Interview with Adam Schluter: Hello, From a Stranger.

August 24, 2022: Transcribed Zoom Interview

Natascha : Hello Readers,

My name is Natascha with Humboldt counties lifestyle blog, Little Lost Forest. Today I will be talking to Adam Schluter, producer, and photographer of Hello, From a Stranger.

Hi Adam.

Adam: Hey Natascha, thanks for having me.

Natascha: How are you feeling today?

Adam: I’m feeling- I’m feeling pretty good. Honestly, I think you saw I had open heart surgery like two months ago and I just had some weird ups and downs but it’s summertime, it’s wedding season, we’re filming the show, it’s Monday Night Dinners, I’ve just been pushing it too much. I think I’ve just been an introvert crashing, hard but other than that life’s good.

Natascha: You’re looking great and you’re spreading positive energy, you are much appreciated.

Adam: Thanks, Natascha.

Natascha: Where are you talking to us from?

Adam: I’m in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

Natascha: Cool. How’s the weather out there?

Adam: It’s magic, perfect. Like 85 sunny but in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho you have like three months of good weather, June, July, August. September, October are usually pretty nice. You never really know. But then you have literal six months of deep pure winter. There’s six hours of sunshine during the day. It’s brutal. This area is perfect.

Natascha: Do you stay in the area year round?

Adam: No, fuck, no. That’s why I photograph weddings during the summer. I make all my income for the whole year in those three months and then I have nine months off, so I like to spend like one month in the winter because, it’s very ideal like a hallmark town. Everything shuts down, you walk everywhere. It’s like ten feet of snow a month. It’s just gorgeous. But you know if I’m not working, and I don’t have routines in place it’s really easy to succumb to seasonal depression and my mental health stuff. So, it allows me that time to travel out into the world and focus on my project which gives me a lot of purpose.

Natascha: I can understand that we have a year around cloud coverage here in Eureka. Winters can be harsh.

Adam: What do you mean year around?

Natascha: We’re right there by the bay. Right there in Eureka, not in southern Humboldt or in Oregon but right where I’m at, clouds accumulated by the water and were stuck with it.

Adam: That’s tough.

Natascha: Can you tell my audience a little about Hello, From a Stranger?

Adam: Six years ago, I lived in Mexico and I wanted to move to a place with more opportunity. I was in a long-term relationship with a girl that I loved like crazy- with all my heart. I thought we were going to get married. So, we got sponsored by this outdoor company to travel the Pacific Coast highway from the southern tip of Mexico to Alaska and pick the best place to live out of the three countries. 22,000 miles, I spent ten months on the PCH, and I chose this town where I’m living now, Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

We spent ten months together. Every day was bliss. We were on vacation, everything was cool. We were both travelers, so everything was cool. We were running from some demons. She was really running from some demons. She was getting over drugs and alcoholism, and a whole bunch of some darkness we were running from.

So, once we slowed down and we moved into this home that I’m in right now we literally had nothing, we only had enough money for the prorated first month’s rent and the deposit- we had nothing left for groceries, for food, we had no jobs, didn’t know anyone. But we made it work, got jobs, figured it out, obviously. Once we got more comfortable those demons came back and it pulled us apart. It came to a spot where I couldn’t do it anymore and we ended up breaking up. I was in a town where I didn’t know a single person and I was way far away from my family and friends, and I moved here with this girl that I thought I was going to marry and be with for the rest of my life and now she’s gone.

I was living in Mexico for three and a half years and I didn’t have a phone, so I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to make meaningful relationships without technology in America, especially. It’s easier in third world countries. I finally hit a wall. I was going into the first winter out here and I was suicidal. I was thinking about suicide, I was actually planning it. And one day, I really just didn’t want to do it to my family. So, one day I was just looking at a world map, just kind of dreaming, still very broke, not very much money. I was waiting tables at a restaurant, but I knew I was going to die if I stayed in this house stuck in my thoughts. I just said fuck it I’ll just do what scares me the most. If it confirms my fears that I’m alone and the worlds not there, then I can still commit suicide and give up but maybe it will wake me up and get me out of my head.

I booked the cheapest flight the furthest I could away, which was Copenhagen, Denmark and almost no money left, again. I was homeless in my late twenties. It never bothered me. I’ve always lived a very minimal life guy. I don’t mind being uncomfortable. I was like fuck I need to sleep somewhere, and I need transportation. The trains- the trains are all over Europe. There’s one company, Euro Rail, that does 95% of all trains in Europe. I just started hounding them to sponsor me for it, I didn’t have a big portfolio, it was just an idea, and we went down to Fort Bay to ask the group that sponsored part of the trip. Okay I can sleep on the trains; I can move around on the trains. From there my only plan was to find the beauty in the world and try to wake myself up creatively and do what scared me the most, which was to say hello to people and to interact with people. It’s easy as a photographer to be behind the camera and photograph stuff from a distance. I was trying to wake up. I was really trying to wake myself up. I knew I had to really challenge myself.

I’m an introvert. I’m terrified of rejection. So, I was like what is the scariest thing I can do? It’s like just go say hello to strangers and try to have conversations with them. That was the base of this whole thing. Now we’re twenty-one countries in thousands and thousands of strangers, been published three times by National Geographic, there’s a Ted Talk. There’s a book and we have a second book coming out on it this year. We started filming the show last year. We’ll have a show coming up here too. It’s still a work in progress. Mental health is not like one and done, alright I’ve solved this. No, I need to continue moving this project forward. It’s because give me a lot of purpose and it reminds me of the things I need to do for my own mental health and just keep trying.

Natascha: Your story gives me goosebumps. Congratulations on moving this project forward.

Adam: Thanks, Natascha.

Natascha: Of course. Out of all the creative outlets you could have pursued what influenced you to talk with strangers?

Adam: I think- A) I was incredibly alone. I felt incredibly alone but I was surrounded by people. It was like how the fuck does that make sense- I’m sorry, I guess you can take that out- I’m surrounded by people, I feel completely alone. We have social media and people around us, but there’s no in-person depth of those relationships, and that’s hard. It’s easy to send a text but it’s hard to sit with someone. It can be awkward sometimes. And ask for help, sometimes, and to give help when it is asked of you. They really need to learn this, because the technology, it doesn’t matter how many friends I have on that. It makes me feel worse. It makes me feel more alone. Because it’s not in person. The cool thing about this, I was actually so afraid, the first night I was throwing up in my room. I was deathly terrified. And there was no turning back. I didn’t have the money to go back. So, I put it all on the line and it saved my life, but I made up this script because I thought I better sound cool approaching strangers. I have to sound like I have this all thought out and put together. The script was on approaching and saying hello to strangers all over the world but only if I saw something beautiful and, in this moment, this is so beautiful would you mind if I took your photograph? That sounds aliquant and cool. but what I found was that when I approached these strangers you have a millisecond to earn their trust. You have to decide if they can trust me, if I’m trying to sell you something, see if I’m trying to get something from you and if you think that I’m bullshit then in that millisecond you’ll just walk away. You’ll never stop to talk to me. I found that script was dis-ingenuine. And so, through hundreds of rejections. I was getting rejected 90% plus when I was using the script. I just became more and more vulnerable. I was tired and beat down, I was still trying to figure this out. And the more vulnerable I became- you know I thought as a man it was dangerous to be vulnerable, weak to be vulnerable and foolish, obviously. The more vulnerable I became, everyone started trusting me and everyone started opening up to me. Strangers are crying on my shoulder five minutes after I said hello to them, it’s like what the fuck is going on. I didn’t have to do anything. I’m awkward and goofy. I don’t have the right thing to say, there’s moments when I don’t know what to say but like- it’s read as authentic and that’s all it takes.

Natascha: Cool. How do you choose your subjects? How do you decide that a moment is beautiful?

Adam: Honestly just pure curiosity. I love to pay attention to the world around me. There are absolutely no rules to it. It’s never forced, there’s days where I’m like I should get some stories today and I’ll go out and I just don’t find anything that inspires me that day but it’s just mostly I try to inspire people to put their phones down and notice the world around them and I feel that if people did that- come here [grabs cat]- I feel that if people do that and get off of the technology I think we’ll have a much more realistic, the actual beauty of the world around us, no fluff, no over optimism, reality by itself is pretty fucking beautiful. It’s pretty fucking special. And so, I just go out into the world, I’ll pay attention and I’ll see something that makes me curious. A lot of times it’s like a person reading a book in a park, it’s a person covered in tattoos, some of that sticks out. But I’ll say this, I never approach anybody that is staring at a phone.

Natascha: [laughs]

Adam: I don’t try to be cynical about that, it’s just really there’s nothing interesting about that and I already feel that your head is going to be completely busy if I say hello to you and it’s just not my deal. I prefer people that are doing something else.

Natascha: While abroad how did foreigners view you as an American?

Adam: Yeah, really cool question. The main reason above all why I wanted to do this internationally is that I wanted to do it in places where I didn’t speak the same language, I don’t look the same as the other people that are with me. I’m doing it all in countries that I have never been to. That I don’t know the customs, the rules, the cultures, and what I’m really trying to show above all, now, is the power of vulnerability and the crucial necessity of intuition. Those two things together are enough to open the entire world to help you navigate it.

I found me by being myself, being vulnerable and being curious, it’s also- people like to see curiosity because you can see that I’m excited about something I’m passionate about it. People open up to me with that. I’ve been in some of the most complicated situations in countries around the planet, like the Jamaican story, I did this for six weeks in Jamaica. I would always be the minority. I wanted to be the minority, as a white guy to be the minority- unlike in America where I’m not. I wanted to really stick out, I wanted to earn that respect and not be able to hide at all and that’s a great example of that. We never felt those differences. We never noticed it. We’re sitting there, we’re not talking about things that divide us, we’re not talking about things that are different, we’re not talking about politics or religion, we’re talking about life and humanity and emotions and relationships and stuff that as humans we all share. Whatever the differences are we never notice them because they really don’t matter, we’re talking about real human stuff and in those conversations we both feel very human together. I’ve always been welcomed. I have only had one bad situation ever out of thirty-eight countries I think I’ve been in throughout my life. This is all spontaneous traveling. I only have plans for the first two nights, to get established and then it’s up to me to meet the communities, interact with the world, leave my comfort zone, and let them lead me to where to go next. I am very very vulnerable in these spots. And they do have chances too but I’m intuitive and that’s crucial but I’m also, the world is a pretty damn good place, it really is.

Natascha: You must be pretty street smart as well.

Adam: It comes with experience.

Natascha: If you don’t talk about current affairs, religion, or politics, do you avoid these subjects or does it not come up, does it not cause people pain and other emotions when you approach them?  

Adam: I try not to set any rules to it. The problem is if we get into a political conversation accidently let’s say, I’m just very honest. I don’t know enough about politics to have a strong opinion about it and that’s by choice. Also, I’m not saying that everyone should be like that, that’s just how I am. I haven’t owned a TV in ten years. I haven’t watched the news in six months. I just blissfully go out into the world to go see the real story and see what it is for myself. I just don’t know a lot about it. If someone is- the problem with politics or religion- people have already made up their minds. They’ve already created their identities. They already know their speech, they know exactly-there’s no balance to that. Most of the time, like 95% of the time, there’s no doubts to those conversations. It’s I know this, and this is this, and that’s how it’s going to be. There’s nothing for me to learn from in that. I learn a little bit but there’s nothing for them to learn also. Those conversations aren’t very connected. If they do come up, I’ll stop it or I’ll let someone do a rant. If it just continues to not be balanced, I’ll just wish them a nice day and walk away.

Natascha: Are there any common topics or themes that arise in conversations?

Adam: No not at all, honestly. A very broad one, I love to talk about relationships. I love to talk about what inspires people, what they do outside of their jobs that give them inspiration or purpose. I love to talk about families, because I’m really trying to learn about those things. A lot of this is me being curious to help myself learn how to continue growing. I’ve never been married, I don’t have kids, I would love those things. I’ve been through some really tough relationships and I’m trying to learn from other people on how to make sense of that but it’s also a way for me to learn about myself too, in conversation. I’ll tell you this- the secret sauce to this is people know when I’m talking to them that my mind is totally clear. They know that I’m listening. They know that I am genuinely there, present in that conversation and that’s what allows people to open up to me so much because they know that I’m listening. If I had bullet point questions, oh yeah there’s that sound snippet – okay, next! They won’t tell you anything. And that’s fair, I shouldn’t. I’m not really listening. But I really am listening and there’s no format to the conversation and that’s why they go so deep.

Natascha: What are some fears or passions you’ve heard of?

Adam: That’s a great question. Passions are very individual and unique. I’ve just heard millions from juggling to painting to, I hear lots of music, to being a mom. Really beautiful stuff. I just love to hear all the stuff that people are passionate about because it inspires me to continue trying to find them myself. Fear is a lot more- there’s definitely a dread in the entire world right now of fear about life as we know it changing so dramatically so as a global humanity, as a global society, whatever you want to call it, were breaking apart. And so there’s a lot of loneliness that is felt all over the world, everywhere I go. There’s less in third world countries because those are really built on relationships because there’s poverty and poverty doesn’t have much besides the relationships. There’s deep, deep, deep understanding being communicated about technology creating a bit of a chaos that we don’t know what to do about. And the world’s very scared of that. What it’s doing to relationships to communication, friendships to love, and daring. The addiction, people don’t really know what it’s going to continue doing to us. It’s just taking us away from each other in person, so I think we’re going to see a lot of the damage that it causes.

Natascha: Thank you for sharing. Can we talk about your hardware for a second? What is your favorite camera and lens for portrait photography?

Adam: Great question. I always use only one lens ever, for my entire project and it is a Sigma R rig 50 ml 1.4 lens. I’m cheap and I travel light. I just mastered that lens. And I’ve always used ninety-nine cameras. I’ve had a Nikon, D7000, but this project has always been on the D750 and I moved it to the Nikon Z6 last year and it’s made my job incredibly easy. What’s so helpful about having the exact same camera and lens for the entire thing is- I’ve always seen the world in pictures. I’m cursed as a photographer, a lot of us are. I already see the exact picture. I don’t need to take out the camera, I don’t need to take out the lens, I don’t need to look through it. I know the lens so well, it’s like in my eyes so well that it saves me a lot of time and also, I already know exactly what the picture is going to be. If it is something real quick, like holy shit this is an amazing shot, I can get it in to take a picture in two seconds I can get the picture and then we can get into conversation. It helps me a lot.

Natascha: Nifty, cheap and trustworthy.

Adam: Yes.

Natascha: I know we’ve talked about this a bit but what is your stance on the social media dilemma?

Adam: I think that it’s the end of the absolute foundation of relationships that is absolutely critical to us being able to move forward. We’re already seeing it, I mean suicides of despair are down to the age of eight now. There’s eight-year old’s committing suicide. It is so heartbreaking.

An example of that is, I was photographing a wedding and there was this adorable girl, she was eight years old too. She had this little dress her mom gave her and we were all running around. And I said, Hey! Let me get this shoot, it is such a beautiful shot of you. I went to take the pictures and she says, no! Not this side of my face. I only like this side of my face. And I was like, you’re eight years old, where did you get it? She was like, my mom says it all the time. And I see it on TikTok all the time. Children are mimicking what they’re seeing.

I didn’t know when it got cool to be so self-critical. Somehow it got cool for people to feel ugly and talk about themselves poorly. If we don’t have self-confidence then- it’s not ego, it’s self-confidence. It’s like pride in the person that you are. You don’t have to have the best body or be the most beautiful person in the world. Just being okay with who you are. It takes some self-work and that’s a gift we should give ourselves and to the world around us but right now that’s just not the norm. The norm is self-criticism, self-deprecating, belittling ourselves. That’s a bit of cancer to other people around us because then other people around us are like hey that persons beautiful, then I’m ugly. They think they’re ugly then I have to be ugly. There’s no end to that.

So that all being said, with this insane addiction that didn’t exist a few years ago, where people wake up with their phones and they go to bed with their phones, everything in the present moment has been lost. And obviously, the less present we are, the more anxious we are, more depressed we are, the more chaotic we are, we’re not planning on the future, we’re not thinking about people that are right in front of us in that moment everything is expedient, everything needs to be fast. And the most important parts in life are not fast. Love is not fast; relationships are not fast. Like communication is not supposed to be fast. And now I feel like I need to jam in a thirty-minute scheduled time with my friends just to catch up on how life is. We can’t live like that; people are dying because of that and have been. It’s just getting worse and worse every day.

Natascha: Thank you. How do you suggest breaking down barriers within a community?

Adam: I think that’s an easy one, I mean A) barriers are obviously constructed on pride, again, whatever barriers have come in between connections has to come from us swallowing our pride first. And so, the only reason that I wouldn’t go out and try to connect with the community and the people around me is if I was being prideful. Like oh man if they reject me, I’m going to be hurt by it or I’m going to be mad about it, so we think about ourselves so much that we end up not doing what the world needs us to do. To help the world out also, so.

For me, breaking down those barriers is forming relationships and conversations that are vulnerable, authentic, but also not focusing on those things that divide us. I mean, because that is just too easy to do and those are based on identity. Not based on who that person actually is. A lot of people right now with social media, all the stimulus and technology, they don’t really know who they are, they don’t really give themselves the time to find out who they are. They latch on to an identity, this is who I am, this is how I think, this is what’s right, this is what’s wrong. Again, there’s no balance to that. Focus on what’s behind all of that. It’s like who are you really and what do you love? What scares you? What inspires you? And not just question, question, question, because that’s not balanced. It’s like telling them about you also, like really having a balanced conversation. It allows people to have this foundation of trust, that all those barriers just melt away.

Natascha: Good. How do you see conversations with strangers as a healing tool? How can a person overcome their own barriers and talk to a stranger?

Adam: Yup, well however to overcome your own barriers, it’s kind of related to the question before. But again, just try. Like that’s honestly all I can say. What do you have to lose other than your pride? Just try. Hey, I want to talk to that girl. Hi, my name’s Adam. How are you? Hi my name’s Natascha. Nice to meet you. Hey ya’- I’m really busy right now, I can’t really talk. Okay, no worries. And then you learn a little bit. Have a nice day, I just wanted to say hello.

Also, I’d say appear to people without expectations and without an agenda because people can feel an agenda, too. So that’s important, to have an open personality when you approach someone. I think the most healing part of conversations with strangers is this understanding that I saw you. Everybody sees you, and we know that everybody sees us. So rarely do people interact with the world around them that even though everyone sees us, we still feel alone. And so, here’s an idea, I saw you, I said hello to you, and I was vulnerable with you. It’s very scary to do but now I know that you see me. And now we’re going to have a real conversation and we’re both going to walk away from that feeling less alone and more connected to the world around us but also understanding that each and every day we can do that. It might be hard, it might not work, it might be awkward sometimes. But we can do that. So now we have that understanding, we’re back in our home or apartment or whatever and our mental health is having a bad day we know what to do about it. Now if we do it, that is up to us but we at least know something that we can do to help.

Natascha: Do… you believe in BigFoot?

Adam: Oh, that’s a cool question.

Natascha: We are big believers here in Humboldt County.

Adam: I was going to say no. But I’ll just say no because I don’t know enough about it. To not know definitively but know I haven’t researched and don’t know enough about it. I watched I’m All Gas No Breaks on the BigFoot rally, it was pretty revealing but I don’t know enough about it. Do you believe in BigFoot?

Natascha: Yeah, yeah. They are interstellar type of beings that can be- not necessary here all the time, kind of jumps through dimensions type deal. I have another Humboldt County question for you, any stories that relate to pot farms for marijuana enthusiasts.

Adam: Oh man, I can do a whole movie on my time there. I mean the whole thing was so wild. We lived in Clear Lake, but it was off the grid in the wild, this was like twelve years ago. It was like the wild west. Those people are recreational. It was like you can have ninety-nine plants with a doctor’s order, if you had one hundred it was a federal felony so like ninety-nine plants. There were no police because Fish and Game Conservation were the closest thing to police that we had. You’re on your own fucking island. Out in the middle of nowhere. Lots of money in the house, lots of weed plants in the house, you have guns in the house, it was wild. And, toward harvest time there’s like no protection, you know, there’s no regulation. Everyone would do these twelve-hour shifts and there’s people sleeping on patios with shotguns. There were these two sixteen-year-old kids that were out there, and they came out on four wheelers. Not on our farm but the neighboring farms, grabbed a bunch of plants and the people from the farm chased them down and the kids accidently drove off the cliff on the four wheelers and killed both of them. It’s the wild west. There’s a lot of- you probably want more of an optimistic story, but you know.

Natascha: That’s a common story unfortunately.

Adam: Yeah, it is. A lot of boredom really, so fucking boring. You’re trimming ten hours a day, and it was before cell phones were big. You get bored of it. Everybody’s on drugs, a lot of people are on drugs because of the boredom, and I never did drugs. I smoked pot and ate mushrooms. I love those two things, a lot. But I’ve never done hard drugs. And everyone’s on some real hardcore drugs. We had people overdosing. One of our closest friends, out there, OD’d and died. It’s just boredom. People really don’t know what the fuck to do. They’re really just sitting in the house together doing nothing at all. Every once in a while, there will be cool stuff. Like one of the owners of the farm who would never talk to us like the trimmers and the people in it, but he’d come in and he was this very ominous figure. He was nice. He’d go up to the kitchen and sterilize every single thing in the kitchen and nobody was ever allowed to go toward the kitchen. He would put on Grateful Dead, and he would stand there for like twelve hours and he’d just be silent. You know never say a word. We’re all feeling his presence. And then he would walk away without a word, and we’d never see him again. So, there’s just interesting characters.

Natascha: Yeah, yup. My zoom is cutting me short. It says I have three minutes remaining unless I upgrade to pro, which was unexpected. Can you just tell us what you plan on doing next?

Adam: In my personal life I am starting to date for the first time in my life. Really trying to figure out relationships. It’s kind of complicated for me, for the reasons that we talked about before. With my show, my project, we just sold forty percent of it to a major production studio and now we have a major team that is taking, really my team- which is just my director and my camera man, two close friends of mine, and were all merging forces. The next six weeks we are creating our new trailer and we’re taking that too market to sell the show. Which we expect it to sell. Hopefully in the next two to three months we’ll have the show sold and you guys will be able to see what it looks like.

But for my Monday Night Dinners, concept which I do in just Coeur D’Alene, I’m going to be taking it on the road this winter. The idea is to put me in a new city, new country, new place, anywhere in the world. I have two weeks to be there. I have to meet all the strangers but everyone that I meet, every stranger that I met and have a story, I’m going to invite them to have dinner on the end of that trip, two weeks down the line because I always wanted to leave the cities and countries more connected after I leave because, you know, I’m meeting these people and then I just leave. I want to put you all around a table together and I want you to meet each other too. Because of my time there, because of all of our time together, we’re just connecting the world, bringing it a little closer together with every place we visit. Hello, from a Stranger is merging with Monday Night Dinners and that would be the actual show. Some really cool stuff. I’m very excited for them.

Natascha: Alright Adam. Thank you so much for sharing with us. These are some beautiful projects you got going on that are very inspiring and feel good. Looking through your art makes me feel- good.

Adam: Thank you, I appreciate you looking at it and I appreciate this time I really do! It’s an honor and an opportunity. I just want to spread it and remind people that they can do this too. I actually need them to do it because I’m only one person and it’s a big world out there.   

Natascha: Thank you, readers, for checking in at Little Lost Forest. Please check out our IG @littlelostforestart. You can find Adam Schluter at hellofromastranger.com and purchase his book at hellofromastranger.com/orderthebook. 100% of all sales go back to the humanitarian mission.

Malakai Turned One!

Malakai

Last year on August 10, 2021, my husband, Jeremy, delivered Malakai, at our home in the seaside town of Eureka, California. I am very grateful for the beautiful experience and the baby it brought me. Malakai is developing quickly for his age and is rather a large (2-3T/tall) boy. He is kind and plays well with others. Malakai’s birth has also been a transformational experience for me; I have found myself much more organized and future-focused. I have taken up business classes and organizational skills I didn’t have before. I had a summer off from substitute teaching and played in the sun with my children going from one campsite to the next, one town to the next. 

It was a beautiful mothers day in May when my son started repeating his first word, “Dada.” The ramblings of “Da Da Da Da” went on for months until Halyaya (his sister) and I couldn’t help but reply, “I am not dada!” Toward the end of the summer, my son started saying, “Mama.” I might close the door behind me, and he will stand with his arms outstretched, screaming, “Ma ma! Ma ma!” Or he will be in a sour mood and ask to be held with his hands opening and closing and a crying plea “Mama, Mama,” snuggling his head into my chest and rubbing his nose against my blouse. This little victory was exciting for me, just as much as his little first step, which led him to run through the house with other children or play outside in the backyard. 

Malakai started eating food which felt like it took forever as my friend’s babies were being fed bananas, strawberries, and avocados, but Malakai refused it all. He eats meals with us, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He loves snacks. Like Halaya, he prefers warm foods over cold foods. On my birthday, two days after his, Malakai fell into the fireplace and got a cut on his eye that bled profusely. We rushed him to the ER, and by the time we got there, he didn’t seem fazed by it. He is one tough cookie. 

I love the community I have met, the friends and acquaintances my son draws in at festivals or parks. Even at the grocery store, I can have a sour attitude, and a lady will approach me and comment on the kindness in my son’s eyes or how much they love his smile. At his daycare, where I picked up a shift or two over the summer, I watched as his cheerfulness and playfulness spread amongst the teachers and infants. It will be hard for me to return to work and place my one-year-old in daycare in a week when summer comes close. Halaya, Malakai, and I have had two months of intensive bonding.  

Even though we are no longer breastfeeding, Malakai still cosleeps with us. My husband and I want him to sleep in the cradle, but it is hard for me mostly to separate from him. He no longer sleeps next to us but more like against us, on top of us; sometimes, we find him at our feet. He will whimper or cry in the night, and one of us will get him a bottle. I love to soothe his cries. I expect that the cosleeping will be coming to an end shortly. 

Now that Malakai is one, and I look back, I had thought the first year would be more challenging. I was surprised to have gained somewhat of life back, to continue to have a healthy relationship with my husband, and still have time to spend quality time with my daughter. Even though I have to commit more time to raising my child, I have learned to cut out certain times of the day to get things done, like writing my blog. Things that are harder than I assumed would be going out in public or leaving my children with someone else to watch. If I were to do it again, I would have breastfed longer, introduced solids sooner, stuck to using cloth diapers more often, and maybe would have been less eager to go out in the town. But in all, it’s just been great, and I couldn’t be happier with the little family we have created. 

Abundant Self-Love Spell

Practicing paganism.

Photo by Yan Krukov

Burn four candles in each direction.

In meditation, say to yourself,

What makes you feel most alive?

I want to ask you a few questions, and while doing so, I will give you my answers as an example.

First, sit and take a deep breath.

Now…

What makes you happy?

            (ex. I am happy being with my tribe

            when I am showing love,

            and when I am being productive.)

Now…

What really makes you happy?

            (ex. I am really happy when I am surrounded in nature. When I am in ceremony. When people around me are getting along. Also, being in trance.)

What change would you like to see in the world?

            (ex. I would like to see people live with less anxiety.)

            Take a deep breath, hold, hold, and breath out. Repeat those three times.

What do you want?

            (ex. I want to be separated from the stress and needs of society. I want to be with my loved ones living self sustainably.)

What does your deeper self-desire?

            (ex. I desire to draw inspiration from my loved ones, creating deep, passionate art while living in “flow.”)

            (ex2. My deeper self-desire to apply my education to feed, cloth, and provide for my tribe while spending as much time with them meanwhile being heard and appreciated.)

What puts you in a trance like state?

            (ex. Reading puts me in a trance like state. Dancing, music, sex, and movement put me in a trance like state. Massage and touch can get me in a trance like state. Art, poi, yoga and sitting in meditation help me fall into a trance like state. Being in the middle of the desert under the stars, a fire these things contribute to a trance like state.)

            What are you afraid of?

            (ex. I’m afraid of how my words and actions hurt myself and others. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid I’m not good enough.)

            What are you chasing but not achieving?

            (ex. I am chasing higher education, luxuries, and travel.)

            Who are you?

            (ex. I am a woman, living in America with a loving tribe. I love nature, animals and kids. I am a writer and an artist)

            Where do you want?

            (ex. I aspire to be a published artist and to work for animation. I want to spend my life traveling and living self-sustainably. To have an abundance of knowledge.)

            How are you going to get there?

            (I’m budgeting my money. I’m giving 100% at work and I work whenever I can. I have a savings. I am practicing my art. I am committing to a higher education, when I can afford it. )

            Now sit in meditation and allow yourself to transcend into your future self. Letting your passion and the motions fall into your skin and settle within you. You have the ability to become the person you desire to be. You do not give up. You see the adventure within.

Thank you for reading my Waxing Gibbous moon meditation. Coming soon, I will be interviewing Adam Schluter CEO of Hello, From a Stranger. A man full of the stories of strangers spreading positivity, acceptance and truth.

LGBTQ in Children’s Animation

Living in a liberal state, I am surprised to hear the uproar in the mom’s’ community on LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) in Disney, Pixar, and children’s animation in general. Children’s’ cartoons have always had heterosexual lead roles. As society becomes more accepting of people in our community, diversity is inching onto the big screen. Yet, some parents insist that homosexuality is being pushed onto their children. For years the princess will one day meet her prince was the “only way” that a child’s movie would play out. I want to ask, “How long are we going to keep homosexuality in the closet?”

In 2013, the hit movie “Frozen” came out, a coming-of-age animation about two princesses, Elsa and Anna, one of whom is overcome with the powers of winter. Frozen was the first Disney movie to portray witchcraft in a positive light, a significant progression compared to Disney’s bias towards Christianity. The hit song “Let it Go” was said to have been an innuendo for coming “out of the closet” and a piece on self-acceptance. Even though I did not find any correlation with to homosexuality in this film, this song started the buzz. When will Disney include everyone in their movies, not just heterosexuals? 

In 2020, the Pixar animation “Onward” was released with a butch lesbian supporting character as the father figure. By no means was this character a leading role. Now with the cat out of the bag, we’re not all made to fit into generic categories. I witnessed mother’s’ taking offense to this character like she was invading their children’s perspective on how they might feel about themselves. If this is the root cause, then these parents also need to reflect on how they view their children, and whether they would love them if they are different. Perhaps that is what Disney has tried to teach people through diversity in their movies: to love everyone and not just those that fit into your category. 

“When The Proud Family premiered on Disney Channel in 2001, it was not only the first original animated show on the channel but one of the few all-ages animation programs on television at the time centered around a Black family.”

(-Radulovic, polygon.com)

Bringing backThe Proud Family” was nostalgic to all 90’s babies. What kind yet strong-headed lead would we want on television for our kids, other than 14-year-old Penny ProudDisney brought it back asLouder and Prouder,” and accompanying the Proud family, in a supporting role is a gay couple with non-binary siblings. They brought in voice actors that also identify as their characters—bringing work and awareness to the community. I am an open space, but it pains me to hear other mothers take offense to this rising trend and the feeling that we can’t be honest with our children about treating people as equals. Let your children follow their hearts instead of making them feel like they have to hide. 

So on that note, is it just a rising trend? This is a rebuttal I heard the other day. “I would be okay with it [homosexuality in animation] if they [animation studios] weren’t doing it to make money from a fad.” 

Well, I hate to break it to you, but as a bisexual female, I have been waiting my whole life for homosexuality to be in children’s animation. I honestly found heterosexuality kind of gross growing up. Seeing the go-to man marry a woman scenario over and over; got me sick. There are so many things we should be protecting our children from,: war, violence, hatred, negativity, but love? If we shield our children from love, what kind of hope are we giving them for the future?

Lastly, Disney released a short film called “Out,” about a man having difficulty telling his parents he’s in a relationship with another man. He switches lives with his dog and they play cat-and-mouse, almost exposing his live-in boyfriend to his folks. My husband didn’t like the movie when he saw it. The situation was all too familiar to him. We’ve all heard of the struggle LGBTQ people may have coming out to their parents. He wasn’t seeing what I was seeing. This was the first step. There it’s “out,” it’s been spoken. For a story to be told, it has to build from the beginning. Otherwise, the audience may not understand the world’s laws, but here it was. I would expect Disney to prep their audience to understand the struggle of queerness through this simple short, so that more complex characters can come into play in the future. Instead of immediately judging the characters, the audience may show compassion. We all live on this earth together. 

Radulovic, P. Feb 17, 2022. Polygon.com, The Proud Family creators: ‘There’s not just one view of Blackness or a Black family.’ https://www.polygon.com/disney-plus/22939385/proud-family-louder-and-prouder-creator-interview

Camping with Young Ones

Last month I went on three camping trips with the kids, to the Summer Music and Arts Festival, Grizzly Creek campsite, and with my partner to Ruth Lake. We had a great time and no one got sunburned! Here are a few quick tips on how I made it camping for a month with my kiddos!

The Sumer Music and Arts Festival was the hardest of the trips. We were vending and had a fairly large pop-up behind our booth but it’s not easy keeping a ten-month old in the shade. He enjoyed walking around and listening to music. I brought ear muffs for the kiddos so they could enjoy the stage and a wagon to pull the baby in. We were placed next to a yoga dome that was never built so there was less traffic our way. My daughter got poison oak in her eye on Sunday and we had to rush to the ER and they dosed her with steroids. I’d say we reacted properly and got her help as soon as it was obvious the swelling wasn’t going to go down with over-the-counter drugs. I came back to pack up without the kids. We brought lots of water to this event and had friends camping with us to help along the way.

Grizzly Creek Campsite we were able to cook on the fire. Check-in took a little while but the kids played with the freshwater spickets. Friends came and went and our dog Zed protected the campsite. Halaya set up her first tent which was a huge accomplishment. I took the kids swimming and Malakai had a blast in the water. He wasn’t a fan of his LifeVest but we had a lot of fun in the shallow area. I didn’t bring enough formula and the surrounding stores didn’t have any but I was able to contact a friend to bring it before it was too late! Camping with the kids isn’t nearly as hard as it might seem. The baby wakes up twice a night and I have extra bottles made. I made the bottles with hot water but I might have made a bottle or two during the day without making a fire and heating it. We brought baby sunscreen and a little sun hat. Halaya read to me at night and wrote a haiku in her journal. On Sunday we went hiking and explored the forest and river. I used my Ergobaby backpack to comfortably hike with the baby. It was a path off the road that doesn’t look like it gets a lot of foot traffic and leads to a beautiful clover field.

My husband got jealous of all our camping and wanted to come with us on an excursion. He loves to fish, so we went to Ruth Lake. Ruth Lake is beautiful. You can see the trees on the hilltop are burned from recent fires and have a white tint. The valley had come back, with lots of greenery and life. We wanted to camp at Boy Scout Camp but so did everyone else because it was full. I would recommend getting a reservation for that one, word says it has great fishing. Instead, we settled for the first campsite Fir Cove Campsite. The sites were more spread out than the other sites, there was easy access to the water and hiking trails. We brought both the dogs on this one and they did great! Halaya and I walked the trail closest to the water and it lead to the next campsite. We swam in the water which was mushy and full of tall grass. I swam pretty far out and the weeds continued to tickle my body. We cooked hot dogs and let the dogs swim after the beach was clear of other guests. We drove around looking for the perfect fishing spot but couldn’t find it. I recommend reserving a boat, fish are released into the lake seasonally.

Overall camping with the kids is magical. In the forest, no work and time spent together. I loved every moment I got with my children, friends, dogs, and husband. I appreciate everyone that was a part of my camping excursion. The biggest tip is not to forget sunscreen, lots of water, and formula. Don’t be scared to sleep in the tent with the kids and spend time under the stars.

Till next time!

Renascence Music Festival Laytonville 2022

(Image by Lyjia)

Renascence means the revival of something that has been dormant.

A transformational festival is a music and art event that wakes the unconscious, resonates the soul and unleashes the skills trapped within.

June 10-12 (Laytonville, CA)- Renascence has been a music festival that has been thriving to come to existence through the creative minds of artist that have been attending transformational festivals since 2016. Aspired to have been in production since pre-covid, taking a major hit when the gathering was indefinitely postponed in 2020. The name Renascence resonates with attendee’s as they have been forced in their homes and away from community gatherings for the past two years due to COVID. The festival brought what we’ve been waiting for, a healing and rejuvenating experience. It was a beautiful relief and intimate reunion as we came into flow with the Renascence crew.

Volunteers began streaming in on Thursday, although the build crew had arrived the week prior. Gates opened to the public on Friday and people weeded through the quaint hippie town of Laytonville and on to the outskirts to the event.

Renascence was held at Mendocino Magic, an exclusive 600-acre campsite at the Holland Reservoir, which provides clean water to neighboring farms. With plenty of room to camp, attendees dropped off their gear and had the option to park in general parking or car camp. Glamping was also available! Cheerful camp host-squad was present and proud to share their “burning man” inspired foundation where they host other events such as stargazing, campouts, and paintball.

Three stages were conveniently placed within comfortable walking distances from camping areas. The Basin stage was hidden at the furthest North corner near RV camping, headlining DJs such as Angelic Roots, SUDS, Alien Kitty, and Bioship who threw down phat beats into the early morning, turning off its speakers at 8am. At Meadow Stage, across from artist camping and surrounded by vendors, live artist, and Couch Fam, hosted several more DJ’s including Beat Kitty, AN-TEN-NAE, Dev Step, and AHEE. The third stage, the Reservoir, hosted live music and EDM, situated along the waterfront under a comfortable shade structure, with amazing musicians such as Reverend Stefen Sams, Ancestree and LaPostive. With such incredible music comes fun, loving vibes.

Vendors, performing artists, and live artists filled this space with creative endeavors. Wire wraps and fine jewelry by Or Original’s, pipes and bongs by Leafy Green, and hand sewn jackets from Zuvuya by Representz Clothing. Headlining live artist, Joe Mallory (who painted at Renascence pre party), and guest artist Gabriel Welch. Alongside Elliot Bliss, Katie Rose and many more. Fire performers, aerial silk dancers, LED flow artists and exotic dancers left each stage a unique experience. Talk of the town was that the first Renascence was an artist party, we were left in awe flooded with talent all around.

Hiking trails, kayaks, clean swimming water and art sculptures made this more than a music festival but an exclusive experience. In between stages stood a tea teepee with psychedelic black light art and a patio where ayahuasca inspired music by Eostar and the WEB of ONE rang into the valley. Healing from the community coming together must have imprinted the land, by the time Sunday rolled around so did the heavy rains, which is always needed and appreciated in Mendocino County.

Co- founder and producer Tori Love made a statement on June 20th reflecting on the festival,

“We have been pouring our hearts and souls into creating something that is rooted deep within the magic that lies within all of us and nature divine. Curating an experience that juxtaposes wholesome and hyphy, creating a container for rejuvenation, love, inspiration, silliness and play, reflection and clarity, unification, and diversity…

We intended Renascence to be a releasing of old stigmas and selves whilst taking empowering steps together towards a brighter, more loving self and world…

These powerful intentions and this pure hearted magic that has been weaved into the birth of Renascence was overwhelmingly present at this year’s first Renascence Festival just a couple weekends ago,

We look forward to continuing to curate and bring forth an even more beautiful experience for all for many years to come!

This is just the beginning of a new era of gatherings based in love, community appreciation, integrity, diversity and inspiration!”

Tori Love

Volunteer lead and co-producer Jordan @santacruzceramics also states after processing the event, “My experience was humbling and gratifying. Being able to provide the experience of Renascence for our community was the single biggest undertaking of mind, body and spirit I have ever done. Working with Tori to bring our dreams into reality was a blessing along every step of the way and we’re so excited to do it again next year!”

Party-goer and old-school DJ, Lyjia (Tom Core) states, “Beautiful grounds and staff were welcoming. Had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. I had heard a joke that people party to bass music in the forests and didn’t realize it was true!”

I highly recommend checking the Renascence Festival IG (@renascencefestival) to view all the talent that attended, and I hope to see you there next year!

Mike Love 2022 at the Arcata Theater Lounge

May 31, 2022, at the Arcata Theater Lounge- Mike Love played reggae-styled jam music with a crowd full of loyal fans. His music was inspiring, and the attendees were ecstatic to dance to such a fruitful message. 

Mike Love shared a deep appreciation for Groundation, a band he opened up for when he first hit the road in 2013. While Mike Love’s band members had to take a step away from the road, he introduces his fill-in Ryan Newman, Groundation bass guitarist, who grew up in Arcata, CA, and Groundation drummer Paul Spina from Santa Rosa. His band also includes a trombone, saxophone, and keyboard player. They played songs from his newest album, a collaboration with Rising Tide, called Together.   

Play full screen for best video quality.

Mike Love is a vocalist and guitarist from Hawaii. He is known for creating unique harmonic noises from his diaphragm that have not been heard in mainstream productions prior. His looper, analog delay, and barefoot buttons also contribute to his branded sound. 

Kinetic Sculpture Races

“For the Glory!” The crowd cheered at the finish line of the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Ferndale, CA on May 30 2021. Fifty three participants created a Kinetic Sculpture and raced from Arcata to Ferndale within three days, over hills and through water. There are no set rules on  building a kinetic sculpture race car besides that there shall be no motor! Sculptures may have any number of wheels or pilots, they can not be bigger than 8’x14’, all steering wheels are welcomed, must be able to move through land and sea, and most importantly your chassis (a.k.a frame). Kinetic race sculptures should also acquire chains, wheels, welding, axles, bearings, sprockets, gears, brakes and a whole lot more you can find here! Growing in interest, you can find people from all over coming to Humboldt county to participate in the national, grand championship Kinetic Sculpture Races!

Hobart Brown, founder of The Kinetic Sculpture Race in 1969 began building his art in local Ferndale studio, Mind’s Eye. He started the Sculpture Race with his own contractions and kids down Ferndale’s main plaza. This home of magical inventions and contraptions did not cease with Hobart but continued on as Marc and Lieah Daniels, current owners  of Mind’s Eye, offer studio space to local crafters and artist while maintaining a hub for Marc’s True North Boats, as stated on his website, “We create one-of-a-kind custom kayaks, teach skin boat building workshops, and are committed to helping traditional skin boat building thrive in the Native communities where it was originally invented and developed.” Over coffee we chatted about the beauties of Alaska and I got a sneak peak on a newer project, a wide frame boat they will attempt to use a skin in replace of wood panels. Anyhoo… back to the races!

If the art cars don’t completely take you away then allow it to be the celebratory finish line where my family and I awaited for the cars to zoom to their final destination! The Kinetic Sculpture band was a hoot. The bandleader led with a spatula as the announcers on a truck bed hollered, “If you like the band buy them a beer, if you don’t like the band buy them two. They play better when they’re drunk!” Colorful misfits and sparkle ponies, fairy godmothers, and “Kops” with bubble guns stormed the street. Performers playing with hula hoops, unicycles and poi. The historical buildings have a magical lust for such a festival. 

Kids and adults of all ages danced to the music and as the cars came in one by one the audience collected memorabilia from the Kinetic Sculpture’s squads, ranging from balls, stickers, to the “Bear Minimum” (a piece of paper stating just that!) Everyone was in great spirits and people from all over opened their hearts to this incredibly artistic event after such a long silence of COVID.

The sculptures and riders don’t have it easy and I would assume their following posse do not either. Starting in Arcata at noon all racers take off as onlookers cheer for their favorite stylized and sustainable art car. They finish day one at Halvorsen Park in Eureka. Day two starts off at Wharfinger Boat Ramp. Art cars must test their skill through the waters and finish at Samoa Bridge. On Memorial Day the racers started at Crab Park through the Eel River bridge, to the valley and ending on historic Main Street. Through the finish line came glory steelers and then our actual winners, in first place was Lemonheads, second was Live Wrong, and third place with Wing Nuts. Speed is not the only ranking place that the judges look for but also the Grand Champion, Best Art, Best Engineering, Best Pageantry and many more (that have yet to be posted!) You can find those results here! Our favorites being the three humped camel and plan bee! Thank you kinetic sculpture championship for such a family friendly and exciting event.

Renascence Festival Pre-Party

[Contains Adult Content] 

May 21, 2022- Arcata Theater Lounge hosts the Renascence Festival pre-party/ Mad Hatter Tea Party. With room to breathe, festy goers mingled and got down to dirty bass music. Headliner Ahee, known for his dubstep and 90’s smash mixes, drew in an eccentric crowd of all ages. Jewelry, merchandise, and crystal vendors lined the walls: local artist Joe Mallory painted acrylic on canvas with abstract surrealism concepts that opened the viewer’s third eye. Fire dancers and performers set the stage for theater doll Tori Love as Alice, who took away the show. Despite the teenyboppers, this was an adult party, and we can expect the Laytonville music festival to live up to this raunchy dance hall. 

Arcata Theater Lounge

Arcata Theater Lounge was opened in 1938, showing six films at a given time. Since then, the theater has expanded its offerings to include concerts and other events but still cherishes its vintage form. Drinks are affordable. Three levels from the stage allow for a pit, a dance floor with high chair seating, and a top-level for vending and coat check. The theater’s sound is crisp, without reverb despite the heavy bass. A comfy bean bag in the VIP lounge for the festy snoots. 

Ahee!

I was honored to speak with Chris Adams, a.k.a. Ahee, who has performed at music festivals like Infrasound, Excision, and Lucidity. His particular style could be categorized as “Alien Music.” While he makes the booties on the dance floor drop, he explores mixing his tunes with songs such as Eiffel 65’s Blue (Da Ba Dee) and All-Star by Smash Mouth. Besides his dirty bass and dubstep tunes. You can also find psytrance tracks and collaborations on Soundcloud. This DJ stands out for his relationship with his audience, feeling the crowd and recognizing them in his Facebook posts, never missing a group photo. Ahee creates tutorials on youtube so that you, too, can become a dubstep DJ with wubby bass. A lot of respect goes out to Ahee for being personal. When I asked him where he was from, it wasn’t a surprise that he answered, “I’m from here [Arcata, CA.]” Aliens like this come from out of the redwoods. 

Live artist Joe Mallory is nothing close to ordinary, inspired by psychedelic art and surreal nature. When asked, “What is this all about?” He replies, “Psychedelics play a big part but, as of recently, so does past life regression.” He explains to me that we come to this earth to experience and how each lifetime, we learn something new through life and death. He continued to share his past lives with me as a ceramics artist and his death by scooter. When asked how I could tap into past life regression, he replied to find an excellent psychic or look further into past life regression with a combination of psychedelics. Joe paints redwood trees, snowy mountains, and ocean landscapes with “moai” statues, oceans, and sacred geometry patterns. You can find Joe Mallory vending on the streets of Arts Alive in Eureka frequently. 

What would a Mad Hatter Tea Party be without Alice? And what better Alice than burlesque dancer Tori Love. Along with juggler Wiley, poi performer FigBungus and a fire spinning duet couple, these performers took the stage! Tori’s specialty twerk made this a randy R-rated performance! We can thank these performers for bringing the audience onto the stage for a costume contest. The winner, Mr.Komboujia, aroused the audience with his goldilocks wig and renaissance dress sporting and supporting Humboldt’s LGBTQ community. Also in the crowd were Little Lost Forest top hats that will be set up at a DIY station at the Mateel’s Summer Arts and Music festival. 

Are you dying to see more of the Renascence’s Crew? The festival will be held in Laytonville on June 10-12. Initially postponed due to COVID, Renascence’s team has been working hard to bring you a spiritually enlightening experience. We can expect to dance under the stars along with, aerial arts, amazing DJs, and vendors at this exquisite northern California event. Headliners include but are not limited to An-ten-nae, Mimosa, Atyya, Suds, and Beat Kitty.

600+ acres, fifteen minutes from downtown Laytonville. They encourage carpooling for parking is limited. Camping and glamping on site. They are still accepting vendor and volunteer applications. 

See you there!

My Experience with Full Sail University as a Creative Writing BA Student

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Since I was six and spent my summers with my grandparents in Germany, I found the language barrier difficult to overcome, and I read whatever English books they sold at the bookstore. At the time, the Harry Potter books were being released, and I took an interest in those; sometimes, all they had was adult fiction, and I would read those too. At eleven years old, I remember taking a solid liking to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon. When my dad took me to the bookstores in my teens, he began monitoring my choices. I remember begging for I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francisca Lia Block because it had mature content, and he let it slip. While reading was a passion, so was writing. I have journals dating back to when I was seven—hundreds of journals in a chest. I have online journals that are locked. I have journals that have been lost by sites that have washed away my accounts. To say the least, if I ever had a passion, it was reading and writing. 

I went to San Francisco State University for creative writing in 2008. I lasted one year, and in my second semester, I got arrested for possession of psilocybin mushrooms. My roommate called me in, and when I went to jail, the guard told me that she didn’t know they were illegal. It discouraged me from returning to the University, and I moved forward with community colleges. I began dropping out of classes and schools. I went to five different community colleges and didn’t finish more than a class or two. When I felt like I was turning my wheels, I fell into a party scene I would associate with the closest thing I had to home. It wasn’t until I met my partner that I found a new home and was able to stabilize my life. 

Then I got into a car accident where I was found guilty. The world came crashing down on me. I was raising my partner’s five-year-old daughter, and the thought of what could result from the accident sent me spiraling. I wanted to be seen as a productive member of society, and at the time, I didn’t feel like that was what I was. I had been looking at Full Sail University for a while. I had lived in Florida and was familiar with the name. I have a passion for animation, and I knew this was an entertainment-driven school. They accept anyone with a high school diploma. I was passionate when I talked to the recruiter. Then I did more research and read all these bad reviews. It’s a private school for profit, and I can’t transfer my units, and it’s a big loan. I was petrified. I’ve never made a substantial amount of money, and this was an overwhelming decision. 

The Benefits

It didn’t take long for me to make the jump. I decided on this school because they had creative writing for entertainment expedited bachelor program, which meant I could skip the four years. I didn’t have to take a zillion general ed classes, and I would learn to write for television (having a passion for animation.) In my introductory course, I made a video expressing the desires that led me to Full Sail. This passion would drive me through my program. I was an A student, receiving two B’s throughout my education. I received a grant for $1500 when my loans would not fully cover the tuition. I received the Salutatorian of my class, and I graduated in two years. Since this was an online course, I also received my Cal Grants for being a California resident and didn’t have to pay out-of-state tuition, which I am thankful for. 

The Negatives

As great as that sounds, as many grants as I applied for, I didn’t qualify for any others besides what the school had given me. After cal grants, I was left with a $40,000 loan, subsidized and unsubsidized. There was no job placement. I met with my career counselor twice a month for four months. He encouraged me to build a website, business, and blog, which I did, but it didn’t make any money. The school calls me to ask what I’m doing with my degree and when I tell them I am not making any money with it, they ask about the blog and the small business. They use that as leverage that my degree is being utilized so that I can’t get forgiveness from FASFA or my loan agency. These are consequences I have to deal with. A year later, I joined an emergency substitute teacher program which was the first thing I used my degree towards. It is on call and makes very little money. I find a lot of fulfillment in working with kids, and I have built relationships with my students even as a sub, and I enjoy working with the schools. Then again, my mom sent me a Tik Tok that stated Substitute Teaching is the worst reason to get a degree. I had to remind her and myself that this isn’t the reason why I got a degree. 

Is the school flawed? No, I got an education. They used a lot (perhaps too many) online sources accessible to anyone. I did enjoy the checklist and easy accessibility of the Launch box. They provided me with a laptop and tablet that I’d never, otherwise, be able to afford. The school was manageable, and I was able to excel where I couldn’t in community college.

Is the system flawed? Yes, there is a significant flaw in loans and accruing interest. I don’t know how anyone can smile and say I’m going to University without the heavyweight on their shoulders that they are putting themselves in debt that can double or triple. I put my family at risk that they may not be financially stable or that I will not be able to provide for them even with a degree. It’s all so incredibly overwhelming, and it makes me sad. Shouldn’t going to school make you proud? 

In the end, you shouldn’t go to Full Sail if you expect to get a great job with some high-end studio. They will tell you how competitive the job market is, and this is so true. They will tell you that they have excellent job placement, but this is not true. Yet I don’t regret going at all. I am so proud of myself for finishing something, following my passion, and creating a future for myself. I am one step closer to writing a novel, writing for animation, and creating comics, all the reasons that I began this journey. I also have embedded in my mind how to structure a story, I learned how to organize my time, I was reminded to have fun, and I had great experiences collaborating with other students. The school is not what’s flawed; it is the loan system and our government for allowing them to double or even triple our loans, making it impossible to want to further our education. The solution to this would be; not to collect interest on loans that are being paid on time. If we’re paying the loans, leave us alone, we’re doing the best we can.