As I spoke with Erin about who she is, I was reminded of how magical it can be to see the world through someone else's lens. Part of the beauty of being human comes from the ways we can exist in similar spaces and still be so full of exactly who we are, to exist embracing the things that make us different. There is beauty, too, in the ways that we are all the same. With few exceptions, most of us know what it feels like to have the experience of lost love, of the deep desire to find ourselves, and finding places that feel like home--even if the road we've taken might hurt a little bit. The key, one that Erin really beautifully reminded me of, is vulnerability. It takes a lot of bravery to let the world see you, to show up as who you are and be open to all of the experiences life has to offer us. We are learning and growing through every place, every person, and every step we take. It's okay to exist. It's okay to be who you are. In fact, it's so ridiculously okay that being who you are is what this whole project is about! Now, on to why we're all here. Here is Erin and her story.
**do the drumroll thing yesssss**
I am Erin. I am Queer. And I am… A goofball, always trying to learn from people and experiences, sensitive, open to the world, an extroverted love-giver, reasonably rebellious, a builder, a literal and logical person, and an adventure-seeker.
“Most people can tell from looking at me that I’m queer. Some people somehow miss it, but usually it’s pretty obvious to most people. I work in the trades and probably 95% of the people I work with every day are straight white males and I don’t really fit in most of those boxes. They’re even usually a lot older than me. I’m the opposite from a lot of those people, making a point to inform myself about the world and see the world outside of myself. Going to work for me often means there’s a hurdle I have to jump over every single day. I go in knowing that I’m different from the people I work with and know that they’re going to call me on it every single day. It does make my day hard, but I remember that there are people on my team I just know that I have to stick it out and find them. There are guys I work with who have immigrated here from Mexico and they kind of understand where I’m coming from because they’re often the butt of jokes and get a hard time, too.
Finding a community within Solcana Fitness. After seeing the end of a really long relationship that ended badly, I needed to find myself in a really big way. When we broke up, it was kind of like my whole world crumbled and I didn’t know who I was anymore outside of that relationship. Then Solcana was here. This is a group of wonderful, wonderful weirdos and so I just showed up and kept showing up. Having spaces that feel safe, where I can move my body, and be with these people who support me has been really meaningful.
I don’t think anyone’s really made it through life without making assumptions about themselves. In general, I find myself to be a person who doesn’t follow the rules very well. When there are specific situations that require me to follow the rules if it means someone’s safety and showing respect, I do that. Everything else, though, I really do on my own terms. The societal rules that say you have to do x, y, and z to be successful, I don’t play by those rules. I think I’ve done an okay job escaping those expectations. I dropped out of college on purpose, went into the trades on purpose--where I’m usually the only woman, the only queer, the only young person--I don’t really fit into that box, but I don’t really care. I’m going to do it anyways. Rather than being worried about what society says about climbing the career ladder, I’ve quit my job for months at a time to travel and explore the world. I have one life to live so I’m going to live it and not just let it happen.
What I’ve learned from really important people in my life is that if you want to make it happen, then make it happen. You don’t have to play by the rules. You can go out and do the things that inspire you, help you grow, push you, and challenge you and surround yourself with people who are going to push that for you, too. And not everyone is born with this mindset, I wasn’t, but I learned it. I think it’s something that you have to keep with, keeping learning it over time. It isn’t something that’s going to be entirely easy, but allowing it to be part of your mindset helps you to go out everyday and do the things you love.
The thing that keeps me inspired is that I want to know people and I want to see the world. I wholeheartedly find value and meaning in my relationships with others. I want to be surrounded by people. I want to share the world with all of the people that I love and who love and support me.”
--What does love and connection mean to you?
“Everything. It’s really simple. Everything.”
--What would you tell your younger self?
“Do you, girl! Making the choice to leave college came from a really dark period in my life. I went because I was very much expected to and heard the messages that not going means that you’re somehow a failure, that I would be a failure if I couldn’t do this thing. So really, what I would tell my younger self is to trust yourself. Listen to your gut. You know yourself better than anyone else does. Other people can help you articulate it, but you really know who you are. So trust that."
You can see more of Erin over on the gallery!
And if you'd like to be involved in the And I Am... Project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!