A Word With Katie Hunerdosse

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

Do you remember Chappelle’s Show ? It started airing when I was in high school and quickly became the only thing those of us with cable talked about. We pretended to be Tyrone Biggums, quoted Clayton Bigsby, and once Derek Dixon showed up for Halloween celebrations painted completely white, as Dave had been in a “wife Swap” episode. I’m still not sure how we all managed to avoid suspension.

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Comedy Central

Katie Hunerdosse doesn’t look like the kind of person you would expect to quote Dave Chappelle (clap-havin’-Jezebel was the go-to), or spend time in my basement watching his episodes, but that’s part of what makes her so special: you can’t put her into just one box. Artist, mother, singer, dancer, teacher, wife, warrior, friend; the list could go on and on if she let me. Knowing Katie has taught me that life doesn’t have to be a clean line, with every step mapped out from cradle to grave. In fact, we’re all better off for the people who deviate from grid. Her interview, which had me alternating between laughter and tears, is below. I hope you enjoy learning from this remarkable woman!

What is your profession?
Technically? I’m a substitute teacher. That’s my main gig, I guess. But, “on the side”, I am a freelance artist. Which means basically anything goes. Illustration for a children’s book? I’m here. Set painting? You got it. Need some nerdy jewelry to sell somewhere? I’m your girl. Also, I’m a mom to a two year old who has an appetite for destruction (mostly of his face), so there’s that too.

How did you break into your position?
Well, I have a degree in art, which in itself is not a bad thing at all. However, I live in an extremely small town in Minnesota (we make SPAM here), so while this town does love its arts, getting a quality career off the ground is easier said than done. So, in terms of things that could pay me money and wouldn’t suck my soul out of my head, I decided that working in schools was the best option. I started out right after college as an art paraprofessional in an emotional/behavior disorder residential school, and after that, I figured I could handle ANYTHING. Unfortunately my health wasn’t great throughout my 20s, so I had a hard time finding a consistent job that wouldn’t penalize me for being sick. Being not easily shocked, I discovered that I could work as a substitute teacher whenever I was available to work. It actually has been great for me – I think a part of me loves being challenged by improv. From the freelance angle, I wanted to still be using my degree and doing what I love, so I got involved in community theater, which opened a lot of other doors because the people willing to set aside their dignity and get crazy onstage tend to be people also willing to make a difference in their community.

If you could change your life, what would you do instead? Why?
Well, I think there are a few things I would change and most of those involve my proximity to a Target (because ours closed and the nearest one is 45 miles away! SEND HELP.) I do actually love my life and the people in it. There is a part of me – the former theater major – that wishes I would have pursued acting more seriously, but I really don’t mind not living that lifestyle, because I love hiding in my house, playing Skyrim and dancing to Michael Jackson videos with my husband and son every night. Oh, I suppose I would have loved to have taken dance classes. I could always manage to be more graceful and less apt to trip over nothing.

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

I have a lot of things that I need to do for myself, and it took me too long to realize that I shouldn’t come last. I am pretty open about not only having some mental health issues (coupled with very early diagnosed ADHD), so I know what I can handle and what ends up being too much for me. I can tell if I’m starting to slip into a bad place, so I typically keep all of my physicians aware of what’s going on with me. I have two friends from high school who are also parents and we chat all day long about whatever is on our minds and support each other; we even took a “mom trip” to Door County, WI, and drank a lot of really sweet wine and were the youngest people there (shout out to Mandy and Danielle!). Speaking of community, I mentioned the community theatre in this town and just want to express my gratitude for that. I have some amazing friends through that. And they’re all incredibly talented and motivated as well. Participating in theatre really does keep me sane and feeling like myself.
Aside from being cognizant of my mental health, I’ve had some struggles with my physical health. I have stage 4 Endometriosis, which so many women unfortunately suffer through. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I 1) couldn’t get pregnant, and 2) was having episode of extreme pain and blackouts. I’ve had a number of surgeries to remove cysts and the like, but all that scar tissue makes my insides feel like I swallowed pea gravel sometimes. Despite living in Spamtown, I gave up eating most meat (other than fish and the occasional chicken, if I’m making pho ga for a bad cold), which seemed to help a lot. I also took up running. I’m not fast, but I wanted to feel like my body could do something powerful. I’ve run two half marathons and I’m hoping to run another one this fall. Although I definitely would not be fast enough to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

I think a lot of people with mental health issues can jump to any number of bad periods in their lives, but I really struggled with all of the baggage of infertility. It just seemed like an endless, hopeless tunnel. Everyone wanted to talk about babies all the time, everyone was having them, and I just wanted hide in my sweater. I ended up undergoing IVF (thankfully we lived in Illinois, which covered it under insurance), which is EXTREMELY taxing. The drugs you take are intense, you feel super gross, you’re always sweating and foggy, and there’s such high stakes. And, when I actually did get pregnant, I had spent so many years of thinking it wasn’t going to happen, that I couldn’t let myself be happy. My anxiety was relentless, especially at the beginning. Then, once I finally started to feel comfortable with our success, it turns out that I had a possibly life-threatening complication (full placenta previa, for those of you interested). Oh, and we decided to move ourselves and two crazy dogs back to Minnesota during this point. So, before my son was finally born (a month early, which required him to spend his first two weeks of life in the Infant Special Care Nursery), I had two major bleeds, two ambulance rides, and stayed a grand total of three weeks in the antepartum unit. It’s almost like I did everything the absolute hardest way I could.

What/Who pulled you through it?

I really like the guy I married. Jacob’s got a great sense of humor and has really good perspective when it comes to health issues because it runs in his family. He isn’t the type of person to coddle me (which can be frustrating), but when it comes to being a stable presence, he wins all the awards. He supplied me with endless puns and dad jokes until I was distracted from my brain long enough to relax. He spent weeks driving the 50 miles back and forth every evening during the Minnesota winter to visit me in the hospital, then did it again so we could visit our baby. His calm dedication was invaluable. He also is cute, even though he currently has a mustache (which I did not sanction but I won’t yuck his yum.)

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

I really am not bothered by much anymore when it comes to life events. My son, Jonas, is two and a half now. He’s absolutely bonkers. But I love it. I really do. Everything he does to me is amazing because he’s like a scientific masterpiece, except when he creates his own “scientific masterpieces”, which are both underwhelming and gross. I also realized from this experience that I suffer from a lot more anxiety than I ever realized and that it’s not the way things had to be. It was kind of the point in my life when I stopped caring about what people expected of me and decided to live my life the best way I knew how.

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?
My favorite advice is the parenting strategy my husband presented to me: “let’s raise our first kid like our third kid.” It sounds crass, but it’s actually fantastic. After that whole medical mess of getting this kid, we decided to stop sweating the small stuff. Is he growing? Good. Is he pooping? Good. Has he been washed in the last week? Excellent. Obviously he’s getting more undivided attention from all the adults in his life as a first kid, but I don’t panic if he doesn’t hit all of his milestones early or eats things that aren’t perfectly healthy or falls down. A few weeks ago, in fact, he actually broke his nose falling down our front stone stairs. Naturally it was terrible and traumatic, but he actually had a great time sitting in the ER, making friends with nurses and watching Dragonball Z. (His parents were less enthusiastic, but also very hungry). Having been around a lot of kids, I know that having a very panicky parent really affects kids, and I’m hoping that this strategy allows me to hold back some of my anxiety when interacting with my kid. Plus, there’s basically zero mom guilt, because it’s not like my toddler is part of a toddler fight club (although I wouldn’t talk about it if he was.)

When do you feel the most free?
I feel free doing all the arts. ALL THE ARTS. I draw and paint and knit and make little polymer clay pendants. It gives me joy and gives me a purpose that’s separate from being a parent. Alas, I love performing on stage, specifically in musicals. I’m a huge musical theater nerd. This town has a pretty great scene for that. On stage, I get to be someone else, with very specific motivations, and I don’t have to recount every single thought I’ve ever had (which is typically how my brain works). It’s like a brain break, and it also challenges me in the best way. I’ve gotten to do things like learn how to use puppets for Avenue Q and moon the entire audience in RENT. Our summer community theater just produced the musical Chicago, and I basically had six weeks to learn how to dance convincingly (and not cause Bob Fosse to roll over in his grave). Pulling that off was a huge accomplishment (and there’s very little a room full of applause won’t fix, right?)

What do you want to be remembered for?
Well, I can tell you definitively that I DO NOT WANT TO BE FAMOUS. Being that this is a small town, I’ve had far too many people stop me to talk about the shows I’ve been in, and that’s some that my social anxiety cannot handle. I guess I just like being part of the artistic process, making something that impacts people. I have always loved the concept of heirlooms, lovely things that are passed down in honor of someone who came before. I make a lot of tiny pendants and things because I like to think that they’re going to be what remains of me someday. Nothing earth-shattering, just a little bit of art to remind someone that I was here and tried to make the world a lovelier place.

 

All images courtesy of Katie Hunerdosse

A Word with Caroline Luther

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

You can learn so much about someone if you pay attention to the way they fly. Undeniable truths flash bright when we think we blend into the crowds, if you look up from your tablet long enough to spy them. Revelations are present in which seats we favor, who we clumsily ask to sit by and how we hold onto comfort miles away from the peace of the ground. Millions of us bustle through the tailwinds of each other, but how often do we stop to discover the familiarity of strangers? I’m guilty of this more often than I’d like to admit, after years of wrapping myself into a cocoon of downloaded movies I don’t want to watch and music I’ve listened to far too often in the face of unpredictable conversation.

My habit of shutting down during flights was put on pause during a recent flight home. I had the pleasure of meeting Caroline on that trip back to Kansas from New Orleans, after she hit it off with my mother in line waiting to board. I knew I liked her before we had a chance to introduce ourselves, thanks to those flashing truths. She and I spent the entire time laughing and sharing just enough of ourselves for me to realize she is one of those people everyone should get to know. Thankfully, she agreed to take part in this feature. Her interview is below, which I think you’ll truly love. Next time you fly, when you want to retreat, think twice. You might just miss out on a remarkable human.

 

What is your profession?

After some twists and turns through a graduate program in history (thought I wanted to be a professor) and several jobs in communications (grant-writing, writing-writing, graphic design, etc.), I’m going into my sixth year teaching high school history. And I love it.

 

As a child, what future did you see for yourself?

In early elementary school, I thought I’d be a teacher (both my parents were). I’m pretty sure I thought I’d stick close to my New Jersey home and most likely have kids. I’ve since moved to North Carolina and my husband and I have decided not to have children. I finally started teaching 13 years after graduating from college. Those are the right choices.

 

If you could change your life now, what would you do instead? Why?

Ooh, good question. Maybe I’d be a therapist (an LCSW rather than a Ph.D., though) or own a boutique selling women’s clothing. I need to care for people and nudge them to take care of and feel good about themselves. I’m usually right, so that helps me own my bossiness. Plus I like pretty things and have really enjoyed my stints in retail.

 

(Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably say that I want to be a backup singer!)

 

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

When I realized that my 53 year-old mother was going to die from colon cancer sooner rather than (years) later and couldn’t bring it up with anyone in my family. It was a bleak, lonely time. I just wanted to no longer exist.

 

What/Who pulled you through it?

Prozac. It took a while, though. And I credit my boyfriend at the time for making me make an appointment with the campus psychiatry department to get the prescription. He helped me get my life back and I’m forever in his debt.

 

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

I’m very aware of my mental health. I try to be honest about what scares me and tell the right people about it. I also make sure to go to the doctors I need to see and keep track of the things that are most likely to kill me prematurely.

 

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

Loving on my cat. Getting enough sleep. Solitary exercise: running by myself at whatever pace works that day, yoga (mostly with an app but more and more just whatever feels right) and sporadic work with free weights. Sitting in an armchair in my living room listening to records. Giving my brain interesting things to do. Making sure to get the nagging things crossed off my to-do list and set my future self up for success.

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?

I read this in an article somewhere a long time ago. Former secretary of education Margaret Spellings talked about needing to put on one’s big-girl panties and get shit done. She might have even had a sign on her desk to that effect. I need that sign.

 

When do you feel the most free?

On summer breaks when my husband (who teaches English in an adjoining classroom) and I have 10 weeks of not going into work every day. We still work, but it’s nice to do that on our own schedules and have small adventures, whether it’s traveling, floating in a lake, going to Durham Bulls games, drinking local beers at local breweries or taking our books somewhere. Having a time-limited time when our time is our own is heavenly.

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

Making people laugh. Being a good teacher. Being good, period.

A Word With Karen Castleman

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

Karen Castleman is the kind of personality you won’t soon get out of your head. We first met ten years ago when I was a struggling 21-year-old, dealing terribly with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. My grades were in a bigger mess than my body and mind, and I was looking for a little escape from the terror. I signed up for her Ballet I course hoping to land an easy A, but discovered something unexpected : peace.

Mrs. Castleman was immediately endearing; with her athletic frame, Southern accent, and easy-going sense of humor, she was not at all what I believed dancers could be. In every session she chipped away at our physical rigidity, pushed our minds to release it’s fearful hold over our perceived limitations, and – honestly – she got us to chill out.  Karen never yelled, or embarrassed us, nor did she let us off the hook if we were afraid to try, which broke down walls and led to friendships.

I began the semester hoping I wouldn’t have to think at all. So, it came as quite a surprise that I looked forward to practicing positions and stretches at the end of each day, simply because it felt right. When she offered us the choice of participating in an end of the semester performance for extra credit, I jumped at the opportunity without a thought to the points. That’s how good she was, and, I’m sure, how good she still is.

As I stated earlier, Karen Castleman isn’t someone you’re going to easily forget, which is why I reached out to her 10 years from our first meeting to ask for a bit of her time and words. Ever the wonderful teacher, she obliged. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

What is your profession?

I am a full time dance teacher at Arkansas Arts Academy, a public, charter high school with an arts focus. I am also a freelance choreographer and performer.

How did you break into your position?

I wouldn’t say there was any breaking into it. I have been a student of dance as long as I can remember, and then some. After college I began what would be a 15 year career in professional dance. Through many different dance jobs, the one constant was teaching. I’ve always been teaching. The more I learn and grow as a dancer, the more I can offer my students. And, fortunately, I never want to stop learning!

If you could change your life, what would you do instead? Why?

My life has made me who I am right now. And I’m ok with that. If I changed things, I’d surely be changed in the process. That would be ok too, but it isn’t reality. I’m ok with my reality and changing things about it everyday. Next, I think I’ll make changes to take better care of myself.

Karen and her children

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

I can honestly say this is not one of my strengths. I have had little kids in my life for 13 years now, and I tend to take care of others first. Sometimes staying up late is taking care of myself. Just to have a little time to myself, for my brain to process. Sometimes just going to bed is taking care of myself. I love a good nap. I drink a glass of hot water with lemon and ACV every morning. I shower everyday. EVERY DAY. Even with little kids. I love my morning routine, even though it is short. I like to start the day feeling clean, fresh and ready to tackle whatever comes. I eat green things, and colorful things, and whole things. Maybe I’m better at this than I thought… I do look forward to when taking care of myself looks like actually going to yoga on a regular basis, dancing around just for fun, and having space in my life to make things again. I’m a closet crafter.

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

In the middle of my dance career, during the economic crisis of 2008/9, I lost my dream job dancing with my all time favorite company. I couldn’t understand why this could happen when I had worked so hard to achieve this dream and it was the perfect fit. It had been my dream since childhood and I just didn’t know what else to do.

What/Who pulled you through it?

My husband (of 9 years at the time, and 18 years now) was an incredible listener as I ranted and raved. He suggested that I could now dream a new dream. I thought he was crazy. I didn’t have another dream. So I let a little anger and a little disappointment blow the roof off of what I decided to expect of myself. I danced with a company where I had to breakdance and they taught this old dog some new tricks. I performed classical pas de deux, en pointe, some of the most challenging roles I had done up to that point. I danced in operas, once while pregnant. I had two more kids and kept right on dancing. I choreographed and earned commissions and am still just going, going, going.

Image courtesy of Karen Castleman

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

I will never give in to the idea that there is anything I can’t do. There are things that I won’t do. And things that will just never pan out given the choices I’ve made and priorities I’ve set. But I believe that whatever I throw my heart, energy, discipline, intellect and talent towards, I can achieve. I am constantly redefining for myself what and who I am and can be. I strive to raise the bar wherever I am by expecting excellence from myself and those around me. (And I understand that sometimes, you just have to crash for a bit.)

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?

As a younger dancer I asked a role model of mine how she kept going, kept dancing and taking class and teaching (in my mind she was an “older” dancer although in reality she was probably then very near my current age). She said, “Just never stop.” I see that now as an “older” dancer. As we age, the bodies that “just never stop” seem to age more healthily. That doesn’t mean I’ll take ballet forever (a good ballet class is hard to find, and find time for, where I live) but I do hope to be a body that keeps moving. I have lots of beautiful role models to follow in the path of always moving.

When do you feel the most free?

When I recall that my true identity is that of a child of God, absolutely loved, and nothing can ever change that. And also when dancing some cheezy lyrical jazz choreography. Cheezy lyrical is my jam.

The Castlemans

What do you want to be remembered for?

For giving everything I have. And for kindness.

A Word With Derek Dixon

Every week I will feature the kind of everyday heroes I look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. I hope you’ll learn as much from them as I have!

 

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have someone in their life who will tell them the truth. Not the mean truth or the nice truth, but the true-truth. The kind of honesty that’s delivered when you need to heal or laugh or come back down to Earth. Derek Dixon has been my truth-sayer and best friend for almost 20 years. Can you imagine putting up with anyone through adolescence, hormones, college and your 20’s without slapping them? Somehow we did just that! We met in middle school and have remained thick as thieves through the years due to Derek’s uncanny ability to fight for that brighter dawn. Plainly speaking, you just feel better when you’re in his company whether over the phone, or sharing a drink. I think you’re going to love what he was kind enough to share with us this week. Read below to find out why I admire this guy so much!

 

What is your profession? Is it what you wanted to do?

I am the Residential Director for a home-based care organization that provides services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Although this initially was not what I wanted to do, I have always felt a call to help others. I went to school for psychology and music with the hopes of becoming a musical therapist. I initially got into the field to show that I’ve had experience on a resume, but then fell in love.

If not, what would you like to do instead? Why?

I went to school for psychology and music with the hopes of becoming a musical therapist. I got into the HBCS field for experience, but then I fell in love with this very special population. I have so many dreams, but so little time – the crux of everyone. Ultimately, if I were to help one person live a bold life, full of confidence and self-love, then I would die a happy man.

 

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

I love to be outside. The warmth of the sun, a nice breeze, fishing pole, and cold beer can be so therapeutic. I also love quiet time to myself, doing things like reading, writing and meditation. They’re activities that help center me.

Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

The death of my father when I was in third grade was hands-down the most traumatic event in my life. The lives of my entire family changed after that. There were lots of dark nights, angry days, misplaced blame and confusion after that. It was rough.

What/ Who pulled you through it? What did you learn?

My mother’s strength and drive definitely pulled me through. I almost lost her that same day. Watching the process of her rehabilitation and seeing her bounce back after so many counted her out was awe-inspiring, and it was the first time I realized I wanted to help others. Watching my mother fight so hard to get back to her children was the first time I witnessed the transformative power of love.

 

How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

That experience made me aware of my own mortality. I try to live life fully. When it comes to friendship and the people I surround myself with, I prefer quality over quantity. I love strongly, laugh loudly. I live life on my own terms, and although that itself can be a struggle, I love myself. I embrace all aspects of the person I have become. Now, no matter what struggle I am presented with, I know that I can handle it.

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?

I was blessed to be surrounded by so many strong women growing up. My grandmother was one of those people that didn’t know a stranger. She was everyone’s “Momma”, “Auntie” or “Granny” regardless of blood relation or not. She gave so freely. Witnessing the way she lived her life was not only beautiful, but a perfect example of how to treat people. She is who I learned my colorful language and take-no-shit attitude from. Lots of gems were learned from that beautiful soul.

When do you feel most free?

When in nature and when on stage. Theater and music used to be such a joy for me, but something I haven’t done in a while. I should change that.

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

For living my life to the fullest and inspiring boldness.

 

Thanks for reading kids! I hope Derek’s words will carry through the rest of the week with a smile and some fire!

A Word With Jesse Kadjo

 

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Jesse and her fiance Marcos

Every week I will feature the kinds of everyday heroes I look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. I hope you’ll learn as much from them as I have!

I first met Jesse at Loyola University Chicago. We didn’t live in the same dorm, but we ate lunch at the same dining hall, and eventually took a Psychology class together. Jesse always came prepared to learn, while I usually showed up ready to nap. That duality has been the through-line of our relationship: Jesse conquers, I goof off. Thankfully, my sisterhood with her as lead to some real breakthroughs that have shown me how much fun life can be if you live it with both eyes open (see what I did there?).  She’s a woman of unmatched strength and poise. She also lays out the kind of humor you wouldn’t anticipate from a worldly woman in a tea-length dress. I love Jesse for many reasons, but most of all for her inherent goodness. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did. The transcript is below!

 

What is your profession? Is it what you wanted to do?

I am a labor representative. Another term for it is organizer. I work for a labor union and teach workers how to advocate for themselves and make positive changes to their work environment through collective action and bargaining. This is not what I set out to do when I went to college. I wanted to be a diplomat, because I grew up abroad and saw that work around me. But, in truth, I don’t think that is what I would have been happy with either. I’m just good at talking to people and helping people learn how to work systems to improve their lives.

 

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Jesse and I during a trip to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery where we caused a ruckus

If not, what would you like to do instead? Why?

I’m not sure what I would like to do. I have toyed with a lot – cosmetic chemist, food writer, food researcher, travel show host, podcaster, blogger. Some of these things I already am doing. I think that finding your passion in life is a real privilege, and being able to actually do it is a whole other thing. Even the passion is work. For right now the thing I greatly enjoy is food and and the feelings it brings to me. From the preparation, to the pictures, to the video, to the writing of it, I love thinking about it in all ways and its impacts on human life. This is what I’m trying to explore on my blog, The Chocolate Mousse. 

What are some ways you take care of yourself?

I love to meditate, read and exercise. If I’m doing one of those three, I feel good. If I’m doing all three, I feel amazing.

 Can you share a time or event you didn’t think you could survive?

My brother’s death is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s one you can never recover from, because death is permanent. I wouldn’t say I didn’t think I would survive it per se, it’s that I felt such deep pain that I did not know how I would come out of it. My mother was also so broken that I could not look to her. In many ways she felt this much more than I did, as this was her son. I had never suffered from depression or even negative thoughts until then. It was a sadness I cannot even put into words. At least not yet.

What/Who pulled you through it? What did you learn?

I can tell you that I knew I needed to speak to a professional, because the mind is a real forest, and you need a guide to get you to the other side. My therapist, Dr. Rebecca Chamorro, was an angel sent from God. I worked with her for two years, and she helped me through this time as well as helped guide me to the next stages in my life. I am deeply grateful for her. The path to healing is a long one and I’m still on it. I could not have started on this without her. I’ve learned that therapy is just as important as going to your doctor regularly. I’ve learned that if I want to have a good life, full of love and happiness, I have to do the work to learn how to better move in society, accounting for all my faults, not really to eliminate them but to understand how they were formed and how they remain. It is only then that I can tackle them in earnest.

 How did the event/time shape the way you live now?

I am much more aware of the impermanence of our experiences and relationships. Because of this, I value my friendships so much more and work to connect with my people wherever they are in the world. I’ve traveled more to see my friends and family since his death, because I don’t want to regret not having made that trip or made excuses for why I can’t go. You truly don’t know what can happen. I don’t live every day like it’s my last. because what does that even mean, but I do try to live a full life and an earnest one. When I’m upset with someone, I tell them. When I’m happy for someone, I tell them. When I want to talk to someone or spend time with them, I tell them. I tell them, I tell them, I tell them. I wish I could tell him too, in person. But I still tell him, every day, in prayer.

What was the best/ funniest/ most memorable piece of advice you’ve received?

The best advice I’ve ever received is from my mom. In high school she told me I only need 5 friends. She said this in response to me asking to go to a play with my friend Gwen. Like many times back then, I thought my mom was nuts and that she was trying to attack me. Mother daughter relationships are such a minefield and more needs to be written about them. Now, I completely understand what she meant. Of course you will have more than 5 friends. Facebook might even say you have 1000. But your quality ones, the ones that really matter, those you only need a few of. Those are the relationships that matter and that have to be watered. Those are the ones to invest in. Those are the ones that have great benefits all throughout your life.

When do you feel the most free?

At home, farting away, reading my book. Also, traveling alone. I love it.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Being a good friend and someone people can count on to be there in good times and bad.

 

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Jesse with her dog Fancy. My second greatest love!