To Show up is to be Seen
Arrive. Acquaint. Allow.
· Just showing up is the first step
· Sharing your idea comes second
· Saying ‘yes’ makes space for the next
Carlee sits with one leg crossed over the other as she leans back in her chair, tilting her tea cup with the lilt of her wrist as she gestures towards Esther and I. “Someone told me once to just show up. That’s it. Just get there and show up. And ya, sometimes you have to say yes to something that you have no freaking idea how to do. But, you start with showing up.” She affirms this wisdom with a confidence amplified by her sophisticated Detroit drawl. The words linger between us and her assured stare is made of eyes as dark and warm as the English Breakfast in her cup. This girl gets it.
On the table in front of us glistens a white tea set and a two-tiered cake tray lined with bite-sized cupcakes and dipping cookies: a rather sophisticated Thursday morning if I day say so myself. I sit here between two women that quickly affirm my decision to show up today. To my right sits Esther, the Caribbean fashion editor of the Cherry Creek Fashion magazine, she hails from Saint Lucia and this morning her red lip matches the leather slipper chairs poised around her dining room table. Carlee, sitting on my left, is the editor-in-chief and art director of a Denver zine. She is part NYC-chic and underground grit, basically a bombshell, whose distinguished presence blended with Esther’s electric smile reminds me of all the things I want to be when I grow up.
I wouldn’t know these women if it weren’t for another distinct female—and style icon—in my life; my sister Allie. Her mood-board coordinated wardrobe and networking abilities have given my life quantifiable meaning since moving home and she has this unique ability to make introductions between total strangers, a skill matched only by a few, and I am pretty sure Carlee is one of them. Allie first introduced us at an event to promote Carlee’s zine, Flora Fauna. It was a rowdy gathering of badass women donning vintage garments, who all culminated together for the sake of their art and the importance of sharing and celebrating it. It was magnetic.
A few months went by after meeting Carlee, during which I dropped a few lines into her inbox, eventually bringing me this opportunity to interview Esther Lee Leach at her modern townhome in Cherry Creek. It was an independent magazine editor featuring another editor; an atypical union. But although their audiences may be from a different beat of the city, one being the prestigious Cherry Creek North inhabitants versus the underbelly of Denver’s music and art scene, it was a brilliant intersect of two female perspectives. Our q&a focused on Esther’s new online publication and her journey from the island to London, from San Francisco to right here, the Wild West. It was a silver-lined, mini tell-all from Esther, whose laid-back approach to language and style is a refreshing stroke of color in the Mile-High City. Carlee’s own narrative imbued our conversation with an insightful take on editorial production and how style can create a community between unlikely pairings.
By the end of our discussion, I was reminded of what was said when I first sat down with my audio recorder and notepad. That sometimes all it really takes is showing up. I think this is precisely what Carlee was talking about. I have always loved the process of interviewing, this ability to open up dialogue between complete strangers and your genuine intention to listen and inquire is your front-row ticket. I am by no means the next Diane Sawyer or Nellie Bly, but I am passionate about sharing the table with people who bring a global perspective to the counter, people who are building independent brands based on integrity and with damn good design in mind. This is why I continue to show up. The second I let myself take a chair alongside others and join in the conversation, is the second I become seen.
Just Show Up
For those of us who feel the tear between being a monochromatic wallflower and being the voice that carries the farthest across the room, then you will understand how tough it can be to show up with consistency. My oscillation between extrovert and introvert has served me well when it comes to finding time for myself and for socializing, but, I often feel like I am not doing enough, and equally, doing too much. For me, it is all about continuing to practice affirmative responses to opportunities when it comes to career exploration, connecting with people outside of my comfort zone, and trying something new, something that I may be terribly afraid of. You will learn to trust that fancy footwork that takes you from the front row to the back of the stage, and from your assigned seat all the way to the mic stand.
I am not saying you should do everything, because even aggressive A-type’s can’t do it all, I am just reminding you of what many of my peers and bold predecessors taught me: to show up and participate, allow yourself to be moved by a conversation, awaken to new schools of thought, and be willing to shift directions in the middle of the road, especially when you think you have it all figured out.
It's easy being a bystander, a side-liner, a fly on the wall, but it is a helluva lot more fun to get out there and live out loud, despite all the other voices in your background.
I have always been terrified of public speaking, to the point where I have blacked out entire speeches, classroom presentations, and even boardroom discussions, because my fear of being heard with all eyes on me is the stuff of nightmares. As I navigate this fear, still to this day, I have learned that by setting aside my ego, I can begin to really tell the stories I have always imagined I would tell. It takes an awareness to handle the fragility of the Fabergé egg that is my ego, where within it my truths are held tight to my chest for the fear of being seen. I understand this delicate part of myself, I empathize with her often. But when I know I need to act on an opportunity and operate for the sake of art, I can set her down and start to share; unraveling my ideas, giving others the chance to look on and even participate and contribute. Writing, in all of its multidimensional forms, is what helps me put down the egg from my shaking hands and untangle its intricacies. When I am feeling especially fearless, I share my prose across platforms, and set the story free.
Journalism is about the access to information, the story within the seams, and the chance to listen with intention. Perhaps my story is still inside the delicately jeweled eggshell beneath my skin, sometimes I think she is out in full-swing, other times I know there is still so much to bare. But no matter the case, I know what I need to do to keep revealing. Step up. Share. Loudspeakers are there for a reason and microphones are meant to amplify, use them. And if you happen to be graced with an audience who actually listens, then by all means, let us know what you think, why you are here, and let your voice carry past the hollow of your home and through a studio warehouse lined with designer rugs and local creatives.
Say ‘yes’ to the next
For my literary growth and professional career, saying ‘yes’ is my only option. With writing and marketing, the way to grow up in this industry is to try it all since there really is no formula for your own success. Hell, if there was, I would have read the manual twice and flown across the globe to hear the guru herself. So, instead, we do the best we can from the laptop between our legs and the social media sites linking us to our peers around the world through a simple DM. This reminder to use what is in front of us is a privilege and I don’t want to ever lose track of that. If we keep creating outwardly and listening inwardly, then this life becomes a simple string of choices linked by our honest curiosity. You don’t know what can happen until you just show up.
So, I am saying ‘yes’ to a press trip to Park City, Utah to test out the newest off-roading rig from GMC next week and I am also saying ‘yes’ to a yoga retreat next month that will allow me to explore body work and spirituality within a Costa Rican classroom alongside total strangers. Because, why not? There is something so liberating when you let an experience move you; allowing yourself to be a student each time you arrive.
Arrive. Acquaint. Allow.
I have had to continuously set aside the doubt that tells me there is no chair for me here and instead opt for a mantra of self-worth that pulls me into conversations with women from cross-cultures, each of us drinking tea in our own ritual alongside one another at a shared table, in what was once a stranger’s home.