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My journey with faith and religion, with host Susan Byrnes Long

Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Intro:  Hey Pod Sisters.  How do you feel about Pod Sisters?  I’m trying it on for size.  Let me know what you think.  Anyway, today I don’t have a guest.  It’s just me. I find myself at a point where I have been through some stuff.  A faith deconstruction.  Sometimes faith comes up on this show.  Not because I bring it up, but a guest brings it up and I feel like you should probably know where I stand on this.  The belief of God. Beliefs of faith. Where I’m coming from when I say things sometimes. So today, I am sharing my faith journey.  It’s a deconstruction journey.  I hope you enjoy it. I hope you learn something from it. I really hope this is helpful to you.  I think a lot of people go through these journeys and they feel alone.  I don’t want you to feel alone.  I’ll link everything in the show notes, but there are some private groups that have gotten me through this over the years.  So if you are a person who is going through this please do not hesitate to reach out.  Contact me via e-mail, Facebook message me, tweet me, whatever.  I am very happy to put you in touch with some of those people and some of those groups.  They have been a lifeboat sometimes in this crazy ocean.  So if that is something you need, please feel free to reach out.  I hope you enjoy today’s podcast.  I hope you get something from it.  Thanks for joining me.

I grew up with a foot in two faith traditions.  One steeped in ritual, scholarship and practice.  The other caught up in perceptions of right and wrong.  Heaven or hell.

On my mom’s side, the church culture was very much fundamentalist.  Ministers did not shy away from sermons about “the end times” or “the apocalypse”. The only way to avoid hell and go to heaven was to ask Jesus into your heart.  You did this by “Saying the Sinners Prayer” or “Walking the Roman Road to Salvation” This was done, by most kids, in the middle school years and it is pretty straight forward.  You confess you are a sinner because you are a human and born with sin and you deserve to go to hell, you repent of your sins, you ask Jesus/God to forgive that sin and to come into your heart” and tada…you are saved.  Made new.  Your old self died and now you are born again.  As long as you really meant it.  There was constant fear over this “did I really mean it when I said it the first time” or “I have sinned again and need to prove to God/Jesus that I really want to be saved that I am worthy of saving” and I surely didn’t want to go to hell…so I’d just do it over and over out of fear of the alternative.   Jen Hatmaker episode referencing church campJen Hatmaker episode referencing deconstruction with Rachel Held Evans.

On my dad’s side the church culture was Catholic.  One of the stipulations my Dad had was that he was fine with Mom picking our Sunday denomination, but he wanted my sister and me to attend Catholic school.  I learned that faith practices and beliefs in the Catholic Church were incredibly different.  There was no emphasis on heaven and hell.  Who was right and wrong.  There was ritual and practice and education. I say all this clearly understanding the issues with The Catholic Church. I know it is far from perfect.  Yet, in a weird way…it felt safer than the other faith practice.

I remember the rejection of the Sunday faith I grew up in, but really could only pin it down recently.  I was in the second grade. It was the Sunday that the minster at my parents church stood in the pulpit and told the congregation that Catholics weren’t real Christians and were going to hell.  I remember looking at my Dad with wide eyes like “what the hell” is this guy talking about.  My Dad just patted my knee and said don’t worry about it.  We can talk later.  To my recollection, we never did.

I have had many many issues with the capital C Church over the years.  I quit church all together in college because I could and I didn’t know where to turn.  I had no problem with God or even at that point Jesus.  It was the Church that I took issue with.  It’s treatment of women.  How I was personally treated just because of my gender.  It’s treatment of minorities and in particular the history of the denomination I grew up in and how and why it was founded. It’s treatment of the LGBTQIA community and what that did to friends I grew up with.  I wanted to believe that God was bigger than all of this.  I wanted to believe that God created us all.  Wonderfully different with all kinds of perfectly perfect imperfections.  That it wasn’t something to fix, but to love.  What I was taught growing up didn’t mirror how big I thought God’s love could be.

After college and two years in the real world, Stephen (my husband) and I got married and moved to NYC.  Stephen had grown up a Presbyterian and I was willing to give it a whirl because, why not?  We did not attend regularly, but the first Sunday we attended I found fascinating. It was the end of Summer and the church was clearly on its last week of “the summer church” season, before everyone got back to the business of real life and everything that comes with a Fall schedule.  The minister, a woman, and a grammy award winning saxophone player gave the most interesting musical sermon I had ever heard.  This place was different and I was hooked.  There was no hell, fire and brimstone.  There was peace and grace.  We attended off and on throughout the Fall and into the Spring.  We found ourself in church that year on Mother’s Day.  There were so many baptisms.  Not that surprising for the holiday.  However, the one thing I found so surprising and very much refreshing that Sunday was that there were two Dad’s who were baptizing their daughter into the church.  I had found in this church what I wasn’t sure really existed in the Christian faith.  A place where everyone belonged and everyone was welcome.  Just how I imagine God would want it.  There really were Christians out there living out the “Love Thy Neighbor” command.

I have found it easier over the years and, in particular now, to have a personal relationship with Mary rather than Jesus.  Although I talk to both. I think because I know the historical Mary was very much the mother of Jesus of Nazareth…and is considered a saint in the Catholic Church…I’m comfortable with this.  Being a mom and a woman…I feel like we would relate to each other better and she would understand what I am going through.  I also try to see God more from the feminine than the masculine which I think stems from the overbearing maleness of church that I grew up in.

This past year, I was introduced, thanks to a close friend, to an inter faith group of women who meet monthly.  It is a group of Jewish, Christian and Muslim women who get together once a month and discuss their faith.  Not from a goal to convert.  That is not allowed.  We go strictly to learn about each others faith experiences and traditions.  It has made such an impact on my faith.  I simply went to go and meet amazing women who worshipped God in their own amazing traditions and I have done that and I have made some amazing friends!  The one thing I didn’t expect was my own spiritual growth.  In addition to going to different churches I have been to both a mosque and a temple and have felt God’s presence in both.  I also have a much deeper appreciation of how the three Abrahamic faiths fit together.

For me, belief in God is easier.  I have seen evidence of God. Christianity is my hang up.  I see how perceived leaders of the church have molded their flock through fear.  This fear has created quite a split between me and family and friends over the years.  They are not sure what to do with me and on more than one occasion concern for my salvation has been expressed.  This fear has also created an us vs. them mentality that I see play out often.  It is something I do not want to be a part of.  It is not something I want for my son.  Do I identify as Christian?  It is something I struggle with.  For me, there is so much baggage wrapped up into that word.  For now, I find the Progressive Christian label to be a better fit for me.  But I’m still not sure where I will end up.  In many ways the deconstruction is complete, but the rebuilding is not yet finished.

I have learned that if you are a person who has gone through a faith crisis.  Be it Christian or something else.  It is okay!  You are not alone.  I think you are most likely a better person for it.  You have thought through some hard stuff.  The journey of self discovery is not easy.  I think a deconstruction of faith is even more difficult especially if you grew up in a tradition where if you end up not believing on the other side…its hell.  I get it.  I maintain the belief though that the Creator of the Universe is bigger than that.  That the creator created me and you from a place of love. That you and I are WANTED and that you and me are perfectly imperfect.

Outro: Hey, Pod Sisters. I’m still trying this on for size.  Again, tell me what you think.  I hope you enjoyed todays episode.  I really hope you got something from it.  I really appreciate the opportunity to share my deconstruction story with you.  Like I said at the top.  If there is anything you need when it comes to faith deconstruction or anything else on this podcast.  Please feel free to reach out to meTweet me, private message me, e-mail me. I am here. So many of these things I have been through.  This, in particular, has been on my heart a while.  It’s not easy.  There will be people who hear this on this podcast who may or may not have heard this whole story who are pretty concerned who will reach out to me because they are worried about me.  So that will be fun.  Anyway, I will link everything in the show notes.  If you have any questions feel free to reach out.  Until next time, I’ll see ya soon.

Building a career out of a love of writing, with Marisa Klein

Marisa Beahm Klein started writing at a young age.  It began with a journal her parents gave her and she has been writing in one form or another ever since.  She expresses her talent for writing through poetry, prose, and journalism.  Currently, she is the creative content manager at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where she helps share the stories of Holocaust survivors.  

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: My guest today is Marisa Klein. She has had a love of words her entire life. She loved reading at a very early age and started journaling in the third or fourth grade and just never really looked back. We talk about everything from her college slam poetry team to how she parlayed a love of journalism and storytelling into her current role at the United States Holocaust Museum. So without further ado, here’s Marisa.

Well good morning Marisa. Thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Marisa: I’m great, Susan. Thanks for having me on your podcast. I’m thrilled to be talking to you.

Susan: Well, I am so excited to be talking to you. I know one of the reasons – and I haven’t really talked to you about this beforehand – but one of the reasons that I originally thought you would be perfect for this podcast, I think it was back in January you posted, or maybe it was… I don’t remember where you posted it, but you posted a poem that you wrote on Facebook, and I think you even talked about just how vulnerable that made you feel as a person to be putting yourself out there and putting your work out there. So I don’t even know if I ever told you that but that was one of the reasons that I was like, “Wow, that’s so open and honest and a really cool thing to just say out loud,” and I appreciated that as a human being and as a person and as somebody who is trying to do it podcast. So that was one of the reasons that I asked you and I don’t even know if I ever told you that.

Marisa: Thank you.

Susan: Yeah, I love your poetry and I love your work and you’re just such a good writer so I’m just so excited to talk to you today. A quick glance at your resume indicates a clear thread in all roles that you’ve ever had. You have a passion for writing, and I would love it if you would share a little bit about that passion with us and where it comes from.

Marisa: I’d be happy to. So to kind of think back to where my writing passion came from, I think it really blossomed first with just an absolute love of reading. I can’t recall a time in my life where I didn’t just have a book in hand and always been a voracious reader and my parent’s rule for me going up was no reading at the dinner table because I would try to bring a book with me everywhere and my parents really had to reign that in — they encouraged it of course, but within reason. And I’d say, of course, I always loved to read. And then one of the best things my parents ever did for me is when I was really young, probably third or fourth grade, my parents gave me a journal and really encouraged me to try to write every day in it. That just became a routine for me so I learn to just communicate and process what my life was like through words. So from the time I was in elementary school to today I still journal regularly, nothing as routine as I used to unfortunately, but it just became so natural to me to communicate through words, and as I got older I just tried to pursue as many writing opportunities as I could. I was on my school’s literary magazine, I was a editor of my high school paper, and then I studied journalism in college. And I love journalism and I love interviewing people and storytelling and I also love poetry so I always try to carve out space to write poetry and started going to open mics when I was about 15 or 16 here in Colorado where I grew up and performed for my college slam poetry team and so it just became such a big part of who I am. And it’s been a little harder, I think, as I got older to find open mics, to find the community that I had when I was in college or high-school to be with other writers but it’s something I’ve always sought out.

Susan: Wow! No reading at the dinner table and you’ve been journaling since third or fourth grade? That just blows my mind, just blows my mind.

Marisa: I also had a…Well I have an older sister who’s a really good athlete and she was on the traveling competitive soccer team so every weekend as a kid, too, I was thrown in the car and taken all over Colorado. So wherever my sister’s tournament would have been was that week. So thankfully, I don’t get carsick so I could just read all weekend long too, at her game. So she still teases me to this day that I never watched her play, I would just read my book on the sidelines. Actually, that paid off.

Susan: Yeah, obviously, no kidding. And the journaling from such a young age, I’ve never been a great at journaling, I think I think a lot, but I’m bad about writing stuff down. And I tried to get better at it over the years because I found it to be a calming thing for me. It’s a good outlet, even though I’m not always great at articulating myself. But that is fascinating that you were doing that from the third or fourth grade. That is just too funny. One thing it was funny when you were talking about reading all weekend, it made me think about something that I haven’t thought about in years. Did you ever read those Sweet Valley High books? Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Marisa: I didn’t but I knew of them.

Susan: Oh my gosh, this is so embarrassing, but I remember being in the fifth or sixth grade – I can’t remember – and we had gone to the library as a class that morning or something and I checked out one of these books, and I got so involved in it. And somehow between reading during class, which I wasn’t suppose to be doing or, you know, whatever, but at the end of the day, I had finished that book. And I’ll never forget that as long as I live, and the teacher was like, “I really appreciate that you like reading so much but you cannot be doing this.” That’s just something I hadn’t thought about in years. But tell us for our friends who are listening who don’t know what slam poetry is, would you tell us a little bit about what that is?

Marisa: Oh sure, so slam poetry evolved from an open mic in Chicago. There is one man attributed to kind of starting it, and so he was kind of sick of going to your boring coffee shop poetry reading so he decided to turn it into a competition. So slams are fairly formulaic wherever you go for them, but usually, everybody who performs has a three-minute time slot… roughly. I mean the time to perform a poetry piece typically it’s preferred to be memorized, and I think slam poetry kind of have more of a rhythmic musical element to it, maybe a little bit more, especially in some circle, hip-hop influence to it. It’s a lot…At least when I write it, I write it more for not thinking so much about metaphor or try to be a little less high brow, a little more accessible and engaging. So you really you want your audience to respond because after you perform then your audience rates you. There is judges randomly selected from the audience so they give you a score from 1 to 10. So there’s usually two or three rounds, so whoever performs best in the first round gets go onto perform more and more poetry. So at the end, somebody is actually a winner. And I’d say overall my style is not geared exactly toward poetry slams, but it’s certainly fun to try to write in a different style and really think about not just the language you use, but how you perform it. And it was just a great opportunity for me to get some experience on stage and conquer my fears of going before crowds in that manner. It was just a lot of fun. And I haven’t done slams in a long time, but doing it with a group in college too was great because writing can be very solitary so to have groups that you practice with and perform with was just a lot of fun.

Susan: That is such a neat idea. I have seen it performed but I’ve never actually written poetry or performed poetry. And I didn’t realize so much kind of went into it behind the scenes, I guess. I think I guess I saw it more – when I have attended something like that it’s been more of a spectator, so that’s fascinating. I didn’t even know that, so thank you for sharing that. I may have to try to find one to go listen to.

Marisa: And I think the great thing about… I’ll bet you can find some great ones where you are. And what’s fun about it is that it wants to engage that audience and I think it’s a little bit more accessible than most people think of standard poetry reading. So you get some purists in the poetry scene that don’t love it but I personally love it because it brings people who wouldn’t normally go to poetry events out to see that, and I am a huge advocate of any accessibility in art so I loved it.

Susan: Yes. And I want to talk about your views on art in a minute, but I think we can work it into maybe something, because I remember you said you specifically want to talk about everybody having the ability to be an artist. But I think maybe going into the next questions you kind of talked about that a little bit, you have had the opportunity to be a journalist on the international stage. So could you tell us a little bit about that experience and maybe how it’s different from journalism in the United States?

Marisa: When I was fresh out of college with my journalism degree, I bought a one-way ticket to visit the man who is now my husband who was living Budapest. And I kind of had the intention that I would go for a month or two and then come back and pursue a full-time job at a newspaper in The States, but I got really fortunate when I arrived in Hungary and I was able to connect with a few English-speaking journalists there, and I was able to find freelance work very quickly. And so I was working for two different English language magazines during my time there. And it’s not a straight timeline but in total I was over there for multiple years.

One of the types of writings I did a lot of business reporting so I was writing for the American Chamber of Commerce publication. And this was a really interesting experience because I wasn’t fluent in Hungarian so the events that I went to were typically done in English or things would be translated to me. And I was very young so I was 21 when I arrive to there. And a lot of the events I would go to, especially for those business communities, were very male-dominated. So I was very limited in that I wasn’t fluent in the language, I was very young and one of the only women. So I think I did hit some walls in which I didn’t feel like I was being taken as seriously as I wanted to be. I remember being very cautious about my clothing; trying to dress very businesslike, trying to kind of play up your age in that way. So that was hard. And certainly, that was something I would have faced whether I was in the United States or in Hungary, but kind of using the ability to articulate yourself easily is very challenging when you’re working with multilingual audiences.

And also a big difference of journalism in Hungary versus the United States is the press freedom in Hungary deteriorated while I was there so I did a little — just to put it in context, there is an organization called Freedom House that ranks freedom of the press internationally, and in Hungary when I arrived, the data for press freedom are currently — Hungary only gets a rating of 44 out of 100. So 100 means you have no press freedom so 44 is fairly high, and by contrast, the US is at a 23 level. So when I left there was still free press in Hungary but it was really under attack. And in terms of government I could go — that’s an entirely different discussion but I saw newspapers getting pressure and journalist being very divided, and even the business magazine that I worked for, received more and more political pressure and they doubt, myself included, I really started to transition to more tourism travel writing just because of that environment. So I would say Hungary is a struggling country in terms of press freedom. So to see that firsthand experience was very interesting, and unfortunately, it has only gotten worse since I left.

Susan: Really? That makes me sad.

Marisa: Yeah, makes a lot of us sad.

Susan: That’s just… I mean I think as Americans there are just so much that we take for granted, and when we see just a little bit of it touched we freaked out. I mean there’s no other way to say it; we just freak out. And to think that there are some countries that are fighting for it every day more so than hopefully than we ever will. I can’t imagine, and I can’t imagine being a journalist in that situation. No wonder you kind of shifted things around a little bit.

Marisa: Actually, it’s just hard to see places backslide; you just kind of hope that things progress and then the press gets stronger and more freedom and more ability to report on any story. And it’s very challenging and it’s disheartening to really see that backslide. Unfortunately, it’s not a case just unique in Hungary. It’s nothing you’d ever want to see or experience.

Susan: Yeah, wow. So kind of turning a little bit towards what you’re currently doing, you are currently the creative content manager at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. You also have – I would argue some serious expertise in not just online content but social media content and campaigns. I’ve seen some of the stuff that you put out, it’s pretty phenomenal and fun, and if you haven’t checked out their – even their Facebook page is pretty amazing, which I think you are in charge of, is that correct?

Marisa: I am not in charge of it. I do contribute or help our social media team, and you’ll see some of my videos and content on there occasionally. We’re a huge staff so our marketing staff works very collaboratively. So I do not run very social channel but I do work and share content. I’m a little bit more focused on the email side. We’re a very collaborative team there, too.

Susan: I guess what I saw, I’ve seen some of the videos at that you guys did. I think I remember seeing your first Facebook live video and I think you were in it.

Marisa: Yes. So I did launch our Facebook live pilot series. So we did a 10-week series that was aligned with another campaign we were doing. I was given a great opportunity to be kind of guinea pig that’s launched the weekly Facebook live series, which, of course, doing anything live is very nerve-racking and I had wonderful staff around the museum and we got to give behind the scenes access to people who may never get to come to DC so it’s a great project. So that on Facebook, yeah, I was very active, and I did kick off the whole series in the museum. It was the videographer I work hand-in-hand with; we were trying to get a perfect shoot and book the talent and I was like, “You know what? This one I’ll just to throw myself in and be on camera for the first episode and for the first teasing of it,” like, I’m asking people around the institution to take on this project and get in front of the camera and, like, I guess I can do it myself first too. So that was like good opportunity.

Susan: Yeah, it was so cool just from, again, the spectator side of things. It was fascinating because I have never been to the museum myself and just being able to see it from afar was so, so inspiring, just everything that is there. And what you guys can, I guess, bring to the public and what you guys do on a daily basis is really inspiring. But, tell us a little bit about how you were able to parlay a love of writing into your role, because it is content so you’re doing a lot of writing, I presume at this point, but tell us how this works for you on a daily basis.

Marisa: To back up a minute from how I kind of got to where I am from the journalism world is after I left Hungary I decided to pursue my master’s degree. So I had a great mentor in Hungary who was a professor of Arts Management, and it was a field that I’ve never even heard of prior, and he encouraged me to learn more about it and get some graduate school. So I got my masters in arts management at American University in DC. And this is a natural marriage to me because I was always covering business and I was covering the arts so that really fused those two together and gave me the knowledge I needed to transition from covering the arts to working with intercultural institutions. So I loved my grad school program and it allowed me to pivot my career into something more marketing-focused. And I worked for a couple years at a performing arts center called Wolf Trap Foundation of the Performing Arts, and that was a great opportunity and very fun. I got to see a lot of concerts and write about music for a living so you can’t argue with that.

Susan: Right.

Marisa: Yeah, so that was great, but I was ready for something new and I saw the job come up at the Holocaust Museum, and it really peaked my interest because it was I believe the mission of the museum and it was really a dream for me to get to work on the National Mall that I come everyday and get off at the Smithsonian metro. I’m four years in there, and that still is a great opportunity every day to do that and be around some of the best museums of the nation. And  so I came on as a writer/editor. And I would say even for people who love writing and especially people who are interested in journalism, think there’s a lot of doom and gloom around the industry, but I would say even if you struggle to find a job at a traditional newspaper or radio station or TV station, the skills you glean through journalism training are highly valued in a lot of fields.

So I studied print and broadcast, so the fact that now in my job today I get to do such a wide variety of writing that my journalism degree set me up for, which is just fantastic. So I mean on any given day I’ll edit a social media post, I’ll write radio copy for an ad for NPR, I’ll write for magazine articles, and then I’ll do video interviews with Holocaust survivors. I think it is hard for me to find a job in which I’ve been challenged in so many different ways of writing, and also get to do things to a cause that I care a lot about. So I like that I can — I still feel like I’m a journalist in a lot of way for the institution and I still get to use those skills, but I also just appreciate the ability of my job and the mission-based focus of it.

Susan: Well, share with us a little bit about that, if you would like. I would love to hear more about it.

Marisa: Yeah, so when I was in Budapest, I lived in the Jewish quarter there so that got me more interested in Holocaust history and covering the Jewish Community there. And so when I saw this job come open in DC, I was really kind of shocked that I would actually get to use any of what I learned while living in Hungary, especially historical content, and apply to a job in the United States. And of course, that really made me kick myself for not getting better at the Hungarian language because I interact with Hungarian speakers on a regular basis. But, I’ll say that I believe so strongly in the museum because really at it’s core it’s trying to preserve the memory of Holocaust Survivors, and I think that’s hugely important. And I’m entrusted to tell the story of survivors and victims of the Holocaust, and that’s a huge honor, and especially getting to work with Holocaust Survivors who volunteer at our museum.

We have about 80 survivors who are at the museum regularly meeting with visitors, doing translations for us, they travel around the country for speakers bureau, but I get to meet with them, I edit the essays that they write, I do video interviews, do some ghost writing for them, and the fact that I’m trusted to tell their story and just ride that really delicate balance of getting to reflect on this history and not sensationalize it but also really turn it into a teaching tool, because we teach the history not to just know the facts of it but to help people to act differently in the face of hate but to just learn about the dangers of hatred and where that can lead and where prejudice can lead so we’re of course showing the most shocking example of that, but it’s rewarding. I think a lot of us — it’s a challenging time right now and we’re seeing issues of xenophobia and other reoccurring  refugee issues in our nation. And this is me very much me speaking on behalf of myself and not the museum, but I think for me it’s important that I feel that my day to day work is doing some good and seeing the museum full every single day of visitors, and I just hope that they come and learn something at the museum that they can take to their own lives; that’s hugely important to me.

Susan: Yeah, that’s really powerful what you just said because I am in like-mind with you that we are struggling right now as a nation with some of these issues. And certainly, there are debatable things that can be talked about, which I’m not even getting into. But really thank you, thank you for sharing that and thank you for doing that work. I didn’t realize — wow, you guys have 80 Holocaust Survivors there on a regular basis.

Marisa: Yeah, it’s remarkable; just the willingness  of these individuals to share some of the most difficult periods in their life in the hope that it will carry on the memory of loved ones that they have lost and hopefully improve the future for other generations. I’m just in awe of their resilience and their openness. It’s been such a good example of me to get to work like this with them.

Susan: Well it sounds like it has become their life-work as well. For so many reasons that makes sense, but for so many reasons I’m impressed and just wowed that somebody could do that after going through something that is so unimaginable to me that I can only think of through images in a history book. I cannot even begin to come close to putting myself in that situation. And for them to share their stories and to do that on almost daily basis, I would guess, it just…I can’t imagine that. And I never really thought about it, but I really appreciate them doing that. And I appreciate the work you’re doing, it’s so important. I don’t know, that just really touched me in a weird way. Anyway, sorry about that, I might have gotten a little emotional..

Marisa: Part of my job.

Susan: So in that vein, even the strongest of us have moments when we lack self-confidence in what we’re doing, and you don’t ever appear to do that. I presume you do, I presume you hide it well, maybe I could be way off base maybe you don’t have these moments, but if you do, how have you dealt with that?

Marisa: Well that is a very kind assessment of me, but of course, I have moments where I lack self-confidence, really, like, everybody does. And I guess I do have a really outwardly view of…One of my high school teachers used to always just call me very self possessed and I think I of course try to exude confidence in what I do, but certainly, I have moments of self-doubt, and I have a really wonderful team of editors who work with me who always help each other out and putting our best work forward. I’d say one thing that’s always helpful – well, there’s a couple of things that has helped me and one is I really have the joy of surrounding myself with people who have far more faith in my skills and abilities than I do. I really could not speak more highly of my family and core circle of friends. I have a lot of cheerleaders and I cannot emphasize how important that is to have someone to… I just texted a friend right before this, I was like, “Oh, I am about to be interviewed for a podcast’ I’ve never done this before,” and she’s like, “Oh, you’re going to be great.” And just to have people who don’t ever mean it insincerely but just really kind of telling you that self-confidence or the affirmations that you want for yourself.

On this podcast you talk about seeing professional coaches, and I’ve been seeing one as well who I just adore and she really good at showcasing, making you see things through a new lens. And things that I struggle with is I worry a lot about how my decisions affect other people and the way that they make those people feel, sometimes then the way they make me feel or how my actions help or hurt me. And having other people just kind of to refocus how I see myself and my actions is so helpful. So I love that aspect. And then also I think something that helps me in self-confidence which is very funny is I am a total dabbler. I am very curious, I love learning new things but I like to take on new hobbies and projects — and I wouldn’t say I don’t see them through, it’s not like I’m building a house but I kind of like start doing one thing and then switch to another so. So for example, for the last couple of years I’ve been taking guitar lessons but I also have not picked up my guitar for many months. So I like to jump in these projects and try new things but never attained or frankly really try to an expert level. So in my life like a willingness to be a novice or very mediocre at activities is really healthy. And I don’t think enough people are willing, especially if you’re older, to just take up a new hobby, like, knowing that you’re not going to be any good at it, and it might just be fun for a little while.

Susan: Yeah.

Marisa: I try to do that and I think it’s just nice to just be humbled by something that, like, I’m not a good guitar player but this is really fun and it gives me a creative outlet that’s not writing and gets me to think about things or just try something new, and I think that actually really help people build up their confidence to intentionally fail at new hobbies and it’s fine to see that there aren’t always consequences and nobody in my life expects me to be a superstar at anything I take on. And the same with exercise, I love to work out but I’m not a world-class runner or swimmer or anything that I do but I still do it because it’s healthy and I like it. So a very long answer to your question but that’s something I’ve found and I encourage other people to do around me as well.

Susan: And within your answer I think you answered one of my other questions which I always love to ask is how do you recharge your batteries, but it sounds like that’s one way you do it. And those are several little ways you do it which sound awesome and fun. What’s your favorite? What is the one thing that you’re doing right now that you’re just loving?

Marisa: Right now?

Susan: If you had to pick a favorite.

Marisa: I’ll pick one that I’m not doing immediately but in the last year one of my good friend Amy and I and my husband all took beginner ukulele classes at a community art place in Washington and that was a blast. We have a very quirky teacher who is a brilliant musician and gives no pressure at all in the class; you just kind of show up and have some fun and play some music, you go home. And it’s doing that with friends and just having a good time and laughing a lot. It’s just wonderful so we’re going to try to pick that up again in the fall.

Susan: Well, that sounds fun and awesome at the same time. And I want to mention something because you said something a minute ago, you said you had called one of your friends to say you’ve never done a podcast before, and I just want you to know you’re a natural, and I think it’s because you are a good storyteller but you could do this all day long so, you know, in your spare time if you feel like starting one up, you go for it, just do that.

Marisa: Well this is very fun, and I hear it and not only my interview but the ones you’ve done previously that you really put guests at ease so you are also a natural.

Susan: Well thank you. I  just think it’s fun. I think it’s fun and inspiring and it inspires me to tell other people stories and in a day and age where I just feel like we need to give women a platform who otherwise may not have one. I mean you are certainly somebody who works at a world-renowned museum, you know, some of my guests are just next door neighbor’s who are doing some really cool stuff as well and I just want to make sure that there is a platform available to share our stories because I truly believe that it inspires, empowers and encourages others to figure out what their passion is because I feel like we were all born with one, I really honestly do. I feel like we were all born with some sort of something that we were put here to do, and if we all can somehow figure that out then we just made this world a better place. And so that’s what I’m hoping to encourage and inspire and empower other women to do. So, that’s my goal. But anyway, I want to go back to something that I kind of started to talk a little bit about earlier and then I dropped it but I said we’d come back to it, and I’m going to mess this up because I can’t remember your wording exactly and you worded it so well and it was so beautiful. You talked to me before this interview about how you want to make sure everybody understands the artists within themselves, or something to that effect. Can you share a little bit about what you were trying to convey to me in that conversation.

Marisa: Sure. I can’t certainly remember exactly what I told you but throughout my career, and I just talked a little bit about that was just trying my own artistic pursuit, but I believe so strongly in the power of creativity and expression and the finding a way, and I really just like our culture that people are dissuaded doing activities that they aren’t really good at. So I think we have a tendency to pigeonhole people of, “Oh, you’re a great drawer, that’s fantastic, do that.” And I myself is a terrible drawer, like, nobody want’s me on their team in family Pictionary, like, terrible at it, but it doesn’t mean I can’t try a bunch of other activities or still draw. And I am such an advocate for the amateur artist that I want people to go to community festivals, to go try their hands at creating something. It’s really healthy.

When I was in grad school I worked at a organization called the National Center for Creative Aging, and the project I got to work on was pairing graduate students in social work and healthcare and art with older visual artist. So they would help the visual artists set up their studio and help teach them to document their work and build on their legacy. I loved that project, and within it there was a major research project going on as well from Joan Jeffri who ran the project called Art Cart, and this is a long way of telling you this, but the study that she’s doing, anecdotally, I could easily tell you that doing arts or creativity can extend your life, but there’s actual science behind it and rigorous studying too to show how healthy it is to have something to express yourself through. And I just want more and more people to be willing to do that and there’s a Moto that I’m completely stealing from an organization called Creative Mornings that post lectures on creativity all over the world for free, usually once a month in every city. I’m certain that Dallas has them as well. And their whole motto is “Everyone is welcome; everyone is creative.” And I just think that is so brilliant and so succinctly put, that everyone should be welcome to create, not just top world-class performers and everyone should be welcomed.

So that’s one thing I just love that you’re doing on this podcast is not just focusing on people who are already recognizable but who are doing wonderful work. And certainly doesn’t have to be in the arts, that’s just what I’m passionate about, but just thinking how important each of our work is and we can create. It don’t have to be hanging up in a museum or some amazing published work, but I just want my work to encourage other people to be creative and tell stories and share things about other people’s lives.

Susan: Well, I think that it is, and I just appreciate you sharing it. I appreciate you sharing your creative talent through your poetry that you’re willing to put up online. I appreciate you writing amazing content for the museum or doing the Facebook live which I know is nerve-racking, or at least it was for me because you don’t know how many people are going to see this and you’re like, “Ahhh!”

Marisa: It is hard.

Susan: There’s no editing, there’s no edit in here. But yeah, thank you for sharing that because I think you’re right, I think people are often so many times either told no, don’t do that, or that’s not your outlet or whatever. And it’s important, it’s important to share anything if not for someone else then just for yourself to just to see what you’re made of sometimes, I think. So, I always like to leave with an action step, but it seems like you kind of already gave us one to find our creative outlet. And I don’t know, do you have anything else to add? Am I missing anything?

Marisa: I’d say I really of course encourage people to journal. I think that’s really healthy, and yeah, I think action steps of trying to find a creative outlet for everybody or to try something new is what I would like to encourage people to do. And it certainly doesn’t have to be in the arts, like maybe try running or walking or something, but I just love getting people out into the community and just taking part. So those are my simple action.

Susan: Well, I don’t think those are simple at all; I think those are things that we all need to think about and do, maybe, especially the journaling thing, that has been really, really helpful for me trying to do more of that. When I do it, I feel better. But tell us — one more thing before I go because I always forget this — tell us where we can find your work, either through the museum or if you have like a…I don’t even know if you have like a public creative outlet or anything at the moment, but if you want to share some of your museum content with us or anything like that, tell us where we can find you or where we can find your work.

Marisa: Sure. I don’t have a website at the moment. I’ve been kind of dabbling in and out of that. That’s a great action step for me to get back to that so I can say, “To read my work, go to…” And, you know, as someone who works in marketing you’d think I’d be better at that but I’d say that, I do have a book of poetry that you can get on Amazon called Opened Aperture, so that you can read; that’s some of my older poetry that I wrote mainly based on my time living in Budapest. And then for the museum, if you subscribe to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum email and I’m usually leading the content on a lot of our storytelling emails so if you read those you can see my work. And I also was the copywriter for a book at the museum published last year called The Last Witnesses. And that book is, every page is a picture of an item that’s in our collection, so personal artifacts and our designer, Mary, did a beautiful job laying it out, and then with the visuals I then tell the story of who the object belonged to, what the story behind it is. So that was one of the biggest projects that I worked on at the museum that I’m very proud of. Also, you can buy it at the museum or you can buy it online as well.

Susan: That is awesome, and I will make sure on our website to go and link all of those things so that people can easily find them. So you guys can just head on over to the website and check those out. Marisa, thank you so much for joining us today and taking time out of your work week and out of your vacation/work week. I really appreciate you taking the time to join us today and to just share what you’re doing, and just your thoughts on life. I really appreciate your time today.

Marisa: Thank you so much. I love doing this. It was very fun, and thank you for making this podcast.

Susan: All right, friend, I’ll talk to you soon.

Marisa: Bye.

Outro: Thanks so much for listening today. I hope you found just as many good nuggets in our conversation as I did. Y’all, I will make sure and have all the links to the things Marisa and I discussed over on this episode’s transcript page on the website. So if you didn’t have a chance to write something down, you can be sure to find the link at www.howshegothere.com. Y’all, seriously, thanks again so much for listening and for sharing this podcast with your friends. This show is truly a great love of mine and I really appreciate the opportunity to bring it to you. Y’all, your feedback has been overwhelming and I really cannot believe how many subscribers we have. It’s so exciting. I’m just so thankful that so many people have been able to find it and that it has resonated with so many women. One way that it makes it easier for other women to find is if you rate and review the podcast on whatever platform you listen to the podcast on. So I would really appreciate it if you would rate and review it so that it makes it easier for other women to find it. Y’all are my people and y’all are just the best, and I love, love, love sharing this work with you. Thanks again, friends, I’ll see you soon.