Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Happiest Blog On Earth...A Year Later...

Well, a different sort of entry for me. This one won't be about Disney, or Disneyland,  it's going to be about me. No, I'm not narcissistic (yes...I had to look up the spelling), but I wanted to share some bits and pieces of the last year with you all.

Wow...a year. A YEAR. 12 months. 365 days. That's a long time, right? Well, guess that depends on what glasses you're wearing when you look back at that year. But wait, let me back up a bit...

On March 5, 2013 life for me and Joyce got very interesting, and I don't mean "hey, that's a nice flower growing in your ear" interesting. I mean life changing 'what now' interesting. 

As many of you know, Joyce and I work(ed) for the same University. Joyce has been there for 13 years, and I (was) there 14 years. A LONG time. A COMFORTABLE existence. Then, on March 5, I was called in to a meeting room and was informed that my job, of 14 years, was being eliminated due to 'major workforce reductions'. Wow. 14 years. In the same job. In the same building. Working every day with my wife. Did I mention it was 14 YEARS?! I was lucky. I LOVED working at the same company as Joyce. It was awesome. Now, a lot of people used to ask us "how in the heck can you live together, AND work together?". Well, simple. We LOVE each other. DUH! It was great! 

But one year ago, on March 5, 2013, that all ended. Life had been irreversibly changed, forever (yeah I know, VERY dramatic dude). I went from being gainfully and moderately comfortably employed to...well, nothing. I still remember that day quite well. It's funny too, because you hear of people who go into shock not able to remember certain events immediately following the event (trust me, I have experienced that sort of shock a couple of times in my life, and have actually experienced that sort of amnesia). And although I know I WAS in shock after hearing those words "I'm sorry, but there's no place for your oldness in our new world" (ok, MAYBE they didn't say EXACTLY those words...), I do remember the day quite well. Since Joyce worked (still does) there too, management was nice enough to allow her to take the rest of the day off to be with me. On the way home, I remember going through a few different emotions: Anger, Sadness, Happiness, etc, and I remember having some serious anxiety. Then, Joyce said something TOTALLY unexpected: "Hey, now you have the opportunity to pursue your dream! Start your voiceover company and do it full time! We'll be fine!" HUH? Really? See, THIS is why I KNOW that Joyce is my 'soul mate'. While I was going through Dante's Seven Levels of Hell, Joyce was looking at the positive side of this extremely horrible event. 

So, I began to change my thought process a little. I started to run different scenarios for a business model in my head: ok, straight commercial voiceover work, audiobook narration (because I had at that point already recorded one audiobook), or perhaps a combination. Yeah, that's it...offer BOTH services! So, at that moment, Storyteller Productions was born! I already had a profile on a site owned by Amazon/Audible called Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), which is an awesome place for narrators and authors to 'hook up' and create audiobooks. But I'd not really done anything with it. So, I added some more demo samples to my profile and started looking for titles accepting auditions. Funny thing, I had that profile since December of 2012 and never ever had anyone interested. But 2 days after 'The Event", out of the blue I was offered 3 audiobooks a day apart! Three that I didn't even audition for, the authors found my profile and thought my voice was right for their project! 

At Joyce's urging, I began building up the things I needed to start this Voice Over biz. I started reading lots of articles, following VO people on FaceBook and YouTube, watching HOURS of videos on how to place your microphone; WHICH microphones were better; audio editing software, etc. And, the most aggravating part - how to sound treat a room. You know, how to make your workspace nearly soundproof so external noises like AIRPLANES, LOUD CARS, MOTORCYCLES, LAWN EQUIPMENT, don't hinder the recording. Well, I've solved the microphone and software issues (purchased a GREAT editing software and a GREAT microphone). BUT...the sound treatment...well, let's just say it's a work in progress. Oh, I've got a fairly decent area, but still would LOVE to have a real audio booth. And there's the training issue. Now, for those unfamiliar, most successful narrators/voice actors spend years and thousands of dollars on voice lessons, technical training and acting lessons. Well, I do not have the luxury of years or dollars, so, this has been a very trying time! I've had to learn what I can 'second hand', bug and pester many excellent voice actors for advice (who I might add, I thank from the bottom of my heart for their patience and willingness to answer questions). But it's difficult to get someone to understand that, yes, I DO understand that it takes a long time to make serious money in this business, but I don't HAVE that kind of time. I'm 49 years old! And desperate for money! :-) 

At first, life was not so bad. We had the severance and some other funds, but those petered out. And life began to get stressful - financially. We went from living pretty ok, to scraping pennies at times. Now, it's not like I'm NOT looking for work. I won't name names, but I'm positive there are a few in my life who believe that I'm not looking and that I'm satisfied with letting my wife foot the bill while I 'play voice actor'. I've submitted no less than 300 resumes over the last year. I've even applied for jobs at fast-food restaurants and coffee places. Not. One. Call back. In fact, I was even rejected for a job at another University saying I wasn't qualified enough....FOR THE SAME JOB I'D DONE FOR 14 YEARS! Of course, there's probably some logical explanation, but I believe that A) I was in the same job for 14 years so many employers probably feel I won't stay in a low level position; B) I'm 49 years old. Most employers want 'young blood'; and C) I have two college degrees and possibly, employers will react like point A.

It's been a rough year. In many ways. Ok, let me stop here and admit a few things. When you've been at the same job for that long, the job begins to define you. It's your identification. I was 'the VA guy' (Veterans Affairs). That's what I did and WHO I was. Even though (honestly) over the last few years the job became unfulfilling and 'corporate life' began to suck the life out of me, it was still ME. When that is pulled away, you're left with a 'ok, NOW who am I' line of thought that can and does do a number on your confidence. It's sort of like going through a grieving process. You actually hit all 5 stages, and truthfully, it can drive you into depression and seriously damage your self-confidence. So, when Joyce suggested I begin a 'new' life as a voice actor, I thought sure! But deep down, I doubted my ability.

I've narrated quite a few books since last March, and THINK I'm on the upward slope, but still, there's that part of me that was 'damaged' a year ago that keeps saying 'you're no good. Quit now. You NEED a real job. EVERYONE is saying that you're not making it!' (I know, my inner voice is quite a jerk!). Trust me, I've had many melt-downs over the last year, and poor Joyce has had to suffer through them. But, she's NEVER lost confidence in me, even when I have great difficulty in having ANY in myself. She's never let me quit this endeavor, though I've 'given up' many, many, many times. But not Joyce. She, for some WEIRD reason believes in me. She believes that I have a talent for this business and won't let me quit. 

Besides my AWESOME wife, I have a couple of great friends (funny, we've never met face to face, but still...) that encourage me as well. You know who you are, so I won't embarrass you here (besides, I didn't get written approval to use your names, don't need a legal hassle! :-) ). 

So, what's the point in this long, boring and self pitying tome? That's a great question! I guess I just wanted to update you all. As many of you know, Joyce and I host a couple of podcasts (Tales From The Mouse House Disneyland podcast and Lost Flight 815), and have heard us chat briefly about this situation. But not many of you know how hard it's been. Change is NEVER easy. I don't care what anyone says, good change or bad change, it's never easy. There are always serious things to take into consideration. And that's the thing about THIS sort of's tough to plan for. Over the past year I've put myself through a lot of potentially damaging things. And I say 'put myself through' because thats exactly what it is: ME doing it to MYSELF. I used to say that no one can do anything to us unless WE allow them to. No one has power over you unless YOU give it to them. And...unfortunately over the last year, I've allowed my negative self to have power. And that is bad. Negativity sucks the life out of you. I've beat myself up horribly over this past year. Anytime over the last year when I'd start thinking positively, get some motivation to just keep swimming, that STUPID voice would shout...'STOP! YOU SUCK!' But the odd thing is, this morning I woke up in a pretty good, positive mood. For the first time in a year, I actually feel like things will be great. Maybe this last year has been a process...a rebuilding time (kind of like we ALWAYS hear about the Arizona Cardinals!). I had to be completely destroyed in order for the 'new me', the me defined by ME, to emerge. 

Don't get me wrong, it has been VERY difficult, and yes, I know the difficult times are not over. BUT...I know that with Joyce by my side, giving me that kick in the buttocks I need every once in awhile, we'll be fine. And, as I look back on March 5, 2013, I see it as the day my old life died - it was both a blessing and a tragedy. Blessing because I was released from a job that I was NOT happy in, one that was life sucking and left me mentally and emotionally exhausted every day. A tragedy because, well, you! It took a year for me to realize I had to let go of the past, of the 'old me'. 

So, my advice to anyone going through a similar life changing event is...go ahead, be sad. Be mournful. Grieve. It's natural to freak out about what happened and what WILL happen. the end, let that event trigger something glorious, something BETTER. Don't wallow in self pity and allow YOURSELF the power to bully YOU. Now, I'm not thinking life is all rainbows, puppies and unicorns. I'm fully aware that life is not done being hard. It's not done delivering blows to my man-berries. BUT...I know that that's part of life. You need some resistance in order to grow. Look at muscle building for example: in order for muscles to grow strong, you have to first break down the fibers to initiate your bodies adaptation mode. The harder you work the muscles, the more you break down the cells, the more your body will build MORE muscle to respond. It's not an easy thing to completely change your life, especially after nearly half a century, but it's not impossible. 

If you're interested in learning more about my voiceover career, visit our company website at or LIKE our FaceBook page at Storyteller Narration, or visit my Narrators Page on ACX at Al Kessel Narrator. Thanks for reading my rant.  - Al 

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