The Time to Decide

An aerial view of Kent, Ohio with Kent State University in the background.

Decisions, Decisions

The idea of leaving active duty both petrified and excited me and while I remained indecisive on what to do with my life, I realized early on that it would not be in law enforcement or in the military.  The military life treats you well in many ways, with plenty of opportunities for travel, education, and promotion, not to mention a respectable retirement pay for those that serve twenty years or more, but it also requires a sacrifice that I was no longer willing to provide.  I was no longer willing to put my life on the line for a government that appeared deceptive on so many fronts, and I was unwilling to commit to a career that I could not see clearly from my first term in service.

From a very young age, I found myself interested in working with the special effects department of your favorite movie production studio.  From the Star Wars trilogy, to the blockbuster hits of the '80s and '90s, I was inclined to work alongside the digital production teams of the modern storytelling process.  It was these ambitions, in fact, that led me to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh to study computer animation and to learn the new technologies that surrounded these visually-stunning movies.  A lack of confidence with my illustration skills, coupled with the fact this was only an associate degree granting-program, led me to rethink this decision, and invest the time and money into a bachelor's degree instead.

Kent State University

I remained undecided on what to do with my life as classes began in January 1999.  A few ideas that I entertained included psychology, and the study of the mind, consciousness, and the human spirit; political science, as I had not ruled out returning to the State Department in some capacity; or visual communications design, as this was the closest field of study that I could find that paralleled my original intentions of computer illustration.  None of these concentrations were too discerning in their own right, however, a bachelor's degree in the first two could lead me to an opening with future work in the government.

It was during this first semester's winter months that I was spending extra time at the local coffee house for an after hours study session with a good friend of mine.  Studying algebraic formulations were never a strong point of mine, and always required extra time and attention to get them right.  It was here, as fate would have it, that I was introduced to my first spiritual teacher, Lillith, and her work of providing tarot card readings for the public, and the local Wiccan community.  Her grey hair, long and flowing, was tucked away behind the table as it nearly fell to the ground, while her hands, soft and wrinkled, were covered in sliver rings and gemstones that wrapped her fingers from tip to shining tip.

After a moment or two of deciding who would receive their reading first, my friend and I approached the table to see what she offered.  I was curious to learn more about Peter, after all, and she was eager to learn more about her own life, too.  As it turns out, the reading itself became less important than the relationship that grew from it, and Lillith was the first person that I connected with stateside that could adequately answer my questions from many months before.  As I would learn, she, along with another local healer by the name of Brenda, co-owned an educational ministry that focused on the Spirit-based solutions that they had been called to perform.

Living Spirit, as it was known then, is a mostly informal group that would meet and practice shamanism with one another, and that if I would like, Lillith could introduce me to the art of this ancient practice.

The Church of Living Spirit

Soon after our introduction I began meeting with Lillith, Brenda, and other members of their circle, for more in-depth work regarding these matters.  First, was a background to Native American beliefs, and what had brought these two people and their community together.  Second, was learning the shamanic journey, and just how real these realities are that our totemic allies are coming from.  Third, was an introduction to the use of energy-based bodywork, that when combined with the shamanic journey, could produce profound results and life-changing transformations.  And finally, we were indoctrinated into the practice of dream incubation, and the conscious intention of exploring the many layered realities of our mind's eye.

Needless to say, I was hooked, and found myself at home with the use of my natural abilities that were aligned in helping others.  Although I had used my gifts in a public forum by providing readings at local psychic fairs, I was quick to learn that not everyone was grounded, or actually residing in their bodies, with their approach towards the healing work they had been called to, or to the reality that many of us face in the here and now.  As a former Marine, I was searching for a credible path towards financial fulfillment and, for the most part, it wasn't to be found at these fairs or in the New Age store.

The Art of Glassblowing

During my time at Kent State I had explored a few different options that would satisfy my creative and intellectual curiosities.  One of those, an introduction to glassblowing, was an entry-level class that would introduce the student to the fiery world of hot glass.  Taken from the inspiration of my father's paperweight collection, this was an opportunity to learn a new skill that didn't require a lot of drawing, and would be creative in its own way.  While becoming a glassblower is not something that I ever anticipated, once I was introduced to the heat of the furnace, and to the challenge of learning this new skill, its slow and deliberate seduction began to take place.

Similar to the underwater basket weaving comparison that so many people make when considering the fine arts degree, the reasonable part of me was quite apprehensive to committing to this major, and field of study.  Nothing else that I had studied, outside of the intrigue that Comparative Religion had upon my philosophical intellect, could come close to the excitement that I had felt in the hot shop.  It was hot, it was sweaty, it was hard work, and despite the objections from my family and loved ones, I reluctantly decided to commit to this fine arts degree.

I can still feel the apprehension and indecision that I felt as I discussed these goals with Eric, a graduate student at the time.  He shared the sames concerns as an undergraduate student, at a different university, of working towards a fine arts degree only to find little or no relevant work afterwards.  Instead, he repeated his hot glass courses throughout his undergraduate studies, while finishing his bachelor of arts degree in a different field.  This secondary study of hot glass had taken him onto a path that led him to full-time work at the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan, where his skills as a gaffer increased exponentially.

Outside of seasonal work at the local amusement park, or finding those rare opportunities that exist at destination and tourist sites, opportunities for working in hot glass were more scarce than they are now.  It seems that since 2007, we've seen a significant shift in the number of hot glassmakers, hot glass students, and legitimate job opportunities from those production facilities that are so well-known.  And outside of moving to the West Coast, and gaining invaluable experience working under the tutelage of an established glassblower, these opportunities were mostly self-made on the individual's behalf.

It's with this understanding, and under the financial constraints of being a full-time student, that I quietly decided to leave school for a few semesters while I made up my mind on what to do with my life.  In August 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, I moved with my then-girlfriend to Columbus, in the hopes of earning a respectable income, and giving me the time to decide on what to do next.