Stacey ~ The Value Project // Hillsborough, NC

“The one thing I’m sure of is that I love this place and I kept being drawn back to it, even with some obstacles. I feel like I belong here. I feel like there’s something out there that I’m supposed to do. I’m just not quite sure what it is.”

Her hair was the first thing that I noticed about Stacey. Beautifully alive, wildly curly and the envy of many. Myself included. The woman herself though, is equally as beautiful, vivacious, hilarious, deep. I had gotten the chance to spend some time with Stacey before our session for The Value Project. I was really looking forward to our conversation and what I would learn about this woman that I found so interesting and entertaining. She started with the story of how she landed in this little town.

“I’ve been in New York for about 15 years. I like New York, I don’t love New York. I’m not one of those people that says, “oh god, there’s no other city but New York!” I like it enough. There’s never been any place or any person that’s been enough of a catalyst to pick up and leave. I went on a trip to India in 2013 and Ellen Steinberg was my roommate on this trip. Ellen decided to go last minute. You don’t usually decide to go to India at the last minute, but we both did and we ended up being roommates because of it. We realized that we actually grew up 6 miles away from each other, but we finally met in Kolkata. The following year, Ellen invited me to come stay with her for a few days. I came to visit and she showed me around town. I just fell in love with it immediately. Then I met Laura Farrow and we hung out at her studio a little. I’m kind of a frustrated artist, actress, comedienne. I don’t really do much with it, but I did ask Laura if I could come out and work in her studio. Everyday I got up, I’d go to yoga and then out to Laura’s studio. She would come home and make dinner, we would hang out and she’d teach me a couple of things. I did that for 10 days. I ended up teaching a little bit of yoga, because she (Laura) wouldn’t even talk about me paying her. So I would teach classes. One day we were walking downtown and and I saw a for “rent sign” ¬†and I wondered what it would be like to pop up a yoga studio and see what it would be like to live here. I did that the following November. I just kept coming back and then I bought a house. I loved it here. I felt more at home here than in New York. Its just a magical little place.”

“I feel very loved here and I love so many people here. That’s very important to me. Me falling in love with this town wasn’t due to any one person. This town was just sparkly for me and it’s because of the friends that I met. People slow down here enough to have substantial connections. I never felt connected in New York. I have very good friends there, but everyone is so busy and it’s hard to get together with the people that I’m closest with. Unless I’m working with them on a project, ( I do a lot of corporate work) I’m not seeing them everyday. It could be months before I see some of my favorite people. It can get lonely. Here it’s not that way. People are always accessible and I have so many really strong relationships. They’re not shallow people; you end up going deep and they’re truly listening. More often that not, they are just really interested in you. Because there are so many people to love and spend time with, you have a lot strong connections. There’s definitely value in that. It’s just a very special place. But it’s like a black hole too!! You can think, “oh my god, it’s noon! I’ve been leaving for 3 hours!!” Sitting outside the coffee shop, with all those people: You just can’t explain it. It’s so entertaining! It’s not for everyone. Me? I love people. I could sit there everyday for 3 hours and it wouldn’t feel like too much.”

“You know people have that teacher in 3rd grade and they’re like, ‘You should be a (this) and you’re like, ‘I should be a (this)!’ You have this path and someone draws that out in you. I never really had that. Not that I was raised in a barn and never saw the light of day or had teachers. I just never had that connection. I went to college because that’s what you do. Then to grad school, because there was a program, etc. Sometimes I do wonder what I’m doing with my life. I struggle with it because of choices that I’ve made in the past and I’m not sure that I’m in a place where I’m adding as much value as I could, should, want to…”

“I do this other corporate work, (That’s what I do to pay the bills). The yoga is something that I’m growing. I definitely feel like I’m adding more value by teaching a class here and there’s 6 people in it, than if I was doing a 3 month long project in the corporate world. This here, the teaching, feels valuable and I know people are getting good stuff out of it. I don’t know if I know the answer to that value question. The thought comes in, if you’re not married and you don’t have kids, what’s your value? I mean, I know the cliches: I’m a good daughter, a good friend, aunt, blagh blagh. I do struggle with that question though, because I’m not sure. I know that I love the yoga. I’ve always loved practicing and I do love teaching. In New York, it’s a rat race. Everyone’s a yoga teacher, so I didn’t really pursue that there, a little out of fear. But this place, no matter how old you are, it’s easier to carve a path. Even if it’s a new path! That’s what I want to do here, I’m just not exactly sure what that’s going to look like. It’ll definitely include yoga, but right now, yoga’s just buying me cappuccinos. It has to be more than that, so making a living out of this could happen at some point. I’m just trying to figure out what to do in this place that I love.”

“One of the things I say, because my teacher told it to me, is that ‘you become really good at what you practice, but you don’t necessarily practice good stuff. you keep practicing ‘oh, I should have/could have’ and you get really good at thinking and feeling that. I’ve always been very hard on myself, but that’s not a public thing. I don’t go around saying that out loud. That’s why I do yoga: Keep the thoughts at bay; keep all the crazy out. That hardness on yourself doesn’t always come from how you grew up. To this day, my parents are so supportive. I could have told them, ‘Oh look! I’m dating a giraffe!’ and they’d say, ‘If it makes you happy, it makes us happy!’ I don’t necessarily follow it myself, but this idea that you become good at what you practice, that’s just a really big mirror. I’m very good at convincing myself of things, whether or not they’re good or bad or bad for me. So, then you have a habit. It’s a good thing to remember.”

This whole time, Stacey has me laughing hysterically. She’s using different voices, her face and hands are so animated as she talks me through her thoughts. I’m still really listening though. She’s incredibly open, raw almost, in her honesty. This really resonated with me. The things she admits to struggling with, are thoughts and struggles mirrored in my own life. We talked for a long time and I could have stayed and continued to talk with her for hours.

“I was an artist in high school, (I think I was even voted most artistic), but I didn’t really do anything with it. I quickly changed paths from art to communications because I wanted to draw cartoons. I have a lot of interests, but then I get bored. I start to wonder if I’m lazy… Except for yoga, that grounds me and reminds me that I’m not lazy. You don’t get up at 5:30, grab coffee at Cup-A-Joe at 6 and then go do yoga for an hour and a half, if you’re lazy. Other than that practice, I’ve hopped around a lot. I would like to think that if I found that THING, that I would stick to it. I just don’t know what IT is. I don’t know when I’ll know. I wish divine intervention would set in. I have been operating on feeling with jobs and with people. Sometimes I ignore that visceral feeling. I know what the answer is even if i say that I don’t. Whether I choose to listen to it or not, that’s my decision. I can’t blame anyone but me. But I usually know.”

“My Grandmother lived to be 104 and she always said that if you have your health, you have everything; If you have your health, you can DO anything. I do try to remember that when I’m feeling lost or feeling like I have no direction, no purpose. I try to remember that there’s nothing that I can’t do. People start and do things, create at any age. I’m still trying to figure out what to do in this little pond. I would like to do something big, something significant… This place I love, it feeds me and I’m really happy here.”

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