Webucator Asks. It’s All Write By Me Responds.

A short time ago, I received an email from Bob Clary of Webucator. He told me that Webucator is, “…an online learning company… all about teaching essential skills and finding ways to help people improve themselves and become more successful.” And he asked me to “..write an article to post on your blog about what you consider to be a valuable, marketable skill as part of our “Most Marketable Skill” Campaign in honor of the class of 2014…What is it that you think is essential for success? We want to read about the skill that you personally feel is the most important, how you acquired or plan to acquire the skill, and why it’s so indispensable for people going into the workforce.” Here is my reply.

5c5d838ce04450737b0fac25778e2519

I grew up in a household of inspirational appliances. My dad, a Tony Robbins book and label maker in hand, branded most of our house with affirmations. Despite a particularly loquacious clock radio and toaster oven, I especially remember what our basement fridge had to say: Attitude is everything.

As a kid, I thought the icebox giving me permission to roll my eyes at my mother and speak all the smartassery I kept to myself.  (There were a few years there that my gearshift jammed in snarky.) But in the process of growing up, and especially in becoming a university graduate and entering the workforce, I’ve begun to really understand what that phrase means and why it has always stuck with me.

Whilst earning my diploma, I was often stressed, exhausted, obsessive, and overly caffeinated. I cared a lot about my education, about getting the A, about graduating with honors. Then, add in fights with roommates, tearful break-ups, friends who decided to see Hunger Games without me, and it’s easy to understand why my brain often felt like a too-small bowl for a many-emotion salad.

Now that I’m out of school, I have many similar burdens weighing on me, except instead of grades it’s my paycheck and future security that’s at play.  I am as ambitious and hardworking as ever in my quest to be a working writer, often craning over my computer for most of the day. I can be demoralized by rejections from literary journals, frustrated by metaphors that just won’t make sense, and made jealous by other writers’ successes. Plus, though they’re less melodramatic than they were, I still find myself in delicate and taxing interpersonal situations.

My point is: the many-emotion salad is still tossing about in my mind! The only difference is now, I’ve (mostly) learned how to deal with it. The way to cope was with me all along—stuck onto my uncommonly wise basement fridge. Attitude is everything.

Your attitude is everything in how you overcome a bad day, week or even year. When shit hits the fan, it’s common to get down on yourself and your life. But, getting out of that space is essential to being productive again, and finding success in the future. In times like these, it is important to take a break and do something that helps center you again. I find that writing my feelings down in a journal helps expel them from my mind. I also benefit from meditation, naps, bike rides, baking cookies, and playing piano. Or if it’s really bad, I’ll plan a vacation. Try different things and find what it is that helps you feel happier and ready to work again.

Yes, class of 2014, I just became the umpteenth person to tell you to “turn that frown upside down.” Like it or not, I believe this is your most marketable skill: your own power to change how you feel, regardless of external circumstances. This ability helps you be productive and successful despite a world full of self-involved assholes, seemingly insurmountable obstacles and ridiculous expectations. Having a positive attitude gives you a big enough bowl for all that messy life salad. It creates space for more sweet cherry tomatoes. It makes whatever’s in front of you clearer and easier to digest. Most importantly, it shines a light on what truly matters: feeling grateful for the life that fills your bowl.

 

For more about this campaign go to www.webucator.com or follow @webucator on Twitter.WebucatorAvatar_400x400

 

 

 

Smart Girls In The Arts: Sarah Jarosz

(Published on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls)

osmf2014-tammyperez_id139

23-year old bluegrass-folk singer and Smart Girl in the Arts, Sarah Jarosz, has always seen the value in community. “I love that music can be a connector between people… The communal aspect of music was one of the first things that drew me to it when I was a little girl attending the jam for the first time.” After hearing her crystal clear voice through my car radio, falling in love with her music and learning her story, I thought it only natural that she be unveiled to our Smart Girls community.

Sarah Jarosz was born in the small town of Wimberley, Texas, to a family and greater community that were big on music.

“I’m lucky to have parents that love music, so I was surrounded by it for as long as I can remember. I started singing when I was about two years old, took piano lessons when I was six for a few years, but then when I was nine, my parents bought me a mandolin for Christmas. I fell in love with the instrument and never looked back,” Sarah said.

Soon after her introducsj_finaltion to the mandolin, Jarosz discovered a weekly bluegrass jam in her city, and instantly clicked with her fellow Bluegrassers, if you will.

“[…I just] fell in love with the music and the community of musicians. I played a lot of local gigs around Austin and Central Texas, and began to branch out by attending music camps and festivals during the summers, such as RockyGrass Academy and Festival in Lyons, CO, and The Mandolin Symposium in Santa Cruz, CA …” Jarosz said.

But it’s safe to say her visit to Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2007 was one of her most memorable camp experiences. There, as a girl in her mid-teens, she had the opportunity to play her first main stage set. Gary Paczosa, producer, engineer, A&R at Sugar Hill Records, was in the audience and approached Jarosz after her show. Gary took a liking to Jarosz’s music, and that meeting eventually lead to her signing with Sugar Hill at just 16 years old.

Since then, Jarosz’s life has been a tornado of touring, schooling and writing her music. Instead of taking off after high school to tour, Jarosz decided to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She received her Bachelors in Music in May 2013.

Now, Jarosz devotes herself entirely to touring and writing. You’re probably thinking, how does she stay so generative?

Jarosz said, “I…collect lyrical and melodic ideas along the way… Whether it be listening to music I love or listening to the world and people around me. I do find it challenging to write songs on tour, but that is normally the time when I collect the most ideas, and then when I have time to chill out and be home, that’s when I sift through those ideas and figure out what works together, and normally, hopefully, that leads to a song.”mg_7113-credit-scott-simontacchi

Her openness to the offerings of the world has brought about dozens of original songs and utter courage has brought them to listeners’ ears.

“From an early age, that was always the fastest way to learn [and share my music] – to put myself in a situation that scared me, like jamming with my heroes, for instance. I would always walk away from those experiences having learned something new and being so fired up to practice and write and become a better musician,” Jarosz said.

That, in a nutshell, is Jarosz’s advice for the Smart Girls reading this: don’t let obstacles like fear scare you away from what lights your creative fire.

“Recogniz[e] what excites you. Once you have that figured out, latch onto it and do anything in your power to make your goals a reality… and always remember to make time for yourself. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin when opportunities start rolling in, but I find when I start to become discouraged, if I set aside a little time for myself, whether it be to write or just do something completely unrelated to music, that’s when I’m able to get back to the good stuff and feel re-inspired,” she said.

So there you have it, Smart Girls, Jarosz has given you permission to pursue your passion and buy yourself that pint of Cherry Garcia. How could you not love her? (I can guarantee you you’ll love her music too. Jarosz has completed three albums, and her most recent release, “Build Me Up From Bones,” received two Grammy 2014 nominations!) For more information about her songs, touring schedule, and upcoming projects visit sarahjarosz.com.

 

What’s Hot and What’s Not: Berkeley, CA

10153383_10203359659333226_96353712_n

 

I’ve been in Berkeley going on 3 months now, enough time to get a decent feel for the Bay Area and to compile my own personal list of Hots and Nots.

What’s Hot

1. The Mint Mojito Latte (Sweet & Creamy) from Philz Coffee

This is by far my favorite culinary discovery in Berkeley thus far. Sure, the food is pretty good, but this drink gets points for deliciousness and creativity. While it isn’t actually alcoholic (sorry, guys) it captures and blends the flavors of a sweet and creamy latte and a minty mojito perfectly. It comes iced and with actual fresh mint on top, which never ceases to impress me. Delicious.

2. Ze Bohemian Vibes

Now, this category has a lot to do with my host mom/boss, Marisa, and her grasp of aesthetics. She keeps colorful fresh flowers in the kitchen and the bathroom at all times. She has piles of shells, drift wood, sea glass ornately situated on window ledges and in bowls on the porch steps. She regularly uses her clothes line to dry out loads of boho garments and billowing bed sheets. Her dance-y world music often wafts out the open windows into the backyard (where I have my little studio). Her attention to the details of the house make it a homey, comfortable, artsy, vibrant space that I just love being a part of.

East Bay as a whole too is bohemian, but “Start-Up” culture seems to have completely pillaged the free-spirited feel that San Francisco used to be known for (Bohemians of the 60s and 70s wouldn’t be caught dead in the posh Haight nowadays). As a result, the hippy culture has bled into Oakland and Berkeley and these east bay cities are becoming the major cultural hubs instead.

3. Telegraph Ave

Telegraph Ave is enormous–it runs through both Berkeley and Oakland, the carotid artery of the East Bay. To your right, dreadlocked street vendors sell sterling silver rings, gemstone bracelets made to cleanse your chakra, Tibetan singing bowls to enhance your yoga and meditation practice, handmade glass-blown pipes and Bob Marley vinyl. To your left, there is any and every type of hole-in-the-wall eatery you could desire: Burmese, Thai, Tapas, French, Italian, Indian, you name it. Ahead of you, you’ll see college kids in blue and yellow Cal Bear tee-shirts, belly dancers, a singing guitar player busking for spare change, a woman painting with her easel out, and families of every ethnicity and creed. East Bay is a very diverse place, but it’s on Telegraph where all the diversity comes to a head.

4. Bike Culture

Have I mentioned that I’m getting into awesome shape here? I have my car, but I only use it to cart around the kid I nanny and for lengthy trips. Within Berkeley and Oakland, I ride my bike everywhere because, not only are their awesome bike lanes and laws here, but the area is fairly flat (unless of course you venture up towards the Berkeley/Oakland hills, that’s a whole other story.) I ride my bright red road bike all over; to bars, to my friends’ houses, to cafes and restaurants, to yoga class, and now that I zip-tied a milk crate to the back, to Trader Joe’s to get groceries! I’m gettin’ some major thigh muscles because of it.

There is a lot of support for cyclists here too. Berkeley alone has countless bike shops that will fix your bike for dirt cheap. My personal favorite place is Missing Link on Shattuck Ave because they have a box of communal tools that they allow riders to use for no charge, and, more excitingly, because they offer free, indoor, secure bike storage for the entire day. As Berkeley has an astronomically high bike theft rate, I am IN LOVE with this service.

5. BART

Seattle’s public transportation is total crap compared to the BART and Muni system in the East Bay. BART is like a subway system that goes all the way from south of San Francisco to the northernmost parts of the East Bay. It’s super cheap, relatively fast and a greener option for those who commute from East Bay to The City (or vice versa) for work. But aside from that, the COOLEST people ride BART. Maybe it’s just that I’m a fairly extroverted, open person, but I have met and conversed with so many interesting people while riding. I met a Bio Chemist from France, a traveler from Montreal, a professor at Cal Berkeley, a graduate student from Russia. Everyone gets a little confused when first riding BART, but the community is so welcoming (and made up of lots of transplants and new people learning the culture of the area) that it’s super easy to approach people, befriend them and ask for aid. The times I have felt the most welcome and connected to others here has been while riding the BART. I love it.

What’s Not

1. Live Music=Meh

Granted, I have been spoiled in this department my entire life (growing up with a musician father in Seattle then going to school in Bellingham where live music is alive and well,) but I can safely say most of the live music I’ve seen here has been…meh. (Caveat: I know a ton of super talented musicians in the bay area (you guys know who you are and know I love you!), but they’re just aren’t that many venues for them in Berkeley! One exception being Freight & Salvage, that place is lovely.)

San Francisco has great music, of course, but I’ve been looking for good local indie rock/pop/bluegrass/etc I can ride my bike to. No dice. The one place riding distance away that has live jazz is a bar called “Jupiter” but they’re idea of jazz is weirdly electronic, fusion-y, smooth jazz that I loathe. And despite the fact that this is a college town, there aren’t that many college bands that are locally famous and have a following (Think Blue Scholars at Gonzaga, Pole Cat in Bellingham) so I never know if I should take a gamble on a cover charge. The data I’ve collected so far says, don’t. Maybe I just haven’t found the right places, but I figure if it’s this hard to find good music, that isn’t a good sign…

2. Hella Dudes

There are definitely exceptions to what I’m about to say, but by and large Berkeley guys are bro-y, macho, frat boys that pretend to have some hipster flare. If that makes no sense, picture an L.A. guy who’s ashamed of his SoCal roots and thus puts horn-rimmed glasses on and pretends to listen to Bob Dylan. It’s a hard thing to describe, because it’s a subtlety, and it has to do with my radar for genuineness. As one guy told me candidly outside a bar, “There are a lot fake people in this hood.” It is really true, and really off-putting. I mean, the other night I was 2 beers in and I still remember thinking, “There is not a single person (girl or guy) that I want to get to know here.” That was when I knew it was time to call it a night.

Oh yeah, and as the stereotype says, they use “hella” way too often here. I am really hoping it doesn’t rub off on me.

3. “I work at a Start-Up”

This phrase gets thrown around too much. Mostly because it’s true, there are a ton of Start-Ups in this area (businesses that are just getting off that ground and thus are hiring lots of fresh grads. Usually they’re inventing apps, etc.) but I think it’s also thrown around because there is this whole “glamorous” culture that comes with being part of a Start-Up. Start-ups are usually funded by generous share holders like Google, and thus they have money for a whole slew of amenities that have become the status quo in a start up job. Free meals. Hip office spaces. Happy Hours and Parties. All that coupled with a built-in network of young people to be friends with and a job that could potentially earn you a lot of money. Awesome, sign me up!

But after knowing a few people that work at start-ups, you get to know real quick that the glamour is mostly an illusion. You work crazy long hours, you hardly get respite from coworkers and work talk, and more often than not start-ups fail and leave you in the lurch without a job. Not to mention, the atmosphere in general seems really intense and stressful. Realistically, it’s this intense and stressful way of life, and yet people throw their membership in start-up culture around as if it’s some badge of instant superiority. It’s annoying.

4. The Drought

It never rains here. In the three months since I got here, it’s rained three times. In fact, it’s hardly ever overcast.  As a Seattle girl raised on Gortex and polar fleece, this just feels fundamentally wrong.

5. The Parking People Eaters

Um, for the life of you, never leave your meter a minute longer after it runs out, park on the wrong side of the street during street sweeping or god forbid, forget to pay for parking in downtown Berkeley. The parking police must be bored because they are the more thorough than a fine-toothed comb. They’re ruthless too: they will not hesitate to give you a $50 ticket for 5 mins of unpaid parking. More than once I’ve been caught running down the sidewalk in high-heel wedges to stop them from tagging my car. I refuse to let the Parking People Eaters win. I downright REFUSE.

4 Reasons Why Being Alone Doesn’t Always Have to Mean Lonely

  Alone doesn't have to mean lonely

“We can’t underestimate the value of silence. We need to create ourselves, need to spend time alone. If you don’t, you risk not knowing yourself and not realizing your dreams.” – Jewel

Having just moved to a new place where I only know a few people, I’ve spent a lot of time alone the last few months. At first, I was sad, lonely, even depressed without my friends around. But I’ve been learning that there’s an art to being alone and if you can work on it, it can bring a lot of positivity to your life! Society may tell you that you need a significant other, but I say, tune that out and read this list. Being alone might be just what you need!

4 Reasons Why Being Alone Doesn’t Always Have to Mean Lonely

Being Alone Can Be More Fun

A few days ago, I went to San Francisco’s touristy Fisherman’s Wharf by myself. At first, I felt weird about being alone. There were groups of people everywhere, on the BART, on the trollies to the pier, and at the pier itself–laughing and buying each other Golden Gate Bridge key chains and teddy bears. Perhaps I should’ve waited until I had more friends to come and visit Pier 39, I thought. But then I thought, why? I don’t need someone else to buy me a souvenir or share a walk down a boardwalk with.  I don’t even need to bring someone I can talk with. I can strike up a conversation with strangers. And the kicker–I can actually enjoy doing these things for myself!

So, I did just that. I laughed gleefully to myself when I saw all the sea lions lying like sardines on the docks. I bought myself fish and chips and devoured each piece on a bench, making small talk with a woman from Maryland. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, unperturbed by having to cater my plans to someone else’s needs or wants. And by god did I have a ball giving myself the perfect day!

Being Alone Teaches You How to Love Yourself

I took myself out for a celebratory drink when I got a writing job I’ve been coveting because I deserved it. I rode my bike to a yoga class because I wanted to do something healthy for my body. I drove down the freeway, with no destination in sight, my favorite songs vibrating against the windows because why not? I made a collage on the kitchen table, glossy magazine clippings spread all over because I had the itch to be creative. I did all these activities for myself because I know that they give me joy and fulfillment in a world that can really overwhelm and frighten me.

That, my friends, is called loving one’s self. And, the beauty of learning self-care is that you will never enter a relationship out of desperation or need again. You don’t need anyone if you have yourself. (Of course, you can always want a new friend or significant other, but the difference between need and want is what I challenge you to ponder.) I’m far from an expert on self-love, but I’m learning and you can too.

Being Alone Can Rejuvenate You!

Let’s face it, we’re all constantly connecting with one another via email, social media, face-to-face, on the phone, and after a while it seems like we can’t escape from the noise of our loud, fast-paced society.

Sometimes we just need to go somewhere quiet and think. This is when your “alone but not lonely” superpower can kick in. Go on a hike with just the squirrels for company. Or, if you’re at work, find a quiet stairwell, close your eyes and take a deep breath. It’s amazing how just a few solitary moments with your mind, breath and body can center you again.

Being Alone Can Help Strengthen Future Relationships

Okay, so when you spend time with just yourself, you allow yourself to spend time with what makes you uncomfortable, confused or angry. When we’re with other people, we tend to ignore these issues, especially if you’re conflict averse like I am.  (I don’t like to argue or disagree because I crave connection and like-mindedness, especially when I first encounter a person.)

This is precisely why we are taught to “reflect” on science experiments in school. While observing the bubbling beaker or pursuing the fetal pig’s heart, we don’t have access to the attention it takes to aptly consider our findings. It’s the same with dates and parties and other events where we are around people. These are all life experiments, if you will, and we are too consumed with the cutting of the cake or the story of how our date’s parents met to reflect wholly on our own feelings.

But when we get home to a quiet house, we consider how Angie’s comment annoyed us, or how Bart’s description of Peru was incredible, or how David’s smile was bewitching. Those considerations are nuggets of self-learning that help us understand the sorts of experiences and relationships we want to have in our lives.

In this way, aloneness can actually save you future heartache and confusion. It can help you know better what you want. In other words, aloneness can be a prerequisite to avoiding loneliness. How’s that for irony?

The fact of the matter is: there’s no shame in being lonely. We all end up on that sad planet sometimes and my GPS sure as heck hasn’t mastered its avoidance. Neither is it wrong to like being around others. I’m an extrovert that loves people and couldn’t survive without my community of family and friends.

But sometimes people aren’t available to be with us and we would do anything to avoid defaulting to lonely.

So make a choice to look beyond the socialized attitude there is about being by ourselves, and remember that in the end it can actually help us live happier lives. And gosh darn it, don’t wait another week for your friend to commit to backpacking Europe before you buy the plane tickets or for a guy to ask you to that new Thai restaurant before you make the reservation. Go by yourself, my dear, and love every minute of it!

Photo by gizelle rivera

Exchanging Wedding Vows With My Facebook Account

(Published on HelloGiggles.com)

From Our Readers

I, take you, Facebook, to be my nosy, bothersome partner. To have and to hold you open on my iPhone during poetry class or family dinners or a friend’s confessional, from this day forward, until battery death do us part.

To hold you affectionately in the morning as I emerge from the covers, seeking the companionship of a baby sloth video or a picture of a high school acquaintance clad in a “slutty pirate” costume. I promise to search for universal truths in your endless scroll, passing the play by plays of the Red Sox game and the “I love poop” statuses until resigning to the idea that those may in fact, be our new truths.

For better or for worse, I will procure you a new banner to wear upon your virtual forehead, like a bandana of blatant individuality. Expect a pile of puppies or a “Stay Calm and Carry On” quote or a mushy couple-kissing-in-front-of-Eiffel-tower shot.

In sickness, I promise to reference you for unexpected aid, hoping someone will have a naturopathic remedy for strep throat or a recommendation for a softer brand of tissue. In health, I will take a picture of my running shoes, just so you know I’m serious about that half-marathon I signed up for.

For richer, I will exclaim about my successes to you and your followers, posting close-ups of my 14 karat engagement ring or asking for good luck on my job interview. For poorer, I will post a snapshot of my dinner of Top Raman and hash tag it as “#dinnerdoneright” and “#pleasegodsomeonehireme.”

My dear, I promise to love and cherish your lightning fast information dissemination, waste time on your feed, disapprove of your consistent misspellings, cheat on you with Pinterest, periodically deactivate, and frantically reactivate you, for as long as we both shall live.

~

I, Facebook, take you to be my lawfully wedded user. To have and to hold your attention for the hours you could’ve read Walt Whitman or gone to the gym or cooked lasagna from scratch or called your aging grandparents.

For better or worse, I will remind you of your friend’s birthdays, and allow you to send them good wishes without leaving the couch. I will create events for you to join so you remember (on occasion) to log off, remove your stale, coffee-stained pajamas and go to Suzy’s Bachelorette Party or Alex’s Walking Dead Marathon. I promise to poke your aunt and act the P.I. to confirm that the cute guy from your ECON 101 class is in fact, in a “complicated” relationship.

I promise to make you worry you’re not funny enough or pretty enough or smart enough. To make you compare your life to Claire’s or Amelia’s or Jack’s. To be that little blue icon that is ever-present and there for you, especially when you read something that just really needs to be shared, even if it already has 435 likes. I promise to twist your words into abstractions as you forget the importance of a facial expression and vocal inflection in interaction.

In sickness, I promise to blind you early and give you carpal tunnel. In health, I promise to make you feel like you’ve finally won the competition you unknowingly entered with everyone else. For richer, I promise to help you advertise yourself and network with other people in your field. I promise to be an unhealthy habit you would quit if you didn’t see it as helpful to a blossoming writer.

My dear, I promise to love and cherish your ebony cursor upon my skin, your every grammatically incoherent profundity, the sincerity inside your “lols” and the affection behind the use of kissy-faced emoticons, for as long as we both shall live.

 

Saying Goodbye to One Adventure Is Saying Hello to Another

By 

(Published on Tinybuddha.com)

Dawn of a New Day

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paulo Coehlo

When I was born, the nurse lifted me from the bed, placed me on a cold metal operating table, and prepped my umbilical cord to be severed. As my parents put it, I “screamed bloody murder” when she attended to me, then grabbed ahold of the index finger of her latex glove and pulled it clean off.

“You just wouldn’t let go,” my dad recalls, chuckling.

That often-told family tale has risen to consciousness many times during the last few months, especially when I’ve found myself overwhelmed, fearful, and grief-stricken at the task of saying goodbye.

Goodbye to my first love, each of my beloved college friends, my wonderful university and creative writing program, to the Pacific Northwest, and more importantly to a time of my life that had a big role in bearing me into the woman I am today.

Goodbye, because I picked up and moved to Berkeley, CA to explore, to live, to find new joy. As the move became more real, every “so long” brought with it the coldness of surgical steel at my back, a wet cry, an unwavering grip on those places and people I love.

The thing about letting go is that it’s unnatural to most and must be learned with great patience and persistence.

Perhaps it’s difficult because we need attachment to survive—babies need their mothers and the rest of the “village” to thrive physically and emotionally, to adjust to life beyond the womb.

But letting go is worth learning, because it means risk, and with risk comes growth.

I crave growth. I crave new experience. I crave adventure. And as much as I loved Bellingham, it wasn’t supplying me with the tools to be happy.

I want to be a well-known writer, I want to see the world, I want to learn new stories and sing songs with strangers. I just couldn’t do that in a small, bayside city of people I know well. But, the inevitability (even predictability) of this goodbye couldn’t make it any easier.

Intentionally letting go is not any less excruciating than doing so subconsciously, and I would be remiss if I told you so. It requires we savor not only sweet beginnings, but also bitter endings. It requires we face fear and grief in the face, rather than burying them deep.

The day I left Bellingham, I sat in the middle of the floor of my empty apartment bawling. Whereas we are taught to stay strong, to hold tears in, to look forward with no impulse to go back, I allowed myself a moment to be achingly present in the memories and attachment I have to that place.

I remembered drinking wine on floor with my roommates until the wee hours; writing story after story on my bedroom carpet; lying in bed and talking most the night with the first boy I’ve ever really loved.

Okay, so maybe I’m a sap. Or perhaps even a masochist. But I’ve found that if you give fear and grief the time of day, gratefulness and joy greet you on the other side.

Endings just want to be acknowledged, just want you to pause and remember how beautiful life can be. In that way, how you deal with endings can become a litmus test for how mindfully you are living.

So, I challenge you to see change not with dread, but as a chance to remember how beautiful your life has been, is, and will continue to be. And whenever you say “so long” keep an eye out for that new hello. It will come.

I know it’s true as I sit in a sunny Berkeley coffee shop writing, musing on the courage it took to get me here and watching a little boy in denim overalls holding tight to the hand of his “Papa!” To all this new adventure, joy and love, I say hello, hello, hello.

Smart Girls In The Arts: Becca Stevens

Singer, composer and guitarist Becca Stevens was once described by the New York Times as “a best-kept secret” with her hypnotic style of songwriting that produces a transposing, immersive experience for the listener. This quality, coupled with her subtle, haunting voice, leaves listeners in a beguiling daydream. So, forgive me, New York, while I let your best-kept secret out of the proverbial bag.

beccasmall2

Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to two musician parents, music was Stevens’ mother tongue, a language she learned early and spoke often. At two, Stevens was performing with her family’s band, The Tune Mammals, and soon after, Stevens began acting, dancing and involving herself in any performing arts opportunities she could get her hands on.

“My siblings and I were surrounded by music all of the time, “ Stevens said. “My parents are both singers so it was common to hear them rehearsing classical pieces at the piano. Whether cleaning the kitchen after dinner or driving somewhere in the car, my parents always played an eclectic array of great music. Irish and Appalachian folk music particularly feels like home to me.”

Yet despite its prevalence in her life, Stevens didn’t always know she’d devote her life to being professional musician. “For a long time, I wanted to (and thought I could) do it all, including managing my own zoo where all the apes and monkeys would be really happy and let me hold them whenever I wanted. [But] I was always at my happiest and most fulfilled when I was being creative, whether I was in art class, writing poetry, singing or dancing. Over time, my monkey business was trumped by my passion for performing.”

beccagroupsmall

Around the age of 16, whilst eyeball-deep in her high school classical guitar studies at North Carolina School of the Arts, Stevens began focusing all of her energies towards a career in music. For college, Stevens went on to study Jazz vocal performance and composition at The New School in New York, where she graduated in 2007.

“I recognized singing as my strongest calling and that fusing voice with the guitar was my dream vehicle for self-expression,” Stevens said, emphasizing the importance she places in sharing her self with others.

“Creating art that inspires me, opening my heart to new experiences and being grateful for all that I have helps me stay true to myself,“ Stevens said, “…and making friends with [my] inner critic. Listen to what she has to say, but take it with a grain of salt. Then put her critiques aside and finish the song. Judge it after. It’s easier to see when you’re on the other side if the critiques were useful, or just evil brain noise.”

Stevens plans to spend her life writing and recording music, and wouldn’t have it any other way. The Becca Stevens Band has released two CDs, Tea by Sea (2008) andWeightless (2011), and are currently working on a new record coming out in the fall of 2014. In addition to recording, Stevens is doing much songwriting and touring with her band, and collaborating with other artists. Sure, it’s a busy life, but as she says, “it willbeccasmallalways be my most authentic and fulfilled path.”

For more information on Becca Stevens and her music visit: http://www.beccastevens.com