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FindingME Podcast

overcoming feeling stuck

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Connect with Traci



PART 1 (1st half of conversation)

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Leith: [00:00:00] Okay, so what I'd love to start my conversations off with is, if you can tell me about the community where you grew up, and what you remember most about it.

Traci: [00:05:21] Okay. I grew up in Northern California. In my early years, I lived in Berkeley, California. And I remember that I had a very multicultural neighborhood, there was a black family that was also Jehovah's Witnesses as my family was. And so we played with and spend time with that family. And then there was a Caucasian family that lived next door, and their youngest daughter, Rachel was like my best friend. And then around the corner, there was a professor from UC Berkeley, Mr. Fuji. And we also played with his daughters. And so there was like this big mix of people in this neighborhood. And I remember just being fun, like, there's an elderly woman that lived next door, and she had twin granddaughters, and we would go over after school and watch Speed Racer and eat hohos. So it was a nurturing environment. And the other part of my community that I grew up in is from Berkeley, my family moved to Oakland. And so I lived in Oakland for the remainder of my life. And this is in Oakland; it was mostly an African American community. And I still had this Christian community that my mom was a part of as a Jehovah's Witness. But then there were also just the people in our neighborhood. And both on my father's side and my mother's side of the family, they have a lot of siblings, and so I have a lot of cousins. So my cousins in the Bay Area I would spend time with and then my cousins in Southern California, we would often take road trips and drive down to San Luis Obispo, or Los Angeles to visit our family and those areas. And my neighborhood, there were also a lot of families in my neighborhood. So I remember playing with a lot of kids in the neighborhood like we would have all kinds of games that we would play. As we became teenagers, we would like we lived in a house and the next door to the house was an apartment building. So the parking lot of the apartment building was like the length of our house. So like, I could look out our dining room window and see all the activity in the parking lot. And we would even put the speakers of our stereo system in the window. And so we would play records and play music, and then we would all dance in the parking lot. So I had this you know, it was fun, and it was active, you know, yeah, it was really awesome. 

Leith: [00:08:59] That does sound amazing. God, I love the outdoors too like that you just playing outside. I remember that a lot from my own childhood so I think I can relate really well to that out on the street and running around playing games. I love that. So tell me, you know, now we're sort of living in a new world. You know, I'm particularly a challenging one with COVID. Can you give me more like recently; tell me more about the changes that have occurred in your life since you know over the past year?

Traci: [00:09:36] Oh, wow. Oh my goodness. Yeah, it has been tremendous as it is with everyone. I had big plans for 2020 and I had these plans in motion for three years. So I had this really unique experience in growing up in Oakland. I've moved away and lived in New York City and studied dance at the Alvin Ailey School and had this professional career as a dancer and model. And I did some traveling around the world and performing. And then I came back home to my hometown, and I saw my neighborhood through new eyes, I was like, I've been around the world, but this is where I'm from, these are my people. And I had this 35-millimeter camera that someone gave me. And I just started photographing my neighbors. And being that I also have this experience in entertainment. This was also a time where this music industry was burgeoning in the Bay Area like this whole 90s hip hop music scene was just about to pop off. And so I started photographing all of this activity, like within the music scene. So I have a collection of photographs from the 90s. That is amazing. And so Leith, I finally pulled these images out of storage. I got a loan from this organization named Kiva. I wrote a couple of grants to create this photo exhibition. And the world premiere was in 2020.

Leith: [00:11:47] Oh my god, I'm glad you're laughing now but I'm sure this time last year. Oh, my god.

Traci: [00:11:52] Yes. Like all this work and investment in time and money to make this premiere of this photography, collection, and archive happen. So I didn't have the experience of inviting people into my space to see this collection. And I was able to pivot and do some online gallery tours. But the experience of having people in person, and just looking at the photos on the wall and having a conversation that hasn't happened. So I am planning to do some more online gallery tours in the summer. And also I will open the doors of my home and business and have some social distance, you know, by appointment only gallery tours. So that's one big thing that had to be altered because of COVID. And what's interesting is with your podcast about finding me, I had been in a space personally, I had been in a space where I felt lost. In my own person, you know, I had the experience of overextending myself to too many people and situations. And I slowly started to not make myself available. So that I can just reconnect with myself. And I have been in that process for a few years. So when COVID came around, it wasn't so hard on me and not to be around as many people because I had already started that process. And started in that process because I felt depleted. I had to find ways of refilling my cup, and I had to give attention to the most important relationships to me and really look at, what are those relationships? Who are those people and how do they pour into me and we pour into each other? So how COVID you know with the shelter in place I was already in that process. So it wasn't so hard on me, it just actually even crystallize who those important people are because then you just had to be in your own little family germ bubble. And who are those friends that are close enough to you that you also want them to be a part of, you know, this small bubble that now COVID has caused everyone to be in.

Leith: [00:15:40] Wow. So this whole gallery meant to help you financially survives, too.

Traci: [00:15:50] Yeah. 

Leith: [00:15:51] Wow. So that must have been hard, too. So you were going through this, obviously a very personal experience, you know, maybe thinking more closely about who you are and what you want. Maybe it was that part of the actually doing the photo gallery like was that part of that process?

Traci: [00:16:13] While the photo gallery was something that I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do. So I had to carve out this time to just focus on that. So that was also one of the reasons I couldn't make myself available to as many people in situations that I had done previously. And I have a home-based business, which is a guest house. And I created a gallery space in the guest house, as well as in my personal space. So that was part of how this work was going to be displayed.

Leith: [00:17:05] I see. So you had a guest house as your sort of main business or form of revenue for some time. And then this gallery project was sort of a side project initially. 

Traci: [00:17:18] Yes. 

Leith: [00:17:19] Wow, and so then obviously, COVID comes around and just, you know, impacts both.

Traci: [00:17:26] Yes, and with the guesthouse, prior to COVID, I was really proud of keeping the guesthouse really clean. As you know, there were multiple people coming in. And it's a shared space. So it feels like it's a home away from home. There are private rooms, and then the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room is shared. And then the garden is the most exquisite amenity of the guest house it is a beautiful, urban garden that people really enjoy. In so many of my reviews, people say how clean and how orderly, the common areas are. So when COVID happened, then I was already keeping the space really clean. And then I added new sanitation protocols for my team, and also for the guest. So business slowed down, at some point, it came to a complete halt. And for the most part, I've had a steady trickle of guests that continue to book rooms with me.

Leith: [00:18:59] Wow. So obviously, it sounds like you've been very introspective throughout this whole journey. Has that changed at all over the course of the year?


Traci: [00:19:15] It's deepened. 

Leith: [00:19:17] Yeah.

Traci: [00:19:17] My introspection definitely has deepened. And then like really paying attention to like, oh, these are the people that I have felt it to be important to stay connected with. And then it's even deeper, and why those people are important and how we meet each other.

Leith: [00:19:44] So what are some examples of somebody who you've sort of decided that's very important to you, and how do you stay connected? I'm assuming I don't know if you can physically be connected, but how are you managing that?

Traci: [00:19:58] Well, I have a really close friend, her name is Sonia. And we just love to laugh together. Like she has a big personality and she's a funny, funny lady and she's also someone that I feel truly sees me and the way that she sees me and respects our friendship, it just feels familiar. It feels not just familiar, but it's like a kindred spirit. Like you have this closeness and this understanding of the other person and how you connect with them. So she's someone that I feel intimate with, I feel safe to be emotionally vulnerable, and intimate with her. And as much as we laugh, we also can connect with things that are very sad and very painful to us, and share those stories and those experiences and just to have a listening ear, someone just to listen, that doesn't always try and offer advice. Or tell you what you need to do is just being an active listener, and just paying attention. Yeah, and through COVID, our relationship has gotten even closer. So towards the end of 2020, we took about three trips to the river. Like we went to the Russian River, we went to Yuba river, we went to Calistoga and got in the hot springs, and having this downtime to rejuvenate. And to be in nature, and to go in and just on these hot days to get into the river and how relaxing and rejuvenating that is. So we had a lot of road trips at the end of 2020. That made our friendship even more special.

Leith: [00:22:43] I think that when you said about just feeling seen. I mean, I think that we all just want that I think at the end of the day, like who we really are to really feel seen and acknowledged and understood. And I mean, gosh, what a gift. But I think you also touched on maybe one of the things that allow for that is the act of listening, which I feel it's not done enough but so valuable, are there any other things that she does or that you notice that you just so appreciate it that makes you feel seen?

Traci: [00:23:26] Well, what came to mind and not so much that makes me feel seen, but she's very free in herself. She's very comfortable in her own skin, and the freedom that she has and how she moves her body, and how she expresses herself and how she speaks and how she laughs she has such freedom, it just makes me want to be free too, you know, which  I guess in a way in observing that. It opens something else, it opened something up within yourself. 


Leith: [00:24:18] So do you think she just doesn't worry too much about what other people think? She's sort of a free spirit that way, like, doesn't live by shoulds or should do this or should think this way or that sort of thing?

Traci: [00:24:29] Yes, absolutely.

Leith: [00:24:33] I think as women we tend to get very caught up in that or I know that's been my experience.

Traci: [00:24:38] Me too, and in finding myself I had to work on that a lot and not be worried about what other people think I should do or what other people thought of me. That was a lot of work I had to do within myself and to refill my cup from being, you know, feeling depleted.

Leith: [00:25:05] Yeah, because you mentioned that sort of. I guess at some point in your time, you're just doing so many things for everybody else and not taking stock or not, you know, doing things for yourself necessarily. How have you gone through that process of discovering these things about yourself? Like, have you chosen, I don't know, books or therapy or just being introspective yourself?

Traci: [00:25:32] All of those things. I have experienced therapy throughout my adult life. And there are things that I've learned in therapy that I reflect on. And I listened to self-help. Not necessarily podcasts, there are YouTube channels that I follow that give me inspiration. The latest one that has been very helpful is a woman named Lisa Nichols. And she has a really popular YouTube channel and she's also one of the people that is featured in 'The Secret' years ago.

Leith: [00:26:31] You're the second person to tell me that. I got to go back. I mean, I did an interview last week, and she was telling me about 'The Secret' now I got to go back and refresh myself on it.

Traci: [00:26:42] Oh, yes. You know, just listen to Lisa Nichols, YouTube channel, and the things that she talks about in loving yourself, and how to empower yourself, and how to release fear, and forgiveness. They are all gems, that sometimes if I'm cleaning, I'll put on her YouTube channel and just let them play. And just to hear these positive affirmations and processes has been really helpful to me. I also do journaling I write and, you know, reflect on my experiences. That solitude can be very helpful in healing and self-discovery. So there were times where I created that solitude as much as I could, for myself. And that was also helpful of just being alone with your own thoughts, and journaling about what you're thinking about. And also just paying attention to sometimes the crazy things that go through our minds. And sometimes I have to pause and be like, Traci, why are you thinking that? And that has also been helpful. And yeah, those are the things that have been helpful for me in finding myself. 

PART 2, 2nd half of conversation with Traci

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Leith: [00:28:36] One of the things you've learned is about loving yourself. And how would you describe that about yourself today? Maybe that was different from before.

Traci: [00:28:53] Loving myself starts with getting to know yourself and not the self that other people think that you are or tell you that you are. You have to discover who you are for yourself. And that is your flaws, your gifts, your talents. And looking at it all. And just being like, wow, this is just the way I'd naturally do things and accepting them, just finding space of acceptance of this is who you are. Even looking at your flaws I asked myself, how can I evolve from doing things in this way? This is something that is not beneficial to me. It's not me living as my highest self, which is one of my mantras. I want to live as my highest self and looking at flaws that prevent me from doing that. And looking at like, what do you need to change that? And where did that come from you know?

Leith: [00:30:26] Is there a story that you've been telling yourself that you have changed over the last while that you could share?

Traci: [00:30:37] Yes, it's a hard story. It's a really rough story. But it's not the complete story.

Leith: [00:30:49] I love that already.

Traci: [00:30:53] Yes, and I had a loving childhood, a loving and nurturing childhood, like, both of my parents were a strong influence on my development and who I was in the self-esteem that I had as a child and as a youth. And at some point, you know, my dad, he was a longshoreman. He was a great provider. He was charismatic. He knew a lot of people, he loves to talk and engage with people. He also helped to nurture my love for music. We had a piano in our garage, and he had some bongos and some congas. And his friends would come over, and they would play music on the weekends. And he was a great influence on me. And then at some point, he got hooked on drugs. And just really went downhill. And our whole family was affected by it. And it was partly why we moved to East Oakland, is because the house that my parents own, they lost their house. You know, my father's drug addiction took over his life. And we lived in a neighborhood, as I mentioned before, there were a lot of families and a lot of children my age, but then there were also drugs that were sold on my block. And there were drug addicts around. And there was a crime, and there was violence, you know, all of that was happening simultaneously. And the story that I told myself, and then subsequently, and years later is like I came from hard beginnings. I came from a drug-filled neighborhood, my father was a junkie. And you know, and I had to let that part of the story go. I remember how many families were in my neighborhood, how there were times where all the children, we felt safe, and we felt free, and we have a lot of fun together. I had to remember that before my father's drug addiction, he was a great provider. And having that experience in those formative years, like from birth until I was seven, set a foundation in me that this is what I always expect. So when you know he had his problems, I still expected something so much greater. So I had to remember who he was before this drug addiction. And he eventually got himself clean and sober and never went back. And it's amazing. Looking at my nieces and nephews, and they're like, Grandpa, and I'm like if you all only knew what this man put us through, and it's that experience of biting your tongue like they don't need to know. They don't know anything other than this loving grandfather, as he was loving and nurturing to me and my siblings when we were children. That's the only grandfather that they know. But it's an amazing transformation of how and my siblings have these really terrible memories of him. And as he has changed and has gotten better, then the next generation, they have no memory of that. They don't know anything about that. So I had to stop telling myself and telling others that just that part of the story like I grew up in this drug-filled neighborhood. And, you know, that's not the whole story.

Leith: [00:35:37] Right, Well do you think being able to trust your dad that he has transformed and sort of left that world behind requires part of you to trust yourself? Or trust maybe the story you're telling yourself? Or I'm not even sure, but something about you. You know.

Traci: [00:36:00] Yeah, that's also a part of my own healing, is that I'm the author of my story. What is the story that I want to tell? And who am I to myself, and getting so strong within my understanding of myself, that anything that is displeasing or that is negative, or that could threaten my well-being, I have the tools to not allow it to affect me? I have the tools to set boundaries and to stick by them. And I have the tools to heal and take great care of myself. So having that understanding of this story of neglect falls away you know it's like that's something that happened for a period of your life.

Leith: [00:37:16] Right.

Traci: [00:37:17] But there are so many other amazing things that have happened. 

Leith: [00:37:22] Right. So you touched on boundaries. How has that played a part in this process of sort of discovering yourself and trusting yourself?

Traci: [00:37:38] I have learned to say no.

Leith: [00:37:46] It's a hard one.

Traci: [00:37:48] Yeah, it's a hard one. And one of the things that I recently heard Lisa Nichols say, is that no isn't mean. It's not like you're trying to hurt someone. It's just not right now. I'm not available. No, this doesn't work for me. Let's find something that does work. And I used to have such a great fear of confrontation. And I also wanted to be liked and wanted to make myself available to other people, which made me overly accommodating and just overextended because that yes to everyone and to everything. And realizing that yes, was what was draining me. And I had to empower myself to create the boundaries to say, no, I'm not available, or it's not a good time for me to be a part of this and to be okay with that. So that was a big lesson in my healing and my transformation is not being afraid of saying no.

Leith: [00:39:15] Right. Well, in just in that just the story. I mean, I think we all do this, but you tell yourself what no means, you know, it's hurtful or to somebody else, or it's just mean, you know, when it's that's not necessarily the case. There are different no’s, right? Like, yeah, not now, or this isn't a good time. I can't give you my all. I think that's so powerful and so hard one to learn. I've had to learn it, too. And we're not, I don't know, conditioned that way I feel, or at least that's been my experience. And learning to say no is hard.

Traci: [00:39:56] Yes, it can feel hard. But I do have to remind myself that no, isn't you being hurtful to someone.

Leith: [00:40:12] Letting go of that story. Yeah and also, it means like, space you give yourself if you're not doing one thing, the space you give yourself for something else. And how loving that is to yourself, and to the people around you, who you either choose to spend that time with or dedicate that time with

Traci: [00:40:36] Yes.

Leith:  [00:40:39] Wow, I love that. So what does this mean now? You know, obviously, you've got your travel lodge that is going in some capacity. And you're going to do some more tours or I guess virtual tours of your; what did you call it? A gallery? 

Traci:  [00:41:06] Yes.

Leith: [00:41:07] So and Is that what you're working on? Is that where you see this year going?

Traci: [00:41:14] Yes, the guest house is a well-oiled machine; I have a team that supports me with it. I get a steady trickle of bookings that come in. I just had a woman checkout on Monday and she gave herself a retreat, she lives in Oakland, wanted to give her a retreat. And I thought it was so special to give herself that gift of self-care. And she's like; I just want to be in your garden. And there are a few oranges left on the tree. And she's like, I just want to pick some oranges off your tree and sit in the garden and then have some alone time. And just to sleep and write and rests you know. So the guest house is continuing. I am planning gallery tours and gallery hours in the summer months. And my first love is dance.

Leith: [00:42:16] Of course.

Traci: [00:42:17] I've been a dance educator and a teaching artist for many years. And I am planning to create some online dance content. So I'm in the process of doing that. And I do have an upcoming workshop that's happening on the 27th. I actually have two I have one on the 27th and another one on the 28th. And this is a lecture and workshop that I called a celebration of African American social dances. And it is honoring these different eras of African American social dances that have impacted and helped to shape who I am as a dancer and as an artist. So it's a really wonderful history lesson, as it starts with traditional African dances that I learned as a child. And so I talked about, you know, this 14th century Mali Empire that these dances came from, that I learned in the cafeteria of my elementary school as a kid. And how these are dances that were shared with me from this artists and activists community here in Oakland, and it is an extension of the civil rights and the black lives movement, as Oakland is the home of the Black Panther Party. And these are organizations that had this belief in the peoples in our collective power to uplift ourselves from systemic racism, oppression, and poverty, you know, through our collective efforts through art and culture and through economic empowerment. So, this one dance from the 14th century Mali Empire is like the first African dance that I learned. So I shared this, you know, we started in West Africa, we move through the Middle Passage. I share some of the dances that Afro enslaved Africans did, I go through the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, and then the dances that my parents did, and then, you know, dances that I did when I was coming of age. So I give these little snippets of dance and music from all of these eras. And it is such an exciting history lesson. So it seems that there are more opportunities for me to share this lecture and dance workshop, as even today, someone booked me for the 28th, I have one that's already scheduled for the 27th that is sponsored by an organization in San Francisco and it's also open to the public. But the one on the 28th is for a school and it's something that the school is going to open up to the family. So it's a Sunday afternoon, and the families are going to have this dance experience for Black History Month.

Leith:  [00:46:00] So is it virtual like a video that you've created, so then you share it?

Traci: [00:46:06] Well actually I presented live just as we are doing it here. I present it live on zoom. 

Leith: [00:46:12] Oh I see, cool. 

Traci: [00:46:16] Let me just see if I could change something really quickly. I just want to show you the actual background that I have of what's behind me backgrounds and filters. None. Okay, yes. I close these double doors. And that's the backdrop for the workshop.

Leith:  [00:46:46] Wow. Okay. So then you just put your screen on the other side of the room, and then you perform and speak as you go.

Traci: [00:46:53] Yes, I tell stories, and I dance. And I give like two or three steps from each of those eras and so she audience also has the moments where they get up and dance so it's kind of interactive. So it seems that I'm getting more opportunities to present that. So I'll keep doing that and for my website, that I'm just preparing to do some rebranding and have some e-commerce on my website, then there are shorter workshops. So this one I'm speaking of it's like an hour and a half to a two-hour workshop experience. But I do have, let's say some of the sections of that workshop are just a workshop on their own. That's the online content that I'm developing for my website.

Leith: [00:47:53] Oh, wow so your website is up and running or you're just revamping it. 

Traci: [00:47:58] I'm revamping it.

Leith: [00:47:59] Okay.

Traci: [00:48:00] So right now I'm in the development stages. 

Leith: [00:48:02] Can you share the URL?

Traci: [00:48:05] Yes, I can share the URL. I'll put it in the chat. And I don't think the new website would be ready until we're planning April. We launched in April. But I can share the website in the chat and then also the workshop that's open to the public on the 27th. 

Leith: [00:48:35] So they can come into your space and watch it.

Traci: [00:48:39] No, it's a virtual workshop, so yes, I'm just here by myself, and then through zoom people experienced the workshop.

Leith:  [00:48:54] Oh got it. Love it. 

Traci: [00:49:01] And then, and if you like to dance, you know, people that enjoy dancing, then please share this with them.

Leith: [00:49:11] I will. We got a couple of people in my house that will love it too.

Traci: [00:49:14] Oh, wonderful. Let's see. Oh, there it is. Here's the link to the workshop. It is February 27th from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm Pacific Standard Time. What part of the country are you in?

Leith: [00:49:33] I'm on the east coast, Eastern Standard. I was in the Bay Area until last summer. And then we moved back to Canada. I'm Canadian. So I'm in Toronto.

Traci: [00:49:46] Oh, you're in Toronto? 

Leith:  [00:49:49] Yeah.

Traci: [00:49:52] I've been to Montreal.

Leith:  [00:49:54] Great city.

Traci:  [00:49:55] Yes. I was also at a dance conference there a few years ago.


Leith: [00:50:02] Oh, nice. So what makes you excited about or if anything about 2021?

Traci: [00:50:11] What makes me excited is how I'm feeling good about myself. You know, the boundaries that I've created, the self-work that I've done, it has given me such an empowered place to be in and to live from, I feel good about myself, I feel good about who I am. How I've learned to communicate, how I've given attention to the important people in my life, and have nurtured and strengthened those relationships. I'm excited to share my work, you know, also the photography and the dance stuff. And also taking the time to plan and roll it out. The things that are not happening for that are being developed, that won't happen until late spring, and then the summer in the fall. So I have this time between now and then to fine-tune it and to pull it together. So I'm excited to have that time to do that.

Leith: [00:51:35] That's amazing. Well, I'm excited for you. And I really want to take this time to thank you for sharing your story. And also like talking about how you can own your story. And just like you know, when I think about where our conversation started at the beginning, and you're telling me about this, you know, amazing upbringing and all the community that you experience, and then you know, later in your story, to actually share some of the harder parts. But the fact that you can reposition it, even in your own head is amazing.

Traci: [00:52:12] Well, thank you for having me. And thank you for the work that you're doing. Elizabeth who introduced us is one of my favorite people in the world. She is so wonderful. It feels good to make a connection with you through her.

Leith: [00:52:30] She's doing amazing things, too. I mean, that's what's so amazing about so many women and all the things that are happening and even despite COVID I think you know, and how she's helping you with your website. 

Traci: [00:52:44] It's good.

Leith: [00:52:45] Yeah. All right. Well, thank you so much, Traci. I really, really appreciate this time and I'll be in touch. It will take me a little while to get things going and I move at a slow pace, but I move and, yeah, I'll keep in touch via email and we'll go from there.


Traci:  [00:53:04] Okay, that sounds great.

Leith: [00:53:07] Thanks, same view. Bye.

Second half of conversation
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