Sunday, January 1, 2012

scare the quit out of them

Back when I was interviewing young men and women for production tree-planting (one of the most miserable, horrendous, soul-crushingly-wonderful summer jobs on God's green earth), the very first thing I tried to do was to convince them they didn't want the job - that there were a million reasons to run away and never look back. I told them of the horrors of inescapable exposure to rain and hail and sleet and snow; of the deprivations; of heat exhaustion; of over-long days; and of estrangement from friends and slurpees and mid-summer matinees.

I didn't do this because I did not like them and did not wish to work with them - I was interviewing them, after all, because I'd seen their resume and thought they looked promising. Neither did I hate tree-planting. Some of the best times and most valuable lessons of my life came from tree-planting. The job shaped me in ways that nothing else could, and I wouldn't trade my ten summers in planting for anything.

On the contrary - I tried to scare them out of tree-planting because I knew what it would cost them, and I knew there was no way for them to know what it would be like until they were right there in the thick of it. I cared for them, and I did not want them to move forward until I'd done my best to make them understand the price they'd have to pay, and to figure out if they were the sort who'd be willing to pay it... Because if they weren't, they would not grow to love the job, as I had. They would grow to hate it, and their summer could very well end in failure.

I was wondering today what it would be like if premarital counseling was actually conducted with that mindset. I do not think this happens very often. I think, rather, that counselors tend to see their role as being to help these two wondrously autonomous individuals iron out a few rough edges that - let's face it - simply cannot be truly dealt with until you are actually there, in the thick of it.

Perhaps it's a business decision. It seems unlikely in this cultural climate that a counselor known for talking people out of getting married would get too many referrals.

Here's what I do know - while a lot of people quit during their first tree planting season, in six years of leading crew after crew through some of the most horrendous working conditions available to a late-teens Canadian, I never, ever had anyone quit. My advice to would-be counselors, therefore, is this: scare the living quit out of your clients, and don't ever regret it.

4 comments:

  1. Cool. I think as kids, our parents do a good job at playing the perfect example to send us running from marriage. A successful marriage has to be rigid and perfect and happy and nicey. Right? Yuck! No. Like you said (I think), if you are the right kind of person, you will dive in to the realness of something knowing you will come out changed and with renewed perspective. I feel like the only aspect I want to "hold on to" is the part that knows it will always be "expanding and contracting" and we can only really grow and learn through challenges... when I think of a beautiful marriage I see an intricate braid with billions of strands that make up a portion that go apart before they come together briefly then apart again...and it's beautiful and strong and maybe each side gains a few more strands for the next time it comes together... growing. Apart and together. But I guess like tree planting it's always a question of if you will continue another season. I don't know. I think you do. No matter what shape it takes... maybe it is always takes a new shape and that's how you continue to take new challenges. Instead of a braid it could be a giant boulder tumbling out of control down a mountain. It's constantly hitting things and pieces of it go flying off but it is also sort of collecting bits of things as it goes down the mountain. Haha! I don't know what I'm talking about. Obviously rambling... I like this subject.

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  2. Hey! No fair writing more eloquently or poetically than my posts :)

    Thanks for your thoughts, Amanda.

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  3. Ah. Shit. After I posted my comment and saw how huge it was I kicked myself.

    And just to show you how I can't stop.

    Love and beauty are in the imperfections for sure. But maybe that's just how I've convinced myself to stay in dirty Brooklyn for as long as I have. I lovehate it but am scared shitless to move to anywhere more pristine. Same as my marriage. Haha! Totally kidding. Sorry for the blabbing comments. You write things I like it make me want to talkie too much.

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  4. The internet is for blabbers. Evidence: Me.

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