Being Elmo: Inspirational! (commentary and insight)

10 Dec

Remember Elmo? Of course you do…Sesame Street has been a major part of the lives of millions of kids. But do you know the story behind Elmo’s puppeteer? Well, a group of us found out the story at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and it was an absolute inspiration!

Trailer | Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

Kevin Clash’s story is full of struggle, opportunity, and passion, as well as a variety of life lessons and inspiration. It’s amazing to see that a passionate young kid from Baltimore can follow his dreams from as early as 10 years old to become successful, loving everything he does and touching the hearts of millions.

So, what about the rest of us? What about the teens, 20s, and 30 year olds, and beyond, that know they want to do something great but have no idea what? What about our journeys?!

I have been dabbling a great deal lately with discovering my journey and purpose in life, and this was the first thing i thought about after the film. I was so energized at the end that we didn’t get more than 50 feet from the building before I started talking to Mark about it! WHAT IS MY JOURNEY?! I’ll be honest, I struggle with this everyday, and pondering my purpose in life has left me up at night, stressed at work, and super busy from taking on way too much in an effort to figure it out.

We may be able to find some answers through Kevin.  First, you need to determine your goals/dreams.  Kevin: be a puppeteer!  You then need to learn the important parts about following that dream: important people, skills to learn, etc.  Kevin: puppet making, Jim Henson, Sesame Street, etc. And finally, you need to align you activities/experiences on a path that will get you there.  Kevin: started enteraining kids, then TV gigs in Baltimore, then New York!  Now, this seems pretty simple, but we all know that this is much harder than it sounds.  However, I think there is a clue from Kevin that is probably the most important answer in helping us discover our dream, and he states it near the end of the trailer (around time 2:01):

“If someone else your age is doing something very different from what you’re doing, there’s always going to be someone telling you ‘you might not succeed,’ or ‘you might not make any money with that.’  All of those things will go away if you focus on what really makes you happy.”
 

Many of these lessons learned from Kevin we hear over and over again in leadership seminars and classes, but society and worldy issues can often slow us down. In order to navigate the seemingly difficult task of determining your dreams, it seems that his last comment is the key.  Find your passions, find what makes you happy, and go for it!  Seriously, if you can get the opportunity to see this film, do it…check out show times and locations at www.beingelmo.com!

Now, since I’ve thought so much about this stuff, I’ll give a glimpse into my process, and maybe you’ll relate to it.  I recently graduated with my bachelor’s degree in architecture, spending the last 5 years slaving away for this degree. So, automatically my mind tells me that I should be an architect.  Duh, right?  But quite honestly, I don’t know if becoming the everyday architect is what I want, and that seems wrong to me. I just got a degree in architecture, why am I thinking this?! I’m certainly excited about architecture and love design work, but I hate the idea of sitting behind a desk the rest of my life and I really think I have a calling that’s different than just “being an architect in a firm.”  What does that mean?  I’m trying to figure it out.  For instance, I have a passion for sustainability, but not the “greenwashing” sustainability: real time, actual, meaningful sustainability.  I enjoy building with materials outside the norm, I like making a difference for people, and I enjoy problem solving.  I find that I interact really well with kids, and I like to interact with people as a whole.  I love inspirational movies/speakers/stories, enjoy the challenge of moving something forward, and I enjoy getting my hands into multiple projects. I like the idea of changing the face of architecture education and moving the “ideals” of the architecture profession forward. I was also a gymnast my whole childhood life.  Wow, what a list, but where is the direction, and where does it mean I’m going?

After looking at that list, I feel that my direction lies in architecture, people, and sustainability.  I like the idea of debunking the greenwashing bull crap, interacting with people to make truly transformative architecture for their lives, and I like the idea of “doing” and being active.  So, I feel like my direction might almost be toward organizations and community groups over just an architecture firm, or creating my own group that creates a resource for people to use that will help them navigate through the mush of sustainable items thrown at them everyday (actually, this is a side project I would love to start!). Or, what if there is something else?

Now lies the problem…some of those ideas sound scary to me.  First, it’s not the “normal path of architecture” that I thought I’d do, plus I need to get my license. I would need to let go of some “predestination” for myself to do some of these things. Also, a lot of those ideas aren’t very lucrative, and quite honestly, I’d like to live comfortably.  This isn’t looking good…

However, I think that means that I need to start looking beyond the norm…doing what I enjoy (even as your standard architect) means making less than most professionals.  This might mean that educating myself in investments, stocks, and other things could be an advantage to me.  And in terms of the path I “thought” I’d do…that just means the difficulty of overcoming the status quo and predestination I set for myself years ago and opening my mind to new things.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, I wanted to let you know that you are not alone in your struggle to find your place in the world!  Also, announcing my thoughts to the world may help myself but also you (the reader) in discovering your path.

If you have any thoughts, or would like to tell me your story/journey, please leave a comment!  Or, if you have ideas that warrant more discussion, email me at ryan@toastingdesign.com.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Open your mind, discover what makes you happy, and go for it!

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2 Responses to “Being Elmo: Inspirational! (commentary and insight)”

  1. Aric Austermann December 31, 2011 at 5:29 PM #

    This movie was amazing and really the quote "It made me laugh, it made me cry" couldn't be more appropriate. This is one of the best movies (documentary or otherwise) I have seen in quite a while. Since then I have run into Elmo & friends a few times. The first was when a few of us who saw this went to the Muppets Movie (another good one). Then just the other day I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors and who shows up but Elmo to help in the honoring. Funny how that happens.

    Ryan, I think you have some good ideas and starting that thought process may be one of the most important steps since not all of us know what we want as clearly as Kevin did. I think this whole difficulty in finding a job has lead a lot of newly graduated architecture students to rethink their path and challenge us to think what we really want to do with our degree.

  2. Aric March 5, 2012 at 11:08 PM #

    It has recently been brought to my attention that this is now on Netflix. So anyone who didn’t get a chance to see it yet I highly recommend watching it.

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