl struggle with and eventually attain.  I’ve realized that this is an area I need to work on.  I’m on Elastigirl’s side on this one.  I’ve always prided myself on my ability to adapt, to change, to stretch and be flexible, yesterday I realized that I have done this at the expense of inner strength.  I think about the number of times I’ve buckled and caved to pressures to be what I wasn’t or do what I knew wasn’t true to who and what I am.  The results have never been good, not for me and not for the people I was bending for.  We can only be effective or helpful when we’re being true to who we are, our principles, what we know to be true.

A couple of posts ago I wrote about an impending conflict and how Finding Nemo helped me face that conflict with integrity,

http://animatingyourlife.com/2013/01/30/finding-trust-while-finding-nemo/

I realize today, that it was also a huge movement for me in terms of finding and claiming my own inner strength.  I didn’t twist myself out of shape to avoid the truth.  When I do that (and I have for a great deal of my life) I’m lying.  I know that’s harsh, but it’s true.  Living an authentic life is about finding our strength and our flexibility, as long as we’re stubbornly maintaining one or the other, we are not complete people.

I am very flexible and I adapt well, that’s a strength and I’m not belittling or dismissing it, it has served me well and will continue to do so.  I will work to be stronger, to be strong and flexible, they are not mutually exclusive, if Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl can do it, so can I.

Keep it real.

Rob Corbett

PS did I mention that Brad Bird is a genius?

A Challenge To Change

This blog doesn’t say anything about art or animation, but it’s my blog and I’m keeping it loose . . . that’s just how I roll.

I took up a challenge at the beginning of the week.  My friend Arlene Moshe; a dietician, inspirational blogger and awesome person; set up a three day fitness/health challenge.  It was called “How to break the cycle of not following through . . . this is a bit of a problem area for me, so I signed up.

http://www.arlenemoshe.com/2013/01/16/how-to-break-through-the-cycle-of-not-following-through/

I got an e-mail with a HUGE list of simple small tasks that could make my health and fitness better.  I gulped down my feeling of being overwhelmed and then read the whole e-mail.  I had to choose one.  ONE.  ONLY ONE!!!!   Make one small change.  The pressure came off and for three days I packed some healthy snacks and ate them between classes (and sometimes in front of classes – nothing like modeling a healthy lifestyle for the youngins).    I’ve had healthy snacks now for a week and on Monday (tomorrow) I’m going to add some gentle, easy, simple morning exercise.

Arlene’s smart.

The part of her challenge that I loved the most (seriously, check it out) is the difference she makes between the words “should” “could” “would” and “WILL”.

There are a lot of things I should do…there’s not enough room in this blog for that list.

There are a lot of things I could do…that usually gets followed by “if” I could do _____ if.  So far, that didn’t work out for me.

Don’t even get me started on would.  I would do a lot of things if (this usually ends with blaming someone else).

Last week I took a hard solid look at what I WILL do . . . and I did it.

I tell my students that stretching too far or too fast is a good way to hurt yourself.  I ate my broccoli, almonds and yogurt and . . . am down a pound.  Weight loss wasn’t the goal, but I’m feeling a lot better, it might be the broccoli, but I think it’s about celebrating a small victory.

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