Tag Archives: Personal Development

Peaches + Published + Pear = #grateful

Last year (2011) ABC Open invited me to write a guest blog for Mother’s Day about my particular journey to Motherhood. Finding myself expecting baby #2, I’ve been reflecting on that particular post quite a lot.

“He saved me, that tiny squashed pink and white bundle of skin and bone and sinew and breathing, sighing, screaming life. He saved me because I loved him enough to demand a better life. To stretch into my life with a greater courage than I thought I had because I had a promise to keep.”

The full post was republished on Mamamia last week, read it here. Or the original on ABC Open here.

This time around, with little Peaches (as bub #2 has been affectionately dubbed for the time being) everything is different. EVERYTHING.

I’m different. My life is different. Even the world is a little bit different.

There was no facebook when my son was born (in 2002). The original iPod was only released the year before (with the first iPhone coming out in 2007).

Since 2002, I’ve watched on screens as news of events like the Virginia Tech Massacre (since followed by many other similar shootings), Hurricane Katrina, London Transit Bombings, the Indonesian Tsunami, the Chechnya school siege (killing 340 people – mostly children), the Writers Guild Strike (which you can blame for all the terrible films in 2007-2009), the Sichuan Province Earthquake (which killed 90,000 people), first African American President of the US, Michael Jackson died, Oprah Winfrey finished up her show after 25 years, the Fukishima Nuclear disaster, the 2009 Victorian Bushfires and the ongoing conflicts across the globe (not to mention Australian politics and it’s increasingly nasty undertone).

There were a whole bunch of firsts for women too, including – Speaker of the House (US), IndyCar winner, Australian Prime Minister, Academy Award Win for Best Director, female director in Saudi Arabia, Nobel Prize in Economics, female Bishop in Australia.

So the world is a little bit different. Maybe even a lot different. But this post isn’t actually about that. This post is a little bit about how different I am, but mostly it’s about how grateful I am and how driven that makes me.

When my son was born in 2002, I was 17 and living with an abusive partner. In utero and in the early months of his life, my son was exposed to a lot of stress and varying degrees of conflict.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the impacts of domestic violence and stress on babies in utero and in the first 12 months of life since 2002 (in both popular media and medical journals) and now growing Peaches, I’m reflecting very deeply on a lot of that literature and the stark contrast between Mr Z’s start to life in 2002 and the start Peaches is getting now.  Because I’m lazy and don’t keep references for my personal (ie. non uni) reading and because this is a personal reflection not an academic essay I’m not providing you with links to the research (but go hunting and you’ll find a wealth of related reading), but some of the reading I’ve engaged with shows evidence that children exposed to domestic violence in utero and during the first 12 months (and then removed) actually have greater/more long term effects (including issues with concentration, regulating emotions, trusting adults, self esteem) than children aged 4 or above when first exposed (who are then removed). The length of exposure isn’t the issue – but the age of the child and their brain development when exposure occurs. We’ve all heard the stories about how crucial a child’s early years are, so this of course makes perfect sense. Being exposed to extreme stress (in the form of domestic violence) while the brain is making many of its first early connections is likely to have a negative impact on how some of those connections develop.

And so.

I think about Z.

And his entry into the world.

Our struggles together to chase a better life (including leaving his Dad), and I’m both proud of that and grateful for the spaces we found to make that a reality in equal measure.

I understand deeply and intrinsically that damage has been done to my first baby and that life will continue to damage us both.

And I think about this new person growing inside of me. This new me. In this new time. In this new world.

All the feelings and thoughts collide in me. Fracture on the insides of my ribs, catch in the texture of my skin.

Guilt. Gratitude. Joy. Confusion. Sorrow. Forgiveness. Anger. Love. Hope. Disappointment. Guilt. Wonder.

Peaches will have such a different beginning. Surrounded by love. By hope. By possibility. By art.

Sometimes the guilt most of all consumes me, but mostly, mostly I just feel grateful, joyous and full of hope. For both my children.

*

Oh yeah – this happened on Friday too:

Arts Award 2013

Am I bragging?

Yes, absolutely.

Because I’m learning.

I’m learning to lay claim to my success and to my power

– not just to my failures and mistakes.

And because I’m grateful. So grateful. To be here, in this moment, with this life.

The Hunger #willieverbegoodenough?

 

Psstt…..I put in an entry to SOYA this year.

Loads of other way more qualified and talented people have as well, so please go over and take a peek and support my entry so I don’t feel so small and alone….

 

Take a look here – http://www.soya.com.au/entrant/alysha-herrmann/

 

Voices Project

 

PS – Also don’t forget you can buy a copy of The Voices Project (here).

Lost in Abundance Panel – #watershedACT

Watershed Panel

It’s quite tricky to write a blog while sitting on a panel. I tried.

Lost in Abundance put me in some rather intimidating company. Joining me on the panel were:

Our panel was facilitated by the gentle Chris Brain, who was both a member of the Watershed Steering Committee and Implementation Committee. We were kicked off by Chris asking “What under-used resource would you like to see young and emerging theatre artists connect with better?”

Obvious one. Working with people with a disability. People are worried about saying and doing the wrong thing so they just avoid it. Diversity strengthens our practice. – Michelle Ryan

I want to reaffirm what Michelle said. Diversity enriches the process. Diversity in every way (deliberately). It’s a huge resource. Also, be open to the possibility of people you meet being a collaborator in the future.  – Baba Israel

Faith in yourself. It’s really broad and you won’t get a lot out of it initially. – Kirsty Hillhouse

Kirsty touched on how this faith in yourself means something to those who fund you (or invest in you in other ways). Everyone is looking for people with bright ideas – not necessarily with capacity or skill yet, there is a willingness to support and grow from the ideas. Make the most of that and don’t wait until you’re a proven product. Asking inspires people, they want to be part of your awesomeness.

I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I reiterated what the previous panelists had said and touched on the power of our networks with each other and the industry – in particular harnessing the power of tools like social media.

Being a regional artist, I can’t practically pop to and from events to make networks or collect flyers to see what’s on as regularly as I’d like. But what I can do is follow companies/individuals within the industry through their social media profiles and through this have real time access to a wide range of announcements and insights into the industry and work happening across the country (and internationally). I can research and open up a dialogue with companies and people that excite me so that my travel to urban areas can be targeted and well utilized. I can overcome *some* of the isolation I feel through the connections I maintain. Social media has been a fantastic resource for me and has led to offers of paid work and other opportunity’s that I otherwise would not have accessed. Definitely a resource I would encourage other artists from all walks of life to tap into.

David was lucky last and rather than picking just one thing, he reaffirmed everything everyone else had said and shared the following list:

  • Using the internet. Accessing opportunities. Heaps of websites. Google opps for young artists. Research.
  • Travel. Being out of your space and seeing other work.
  • Older artists. Mentors. Asking questions. People whose work you like.
  • DIY. Don’t wait for the offer. Ger in there. The benefit is you start making the mistakes early.
  • Mistakes. They are a resource. Make them early.
  • Seeing more/other work. It’s easy to become a bit insular. See everything you can. Sometimes thing you hate really inspire you to be productive.
  • Playing out of your depth. You SHOULD feel scared, and like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. You shouldn’t feel like that every day of course, that’s no good for you. But if it’s been more than a year or two since you felt terrified, go and do it now. Bite off more than you think you can handle.
  • Find inspiration from outside your field.
  • Networking and collaborating. Provoke people around you to be creative. Even if it’s something small and stupid.
  • Talk with funding bodies. Ask questions. They are waiting to talk to you.

I love David. 🙂

The floor was then open to questions. This is where it just got ridiculously tricky to write everything down as I was listening and responding to questions and the other panelists and just couldn’t manage to type at the same type. So sadly I can’t give you a run down of the Q and A in detail.

Many of the questions (though not all) were asked by what I’d consider ‘youth participants’ or ‘aspiring artists’ rather than young/emerging artists. What I mean by this is people actively engaging with the arts through youth theatre and school who in the future want to consider or pursue an arts career but aren’t actually participating in the industry themselves (at present).

I found this a little frustrating, not because they weren’t valid questions, but because the vision for the summit was to be a space for young and emerging artists either completely in or well on their way to transitioning into professional practice. These questions (and the people asking them) were coming from a completely different place, and a place that is valid and important but wasn’t (from the steering committee perspective) a place that was designed to be addressed as part of Watershed. It meant that we were using time (both in this panel and Watershed as a whole) to answer questions that would have been best answered in some cases by Google searches and by attending workshops at school and with their youth theatre company.

Young people engaged with youth theatre, school and other arts as participants is a really important conversation. And one as a result of my personal practise that I am incredibly passionate about, but it is a different conversation to that of young and emerging artists as professional practitioners in the wider industry. Sadly so many people/companies just lump it all in together if you’re under 30 (or 26) which I find really ridiculous. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you want to make work with or for other young people. And just because you love engaging with the arts through youth theatre and school doesn’t mean you’ll move into professional practice.

This issue of specificity was a concern to me across the spectrum of Watershed but I have gone a little off topic from the Abundance Panel, so I will aim to visit this structural issue in a separate blog and take the time to really tease out why it was an issue and why myself and other Steering Committee members felt unsatisfied in certain areas.

Before moving on though, I do just want to make it very clear that the issues I’m talking about are not in any way a criticism of the very hard work of the Implementation Committee. They delivered the content they decided upon very well, it just happened to be content that didn’t necessarily answer the required questions for a National Theatre Summit for Young and Emerging Artists (as opposed to a National Youth Theatre Summit). I’ll delve into this properly when I get to that other blog.

Going back to the panel, there was some great discussion in response to audience questions and I was super impressed (and super intimidated) by the responses of the other panelists. What really stood out to me is the repeated motif of ‘Just ask. Just do. Just start.’

I was also struck by how the fact of being on the panel, somehow made people assume I was further in my own career than I actually am. It’s an interesting observation in terms of how the frame we put around someone shapes how we perceive and engage with them.

I am still figuring out who I am, both as a person and as an artist and I ALWAYS will be, because I see myself as ongoing project and I have a deep hunger to learn, learn, learn. I want to be better each day than I was the day before.

Also.

I have NO idea what I’m doing.

At least that’s how it often feels.

Until I remember that my journey is mine and mine alone. I bring my life experiences and professional experiences and the unique combination of the two. I’m not finished. I’m not an expert.

And that’s okay.

I still have something valuable to say.

#justsaying?

More on Home and the Fragile Soup of Family – 26th March Cafe Poet Update

This month has become all about home and family. Every poem I’ve written and every poem that’s been written to me. I’ve had this preoccupation with trying to pin to paper my range of feelings about the Riverland, the complexity of my family. What home means to me. Reading through everything I’ve written there have been some obvious patterns emerging. Home needs a sense of connection to others, a sense of safety and inspiration from the landscape, home needs the people that you love and the people that you love are complicated and messy.


I’m lost in this place. The place between who you were and who you are. I’m trapped there with you. My fear traps me. My love. My hope. My baby brother. Because I see. What you could be. What you have been. What you are. My heart is breaking. Breaking. Broken. A broken soft footed thing. Reaching. Are you reaching? Falling. Just falling. No. Reaching. You reached and I reached. Now we’re waiting. To fall. To fly. For something. A tipping place. A new face. A way through. It’s worth it. It is. I believe absolutely that it is worth it. Actually truly worth it.

This is the last day of Café Poeting for March, the next time I’m here it’ll be a new month and I intend to make a concerted effort to explore a completely different theme and place – but for today it’s still March and I’m thinking of those people I love. Those people who make the fabric of my life. Complex, damaged, precious and unnameable.

*

Hear the catch.
The smash.
The something.
Voice on the other end breathing.
Wonder.
Is this it?
All there is?
And
I’m saying
All the wrong things
Reminding you
Of what you’ve
Lost
I hate that
Hate you
Hate me
Want to keep you safe
Want to wrap you in love
In hope
Instead change the subject
Ask a question
Tell a funny story
Pretend I don’t hear you
Crying
Smashing
Losing control
Pretend I don’t know that you’re close
So close
Because
I’m so small
So far away
Nothing
Nothing
I can do
I’m afraid
Sharp
Tangy
Deep

Stay

*

An awkward boy. A less awkward time. And something else slipping quietly past. Someone loved. Someone precious. Who are the people we’ve lost? The people we’ve left behind. Snapping shadows on your shins. Gulping windows in your eyes. Forgotten over and over and over and over and over.

Poetry Anyone? 6th February – Cafe Poet Update

6th February 2012

So…..poetry anyone?

Today is the second day of my residency as a Café Poet in partnership with Australian Poetry and Sprouts Café…….I arrived today (still with my misspelt sign!) to check the poetry box and get set up.

The box was empty – sad face! However, not unexpected being the first week and our media only just starting to jump on the bandwagon. I’m looking forward to reading and responding to all of your poems next week. Remember you can drop in any time during the week and pop a poem you’ve written into the poetry box and I’ll then write a poem in response to yours the following Monday. This isn’t a feedback service – it’s a creative conversation, so let’s talk!

But I’m pleased to report I’ve had a productive morning speaking to the local Youth Development Officer and Magic FM about the residency (and other creative things) and finally now sitting here getting stuck into some personal poetry writing.

I’ve spent the last half hour or so losing myself in the lovely paintings (by Heather Wasley), which adorn the walls of Sprouts Café as inspiration. My early efforts thus far have been fairly clumsy however there are a few glimmers of gold I think I’ll take the time to work on this week. See you soon!

2011 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) presentation for Berri Rotary

This is a copy of the presentation I made to the Berri Rotary Club in thanks for sponsoring my attedance at this year’s Rotary Youth Leadership Awards:

17th October 2011

So I need a volunteer. Thank you!

Here’s a lonely little toothpick. Try and break it.

It breaks easily yeah?

Here’s another one.

So it’s pretty easy to break an individual toothpick. It takes barely any effort at all.

But what about a bundle of toothpicks? Can you break this bundle tied together? It’s a little harder.

That message most of all, is the one I took away from RYLA. As a team we are stronger, when we work together and we are connected we are harder to break.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name’s Alysha Herrmann. I’m a parent. I have an almost 9 year old son named Zacharie who of all the people in my life inspires me every day to try and become the best version of myself that I can be.

I’m completing a teaching/Arts degree which I’ve been doing since 2008 part time, when I finally finish I’ll be qualified as a secondary Drama/English teacher and I’m majoring in Literature and Sociology for an Arts degree.

Most of my work and passion though is as an Artist. A performing artist to be exact, I originally trained as an actor although I don’t get to perform much living in a regional area so I mostly work now as a project facilitator & director (especially with young people who I’m very passionate about) and as a playwright. I also occasionally write bad poetry and even worse songs! My work as a playwright has been performed in Canberra, Adelaide, Queensland, Victoria and right here in the Riverland.

On Friday night past my work in the Arts was also formally recognised as I was the recipient of the Advantage SA Riverland & Murraylands Sony Centre Arts Award, which is super exciting for me. I’m not sporty so I’ve never really won much in the way of trophies before but I now have a glass pear to sit on my desk!

I’m also a youth mentor working with Renmark High School students & a community mentor with the Berri Barmera Council’s Youth Committee. I’m the President of the Berri District Youth Club and the co-creator and facilitator of the Riverland Youth Connect project.

And I’m a young person. I turned 26 this year. And 2 weeks ago I attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards in Belair sponsored by the Rotary Club of Berri. Thank you!

While I was at RYLA I thought a lot about what I would say when I came to report back to you, and I’ve continued thinking about what to say in the 2 weeks since coming home.

I don’t know that anything I can say could actually capture what RYLA is and what it did for me.

RYLA is for young people aged 18-25 and I only just snuck in this year having already turned 26, being on the older end of the spectrum RYLA was a different experience for me than many of the other participants as obviously I’m a little older, hopefully a tiny bit more experienced and more settled in my life. So perhaps some of the content wasn’t new, perhaps some of the guest speakers seemed like an echo I’d heard before and yet my experience at RYLA was moving, was valid and was equally important. It didn’t change my life or introduce me to a whole new world, but it gave me the opportunity to reflect, to re-evaluate, to take time out from my busy life and experience myself through other people’s eyes, which is something that we don’t often have the opportunity to do.

And that is a really, really special gift. Too often we’re living our lives in survival mode, on full throttle going from day to day just trying to keep up. And I’m often really guilty of that. RYLA asked me to step outside of that pattern. To give up my phone, my schedule, my work for a week, my family for a week and put my time and my energy in someone else’s hands. To give 100% commitment to whatever experiences the week had to offer and I didn’t know what to expect. I really only had a very vague idea of what RYLA was from past participants.

As I said before, nothing can really sum it up but I will try and give you bit of quick snapshot. RYLA incorporates guest speakers who this year covered a diverse array of topics including public speaking, conflict resolution, ethics, living your passions, goal setting, self defence (I was teamed with one of the Directors – and let’s just say he never wants to be my partner for self defence ever again!), volunteering & leadership. The week incorporates a lot of self development through a variety of mechanisms including reflection (individually and as a team), team work, sports and outdoor activities, dancing (My highlight of the week was possibly the bushdancing – simply because we barely knew each other and yet everyone gave it a go. Everyone committed to what that experience had to offer. We got out of our heads and into our bodies and moved and laughed together. That really stands out in my mind), games and lots of opportunity for creative expression. It’s also a week’s worth of solid and useful networking with future collaborators, clients and leaders. It’s a week of great food and fellowship. But it’s also more than all of that.

In my RYLA application back in February I said: I hope to be inspired and challenged to see the world from new angles. I also hope to have the opportunity to form and develop new networks with other passionate and engaged young people and through these networks develop new skills and possible co-collaborators on future projects. I hope that I can contribute and offer something valuable to other participants through sharing my own diverse skills and experience.

I was given all of those things – I was inspired, I was challenged, I made & developed new networks with passionate young people as future co-collaborators, I grew my skills & I contributed in a way that only I could have.

RYLA was an amazing week. A week that reaffirmed for me what community means to me. And to me community is all about reaching out to others, to share, to support, to laugh and to cry. This is exactly what RYLA is and was over 7 days – a community. A community of spirited, generous and dedicated young people. Young people who are contributing meaningfully and tirelessly in their respective communities – to spend 7 days in their company was so exciting and reinvigorating for me personally.

I come away from the week refreshed and ready to keep working, to keep building our community, to keep doing what I’m doing with new skills, new networks and new hope.

As a team we are stronger, when we work together and we are connected we are harder to break. That’s the message I bring back from RYLA, that’s the message which resonates most loudly to me in relation to the Riverland.

And I just wanted to show you this short video. My partner and I made it in 2009 so it’s not new and some of you may have seen it before. But this is why I do what I do and this is why opportunities like RYLA for people like me are so important.

So that was RYLA.
Humbling, inspiring, challenging & so worth it.

So where to now for me?

Some of you may already know that I’ve been invited to attend the Commonwealth Youth Forum next week in Fremantle. I’ve been invited as one of 30 Australia delegates to join other youth delegates aged 18-29 from the other Commonwealth Nations to learn about the Commonwealth, debate issues to be progressed to world leaders at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and benefit from skills-building sessions during the Forum. We’ll also have the unique opportunity to work with international delegates from Commonwealth member nations to discuss global issues.

This is a really exciting opportunity for me personally but also for the Riverland as there are only 2 South Aussies going, myself and a young lady from Adelaide, so it’s a great opportunity to fly the flag for the Riverland and tell everyone what a wonderful community we have here and that they should all come and visit us! It’s also an opportunity for me to be a vehicle for the voices of other young people to share their stories, ideas and concerns at an International forum. It’s also I think a pertinent opportunity to put into practise and build on everything I experienced at RYLA.

To make sure that as many voices as possible inform my time at the forum I’ve distributed a survey which Robin (Berri Rotary President) has the link to if anyone would like to share with their youth networks. People can also email or call me directly. The more people who share their thoughts with me before I head off, the more well rounded and representative of our community I can be.

I’ve been very lucky because The Federal Office for Youth & the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition are supporting me to access this opportunity by covering my accommodation, food & other costs associated with staying in Fremantle for the week, as most of the work I do is in-kind and therefore unpaid it can be really difficult for me to access this kind of opportunity. However I still need to cover travel to and from Fremantle, including flights (which when I checked today were around the $700 mark) and transport to Adelaide and any small contribution towards these costs would be greatly appreciated.

In my other capacity as an artist I’m also continuing work on my independent community arts project PressureLands. PressureLands is a performance project working with young people 14-26 to explore pressure, expectations and success.

The project started last year when I visited all of the local high schools and engaged over 600 young people as part of community consultations through interviews, brainstorming, writing letters and performance exercise around the themes of pressures, expectations and success. 10 young people then came on board to create a performance response to that material and we’re continuing to create that performance which will end up being a play and we’ve just finished registering for the Adelaide Fringe next year which is super exciting.

We have a lot of fundraising to do between now and March but we have a very passionate and dedicated cast who have been selling chocolates, face painting and organising quiz nights so somehow we will get there and we will be performing in Adelaide for week before a week of shows right here in the Riverland. I’d love to see you all at the show next year. The Creative Producer of the next Regional Arts Conference has also invited PressureLands to perform at the 2012 Regional Arts Conference in Goolwa which is another exciting opportunity not only to showcase this project and the amazing young people who are involved but also the Riverland itself.

Lastly in relation to RYLA I just wanted to share something quite personal that came out of the week for me. The residential facility we stayed at during RYLA is called ‘Nunyara’ and on the first day the caretaker explained that Nunyara means ‘place of healing’. It’s a beautiful place up in the Adelaide Hills, you can stand on the verandah in the evening and look out over a lush hillside and see the sea of fairy lights that is the Adelaide skyline, it’s just stunning.

I mentioned earlier that one of the benefits of RYLA for me personally was the opportunity to see myself through other people’s eyes and I really meant that. For me RYLA and Nunyara were truly a place of healing.

Despite everything I’ve achieved in the last 10 years I’ve still been viewing myself as a high school drop out and a teen parent. I’ve still been seeing myself through that lens. Being immersed in the RYLA experience forced me to rethink how I see myself, forced me to see myself through the eyes of others.

There were lots of way it did so, but one that stands out to me is the warm fuzzy activity. On the first day of RYLA we were asked to fill out a little one page survey about ourselves and stick it onto an A4 envelope on the wall and then throughout the week the idea was that if someone did something really inspiring or outstanding or you just wanted to give them some encouragement, you could write them a little note (a so called ‘warm fuzzy’) and leave it in their envelope for them. When I came home and read my warm fuzzies I was really confronted by words I’d never associate with myself, words & sentences like ‘your attitude to life is more inspiring than words can express’, ‘you lead people through your kindness and wisdom’, ‘determined & wise’. I’m not saying I’ll never doubt myself again, I will. I’ll still doubt, I’ll still be afraid, but I’m not just a high school drop out and I’m not just a teen parent anymore and RYLA gave me the chance to see that. So thank you. For thinking I was worth sending. Each of you collectively gave me that gift.

No matter what I’m doing or how I use what I learnt at RYLA, that is something that will stay with me.

Thank you.

End Presentation.

Afterwards I opened the floor for questions. The club gave me a standing ovation. Peter Jarvis said I was the best speaker the club has had in over 18 months, Warren Adams said he noticed that no one touched their dessert as I spoke, they waited until I was finished and that almost never happens as usually everyone starts eating their dessert as soon as it arrives and it showed that I had their attention.

As I sat down again to eat my dessert the secretary of the club indicated that he wanted to support my attendance at the Commonwelath Youth Forum and asked the club to do so. The entire club voted yes on the spot.

Thank you Berri Rotary for believing in me and for supporting me not only to experience RYLA but to take our stories to an International Forum such as CYF.

I’d love for you (whoever you are reading this) to share your stories/ideas/concerns with me as I head to the Commonwealth Youth Forum. You can access the survey here or you can email me with your thoughts at: alysha_herrmann85@hotmail.com

And I’m going to endeavour to blog/tweet/facbook about the Forum whilst I’m there next week. Wish me luck!