ANDREW DICKSON isn't a licensed professional anything. But during TBA:12, the Portland artist will invite audience members onstage for a lengthy "life coaching" session—essentially bringing a therapy session off the private sofa and into the glaring public light.
"The idea of having an audience is that this person is sort of a proxy for all of us," says Dickson. "This is not something to sit back and watch, this is something to participate with, to engage with." I met up with Dickson for a preview life coaching session on a rainy July morning.
ANDREW DICKSON: I think the first question I'm going to ask whoever's onstage is: Why are you here?
SARAH MIRK: My life goals right now are to never take a job for the money and to never get divorced. I'm working on seeing whether those things are overly optimistic. Those seem like a low bar, right?
Eh, if you achieve both those goals, you're probably in the top 10 percent.
That seems crazy, though! We have so many opportunities right now. I feel like I have the opportunity to do anything I want in the world. I don't have to go work in my dad's factory or marry some man my mom wants me to. Why does it seem crazy to be like, "Hey, I never want to be desperate for money or get divorced?"
Well, the odds are with divorce; you're at 50-50 right now. Taking a job for the money, that sounds like something that's not pressing.
No, but I think it taps into my worst fear of being old and poor and bitter.
Ha! I'm really worried about running out of money someday. I feel like there's this anvil hanging over me in terms of debt.
At some point I'm going to wind up owing someone a lot of money. I worry about someday being desperate for cash and having to live a life that I don't find ethical or fun.
I think in our culture, we equate security with money. But the most secure feeling in the world is being loved. Like being woken up by my one-year-old in the morning saying, "Ma! Ma! Ma!"
You don't think security comes from money, though?
At a point where it's paying for, say, food and shelter. But I feel confident that you're not going to be in that situation. Don't you?
I feel confident that I'm not going to get greedy. I don't see myself ever wanting six houses. But I'm worried that I'll get desperate. You know, something will happen and I'll get in debt. I'm not worried that I'm going to be some Uncle Scrooge who never loves their children, but more worried that I'll wind up feeling trapped.
Do you see any choices you could make to ensure that you don't wind up trapped?
I could save money.
Are you doing that?
No. Money is a weird world to me that I don't understand. I would be terrified to buy a house or a car. I even freaked out about buying a mattress, because it's $200 and you can't give it back.
Wait, if you're not buying things or saving money, what are—
I spend money on food.
Ah! Yeah, that's easy to do here. Do you recognize that disconnect? Being worried about debt and then being like, "Why would I put money away?"
I think that's where a personal tension comes from. I don't feel a lot of frustration with society about money, I feel frustration with myself. I'm worried about the future but am totally irresponsible right now about money. It is a critical disconnect. You should get a Magic 8 Ball that just says, "You're lying to yourself."
On all eight sides! "Let's see what it says: 'Whup! You're lying to yourself.'" Well, I thought we were going to talk about relationships, but it seems like there's a lot going on with this money thing.
Well, I think they're related. I was raised to be very independent. Some people's parents, I think, teach them to come from a point of shame, of needing to be skinny enough and charming enough to attract other people, to build their lives around trying to attract other people. And my parents taught me, instead: Don't let anybody drag you down. Only date people who add to your life. I think the money stuff comes from that, because what I really prize is independence. And in relationships, there's always a little bit of distance between me and the other person, I'm always a little bit ready to cut and run.
Is that an element of wanting to protect yourself from getting hurt?
There's a lot of elements to it, but I think one of the big ones is not wanting to be vulnerable. I like to be the person that people lean on, rather than being the person that leans on people. And I'm worried about wasting time. I'm always like, "I'm going to get old and die!" I'm worried about getting into a relationship for 30 years and then being like, "Gah!"
We human beings are often prone to the dramatic. It's a lot more fun to say, "I wasted four years!" than, "Gosh, we had some good times, but I'm bummed that it didn't work out."
You know, I don't feel like I've ever wasted time with people. Even in relationships that haven't worked out or that have ended, I'm like, "Man, that was a valuable experience." I'm just worried about it happening some day, because it's something other people experience.
Maybe you're just wired differently. Run with it, man.
Mark Spencer Hotel Ballroom, Sat-Sun 1:30 & 3:30 pm, Sat Sept 8-Sun Sept 16