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Suzanne Heskin

Suzanne Heskin

This is Suzanne – the other half of SuzAnne. When I met Suz, she was a colleague and we were introduced by the incredible Jenn Weller. But it was probably the road trip from Pennsylvania to Florida with two 2-year-olds the really cemented this life long friendship. In Suz you find a rare mix of practicality, humor, and openness – you’d have to be open to drive 1,000 miles with two toddlers! She’s the friend I have logged the most miles with, literally and figuratively.

Q: What’s something everyone should do before they die?

SH: This is a really difficult question. There are so many experiences that hold so much value, it’s difficult to just choose one. When I think about this question, so many things flash through my mind, it’s like one of those high-speed commercials, where they show hundreds of images, but each just for a few milliseconds. My first instinct was something exciting and scary, like sky diving or travelling someplace unusual. Those things give you zest for life, a sense of excitement that can be tricky to find in our day-to-day routines. But I felt I could do better…

After thinking for a while, I think my answer is to challenge yourself. That sounds vague and abstract, and perhaps it is. Life is messy and scary, beautiful and full of humor. If you get too comfortable, too set in your ways, all those things lose their vibrancy. If you challenge and push yourself, those things are right at your fingertips. You’ll find yourself doing more things, meeting more people, and enjoying life more than you imagined. The challenge can be anything. Introduce yourself to one person a week. Learn to fly fish. Write a journal. Run a 5k with friends. It can be anything that’s out of your “norm”. You’ll learn about yourself and enjoy living more than before.

Q: What is your most intense memory?

SH: Intense meaning what? That’s hard to define. For me, smells have a powerful way of transporting me back to a moment in time, or maybe a specific place. When I was little, about 3 or 4, my Dad smoked a pipe. He often did so in his recliner chair, which was dark gray and fuzzy. When I was upset, I’d crawl into that chair. I can still recall the squeak and give of the springs, the worn upholstery, like a well loved stuffed animal, and the lingering smell of pipe tobacco. It was comforting, to jump up into that chair when I felt like my young heart was breaking. Sometimes I’d be lucky enough to jump into it when he was in there. His arms would wrap me up, it felt like they went around me 5 times, and I was safe, all was well with the world. To this day if I smell pipe tobacco, I’m 4 years old again in my dad’s chair.

Q: Tell me about someone who touched your life without knowing it. What gift did they give you?

SH: Sean. I don’t remember his name. I worked with him for an entire summer in the Badlands of South Dakota looking for unexploded ordinance (old bombs essentially). He was serving as a Native American guide while we did our work, to make sure we didn’t disturb anything meaningful to the history of the area. Initially, he didn’t want to work. He found any excuse to NOT work, you know the type. It’s too cold, too hot, too early, too late, too sunny, too rainy, too many cows…..you get the idea. It was my last summer job before graduating college and I was there to do my best, to make an impression, to learn all I could. So here I was, stuck on a three person team. One guy was was just there to make sure we didn’t blow ourselves up, and Sean and I were supposed to do all the geophysics work. The first week, I was frustrated. He would drag his feet so much, so adamantly, that we’d get 1/3 to 1/2 done of what I felt we could. I’d return to my hotel room after a long day in the sweltering Dakota sun and fume. Finally I made a decision that I would just work hard. Push myself as much as I could, and see how he responded. He noticed, and soon was making comments like, “Well, I have to do at least as much as you do since you’re a girl”. I’d just smile at him, and keep going. After about a week of this, he started working harder on his own, and soon we were the most productive team out there. We’d high-five at the end of the day and joke around. Soon he was excited to see how much we could do, if we could continue to be the most productive. We had a system, a rhythm, and it worked!

He taught me to truly lead by example, that it works. I think if someone is working hard, most (not all, but most!) people will step up to help. It would have been so easy to get mad at him, to yell, to demand a different partner, to be lazy with him and blow it off. After all, it was just a summer job, right? But instead, we had a fantastic team and a fun summer. We were productive, did great work, had fun, and forged a friendship, even if just a temporary one. I learned a lot about leadership and was very proud of my team. The icing on the cake? They offered me part-time work through the remainder of my time in college. So Sean, wherever you are, thank you.

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Amanda Oliver

Amanda Oliver

 

Amanda Oliver is one of the most talented young writers that I’ve read in a long time. Her voice is authentic and rings true. You can (and definitely should) read her writing here: http://amandaoliver.com/. I think one of the things that is the most special about Amanda is that she allows herself to really feel her life – the good, the bad, the ugly – to me, that takes the most courage. She is a wanderer, and proof that “not all who wander are lost.”

Q: Tell me the biggest lesson learned from your traveling.

AO: Before I left my friend said, “It’s so weird to me that you won’t know or see anyone you know for two months.” That was equal parts terrifying and exciting to me. What I learned, though, is that I am incredibly capable and that kindness translates everywhere. That sounds very “me-centric”, but traveling alone seems to encourage a special and beautiful type of self-reliance and introspection. When I ended up alone for several days at a time, usually by choice, I was fine. Sometimes bright-eyed and busy-tailed, sometimes spending most of the day in the bed because I was damn tired. (I learned to listen to my body and needs and to not get too wrapped up in “YOU WILL NEVER BE HERE AGAIN” because being the energizer bunny for two months was just not happening!) When I decided to seek out others or participate in work exchanges, my life was full of laughter, broken English, and exposure to new ways of thinking and life. In both scenarios, I was constantly learning about myself–my abilities, my faults, my strengths, my weaknesses. Being kind saved me from any real loneliness, lostness, trouble, or embarrassment. (Although no one could save me from the screaming of a Bulgarian train conductor who reamed me out in German and then again in English for putting my feet up on his seats…)

Q: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

AO: How funny, I was asked this recently by a close friend. I don’t think my eighteen-year-old self would listen, she was far too stubborn for that, but if I could plant a seed or a belief in that sweet girl’s head, I would tell her that she is worthy of love. That she should stop exhausting her own chest full of it on men who are not good. She should turn some of that around on herself and fall in love with the capable human she is. Also, no credit cards!!

Q: What inspires you?

AO: Seeing other people feel capable and good. Also, getting knocked on my butt every once in a while. I fall hard, but I usually bounce back up in a gymnast stance of “Take that, life!”

Q: What is something you treasure dearly?

AO: My Uncle Bobby bought me a Russian nesting doll when I was seven or eight that I filled with coins from countries that him and my other uncles had visited. When I got back from my summer in Europe, one of the first things I did was get her tattooed on my ankle. She has always sat on my desk as a reminder of the world out there and how I want to see all of it. Now she goes everywhere I go, too.

Q: What’s one thing everyone should know?

AO: They have value, self-worth. People don’t realize their worth, what they bring to the table. Everybody has something unique and special that they bring. That’s part of the point of people-who-matter. Yes, YOU have purpose and value.