Such Great History: Erin Loechner

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a Such Great History feature and I’m super excited to introduce you to our next guest featured, Erin Loechner. I ran across Erin’s blog a long time ago and would pull it up in my reader and skim through it almost daily. I love the way she pulls images together from the art world mixed with fashion. I am one of those blog readers who rarely leaves comments but I need to get better at that. Erin moved to Indiana and has been posting on her blog and HGTV about their home renovation, which is just simply beautiful. Erin’s blog will inspire you and also make you want to go thrift shopping to creatively put together outfits.

Meet Erin.

(photo credit: Betsy King Photography)

Here’s a couple of photos of Erin in high school.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 28 and a freelance design writer/blogger at my own site, Design for Mankind, and HGTV.com. I dabble into styling, consulting and rearranging the furniture of any willing party.

How would you describe yourself when you were a teenager?

I was a super late bloomer – really very innocent and naive about life outside of the small town I grew up in.

What did you struggle with most as a teenager? Describe a little bit.

I think my struggles were pretty average – balancing the need to feel included with the desire to establish my own path in life. I remember feeling like I was on a continuous quest to find the perfect group of friends that could share my interests and beliefs.

When you were a teenager, what did you want to be?

Oh, I went through a lot of phases, career-wise. I remember wanting to be a news reporter, journalist, college professor and magazine editor all at separate points in my life. It’s funny, because I feel like I have the perfect combination of the above now!

Do you remember feeling a tug towards a certain profession or cause as a teenager? If so we’d love to hear about it.

Definitely – I loved pouring over magazines and tearing out images and articles that inspired me (a habit I still keep today!). The entire process definitely pulled me into the publishing direction and I wrote/published my first article in a national magazine my senior year of high school. I remember being on cloud nine!

How was your transition moving from high school to college or your next stage of life? Any advice for teens at this stage of life?

To be honest, the transition between high school to college was one of the best times of my life. I love fresh starts and really feel like my focus and confidence kicked in during my freshman year of college. I loved knowing that I had endless options to pursue and the world was my proverbial oyster.

As far as advice goes, I think it’s important to take every opportunity you possibly can. I worked at over 8 internships during college and each of them helped shape the sort of career path I wanted to embark on. I learned so much about my respective field, but even more about myself and the sorts of work situation I wanted for my own life.

What do you do now as a profession? Why did you choose this?

I’m a freelance writer/design blogger, as well as an online personality for HGTV.com. It’s the perfect mix for me – equal parts flexibility and structure, with plenty of excitement along the way!

What advice do you have for teens interested in your line of work?

Be proactive. I started a design blog in 2006 and worked extremely hard to provide quality content, day after day, even when no one was reading. If you’re passionate enough about your interests and future desires, you’ll make time to pursue them with or without immediate benefits.

And if your dream job doesn’t exist, make it! My job now isn’t necessarily something that existed as a career five years ago, but I was able to create a sustainable living combining my passions with super hard work.

Who are your role models and why?

Miranda July is a big one for her innovative spirit and creative drive. She’s always pushing the envelope in the art world and I so admire that!

What kind of impact do you want to make on the world?

I’d love to help other creatives find their path in the world – whether they want to make a full-time career out of their passions or carve out time to pursue their interests…I truly believe it’s important to do the things that make you joyful – and do them often. I’m lucky in that my everyday work brings me an immense amount of joy, and I’d love to see everyone embrace their passions in the same way.

Such Great History: Barry Rodriguez

Let me introduce you to our first guest Such Great History feature. Several of you high schoolers out there wanted to hear from him and are inspired by him. Barry is the director of World Next Door (go right now…add it to your reader, favs, all those things) and then come back here to read about Barry in high school and the path he is on now.

Barry hanging out with some kids at an orphanage on a recent trip to Haiti.

Barry (left), sophomore year, as a summer camp counselor.

Barry (right), junior year, with a few of his Counterpoints buddies at a national showchoir competition in Disneyworld.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a 28 year old single guy who travels the world, lives in slums and refugee camps, eats weird stuff like tarantula and goat brains, and has a huge passion for fighting against social injustice (issues like AIDS, hunger, poverty, etc.). I’m also a major nerd who loves reading about stuff like quantum physics and stone-age anthropology, loves camping (but only because I get to use cool gear like my Swedish firesteel) and who geeks out about awesome sci-fi novels and movies.

I direct a non-profit photojournalism organization, I keep my house crazy neat and clean and I love being an uncle to my surrogate nieces, Isabella and Anya. Oh, and not gonna lie… I spend a lot of my free time playing video games.

How would you describe yourself when you were a teenager?
I was nerdy. Introverted. Sort of a bundle of nervous energy and insecurities. I could carry on a conversation just fine, but I always felt like I was an outsider. I was also a really straight-laced, rule following kid. Let’s put it this way… I was the guy that all the girls’ moms wanted their daughters to date. I was also the guy that all of those daughters wouldn’t have touched with a 10 foot pole!  (At least, that’s how it felt at the time).

But beyond my insecurities, I was also pretty creative and involved with a ton of stuff. My junior year, for example, I played French Horn in North Central’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra, I was in the Counterpoints (show choir), I did one-act plays and I had a small speaking part in NC’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. Not to mention all of my time playing bass guitar in GCC’s worship team and being a small group apprentice for Merge (before it was called Merge). Wow. Looking back, how in the world did I have the time?

What did you struggle with most as a teenager? Describe a little bit.
Well, like I said above, I was pretty darn insecure. Now, of course, I realize that I had a lot going for me. But in the middle of it, I felt very much alone. I did what I enjoyed (music, computer games, reading, etc.), but always felt like I would have been more liked if I was into sports and cars and partying.

Even at youth group, where I (the pastor’s kid) should have been at the center of at least one social clique, I found myself floating around on the periphery, growing close with one or two other individuals, but feeling left out of the group at large.

When you were a teenager, what did you want to be?
For some reason, I have always wanted to be in full-time ministry. Even after hearing horror story after horror story from my dad about how difficult ministry can be, it always felt like my calling. In my early teens, I knew for sure that I was going to be a missionary pilot in Ecuador. Then I realized that I didn’t like eating weird things or being uncomfortable or sweating or sleeping anywhere that wasn’t my own bed, so I decided I’d play it a bit safer and aim to become a pastor.
Do you remember feeling a tug towards a certain profession or cause as a teenager? If so we’d love to hear about it.
Well, I have always had a tendency to jump around from one passion to another, so my dream professions came and went. Pilot, teacher, professional musician, actor, etc. But through it all I think my heart continued to tug me towards ministry. As much fun as it would have been to fly or act on stage, I couldn’t get past the sheer sense of fulfillment I got from helping other people walk more closely with Jesus.
How was your transition moving from high school to college or your next stage of life? Any advice for teens at this stage of life?
My transition to college went pretty smoothly. My only suggestions from my own experience are these:
1) Go easy on your parents. If they’re starting to baby you a little bit right now, it’s not their fault. You’re getting ready to switch schools or start a job or something. They’re getting ready to watch the child they’ve bathed and fed and taught and loved for 18 years walk out the door as an adult, never to return the same and leaving the safety of the nest they’ve been building. You think being a college Freshmen is traumatic? Try being an empty nester!

2) Don’t freak out too much about where to go to school. Sure, some colleges are different. Some have slightly better classes or lower costs. But in the end, it’s not about which school you go to that determines whether college is a valuable and life-changing experience. It’s about your own attitude and commitment to learn. Will college be good for you? I don’t know. You tell me!

What do you do now as a profession? Why did you choose this?
I am the director of World Next Door, Inc. (www.worldnextdoor.org). I travel and write stories of what life is like and what God is doing in some of the forgotten places of the world. Oh, and I eat weird things and spend a lot of my time uncomfortable and sweaty and sleeping in beds that aren’t my own. Funny, God. Real funny.

Anyway, my hope is that, through the stories and photographs I share, I can help suburban Americans get connected and involved with social justice issues. If our community can awaken like that, we’ll become a powerful catalyst for bringing God’s kingdom in the world!

What advice do you have for teens interested in your line of work?
Don’t ever, EVER, under any circumstances, for whatever reason, EVER believe the lie that you can’t follow God into the unknown. Whether it’s a fear of money or a fear of what lies ahead, so many people end up spending their lives sitting on the sidelines, but this doesn’t have to be you.

God has “cattle on a thousand hills” (a.k.a. everything). He is the creator of space and time. He came to earth as a human and died so that death would have no more power over us. So you tell me…if God invites you to follow him on a new kingdom adventure, why exactly would you say ‘no’?

What causes/charities do you volunteer with now? Why did you choose those?
Since my organization is a non-profit, I don’t spend a whole lot of time volunteering. However, I do spend a significant amount of time through my job partnering with organizations like Mission to Ukraine, Truthseekers International, Loving South Africa, and many, many others. All of these organizations are on the front lines of the kingdom and they are doing some AMAZING work!
Who are your role models and why?
Dad, Mom, Oksana Shulyak, Rob Yonan, Fred Faradays, Aaron Elliott, Sunil Sardar, Krista Davis, Jane Wathome, etc. All of these people have one thing in common. They have all been following the “Path of Yes.” God has asked them time and time again to take small steps of faith and to follow Him into the unknown. And time and time again, they’ve said “yes.” Today they are part of some monumental kingdom work, but for each one of them it all began with a single “yes.”

These heroes of the faith (although they would hate being called that) have given me an example that I strive to follow with my life. When God beckons me forward, I want to say “yes!”

What kind of impact do you want to make on the world?
I want to awaken the suburbs of American to the realities of the world around us. I want to unleash people, with their unique skills and gifts and passions, on the issues of social injustice in our world today. I want to see hungry children fed. I want to see homeless men clothed. I want to see sick mothers cared for. I want to see filthy slums restored to beauty. I want to see trafficked girls brought home. And I want to see the hope of Christ springing up in the dark corners of this world.

If I can bring any of this to be with my laptop, camera and passport, then that, my friends, is why I’m here.

Such Great History: Maya Laurent

Me in high school with my two best guy friends, Jay and Bryan, at senior prom. Jay might kill me for posting this since he’s being a goofball.

I’ve only done one post for Such Great History and then heard from some high school students and LOVED their idea for this feature. Instead of showing you the funny fashions of the past, etc. we’re going to interview adults that you look up to, see what they were like in high school and find out advice they might have for you. I have a list of adults that a bunch of  you have already given me but if you have someone in mind I’d love to find out and I’ll get in touch with them.

To make the other adults feel okay about showing a high school photo of themselves and answering these questions I thought I’d do it first. So here’s my Such Great History.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a mom of two little, precious boys, Zane and Jude. They keep me super busy and laughing all the time. I love doing all the boy things with them including playing sports, pretending to be a superhero and digging for bugs (except spiders!). I’m married to an artist, Pat, who creates the most amazing paintings, illustrations and designs. He keeps me on my toes to be more creative daily. Since you’re on my site, you all know I am a photographer who has a huge passion for teenagers.
How would you describe yourself when you were a teenager?
I was pretty insecure. I don’t think I came across that way because I was outgoing but inside I was always comparing myself to others. I had some very close friends but I always chose to hang out with different groups of people not always sticking with the same crowd. My two best friends were guys and I seriously think I did something with both of them or one of them every single day. It was hard for me to be friends with girls because I was treated pretty badly in junior high school by girls. I just didn’t trust them but a very few who are still my close friends today. I had a crush on the same guy from about 8th grade until when I met my husband. He was quiet and I was scared to tell him I liked him because we were friends. I always compared any guy who would ask me to a dance or anything to him.
What did you struggle with most as a teenager? Describe a little bit.
It sounds so stupid now but I remember seeing all my friends with boyfriends and wondering what was wrong with me and why I didn’t have a boyfriend. I hated Valentine’s Day at school because all the girls would get presents and flowers from their boyfriends. I’d walk around just wondering what that would be like. Now I’m glad I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school because it gave me time to focus on my friendships and not be sidetracked by a boy.

I also remember struggling with my faith a lot. I was a “new” Christian and didn’t understand things that much or see how it fit into my high school life. I would see people who I went to youth group with doing things that didn’t seem right and it totally confused me.

When you were a teenager, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be a sports writer, particularly for basketball.
Do you remember feeling a tug towards a certain profession or cause as a teenager? If so we’d love to hear about it.
I wanted to be a writer for sure. I was super interested in sports and thought I’d be involved in the sports world somehow. I don’t remember being drawn to a cause of any kind except that I always tried to be nice to everyone in high school because I remembered what it felt like to be picked on in junior high. I hope I did this and was welcoming to others.
How was your transition moving from high school to college or your next stage of life? Any advice for teens at this stage of life?
Crazy! I cried a lot after saying goodbye to my high school friends but I choose to go to a college that only a handful of people I knew went. I made myself meet new people and start new friendships. I somehow didn’t get very homesick because I was enjoying meeting new friends and the challenge of my classes too. My advice would be not to pick a school based on what all of your friends are choosing. Pick a school based on what you want to do and what place seems to draw you there. Once you get to school, get out of your dorm room and talk to people. Talk to people in class, find an organization you want to get involved with or make friends in your dorm. There’s so much to do in college but don’t try to do it all. Try to have time for building friendships. I for sure filled my schedule too much with other things. If there is something that is tugging at you to pursue as a career, do it. It will eventually come back around to that when you’re older so why not do it now? AND study abroad!!! My one regret in college is not studying abroad.
What do you do now as a profession? Why did you choose this?
I’m a photographer focusing on teenagers. I was in marketing before doing photography full time. Photography gives me the ability to use a tool to show teens how amazing they have been created and how unique they are. It sounds cheesy but I’m serious. There’s nothing better than seeing someone smile because they realize they are truly beautiful. Sometimes it takes them seeing themselves in a new light to do that.
What advice do you have for teens interested in your line of work?
Practice, practice, practice. Take photos all of the time and understand your camera. Read your manual and practice everything in it. Learn about lighting and what good light means. The photography business might seem easy to get into but it is a difficult one to stay in if you don’t understand your craft or the business side of things.
What causes/charities do you volunteer with now? Why did you choose those?
I’m a youth leader for Merge, our church’s youth group. I’ve been doing this for seven years now and love being with the girls and seeing how they mature throughout their high school years. I had adults in my life in high school that were so encouraging and challenged me. I hope to do the same to the girls I come in contact with.
Who are your role models and why?
The moms I know. Being a mother is a challenge and blessing like no other. I know so many moms who run their own businesses, choose to be at home with their kids, volunteer their time or pursue their careers while juggling motherhood. I look up to and respect each one of them for different reasons. It’s such a hard balance and each person has a unique way of doing it.
What kind of impact do you want to make on the world?
I hope to impact teenagers by them seeing themselves in the way God sees them. I want to help them see they can make a difference as teens. The more confident they are about themselves, the more willing they will be to go out into the world and make changes in what they believe in. They are the next generation and I think they are so capable of doing things that will rock our world.
Such Great History: MC Hammer Pants

Really, Pat and I aren’t THAT old but we do find it funny sometimes the stuff that we think is “normal” knowledge and then find out it’s just our generation that knows it.We’ll put some fun stuff on here, funny photos of us and some serious things too. Picture Pat with long hair or a shaved head!

Recently my house was filled with high school girls and myself and another adult referenced Jennifer Lopez wearing MC Hammer like pants on American Idol. All the girls just starred at us and asked what that meant. This is an important past fashion statement everyone should know…ha! So here is what we mean by MC Hammer pants – it’s what the men are wearing. And yes, I know ever word to this song.

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