Q&A w/ Alanna, The Newest Member of Our Crew!

December 6, 2016

Man, oh man, things got busy around here this year!  If you hadn’t noticed, I went from blogging a lot… to not.  🙂  But, it’s been a great problem to have, as we quadrupled our reach this year with 24,000+ people now wearing The Stitch!  Woohoo!

So, to keep up with it all, we brought in a new rock star (“Communication Manager”), to help stay on top of social media, brand collaborations, emails, product orders, and a whole bunch of stuff that was slipping through the cracks.

Meet Alanna!  She has a big heart, loves to learn, and genuinely cares about every single person SYS interacts with – a few of the many reasons we love her.  🙂   -Matt

1)  Alanna, first off, we’ve “known” each other for a long time, but without really knowing each other, simply due to seeing each other at the coffee shop regularly.  Is it fair to call you a “coffee snob” or do you prefer to think of yourself as someone who appreciates the finer things of life?  PS – I’m pretty sure you’re just a coffee snob.  😉

Well let’s be honest Matt, both are correct! I do “appreciate the finer things in life” but I also just REALLY like good coffee and struggle to sip something that doesn’t make the cut. I think it is mostly because of all of my experience as a barista at small, craft-focused shops. I spent hours looking at espresso extraction charts, practicing latte art techniques, and pouring over technical handbooks so that even though I’m not a barista now, if someone behind the machine doesn’t know what they are doing it takes all my willpower to not take the milk pitcher out of their hand and say, “Just let me do it!” So maybe I’m not so much a coffee snob as I am a control freak… hmmm…. I’ll need to think about that one. 😉

2)  Earlier this year, you reached out (totally out of the blue) with one of the kindest emails I’d ever received and I immediately thought, “If she can make ME feel this good, she can do the same for every single person who ever contacts SYS.”  Beside the obvious fact that you were looking to somehow help out, why did you reach out?

Well the answer to that goes back to when we just knew each other from the coffee shop. I love people watching and I because I already knew about SYS and had checked out the website, I recognized you as being the guy behind it. (I know, I’m such a creeper.) I was curious to see if your daily life reflected your stated beliefs and so over time I observed how you treated people around you and it became very clear to me that you acted on your beliefs in the nitty gritty of daily life and that you had true compassion for people – things that I think deserve a great deal of respect. After a while of this I thought I should let you know how much I appreciated you and SYS and offer to become a part of it. The months I spent volunteering after that were just a blast and when you asked if I wanted to actually be more permanently on the team, I was thrilled to the point of tears. It really is such a joy being a part of this.

3)  Recently I introduced you to our Board Chair, Liz, over coffee, and afterward, I told her, “You probably think that Alanna dressed up just for our meeting, but she didn’t.  She dresses like that every day.”  And it’s true – you love to dress up… while I show up to the office in jeans and tennis shoes.  You have a philosophy behind this – what is it?

Oh my gosh I remember you telling me about that – thanks for dispelling the idea that I was trying too hard! You really know how to help a girl out. 😉 Clothing for me is a way to tell a story of who you are and what you believe about the world. Each time I start getting dressed in the morning the first thing I ask myself is, “What story do I want to tell today?” The recurring theme of the story centers around my belief that despite the darkness in this world there is hope and beauty if only you choose to see it. I wear high heels, silk and chiffon, backseam nylons, and dresses that remind me of elegant days gone by because they tell the story that life is beautiful, hope is real, and the darkness doesn’t have to win. If other people recognize the story I am wearing that would be such a joy, but even if they don’t, it is a reminder to myself and I can really use that reminder some days.

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4)  It’s been interesting for me to hear your thoughts on 1) working on a cause that you were not personally affected by as a kid (I’m so glad!), and 2) what’s it’s been like explaining to people what you do for work.  Tell us about it.

My goodness Matt it really has been interesting for me getting to work for this cause I wasn’t affected by! I started out in this job incredibly passionate for this cause that seemed so far away from me, but as I told close friends and family that I had known and loved for years about it, they started to tell me about their own experiences until it ended up being approximately two in five people I was close too had been sexually abused as children. I was absolutely floored that it was so much and that I had known so little. If people so dear to my heart cannot tell me about their abuse until I bring it up, how many other people around me are suffering in silence as well? It made child sexual abuse seem incredibly close and personal to a degree I would have never expected and now, instead of a passion for changing some far off thing, it’s a passion for changing something that is woven into the fabric of my everyday life and the lives of those around me.

It has been particularly strange telling less close people about what I do for work because nearly every time the first thing I am asked is, “”Do you do it because you were sexually abused as a kid?” This response did and still does confuse me immensely because I don’t feel that I need to have been personally abused to think that other people shouldn’t be either. It’s like saying that you volunteered at a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving and then being asked, “Did you volunteer because you were once homeless yourself?” The question sounds silly in that context because no one asks those questions about other causes, but the stigma of child sexual abuse is so strong people assume that the only reason you could possibly want to work for that cause is because you were a survivor yourself. These conversations have made me understand on a new level how deeply rooted that stigma is in society and has given me even more drive to change the conversation.

5) You’ve already seen, heard, and done a lot while working for SYS.  What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from this experience thus far?

That is such a tough question to answer because I have already learned so many things! However I think one of the core lessons is that people don’t always need answers as much as they need a friend. When I first was engaging in conversations with survivors I felt something akin to guilt for trying to talk to them about something I never experienced as well as a pressure to have the words that would somehow magically fix everything. You and I had talked about this a great deal Matt until I finally began to realize that having a friend to talk to and someone who cares is one of the greatest things you can do for someone. That there is no such thing as a magical answer that will fix things, but there is the healing power of compassion and friendship.

6)  To help our readers get to know the real Alanna a little better, tell us three interesting, amazing, and/or ridiculous facts about you.  

Hmm… does saying that if I could, I would hide at home with a book and a cup of coffee and never come out count as an answer? Haha, I guess not so let me see…

1 – I am an insane bookworm and when I was younger I decided to set a goal for myself to read 1,000 books before I turned 25 years old. And they weren’t just short books either! Volumes such as Don Quixote, Anna Karenina, and Ulysses made the list. (Ulysses is the most hateful book in the world if you ask me by the way.) I made my goal just in time but my reading mania sure hasn’t shown any signs of stopping since!

2 – I started rock climbing about a year ago and I have fallen absolutely in love with it! I prefer bouldering which has lower heights, but you do it all without ropes so if you fall you fall hard. That fact that it is just you, the rock, and some chalk on your hands soothes me with its raw simplicity. The problem solving completely absorbs me and I am just about at the point where I can consistently climb V4s!

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3 – I am an absolute Star Wars nerd and have been for as long as I can remember. I spent an arguably unreasonable amount of time before the release of The Force Awakens creating a costume and one of my favorite home decor pieces I have is a globe repainted to look like the Death Star. I still pull out my action figures I used to play with as a kid because they are just so cool! One of my favorites pieces is the AT-AT that is as big as a small dog and has guns that light up and a button that quotes some of the movie. “Target, maximum firepower!!!! Pewpewpew!!!!”

7) Obviously, you handle communication, answering emails, writing social media posts, etc.  But, on a deeper level, why do you think your job at Speak Your Silence is important?

ALANNA: It’s important because I am now often the voice of a cause that is on largely about speaking your stories. I have the privilege of helping start conversations that matter, making friends that can help us conquer the stigma, and taking care of our supporters who have made what we do possible. It means so much to me when I find out I wrote an email that made someone’s day or helped a survivor get the courage to apply for counseling or reminded a member of The Fam how much they mean to us. I feel that each of these little moments add up to the big change I hope to help make.

8) You’ve done a great job, Alanna.  What have you enjoyed the most about working with SYS and what are you most excited about as you look forward to 2017?

Thanks Matt, I’ve absolutely LOVED being a part of this and getting to work with you! It’s hard to narrow it down to my favorite part, but I think the closest is the fact that I am now working for something that really matters and that I care deeply about. That is something I have always wanted and feel deeply privileged to be able to do now.

As far as 2017 is concerned, I am absolutely excited because I feel that it will be a year of a great deal of growth! With all the things that we have planned I think we are going to be seeing The Stitch around the world more and more and the conversations about child sexual abuse are really going to start changing for the better. 2017 is going to be an amazing adventure and I can’t wait to get started on it!

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