Meet the Board of Tell Us Something

Former Board member Sierra Tai-Brownlee sits down to interview each Tell Us Something Baord member.

Joseph Grady talks about Native spaces, acting, art and storytelling.

Transcript : Meet the Board - Joseph Grady

Marc Moss: [00:00:00] Welcome to the tele hunting podcast. I’m Marc Moss. The next, tell us something live storytelling event is September 27th. At the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go eight storytellers. Take the stage to share their two personal stories from memory. Tickets are now on sale. For tell us something live at the Dennison theater, September 27th.

Marc Moss: Get your [email protected] We again, welcome our friends from the deaf C. By providing American sign language interpretation. See you September 27th for letting go stories at the Dennison theater, more information and tickets are [email protected] The next, tell us something podcast episodes are a little different than what you are used to.

Marc Moss: You will meet each member of the, tell something board, former board member Sierra Ty Brownley interviewed the Tellum board for her podcast. Impactful experiences. Sierra believes that listening to meaningful stories, changes your ideas and makes you think and feel beyond what [00:01:00] you may already accept.

Marc Moss: This week. Sierra sits down with tell us something board share Joseph Grady. Let’s listen.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Welcome back to impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley, where I chat with a new guest each episode and ask them to share one of their impactful experiences. This is your host Sierra, and I want to thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy today. I’m joined by Joseph Grady, current academic advisor at the university of Montana in Missoula, Montana.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: And tell us something board member Joseph. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.

Joseph Grady: oh, yeah. It’s absolutely my pleasure.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Thank you. I think we should just hop right in and if you’d be willing to share your impactful experience, I’d love to hear.

Joseph Grady: Yeah, absolutely. Um, again, thank you [00:02:00] for inviting me and, um, been thinking about this, um, impactful experience and, um, there’s so much in life to choose from.

Joseph Grady: Yeah. Of this kind of question. So it really was racking my brain about like, you know, what’s important enough or what’s cool enough, or what have you. And I decided to just kind of let it flow if, if you will. Mm-hmm um, the, what, the thing that, uh, has come to mind, I think most recently is for me as, um, not just an academic, but as a creative.

Joseph Grady: An artist, um, creative, an actor mm-hmm writer, um, painter, um, outside of the workplace. Uh, there’s a lot that I think goes on with, um, my advising position where there’s lots of amazing stories with students and so forth, but I’m not sure entirely if that’s appropriate to tell in this space. Um, but that said, I honed in.

Joseph Grady: Uh, a story with, [00:03:00] um, a recent acting opportunity that I had. Um, and I, you know, I applied for a lot of, uh, small roles, uh, a lot of walk on stuff here in Montana, and it gives me a lot of experience to, uh, do film acting, um, in a way, and kind of in a way that’s very fulfilling, but also, um, helps me, you know, with the creative expression.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm . Things. Um, and it’s very informative and I learned quite a lot from the process and so forth, but that’s it. Um, essentially I had applied recently for an acting gig, um, for, that was calling for a native American role mm-hmm um, and. Reached out for it and got a, a, a call back if you will. Um, from the casting director who reached out to me and, um, indicated at that time that it was, it was actually for local, they were making a local call for [00:04:00] actors and the gig was in Los Angeles, California mm-hmm

Joseph Grady: And, um, I was like, oh, well, I’m in Missoula, Montana kind of negates that one. Yeah. And then had just a, sort of a brief follow up and sort of conversation. And, um, you know, she expressed some, um, like, oh, you know, darn it because you’d be perfect for the role kind of a thing. And. Um, you know, I was apologetic that I didn’t really notice that it was in LA.

Joseph Grady: I hope I didn’t waste your time kind of a thing, you know, in that setting it’s I really, really wanna make sure that I’m, you know, keeping it on the professional level. And, um, that point was just like, okay, so, you know, no big deal, but then about two weeks later, um, got a call back from the same casting director, um, who reached out.

Joseph Grady: Um, asked me if I wanted the gig, um, which was to fly down to Los Angeles and, and do about three days of shooting mm-hmm in [00:05:00] various locations. And, um, that kind of, sort of tip things off. And I was like, uh, much was running through my head. You know, there’s a lot of planning that had to happen. It was a very sort of short turnaround time between actually getting the gig and getting to LA I think it was about a week and I.

Joseph Grady: uh, turnaround. And so, you know, just sort of that preparation and then what is even the job, right? Yeah. But then that was a lot of excitement and it turned out to be like a really amazing experience. And I, you know, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun and so forth and, um, it, um, you know, added of course to my resume and my credentials and, um, expanded my opportunities, at least in terms of like getting into unions and so forth.

Joseph Grady: Uh, but I think the, the actual experience of getting on set and working with other native American actors in those kinds of professional spaces was really sort of the, the real hook for me. Mm-hmm but, uh, overall that’s kind of [00:06:00] the, the gist of what was happening. Um, and it was, it’s probably one of the more significant sort of things to happen in, in the last year.

Joseph Grady: Um, and so that was, um, That was really cool. I really, really had a, a really good time with that one.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah. I know you had mentioned this to me, um, around when it was happening or a little before. And so I think that’s very exciting and I’m glad that, um, it seems things went well and you really enjoyed your time.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: So, what about this experience, um, made you choose it kind of getting at, how has it either changed you or impacted you since?

Joseph Grady: Hmm. Um, it’s. I working here in Montana as an actor, just speaking from the acting, um, space alone. Yeah. Um, there’s, I’ve had a, I think a real opportunity in the last, probably [00:07:00] five to 10 years where I’ve this.

Joseph Grady: Um, I guess you wanna say, I don’t wanna say movement necessarily, but a shift is happening in the television to film. Okay. Where, um, the call for native American actors is, um, becoming more. Of a qualified type position. Um, and it’s one that is for me as an actor created all of this access, right? While at the same time, eliminating a whole bunch of competition for roles that was previously, you know, sharing the same space.

Joseph Grady: Yeah. You had a lot of, um, what, what you’ll hear calls for and sort of acting resumes and on acting calls, looking for ethnic ambiguity, right? Mm-hmm so that, you know, if you are classified as ethnically, uh, [00:08:00] ambiguous, you can fulfill many. Right as, um, Latinx, um, middle Eastern, um, you know, sort of Arabic identities to, um, to any of the Pacific is or Asian.

Joseph Grady: Classifications, if you will. And historically, I think particularly, um, in film and TV, back in the old days, it was like if you had black hair and any sort of a complexion, they would slap a little makeup on you and you were it, that was, you know, you were this role. Um, and so the, you know, the scope for ethnically ambiguous was even wider.

Joseph Grady: I think back then, mm-hmm and nowadays it’s a lot more. Arrow, um, to even like more recently where you have calls for specific ethnic identities to, you know, fulfill roles. And, um, that’s quite a, a, a big shift in, in an industry that is so fast paced. And [00:09:00] so like, concerned with anything in production other than getting.

Joseph Grady: Cultural humility pieces, um, on point or correct all the time. Um, and so that for me, I think was kind of the big takeaway more recently is the work that I’ve been doing as an actor has allowed me to work with entities, people, and productions, where that. Um, attention to cultural authenticity has been really out front.

Joseph Grady: Um, and so as an indigenous actor, that’s refreshing, uh, because what it says is these roles are for you mm-hmm and for like, for you, not just alone, but, um, people who also identify as, as indigenous and so forth or come from native communities. Yeah. And so it creates opportunity, um, as well. Allow the stories to be more authentic, I think, um, from where they’re coming from, [00:10:00] um, with that with people sort of thinking about that stuff automatically, what you get in those spaces are people who actually start to kind of ask questions and really express.

Joseph Grady: Their humility. Um, there are certainly incidents of that that were on this last job, as well as like other like projects that I’ve worked on. I think, um, probably the first, well, one of the first like major acting gigs that I ever got was winner in the blood and. Um, the directors actually, we had a, a night where we went out and had Oros at Scotty’s table and we sat around with, uh, a whole bunch of our in native actors from the film mm-hmm

Joseph Grady: Um, and we were able to have a conversation of really sort of candid conversation with the directors who were like we’re too white dudes. And. We don’t know the first thing about being native American or what that’s like and so forth. So you need to help us please help us understand, uh, what those are like so that we can like really sort of give this very accurate [00:11:00] portrayal and invited us to give feedback and sort of, um, you know, scan the, the script and so forth.

Joseph Grady: And Hey, this is kind of how we would say it kind of a thing. Um, and that information. Like onboarded with that process in a way that was very respectful and mindful. Um, and I, I wanna say very sort of forward thinking if you will. Um, where I was very impressed at that moment with the directors was like, well, I’m, I’m in with the right gig.

Joseph Grady: I mean, this is like I had a feeling I would walk in here and be like, you know, here’s how you be native American, Mr. Um, and, uh, you know, I kind of roll the eyes and you, you jump into the role and do the gig. As an actor, that’s kind of what it is really. I mean, I’m an instrument. I mean, actors, theater people, we are sort of the paint on the canvas.

Joseph Grady: And so it really is, you know, we it’s, we’re trained to follow directing, um, and that’s not always like fulfilling if you will. Yeah. Um, in, in those kinds of ways, [00:12:00] Especially when it comes to cultural and racial identity. Um, and so I’ve seen a big shift in, in the more recent years where you have more of that presence of mind on set and in the conversation.

Joseph Grady: And even in the invite where those people will be very respectful out front acknowledging culture and identity and their own humility in that space where they’re actually looking to you to be the expert on that experience. While also sort of like infusing this whole dialogue and role into the process.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm is like kind of some new stuff. I mean, at least for me, it is, um, and this experience in Los Angeles was, was very much the same.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. That’s exciting and great to hear. So would you say you do believe you’ve been experiencing, or you do think there are changes in the industry?

Joseph Grady: Yeah. I mean the, the, the little that I experience that I do have with film, um, or television has just.

Joseph Grady: [00:13:00] Historically been either as an observer or as a learner in the classroom space, um, you know, learning about critique and, and understanding stories. Um, and you know, there were there, I think various examples along the way. I don’t really want to draw attention to too much. Yeah. But I think prior to, to my experience, what you would get is kind of what I would describe, uh, the actor would show up, they would dress you up.

Joseph Grady: Here’s how you play Indian and then sort of onto the film. And then you do your best to sort of infuse your own personal characteristic and into the, into the storyline and, and into the setting. Um, but there’s not a lot of like, um, collaboration between director and the creative production and the actor themselves, as the, say the indigenous person mm-hmm

Joseph Grady: And that goes all the way back to the, um, you know, to. The the Oscar incident with, um, I’m just forgetting Marlon Brando, um, and the young, [00:14:00] uh, native woman who accepted the award for him, you know, from that point, you know, you, even prior to that, you had indigenous people like calling for greater respect in these spaces.

Joseph Grady: And, you know, here it is, um, you know, in, into the 2000 and twenties, um, and into the two thousands, and you’re starting to kind of get this recognition and. I think there was a hesitancy along the way to mm-hmm for that, because maybe people just didn’t know how to communicate that. I, I don’t want to like sound like I understand where that was coming from necessarily where the hesitancy was coming from.

Joseph Grady: Um, but in terms of like the outcomes, um, you know, with television shows like. Reservation dogs and, and some of the others that are, are now out on, um, various outlets, like FX and so forth. Um, you, what you have is our native American voices and creativity actually driving the ship mm-hmm and it turns out that it’s it’s it’s really.

Joseph Grady: Funny. There’s a [00:15:00] lot of crossover. Uh, it communicates, well, no matter which culture you’re coming from, it’s just an indigenous perspective. Um, and that’s really refreshing. And I think that that for when we start talking about storytelling and, and being part of the story, Yeah, we as indigenous people tend to thrive because, um, that’s, and not just indigenous people, but many, many stories, but indigenous people as continent, um, storytelling has been deeply infused into who we are as people mm-hmm, our process, how we learn together, the way we built community, uh, et cetera, was, was very much like stories under the stars.

Joseph Grady: And so that’s, that’s how we identify largely. And so when we get, you know, opportunities to be in these creative spaces, we thrive as storytellers. And so I think that that’s, for me watching that happen throughout my lifetime, I mean, I’m 51 years old and. When reservation dogs [00:16:00] dropped the first episode dropped, I was able to watch it.

Joseph Grady: I remember thinking, man, I’ve been waiting like 50 years for this TV show. Um, you know, sort of speak my, speak, my language, and represent, Hey, that’s me on the screen. And identifying in those kinds of ways where we’re not just backdrop characters, we are the foreground and we are the interest of the narrative.

Joseph Grady: Um, and. The kind of moving forward more recently having that access point is I think in part even largely as to why I’ve had any kind of success as an actor, uh, because most of the roles that I step into are have a, you know, a call for a native American, um, of my bearing mm-hmm. Um, it’s not like, um, you know, some person who’s not native American who slaps on a wig and a little bit of sort of brown makeup can then step in there and be like, oh, you know, [00:17:00] it’s like, did you know you called for a native American, uh, to walk through the door and, you know, show up at the audition.

Joseph Grady: And so, um, it, and I think along with that, what I am seeing are when I do go to these auditions, at least when they were held in person. Yeah, you would see a lot of like young, sexy native people, like hanging out, you know, good looking like mm-hmm of all walks and looks, right. Native people showing up to say, Hey, I’m gonna take a swing at this thing, uh, and try this acting gig.

Joseph Grady: And you know, maybe they did a little high school or whatever, you know, sort of goofed around, you know, nowadays you it’s, most of it’s like on the social media, you can film little, um, skits and so forth. do those, uh, sort of have an audience without like having the actual audience and so forth. Yeah, yeah.

Joseph Grady: That I’d be, I think that’s really cool. And, um, the, you know, I think there’s more to say about LA, um, in more in greater [00:18:00] detail, but I mean, in terms of the overall experience for me, the, you know, the, the access point for other indigenous actors, not just myself is probably, I think a huge turnaround mm-hmm

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. So you’ve talked about kind of being a little bit in the industry and acting a fair amount. And I was curious to kind of see how that ties into, um, you also like working at the university and if this has changed, maybe would you hope to pursue, or do you enjoy having that balance? Because it does seem like you are doing, like you said, many different.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Artistic ventures as well. Yeah.

Joseph Grady: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. And I, I, that was actually one that I was really sort of reflecting on as I was doing this because, um, it is, it is a concern for me, you know, being, you know, in an academic professional setting, um, you know, fulfilling a role within that space.[00:19:00]

Joseph Grady: Um, and having a. You know, sort of set objective and, and goal for, for that position. Um, and then going out and doing like professional acting along with it, how is that going to be accepted? Is it going to be accepted? Is it going to be one of those things where it’s, you know, um, someone doesn’t like the idea of that maybe.

Joseph Grady: And mm-hmm um, so trying to like, just be mindful about those factors. Um, and fortunately the, um, I think the, the team that I work with and, um, and you know, my supervisor who’s absolutely amazing has been nothing but support. In that space. Yeah. And so I think that I’m really sort of kicking this around and like, you know, oh my gosh.

Joseph Grady: And how do I find that balance point? Right. Um, where it’s, it’s not only, um, fulfilling, uh, an objective for me, but also, you know, keeping me fair and in tuned [00:20:00] in with my students, you know, because I also, um, that, that is a very realistic consideration for. That said, um, balance to this point hasn’t been terribly difficult.

Joseph Grady: Um, you know, realistically, um, you know, you get the work done and so forth, but that said looking forward, I think the way that I’ve, I’ve thought about this, and I think the way that I’ve always thought about this, like with photography or with writing, um, any of the script writing that I do any of. Like the illustration or, or art that I do a graphic novel that I’m working on.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm um, any of the, like the acting they’re in all of that stuff is like creating opportunity if opportunity is needed. Um, Kind of fallbacks, if you will even. Um, I mean, let’s face it. We live in some pretty uncertain times. Mm-hmm , um, there’s a lot out there that is just putting to question even some of [00:21:00] the old standards that we’re used to just having around, you know, like education.

Joseph Grady: It was, I think at one point it was just like one of those things. Thought never would be it, it just was always going to be the way it was, you know, teacher in the classroom, attitude from the student that doesn’t look the same anymore. I mean, people are talking about arming teachers. The guns and so forth.

Joseph Grady: And so the it’s a very different sort of world right now. Mm-hmm, uh, than what I had grown up in as a kid. And so like, as I look to the future, I wanna make sure that I have, um, I think a lot of experience under my belt. if at some point something a shift needs to be made, um, that certainly is an objective or a goal of mine right now.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm, , I’m pretty stoked about the life that I have. Yeah. You know, with, um, the, even the roles that I fulfill in my professional life, um, you know, there’s tell us something which serving on [00:22:00] the board and the committee there, you know, has its, has it. Peace in my life. And then there’s the artistic thing in all, its sort of various forms with the writing mm-hmm uh, to, to create right now it’s like a lot of focus on photography.

Joseph Grady: Um, and then there’s, there’s also the work thing, right? Yeah. Um, I wanna make sure that I’m building my own experience and resume along the way, um, because you never really know what’s what the future holds. I wanna. Or that I’m, I’m prepared enough in a way. So if something does happen where change is like, oh, um, here’s how tomorrow’s going to look.

Joseph Grady: And it’s not like it was yesterday. I have the kind of footing and I think, um, world experience where I can go out and, and make a pivot or a shift if I need to mm-hmm . And, you know, like right now with the acting thing, kinda like what we’ve been talking about, [00:23:00] part of that is building that opportunity to look towards maybe getting an agent.

Joseph Grady: Now, do I join the unions? Is that something that is, is going to be equitable? Um, for me as a professional. Yeah. Um, and right now, um, where I am, um, making advances is in the workplace, um, at the university, um, and we’ve been making considerable strides and that’s on the backs of a lot of work and a lot of focus and a lot of effort and a lot of teamwork as well.

Joseph Grady: I mean, as a, as an entity, our Montana 10 has had a lot of success. If you will. Um, and we just want to continue to grow that, um, so that we can, you know, our work with other entities yeah. In university campus settings, um, is kind of a full package if you will. Mm-hmm because right now it seems to be working for students.

Joseph Grady: Uh, works for me. I love it. I, I find it [00:24:00] very, very fulfilling. Um, and so. Both are kind of on this trajectory of their own, if you will. Yeah. Um, and if anything, I, what I’ve learned in my life is that, um, just to be present for the ride, um, and, you know, make those big choices when they have to be made. Um, but for the rest of the time, just really, really try and make the most of it.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm um, this has been a, a pretty tough. You know, there’s, um, things that happen with family and, and, you know, there’s things that happened with students. I mean, this is, this last two years has been incredibly heavy. Um, yeah. In terms of people getting sick to, um, people. Struggling with mental health mm-hmm and in my work position and my job position, that’s, that’s very much at the forefront of what we do is, is working with students sort of navigating that stuff.

Joseph Grady: And, you know, it’s like you [00:25:00] need mental health services. Here’s where to go for that. And sort of just taking a lot of time to listen and so forth. Mm-hmm and it’s been a waity year. I mean, a lot of people are struggling with a lot of like really dark. Um, and I think the isolation and the uncertainty about future, especially now more than ever, um, you know, sort of this eruption of just violence in the way that we are, I’m not used to necessarily experiencing.

Joseph Grady: In what is this country is supposed to be mm-hmm um, I think is leaving a lot of uncertainty in terms of one sense of their own safety. Just going out into the world for, to go shopping or to go to school, you know, places where once that was like, those were the safest places to be. Um, and so the, you know, the students that I’m working with right now are, are kind of reflecting, I think, on a lot of that stuff and, and, you know, living through it while also trying to be students and in very [00:26:00] similar ways, think about their own futures.

Joseph Grady: What’s gonna come next. What am I gonna invested in? What’s gonna create opportunity. Um, what is my life and family going to look like moving forward and so forth? Yeah, definitely. There’s so much diversity in that realm that, um, right now the, the position that I find myself in, I kind of feel like roles like this are needed.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm um, and so, uh, for the moment, um, the university gig is, is the main focus. Whereas the creative sort of electric forces in my life are the things that allow me to kind of process that stuff and find a different kind of fulfill. Yeah, um, in life and I don’t know, maybe it’s just sort of come to that where I’m like really sort of seeking those additional bits of, of input.

Joseph Grady: And I’m also getting older. I mean, you know, I’m not getting any younger right now and, and, you know, I don’t wanna be, I, I, I’ve always sort of, I, [00:27:00] um, worried about that time in life, where you’d get to a place where it’s like, I wish I had done that, you know, Um, I, I wonder what would’ve happened if I ever ever made a go of that acting gig right.

Joseph Grady: Or putting some of those skills to use, um, along the way. And I, I don’t know if I necessarily wanna find myself there. So maybe even subconsciously I’m kind of like pushing myself in directions where I can kind of spread out into those areas, get that experience. Yeah. You know, dinner in the blood. That first movie role was like a bucket list moment.

Joseph Grady: And I remember just not only landing the role, but going and doing the gig and then coming home and then seeing the film at the end and taking part in the whole process for me was like, that’s kind of it. I mean, I was a native, I played a native role, so I was a native actor, a black feet character in a story written by a black feet, man.

Joseph Grady: I think I’ve done it. I think of. [00:28:00] Accomplished all I wanted to do. Mm-hmm but then moved on to like these other sort of roles and so forth because it just it’s it’s really great work.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah. Okay. Um, kind of slightly related, but is there any maybe form of art that you really hope to start doing or to take part in?

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Um,

Joseph Grady: I think that, I mean, for me, the, the, something that is less fulfilled is the writing. Mm. Um, that’s where I think I’m, I’m really trying to tie a bunch of things up, so to speak. Um, I have a couple of different scripts that I’ve been writing. Um, I’ve got a story for graphic novel that I’m trying to round out.

Joseph Grady: Um, and all of it is like sort of indigenous influenced. Um, so I guess you would wanna say more contemporary type work or even into like science fiction. Okay. Um, that’s the sort of the area that I’m going. And then something that is, [00:29:00] has always been a natural fit for me is comedy. Um, When I was like in my early twenties, used to do comedy open mics.

Joseph Grady: I used to go out and do sets and get up on stage and try and exercise some of that theater experience as well as the, like the creative writing side of things always loved comedy as an outlet and trying to do it creatively as a, as a native. Uh, person trying to reach the audience in a way, um, with that aspect of my identity, um, has been infused into that.

Joseph Grady: And so the, the writing piece for me right now is something that, um, I really wanna see kind of, you know, bubble to the surface next. Um, yeah, like I said, there’s a lot more outlets these days. Mm-hmm for a lot more. Call for native writers, actors, creative types, even production people. And I mean, I’m talking to the production people out there, the young folks who are like going into the, into, into, you know, either [00:30:00] theater or film or TV, if you’re a native American and you’re on the.

Joseph Grady: and you’re on the production side. You’re on the postproduction you’re behind the camera. You’re in this sort of creative force behind the scenes. Um, that’s that part is like, I think really, really significant and important. Yeah. And I’d like to, I’d like to break into that a little bit. I’d like to see some writing represented and so forth.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm because we need the, the turnaround for that is creating opportunity for the next native writer or indigenous actor down the

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: road. Yeah. All right. Well, I think that we will start wrapping this up, but thank you once again. Um, and as my final question, what is the best piece of life advice you’ve been given?

Joseph Grady: Oh, man. Um, Well there’s one and I can’t say it here. Um, because it’s, it’s, I think three quarters of the phrase is cursing. Um,

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: [00:31:00] okay. I mean, whatever you wanna share, you can share

Joseph Grady: let me, let me dig for something else, maybe. Okay. Um, basically I think in the, some of the greatest. Perspective I’ve I’ve learned in life or, um, come from the, the people that I know in life who got sober, um, you know, the people who struggled with addiction and, and alcoholism I’m, I’m one of them, you know, I’m one of those people who’s thankfully, you know, recovered from alcoholism or, or is recovery.

Joseph Grady: You’re always in recovery. Um, but one of the things that has just made life, particularly for me, way more doable and has made all of the rest of this stuff, like really accessible is just to keep it simple. Um, I have this real capacity to overthink. Um, I think that that’s present in my photography and my, in my acting and my writing and my creativity and my [00:32:00] painting and my process and all of that stuff.

Joseph Grady: And, um, I, I think the one thing I’ve learned in my life is that, um, the, the biggest thing that is standing in my way, ways of me, uh, and it always has been, it’s always been this, this sort of internal dialogue that has been happening and has been informed of course, by. Influences and factors and other voices and so forth.

Joseph Grady: Mm-hmm but I think that keep it simple thing was just a way for me to learn, to just sort of get out of my own way.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah, no, I like it. I think that’s a great piece of advice. Okay, well, Joseph, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.

Joseph Grady: Awesome Sierra. This is really cool. Um, good job on your podcast and I, I really appreciate the opportunity to come on and, and share my experience.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Of course. Thank you for sharing and thank you guys for listening and take

Joseph Grady: care.[00:33:00]

Marc Moss: Thanks, Joseph and Sierra. Joseph Grady is a professional actor and artist with roles in films like winter in the blood, Jimmy P and slant streets. He has been painting and selling art for more than 30 years throughout the Northwest. Joseph graduated from the university of Montana with a degree in social work and a focus in native American studies and lives in his community.

Marc Moss: As a change agent addressing social justice. And anti-racism action. Joseph serves on the Missoula food bank anti-racism task force. And is the chair for tell us something’s board of directors, Sierra Ty Brownley is a curious individual with a never ending interest in people and their stories from asking 50 strangers for their best piece of life advice.

Marc Moss: To sitting down to hear about pivotal stories on her podcast, impactful experiences with Sierra Ty brownie Sierra is always excited to meet new people and hear what they would like to share. You can find the impactful experiences podcast, [00:34:00] wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks to her. Inkind sponsors, Joyce of tile, gecko designs, float Missoula and Missoula broadcasting company.

Marc Moss: Thanks for listening to this week’s podcast. Remember to get your ticket to the next. September 27th, 2022. Live at the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go more information and tickets are [email protected]

Rachel Bemis shares her impactful experience of finally deciding to become a teacher after a fulfilling career in other sectors.

Transcript : Meet the Board - Rachel Bemis

Marc Moss: [00:00:00] Welcome to the tele hunting podcast. I’m Marc Moss. The next, tell us something live storytelling event is September 27th. At the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go eight storytellers. Take the stage to share their two personal stories from memory. Tickets are now on sale. For tell us something live at the Dennison theater, September 27th.

Marc Moss: Get your [email protected]ussomething.org. We again, welcome our friends from the deaf C. By providing American sign language interpretation. See you September 27th for letting go stories at the Dennison theater, more information and tickets are [email protected] The next, tell us something podcast episodes are a little different than what you are used to.

Marc Moss: You will meet each member of the, tell something board, former board member Sierra Ty Brownley interviewed the Tellum board for her podcast. Impactful experiences. Sierra believes that listening to meaningful stories, changes your ideas and makes you think and feel beyond what you [00:01:00] may already accept.

Marc Moss: This week. Sierra sits down with tell us something board treasurer, Rachel Beas let’s

Sarah FitzGerald: listen.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Welcome back to impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley, where I chat with a new guest each episode and ask them to share one of their impactful experiences. This is your host Sierra, and I want to thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy today. I am joined by Rachel Beas elementary teacher in Western Montana.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: And tell us something board member, Rachel, thank you so much for coming on the podcast

Sarah FitzGerald: today. Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Me too. And of course, so let’s just hop right in and if you’d be willing, could you tell us a little bit about your impactful experience?

Sarah FitzGerald: Sure. Um, you know, when I was asked to do this podcast, I think like many people, I thought about [00:02:00] several different things that have impacted me the most, but I think really my journey, um, to be, and my detours, um, to becoming a teacher is probably the most, um, impactful experience for.

Sarah FitzGerald: Okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: I’d love to dive a little bit into that. And if you could share kind of what your journey has been to becoming

Sarah FitzGerald: a teacher. Sure. I was one of those little girls sitting in second grade with Mrs. Roach, knowing that I was meant to be a teacher. I knew it. from second grade. And so, you know, all through elementary, middle school, high school, you read my yearbook.

Sarah FitzGerald: Everything is about me being a teacher mm-hmm . And I decided before I started community college, that I would start working with kids. I was an aunt, I had three, uh, I had two nephews and a niece by the time I was 20 and had baby. Yeah. And had babysat, uh, a ton starting at age 11, 12 years old. And, and.

Sarah FitzGerald: Really comfortable around [00:03:00] kids, but I wanted to make sure that translated into education mm-hmm . Um, and so when I was in high school, I, um, did some volunteering in a first grade classroom and I loved it. And then it was time to graduate and time to go to college. Yeah. One of the jobs that I got was as a summer camp counselor, And I hated it.

Sarah FitzGerald: Oh, wow. And , and for whatever reason, I convinced myself that that was teaching mm-hmm and I was like, this is not a good fit. Like I, this is I like, yeah. I don’t know what the problem is this whole time. For years and years and years, I had a plan in place. This is what I was going to do and was like, absolutely not.

Sarah FitzGerald: I need to do something else. so fast forward, like 12 years mm-hmm and I was a real estate lender in town, um, [00:04:00] and really enjoyed it. And then I reached a point where I stopped enjoying it. Mm-hmm and I was about 31 years. I was 30, 30, 31 years old. Mm-hmm . and I just started feeling like I needed a change and I, I didn’t know what that was.

Sarah FitzGerald: I didn’t know if it was a career change. I didn’t know if it was just switching companies. Yeah. You know, I wasn’t sure. So those feelings were kind of stirring in my brain. And, and so, as I mentioned, I always knew, and everyone knew around me, my whole childhood, my high school years, that I was gonna be a teacher.

Sarah FitzGerald: There was no other option. I didn’t even think about anything else. Mm-hmm . And so when these, these uncertain feelings were starting to stir around. I randomly had a phone conversation with my first love from high school. Mm-hmm Roland. And I hadn’t seen him or talked to him since I was 17 years old. Yeah.

Sarah FitzGerald: And [00:05:00] I only knew him when I was 17 years old, so I only knew him for a year of my life. Okay. And we had this lovely conversation. Ironically I was at work. He was a real estate lender. And one of the first questions he asked me was, are you a teacher? And I was really taken aback because I kind of forgot that that was my path.

Sarah FitzGerald: And that’s the only thing that he had in mind. So when he had reflected on our time together, just me as a person, that’s what he focused on. Mm-hmm like, of course she’s a teacher, right? I’m talking to her 14 years later. Of course she’s a teacher. And I was like, no, actually I went, took a different path and you know, and I was very successful in my career.

Sarah FitzGerald: I had purchased my own home by myself and mm-hmm , you know, I legitimately had a career, but I had this nagging feeling that it was. Time for a change. Yeah. And so when he made that comment to me, it really affected me, um, to the point [00:06:00] that I got off the phone with him and sobbed in the bathroom at work.

Sarah FitzGerald: Oh, I know. And I was like, okay, well, I don’t know what that means, but you know, it, it almost felt like I was a failure. Like I hadn’t done what I set out to do, even though I was living a great life. Yeah. So fast forward a little bit, again, still stirring feelings. And I had a realtor friend that invited me to a networking event.

Sarah FitzGerald: It was this monthly, like women’s group that met and talked about business ideas and tried to do business together. Mm-hmm and we were sitting around the table. and, um, it was like a hundred people in a conference room, 10 people to have tabled one of which I knew and had become friends with, but everyone else was pretty much strangers.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. And we’re sitting at this table of 10 people and the keynote speaker comes on the microphone and she said, before we, you know, have lunch and [00:07:00] before we chat, I want you to talk to your table about what would you do as an icebreaker question? What would you do if you couldn’t fail? And I, of course, maybe not.

Sarah FitzGerald: Of course my, maybe this is shocking. uh, I started crying immediately, um, at this table full of strangers mm-hmm and I said, I’ll go first. I’ll go first. Okay. And I said, I would quit my job and I would go back to school and I would become a teacher. Mm. and it just hit me that that’s what I was supposed to do and why I allowed my 18 year old self to convince myself that summer camp was teaching and let go of my dream.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. You know, we, we learn. Right. Um, so now I was this career woman that owned a house and had responsibilities. But I knew I needed to leave. I knew it immediately. I, I [00:08:00] never looked back Sierra ever. The next day I took the day off of work. Mm-hmm I went to the local university of Montana, Missoula mm-hmm I enrolled, I reviewed my finances that weekend.

Sarah FitzGerald: and on Monday I gave my two week notice. Wow. Yeah. And I left that job 11 years ago. Mm-hmm I started taking classes that summer. I didn’t even wait till the fall. I started that may. And I got my teaching degree and a minor in reading in three years, mind you, I had a lot of responsibilities and had to figure out how am I going to do this?

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. And there was times where I had seven little part-time jobs, little. Oh my gosh. I know. Like, it might have been like one day a week. I worked at this daycare and uh, the other day of the week I passed out these pamphlets and it was all these little, [00:09:00] little jobs. Mm. Um, but I did it to make it work and I never, ever, ever looked back.

Sarah FitzGerald: And, um, I’m now going to be entering my ninth year of teaching.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Wow. Okay. Really? What a journey. And

Sarah FitzGerald: it was, yeah, quite a journey, some detours along the way. But once I made the decision, I knew that this was going to impact my life. Mm-hmm .

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. And now that you have been teaching. Um, or like you said, nine years, do you see yourself staying in teaching or potentially moving in the future?

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: You

Sarah FitzGerald: know, I am really into embracing side hustles. Um, that’s my, that’s my new thing. So. You know, my passion is my day to day teaching mm-hmm . Um, I have looked into the past just based on my past experience and leadership qualities. Would I wanna be an administrator? Would I want to go in a different direction?

Sarah FitzGerald: Would I [00:10:00] wanna use education to work at a museum or whatever it might be? um, for me, I’m good. Like I am beyond satisfied. Mm-hmm I, um, I went back to school in 2019 and I earned my master’s. Last year. Okay. Yeah. So I have that. And so that was really a great professional development opportunity for a few years, um, to continue to learn more, um, I’ve focused on integrating arts in the classroom.

Sarah FitzGerald: So that has challenged me as an educator. As well. So for me, I think I’m good. I really would, you know, it took me a while to get here. Mm-hmm and I’m, I’m very, very grateful. And, um, beyond satisfied, I feel extremely fulfilled. Now I will, I will say I am the type of person. That’s always pursuing other things, but that doesn’t, that that has nothing to do with my career and my passion mm-hmm so that.[00:11:00]

Sarah FitzGerald: that would be like, for example, you know, I would love to teach, um, as an adjunct professor and maybe get my foot in the door at a university mm-hmm maybe that’s something that could transition into teaching a summer class, or maybe after retirement potentially being something, um, a mentor for educators.

Sarah FitzGerald: Things like that. So I’ve definitely looked into that. Um, I was a TA this summer mm-hmm , um, at the university for my old master’s program. So just kind of dipping my toe into different things, um, has been fun.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Very nice. And did you know kind of what grade or age of students you wanted to teach?

Sarah FitzGerald: Well, because of Mrs.

Sarah FitzGerald: Roach, my second grade teacher, I always felt like that was the right grade level for me. Yeah. Um, and then it was kind of a joke because I’m, I’m on the petite side. Um, so I was like, I don’t want them to be taller than me [00:12:00] and I just always really liked that age group. And so ironically, when I. Did my student teaching, um, I student taught in second grade mm-hmm and then I ended up getting hired from that same school in first grade.

Sarah FitzGerald: So I taught first grade for five years. Mm-hmm then I taught second grade for a year. Um, and then I was ready to make a move to a different school district for a variety of reasons. And the position that was available. Was at the district that I wanted, that I’m currently at was fourth grade remote, fully remote for the full year.

Sarah FitzGerald: And the remote thing of course, you know, is a little scary in general. Mm-hmm um, and then fourth grade was really scary for me. That felt like a huge jump from first. Yeah. Um, and to be honest, I felt like it would be a good foot in the door. And then I would kind of get a feel for if there’s other grades that open up and ironically a second grade position did actually open up and I [00:13:00] had zero interest and okay.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. So this will be my third year teaching fourth grade. I love it. And I would say about seven of the kids last year were taller than me. wow. Okay. So I prepared for that now every year. Yes. Um, but I absolutely love it and I, I don’t know. This might be the perfect grade for me. Okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Interesting. Um, and then.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: What do you think maybe what skills do you think helped you go into teaching or maybe had you learned before you went into teaching? Um, yeah. That you think are really applicable,

Sarah FitzGerald: you know, for me, I think some potentially non-traditional things have really prepared me to be successful. I think that, you know, I did my student, I did part of my student teaching in, um, Guang, China in 2014.[00:14:00]

Sarah FitzGerald: And I was expecting to enter an environment that was very rigid. and that I really need, and I love that I was really excited cause I’m kind of type a and I really like things very structured. And so I was like, okay, great. Like I’m gonna have a set schedule. I’m gonna know exactly what’s happening, what grades I’m teaching.

Sarah FitzGerald: And it was the opposite because of the dynamics of the country. Um, that certainly trickled down into how the schools were run, how the students behaved. The relationship between the teacher and the student. And I was blindsided at how flexible I needed to be. Mm-hmm and that was very challenging for me.

Sarah FitzGerald: Um, I didn’t have a choice I had to be. Um, and because of that, that is one of the biggest things that has translated into my teaching life here in the United States. And it sounds really silly. but the idea of covering someone’s recess [00:15:00] duty for them spontaneously, and the idea of, you know, a student having an issue and you needing to stop a lesson and do something else.

Sarah FitzGerald: Mm-hmm , those are skills that are really important and they build community. Um, and so those were things that I really brought into. My career that I wasn’t expecting. Mm-hmm I think, I think also, you know, sometimes I joke like, oh my gosh, if I would’ve just gone to college, when I was supposed to go to college, then I would be retiring in five years or whatever it might be, or, you know, different things like that.

Sarah FitzGerald: Um, or I would be making more money cause I would have more experience, but, but honestly, I don’t know that I would be where I am today. If I. Gone on that path that I had expected. When I went back to college a little older at 31, I took it very seriously and I had a mortgage to pay. I have [00:16:00] responsibilities that I wouldn’t have had when I was 18 years old.

Sarah FitzGerald: And so I was very focused, not only on actually getting good grades and learning, but also getting it done quickly so that I could start making. Money, even if it was even if it was a teacher’s salary, at least it wasn’t seven part-time jobs. Yeah. Um, so yeah, I think those are the things that I was not expecting to bring in and to learn that I, that I have.

Sarah FitzGerald: Okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: So you think that if you had gone into teaching, um, I guess right after school, do you think you would still be in teaching or. I don’t know what

Sarah FitzGerald: happened. I mean, I really don’t know. I would say that my advice, if I was talking to my younger self or someone else, mm-hmm , um, you know, my advice would be to always pursue what you feel your passion is, but don’t just go straight to college.

Sarah FitzGerald: And what I mean by that is like, I still [00:17:00] would. I still, I think looking back, I would’ve just pursued teaching more while I was getting my. So I would’ve thrown myself more into the classroom. I would’ve volunteered more. I would not, I would’ve spoken with more educators about their experience and versus telling myself that summer camp was the same as teaching mm-hmm or like saying babysitting children is the same as teaching.

Sarah FitzGerald: It’s not at all. Like, my job is. Relationships with parents. My job is about relationships with other people and those other teachers and those interpersonal connections. It’s not just like, oh, I get along with kids and I like learning about math. It’s so much more than that. So I think it’s about, if you have something in mind, take that time to volunteer.

Sarah FitzGerald: You know, if you wanna be a veterinarian, don’t just go straight to vet school for the next eight years. Like. Get your high into a vet clinic, you know, like [00:18:00] those kind of, those kind of things. Mm-hmm okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah. And do you have kind of a favorite aspect of teaching? Because like you just mentioned, there are many different things that you do and it’s not only.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Working with the students.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. I mean, I would say because of the grade level that I teach in fourth grade, there is so much room for not only creativity, but also for them to choose different ways to learn. So I think for me, it’s great to be able to expose my students to a variety of ways to learn, uh, specific skill.

Sarah FitzGerald: And then for them to be able to have the, uh, confidence to be able to choose which one works best for them. So I think that that is, that is something that we have the luxury of doing now. I, you know, it wasn’t like that when I was growing up even, um, that we were just taught one way to do it, and this was the only way to do it.

Sarah FitzGerald: And now there’s, there’s so many different ways to express your, um, skill level. And so [00:19:00] that, that exposure is, is really fun. And to be able to see students take ownership of their learning

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: mm-hmm okay, cool. Cool. I think that’s an interesting topic. Um, kind of thinking about different learning and also education changing over time.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: What do you think has changed or maybe what are some differences that you’ve seen even from when you were student to now, or just throughout your past years teaching?

Sarah FitzGerald: Well, a couple things. I mean, I grew up going to a private school. There was 40 students in my class mm-hmm um, and which is enormous. and you learned one way to learn things and that was it.

Sarah FitzGerald: And it didn’t matter what you were necessarily going through emotionally, or if you were struggling academically, we were pushing along. And so that’s one thing that I take pride in is being able to assess my student and where they’re at. And if we are having [00:20:00] an emotional breakdown, if we are having students, you know, like this year we had students that were upset, they were having just conflict with it, with, you know, like friendship issues.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. They’re not able to learn. They’re not. And you know, if you certainly, if you have support of a school counselor or anything like that, that’s fabulous. But sometimes we don’t have that. And I had multiple occasions this past year where I just stopped teaching and we just got in a circle and talked and kind of problem solved some things.

Sarah FitzGerald: Um, and that was a game changer because then I was able to get back to teaching and they were able to absorb it and care about it. Yeah. Um, because I was able to make that modification. So I think being able to have that flexibility is huge. I think. You know, dealing with COVID and so many different things going on that administration certainly recognizes how important it is to meet students needs of their social, emotional [00:21:00] needs.

Sarah FitzGerald: Mm-hmm first, before you can teach them anything. And so it comes back to that flexibility and, you know, being able to modify things like that. Mm-hmm

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: definitely okay. Um, kind of going back to knowing which grade you wanted to teach. Is there a grade you really don’t wanna teach or like you would never want to teach?

Sarah FitzGerald: Um, well, that’s funny. You’d say that when I was student teaching in second grade, We had a teacher that was in the middle school that got ill. And my principal said, can you please just step in just for a couple hours in seventh and eighth grade? Yeah. And it was fine. It was fun. But I came back and I was like, this is not a good fit for me.

Sarah FitzGerald: Like I, I, yeah, I am an elementary teacher period. I. I could be a middle school teacher. I could be a high school teacher [00:22:00] for an hour if I needed to. I I’m joking, but more than. But it would not, it would, I would not be my best self. My best self is in elementary education where I can reach the whole student in a variety of ways, social, emotional, academic, um, that mix of love, but loving but firm, um, you know, clear expectations with a hug.

Sarah FitzGerald: That’s that’s who I am. Mm.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Okay. Alrighty. Well, I think that we’ll start wrapping things up here, but okay. As always, my last question is Rachel, what’s the best piece of life advice you’ve been given.

Sarah FitzGerald: It is the most random and simple phrase and it is leave it alone. And I will tell you that my friend’s husband brought this phrase to me about 15 years ago.

Sarah FitzGerald: And to her, yeah, it’s really about picking your [00:23:00] battles, deciding when it’s appropriate to speak and not speak. Deciding when there’s certain things that you just need to leave it alone. And I used to not leave anything alone ever. I used to pick everything and I don’t mean nitpicky. I just mean that I felt like I was an advocate for myself and for everybody around me, even if they didn’t advocate for themselves.

Sarah FitzGerald: And I’ve learned with experience that it’s really important. Just like we’ve learned with tell us something it’s, it’s, it’s almost more important to listen than it is to talk. Mm. And the leave it alone thing has trickled into all aspects of my life, whether it is a student behavior that is just annoying, not dangerous.

Sarah FitzGerald: Mm-hmm leave it alone. Right? Ignore it. Leave it. Whether it’s a personal situation where someone has said something, do I really need to comment on that? [00:24:00] Leave it alone. So this leave it alone. Thing has been a pattern for me. And it sounds really silly, but it actually has been like super profound for me.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Interesting. Yeah. I never ever had that piece of advice, but thank you. you’re welcome. Okay. Well, Rachel, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really

Sarah FitzGerald: appreciate. Thank you so much for having me. That was fun.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Of course. And thank you guys for listening.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Rachel and Sierra. Rachel is an elementary school teacher in Western Montana. Rachel has her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in reading and earned her master of arts in integrated art and education all from the university of Montana. Miss. Rachel served at the local nonprofit north Missoula community development corporation as board chair and secretary in Missoula for 10 years, where she led [00:25:00] fundraising efforts, board retreats, and attended various conferences in and out of state.

Marc Moss: When Rachel is not working, she can be found with her St. Bernard Laura lie on logging, walks with friends, reading her next book for her monthly book club, grabbing a Quatro formage or pizza from Beka pizza. And planning her next road trip Sierra Ty Brownley is a curious individual with a never-ending interest in people and their stories from asking 50 strangers for their best piece of life advice to sitting down, to hear about pivotal stories on her podcast, impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley.

Marc Moss: Sierra is always excited to meet new people and hear what they would like to share. You can find the impactful experiences podcast, wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks to our inkind sponsors, Joyce of tile, gecko designs, float Missoula and Missoula broadcasting company. Thanks for listening to this week’s podcast.

Marc Moss: Remember to get your ticket to the next event. [00:26:00] September 27th, 2022. Live at the Dennison theater. The theme. Letting go more information and tickets are [email protected]

Tell Us Something Board Secretary Sarah FitzGerald reflects on the impactful experience of volunteering for a Jesuit organization in St. Louis, Missouri.

Transcript : Meet the Board - Sarah FitzGerald

Marc Moss: [00:00:00] Welcome to the tele hunting podcast. I’m Marc Moss. The next, tell us something live storytelling event is September 27th. At the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go eight storytellers. Take the stage to share their two personal stories from memory. Tickets are now on sale. For tell us something live at the Dennison theater, September 27th.

Marc Moss: Get your [email protected] We again, welcome our friends from the deaf C. By providing American sign language interpretation. See you September 27th for letting go stories at the Dennison theater, more information and tickets are [email protected] The next, tell us something podcast episodes are a little different than what you are used to.

Marc Moss: You will meet each member of the, tell something board, former board member Sierra Ty Brownley interviewed the Tellum board for her podcast. Impactful experiences. Sierra believes that listening to meaningful stories, changes your ideas and makes you think and feel beyond what you [00:01:00] may already accept.

Marc Moss: This week. Sierra sits down with tell us something board treasurer, Rachel Beas let’s

Sarah FitzGerald: listen.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Welcome back to impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley, where I chat with a new guest each episode and ask them to share one of their impactful experiences. This is your host Sierra, and I want to thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy today. I am joined by Rachel Beas elementary teacher in Western Montana.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: And tell us something board member, Rachel, thank you so much for coming on the podcast

Sarah FitzGerald: today. Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Me too. And of course, so let’s just hop right in and if you’d be willing, could you tell us a little bit about your impactful experience?

Sarah FitzGerald: Sure. Um, you know, when I was asked to do this podcast, I think like many people, I thought about [00:02:00] several different things that have impacted me the most, but I think really my journey, um, to be, and my detours, um, to becoming a teacher is probably the most, um, impactful experience for.

Sarah FitzGerald: Okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: I’d love to dive a little bit into that. And if you could share kind of what your journey has been to becoming

Sarah FitzGerald: a teacher. Sure. I was one of those little girls sitting in second grade with Mrs. Roach, knowing that I was meant to be a teacher. I knew it. from second grade. And so, you know, all through elementary, middle school, high school, you read my yearbook.

Sarah FitzGerald: Everything is about me being a teacher mm-hmm . And I decided before I started community college, that I would start working with kids. I was an aunt, I had three, uh, I had two nephews and a niece by the time I was 20 and had baby. Yeah. And had babysat, uh, a ton starting at age 11, 12 years old. And, and.

Sarah FitzGerald: Really comfortable around [00:03:00] kids, but I wanted to make sure that translated into education mm-hmm . Um, and so when I was in high school, I, um, did some volunteering in a first grade classroom and I loved it. And then it was time to graduate and time to go to college. Yeah. One of the jobs that I got was as a summer camp counselor, And I hated it.

Sarah FitzGerald: Oh, wow. And , and for whatever reason, I convinced myself that that was teaching mm-hmm and I was like, this is not a good fit. Like I, this is I like, yeah. I don’t know what the problem is this whole time. For years and years and years, I had a plan in place. This is what I was going to do and was like, absolutely not.

Sarah FitzGerald: I need to do something else. so fast forward, like 12 years mm-hmm and I was a real estate lender in town, um, [00:04:00] and really enjoyed it. And then I reached a point where I stopped enjoying it. Mm-hmm and I was about 31 years. I was 30, 30, 31 years old. Mm-hmm . and I just started feeling like I needed a change and I, I didn’t know what that was.

Sarah FitzGerald: I didn’t know if it was a career change. I didn’t know if it was just switching companies. Yeah. You know, I wasn’t sure. So those feelings were kind of stirring in my brain. And, and so, as I mentioned, I always knew, and everyone knew around me, my whole childhood, my high school years, that I was gonna be a teacher.

Sarah FitzGerald: There was no other option. I didn’t even think about anything else. Mm-hmm . And so when these, these uncertain feelings were starting to stir around. I randomly had a phone conversation with my first love from high school. Mm-hmm Roland. And I hadn’t seen him or talked to him since I was 17 years old. Yeah.

Sarah FitzGerald: And [00:05:00] I only knew him when I was 17 years old, so I only knew him for a year of my life. Okay. And we had this lovely conversation. Ironically I was at work. He was a real estate lender. And one of the first questions he asked me was, are you a teacher? And I was really taken aback because I kind of forgot that that was my path.

Sarah FitzGerald: And that’s the only thing that he had in mind. So when he had reflected on our time together, just me as a person, that’s what he focused on. Mm-hmm like, of course she’s a teacher, right? I’m talking to her 14 years later. Of course she’s a teacher. And I was like, no, actually I went, took a different path and you know, and I was very successful in my career.

Sarah FitzGerald: I had purchased my own home by myself and mm-hmm , you know, I legitimately had a career, but I had this nagging feeling that it was. Time for a change. Yeah. And so when he made that comment to me, it really affected me, um, to the point [00:06:00] that I got off the phone with him and sobbed in the bathroom at work.

Sarah FitzGerald: Oh, I know. And I was like, okay, well, I don’t know what that means, but you know, it, it almost felt like I was a failure. Like I hadn’t done what I set out to do, even though I was living a great life. Yeah. So fast forward a little bit, again, still stirring feelings. And I had a realtor friend that invited me to a networking event.

Sarah FitzGerald: It was this monthly, like women’s group that met and talked about business ideas and tried to do business together. Mm-hmm and we were sitting around the table. and, um, it was like a hundred people in a conference room, 10 people to have tabled one of which I knew and had become friends with, but everyone else was pretty much strangers.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. And we’re sitting at this table of 10 people and the keynote speaker comes on the microphone and she said, before we, you know, have lunch and [00:07:00] before we chat, I want you to talk to your table about what would you do as an icebreaker question? What would you do if you couldn’t fail? And I, of course, maybe not.

Sarah FitzGerald: Of course my, maybe this is shocking. uh, I started crying immediately, um, at this table full of strangers mm-hmm and I said, I’ll go first. I’ll go first. Okay. And I said, I would quit my job and I would go back to school and I would become a teacher. Mm. and it just hit me that that’s what I was supposed to do and why I allowed my 18 year old self to convince myself that summer camp was teaching and let go of my dream.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. You know, we, we learn. Right. Um, so now I was this career woman that owned a house and had responsibilities. But I knew I needed to leave. I knew it immediately. I, I [00:08:00] never looked back Sierra ever. The next day I took the day off of work. Mm-hmm I went to the local university of Montana, Missoula mm-hmm I enrolled, I reviewed my finances that weekend.

Sarah FitzGerald: and on Monday I gave my two week notice. Wow. Yeah. And I left that job 11 years ago. Mm-hmm I started taking classes that summer. I didn’t even wait till the fall. I started that may. And I got my teaching degree and a minor in reading in three years, mind you, I had a lot of responsibilities and had to figure out how am I going to do this?

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. And there was times where I had seven little part-time jobs, little. Oh my gosh. I know. Like, it might have been like one day a week. I worked at this daycare and uh, the other day of the week I passed out these pamphlets and it was all these little, [00:09:00] little jobs. Mm. Um, but I did it to make it work and I never, ever, ever looked back.

Sarah FitzGerald: And, um, I’m now going to be entering my ninth year of teaching.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Wow. Okay. Really? What a journey. And

Sarah FitzGerald: it was, yeah, quite a journey, some detours along the way. But once I made the decision, I knew that this was going to impact my life. Mm-hmm .

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. And now that you have been teaching. Um, or like you said, nine years, do you see yourself staying in teaching or potentially moving in the future?

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: You

Sarah FitzGerald: know, I am really into embracing side hustles. Um, that’s my, that’s my new thing. So. You know, my passion is my day to day teaching mm-hmm . Um, I have looked into the past just based on my past experience and leadership qualities. Would I wanna be an administrator? Would I want to go in a different direction?

Sarah FitzGerald: Would I [00:10:00] wanna use education to work at a museum or whatever it might be? um, for me, I’m good. Like I am beyond satisfied. Mm-hmm I, um, I went back to school in 2019 and I earned my master’s. Last year. Okay. Yeah. So I have that. And so that was really a great professional development opportunity for a few years, um, to continue to learn more, um, I’ve focused on integrating arts in the classroom.

Sarah FitzGerald: So that has challenged me as an educator. As well. So for me, I think I’m good. I really would, you know, it took me a while to get here. Mm-hmm and I’m, I’m very, very grateful. And, um, beyond satisfied, I feel extremely fulfilled. Now I will, I will say I am the type of person. That’s always pursuing other things, but that doesn’t, that that has nothing to do with my career and my passion mm-hmm so that.[00:11:00]

Sarah FitzGerald: that would be like, for example, you know, I would love to teach, um, as an adjunct professor and maybe get my foot in the door at a university mm-hmm maybe that’s something that could transition into teaching a summer class, or maybe after retirement potentially being something, um, a mentor for educators.

Sarah FitzGerald: Things like that. So I’ve definitely looked into that. Um, I was a TA this summer mm-hmm , um, at the university for my old master’s program. So just kind of dipping my toe into different things, um, has been fun.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Very nice. And did you know kind of what grade or age of students you wanted to teach?

Sarah FitzGerald: Well, because of Mrs.

Sarah FitzGerald: Roach, my second grade teacher, I always felt like that was the right grade level for me. Yeah. Um, and then it was kind of a joke because I’m, I’m on the petite side. Um, so I was like, I don’t want them to be taller than me [00:12:00] and I just always really liked that age group. And so ironically, when I. Did my student teaching, um, I student taught in second grade mm-hmm and then I ended up getting hired from that same school in first grade.

Sarah FitzGerald: So I taught first grade for five years. Mm-hmm then I taught second grade for a year. Um, and then I was ready to make a move to a different school district for a variety of reasons. And the position that was available. Was at the district that I wanted, that I’m currently at was fourth grade remote, fully remote for the full year.

Sarah FitzGerald: And the remote thing of course, you know, is a little scary in general. Mm-hmm um, and then fourth grade was really scary for me. That felt like a huge jump from first. Yeah. Um, and to be honest, I felt like it would be a good foot in the door. And then I would kind of get a feel for if there’s other grades that open up and ironically a second grade position did actually open up and I [00:13:00] had zero interest and okay.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. So this will be my third year teaching fourth grade. I love it. And I would say about seven of the kids last year were taller than me. wow. Okay. So I prepared for that now every year. Yes. Um, but I absolutely love it and I, I don’t know. This might be the perfect grade for me. Okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Interesting. Um, and then.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: What do you think maybe what skills do you think helped you go into teaching or maybe had you learned before you went into teaching? Um, yeah. That you think are really applicable,

Sarah FitzGerald: you know, for me, I think some potentially non-traditional things have really prepared me to be successful. I think that, you know, I did my student, I did part of my student teaching in, um, Guang, China in 2014.[00:14:00]

Sarah FitzGerald: And I was expecting to enter an environment that was very rigid. and that I really need, and I love that I was really excited cause I’m kind of type a and I really like things very structured. And so I was like, okay, great. Like I’m gonna have a set schedule. I’m gonna know exactly what’s happening, what grades I’m teaching.

Sarah FitzGerald: And it was the opposite because of the dynamics of the country. Um, that certainly trickled down into how the schools were run, how the students behaved. The relationship between the teacher and the student. And I was blindsided at how flexible I needed to be. Mm-hmm and that was very challenging for me.

Sarah FitzGerald: Um, I didn’t have a choice I had to be. Um, and because of that, that is one of the biggest things that has translated into my teaching life here in the United States. And it sounds really silly. but the idea of covering someone’s recess [00:15:00] duty for them spontaneously, and the idea of, you know, a student having an issue and you needing to stop a lesson and do something else.

Sarah FitzGerald: Mm-hmm , those are skills that are really important and they build community. Um, and so those were things that I really brought into. My career that I wasn’t expecting. Mm-hmm I think, I think also, you know, sometimes I joke like, oh my gosh, if I would’ve just gone to college, when I was supposed to go to college, then I would be retiring in five years or whatever it might be, or, you know, different things like that.

Sarah FitzGerald: Um, or I would be making more money cause I would have more experience, but, but honestly, I don’t know that I would be where I am today. If I. Gone on that path that I had expected. When I went back to college a little older at 31, I took it very seriously and I had a mortgage to pay. I have [00:16:00] responsibilities that I wouldn’t have had when I was 18 years old.

Sarah FitzGerald: And so I was very focused, not only on actually getting good grades and learning, but also getting it done quickly so that I could start making. Money, even if it was even if it was a teacher’s salary, at least it wasn’t seven part-time jobs. Yeah. Um, so yeah, I think those are the things that I was not expecting to bring in and to learn that I, that I have.

Sarah FitzGerald: Okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: So you think that if you had gone into teaching, um, I guess right after school, do you think you would still be in teaching or. I don’t know what

Sarah FitzGerald: happened. I mean, I really don’t know. I would say that my advice, if I was talking to my younger self or someone else, mm-hmm , um, you know, my advice would be to always pursue what you feel your passion is, but don’t just go straight to college.

Sarah FitzGerald: And what I mean by that is like, I still [00:17:00] would. I still, I think looking back, I would’ve just pursued teaching more while I was getting my. So I would’ve thrown myself more into the classroom. I would’ve volunteered more. I would not, I would’ve spoken with more educators about their experience and versus telling myself that summer camp was the same as teaching mm-hmm or like saying babysitting children is the same as teaching.

Sarah FitzGerald: It’s not at all. Like, my job is. Relationships with parents. My job is about relationships with other people and those other teachers and those interpersonal connections. It’s not just like, oh, I get along with kids and I like learning about math. It’s so much more than that. So I think it’s about, if you have something in mind, take that time to volunteer.

Sarah FitzGerald: You know, if you wanna be a veterinarian, don’t just go straight to vet school for the next eight years. Like. Get your high into a vet clinic, you know, like [00:18:00] those kind of, those kind of things. Mm-hmm okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah. And do you have kind of a favorite aspect of teaching? Because like you just mentioned, there are many different things that you do and it’s not only.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Working with the students.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. I mean, I would say because of the grade level that I teach in fourth grade, there is so much room for not only creativity, but also for them to choose different ways to learn. So I think for me, it’s great to be able to expose my students to a variety of ways to learn, uh, specific skill.

Sarah FitzGerald: And then for them to be able to have the, uh, confidence to be able to choose which one works best for them. So I think that that is, that is something that we have the luxury of doing now. I, you know, it wasn’t like that when I was growing up even, um, that we were just taught one way to do it, and this was the only way to do it.

Sarah FitzGerald: And now there’s, there’s so many different ways to express your, um, skill level. And so [00:19:00] that, that exposure is, is really fun. And to be able to see students take ownership of their learning

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: mm-hmm okay, cool. Cool. I think that’s an interesting topic. Um, kind of thinking about different learning and also education changing over time.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: What do you think has changed or maybe what are some differences that you’ve seen even from when you were student to now, or just throughout your past years teaching?

Sarah FitzGerald: Well, a couple things. I mean, I grew up going to a private school. There was 40 students in my class mm-hmm um, and which is enormous. and you learned one way to learn things and that was it.

Sarah FitzGerald: And it didn’t matter what you were necessarily going through emotionally, or if you were struggling academically, we were pushing along. And so that’s one thing that I take pride in is being able to assess my student and where they’re at. And if we are having [00:20:00] an emotional breakdown, if we are having students, you know, like this year we had students that were upset, they were having just conflict with it, with, you know, like friendship issues.

Sarah FitzGerald: Yeah. They’re not able to learn. They’re not. And you know, if you certainly, if you have support of a school counselor or anything like that, that’s fabulous. But sometimes we don’t have that. And I had multiple occasions this past year where I just stopped teaching and we just got in a circle and talked and kind of problem solved some things.

Sarah FitzGerald: Um, and that was a game changer because then I was able to get back to teaching and they were able to absorb it and care about it. Yeah. Um, because I was able to make that modification. So I think being able to have that flexibility is huge. I think. You know, dealing with COVID and so many different things going on that administration certainly recognizes how important it is to meet students needs of their social, emotional [00:21:00] needs.

Sarah FitzGerald: Mm-hmm first, before you can teach them anything. And so it comes back to that flexibility and, you know, being able to modify things like that. Mm-hmm

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: definitely okay. Um, kind of going back to knowing which grade you wanted to teach. Is there a grade you really don’t wanna teach or like you would never want to teach?

Sarah FitzGerald: Um, well, that’s funny. You’d say that when I was student teaching in second grade, We had a teacher that was in the middle school that got ill. And my principal said, can you please just step in just for a couple hours in seventh and eighth grade? Yeah. And it was fine. It was fun. But I came back and I was like, this is not a good fit for me.

Sarah FitzGerald: Like I, I, yeah, I am an elementary teacher period. I. I could be a middle school teacher. I could be a high school teacher [00:22:00] for an hour if I needed to. I I’m joking, but more than. But it would not, it would, I would not be my best self. My best self is in elementary education where I can reach the whole student in a variety of ways, social, emotional, academic, um, that mix of love, but loving but firm, um, you know, clear expectations with a hug.

Sarah FitzGerald: That’s that’s who I am. Mm.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Okay. Alrighty. Well, I think that we’ll start wrapping things up here, but okay. As always, my last question is Rachel, what’s the best piece of life advice you’ve been given.

Sarah FitzGerald: It is the most random and simple phrase and it is leave it alone. And I will tell you that my friend’s husband brought this phrase to me about 15 years ago.

Sarah FitzGerald: And to her, yeah, it’s really about picking your [00:23:00] battles, deciding when it’s appropriate to speak and not speak. Deciding when there’s certain things that you just need to leave it alone. And I used to not leave anything alone ever. I used to pick everything and I don’t mean nitpicky. I just mean that I felt like I was an advocate for myself and for everybody around me, even if they didn’t advocate for themselves.

Sarah FitzGerald: And I’ve learned with experience that it’s really important. Just like we’ve learned with tell us something it’s, it’s, it’s almost more important to listen than it is to talk. Mm. And the leave it alone thing has trickled into all aspects of my life, whether it is a student behavior that is just annoying, not dangerous.

Sarah FitzGerald: Mm-hmm leave it alone. Right? Ignore it. Leave it. Whether it’s a personal situation where someone has said something, do I really need to comment on that? [00:24:00] Leave it alone. So this leave it alone. Thing has been a pattern for me. And it sounds really silly, but it actually has been like super profound for me.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Interesting. Yeah. I never ever had that piece of advice, but thank you. you’re welcome. Okay. Well, Rachel, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really

Sarah FitzGerald: appreciate. Thank you so much for having me. That was fun.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Of course. And thank you guys for listening.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Rachel and Sierra. Rachel is an elementary school teacher in Western Montana. Rachel has her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in reading and earned her master of arts in integrated art and education all from the university of Montana. Miss. Rachel served at the local nonprofit north Missoula community development corporation as board chair and secretary in Missoula for 10 years, where she led [00:25:00] fundraising efforts, board retreats, and attended various conferences in and out of state.

Marc Moss: When Rachel is not working, she can be found with her St. Bernard Laura lie on logging, walks with friends, reading her next book for her monthly book club, grabbing a Quatro formage or pizza from Beka pizza. And planning her next road trip Sierra Ty Brownley is a curious individual with a never-ending interest in people and their stories from asking 50 strangers for their best piece of life advice to sitting down, to hear about pivotal stories on her podcast, impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley.

Marc Moss: Sierra is always excited to meet new people and hear what they would like to share. You can find the impactful experiences podcast, wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks to our inkind sponsors, Joyce of tile, gecko designs, float Missoula and Missoula broadcasting company. Thanks for listening to this week’s podcast.

Marc Moss: Remember to get your ticket to the next event. [00:26:00] September 27th, 2022. Live at the Dennison theater. The theme. Letting go more information and tickets are [email protected]

Tell Us Something Board member Jason Sloat recalls his impactful experience of visiting Missoula with a buddy and calling an old professor from a payphone - a phone call that changed his life trajectory.

Transcript : Meet the Board - Jason Sloat

Marc Moss: [00:00:00] Welcome to the tele hunting podcast. I’m Marc Moss. The next, tell us something live storytelling event is September 27th. At the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go eight storytellers. Take the stage to share their two personal stories from memory. Tickets are now on sale. For tell us something live at the Dennison theater, September 27th.

Marc Moss: Get your [email protected] We again, welcome our friends from the deaf C. By providing American sign language interpretation. See you September 27th for letting go stories at the Dennis and theater, more information and tickets are [email protected] The next, tell us something podcast episodes are a little different than what you are used to.

Marc Moss: You will meet each member of the, tell something board, former board member Sierra, Ty Brownley interviewed the tell something board for her podcast. Impactful experiences. Sierra believes that listening to meaningful stories, changes your ideas and makes you think and feel beyond what you [00:01:00] may already accept.

Marc Moss: This week. Sierra sits down with tele something board member, Jason slope. Let’s listen.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Welcome back to impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley, where I chat with a new guest each episode and ask them to share one of their impactful experiences. This is your host Sierra, and I want to thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy today. I’m joined by Jason slope, current risk manager at the university of Montana in Missoula, Montana.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: And tell us something board member Jason, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. Oh, it’s

Jason Sloat: my pleasure, Sierra. Thanks for having me

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: anytime. So let’s just hop right in and I’d love to hear about your impactful experience.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. So, you know, when, [00:02:00] when I was thinking about what impactful experience I wanted to share, I was thinking about my, my current life, um, here in Western Montana.

Jason Sloat: And I started to think about there, there was one very impactful experience that led me. To this point that I’m at now. Um, I just turned 48 years old and, um, it kind of feels like I had this experience. Um, when I was 23 years old, I was fresh out of college. The year was 1997. And I had an experience in Missoula that all these years later has kind of everything.

Jason Sloat: Everything in a sense has, has, has really come full circle for me. Mm-hmm um, and the reason I’m here today is because of this impactful experience that I had in the late nineties, um, arriving in Missoula as a kid who was kind of fresh outta [00:03:00] college. And that’s the experience that I’d like to share today.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay, that sounds great. Well, I’d love to hear about it. And if you could tell us what brought you to Montana.

Jason Sloat: Sure. So I graduated from a small liberal arts college in central Indiana in okay. In, uh, 1997. And. My my best friend. And I set out when, when we graduated from college, we didn’t really have any career plans.

Jason Sloat: Mm-hmm um, we were, we were trying to figure out what we were doing with our lives. Um, it was a moment for, I think, both of us, of, of kind of great uncertainty. Neither of us had a distinct. Path that we could see kind of out of college, into real adulthood. Mm-hmm . And so we set out on a road trip in kind of the classic American road trip.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. And we [00:04:00] didn’t really have much of a plan. Um, other than we were going to, we, we decided to challenge ourselves by seeing how long we could go without paying for lo. Okay. Just as a challenge. Um, so, uh, at the time I had my high school vehicle, which was a very old 1980 Jeep, CJ seven, like an old school kind of version of a Jeep Wrangler.

Jason Sloat: Okay. And we loaded, we loaded this Jeep up with all of our earthly possessions, um, in the early summer of 1997. And we set out, um, To just see kind of where the road would take us. Mm-hmm and we ended up traveling for almost four months, um, and we spent most of those four months camping. And once we got out of the Midwest, we stuck to national forests, um, so that we could camp for free.

Jason Sloat: That was [00:05:00] part of our, part of our challenge end. Four months later we had been, we, we left Indiana. We went north through Michigan, uh, into Canada, around the north side of lake superior. Came down, spent some time in the boundary waters in Minnesota. Came across the Dakotas traveled down the Rocky mountain front almost all the way to Mexico turned around and went up.

Jason Sloat: The west side of the Rocky mountains eventually ended up landing in Missoula. And by the time we ended up in Missoula, Montana, we pulled into town, uh, on a September afternoon mm-hmm and. We were running very low on cash. Mm. And, um, we had to kind of figure out what we were gonna do about that. And the first place that we ended up going in town, we actually, we actually drove, we figured out where downtown was.

Jason Sloat: And we parked on Higgins avenue and we [00:06:00] got out of our Jeep and we asked the first person we met, where’s a place. We could get a beer where the locals hang out. We went like a, a locals kind of place. Right. And they said, well, there’s a bar across the street, like a half a block up. It’s called Charlie bees.

Jason Sloat: And there’s no sign, but you’ll know it when you get there. Okay. And so we walked up Higgins avenue and we found this door that had a little sign connected to it, that set on the corner of space and time. And we thought, well, this looks the right place, check this out. And so we walked into Charlie bees and we ordered some beers and we started playing pool mm-hmm and, uh, We were just kind of passing the time at this point.

Jason Sloat: And as we were playing pool, my friend, John, who I was traveling with, um, said, Hey, I think this is the town. Where that there [00:07:00] was that professor, that art history professor at Wabash college, that’s where we had just graduated from okay. Several months before. And he said, I think that professor, we knew at Wabash named Rafael didn’t Rafael, move here and get a job at the university of Montana.

Jason Sloat: And I said, man, I think you’re right. Um, And so the story behind that is that there, when John and I were freshmen, our freshman and sophomore year at our college in Indiana, there had been a young professor fresh out of grad school, fresh off of his PhD. Mm-hmm who had come back, come back to his Alma. He was a graduate of Wabash college to teach his first two years out of grad school.

Jason Sloat: And then he got a tenure track job at the university of Montana mm-hmm . And so he left and he moved off to this exotic place called Missoula Montana. And we hadn’t really kept in touch since then. Yeah. But we knew, [00:08:00] we knew at the time we called him professor shaone and we knew professor shaone very well when we were at Wabash college.

Jason Sloat: So we found ourselves in Charlie bees, drinking beer, playing pool, saying, Hey professor, shaone I think moved here and lives here. Now we should get ahold of him. And so we finished our beers. We walked down the street. This was before the age of cell phones and the internet. And all of that mm-hmm so we found a payphone, um, and it used to be that in payphone, uh, there would be a phone book mm-hmm hanging from a cable.

Jason Sloat: And so we took the phone book and we looked up Rafael shaone and sure enough, he was listed in the phone book. And from this payphone, we dropped a quarter and we called Rafa. This was completely out of the blue out of voicemail. Voicemail said, you know, Hey, this is Rafael. Leave a message. And so I left a message.

Jason Sloat: I said, Rafael, it’s Jason and John from [00:09:00] Wabash college. We just landed in Missoula, Montana. We’d love to stop and say hi, it’s been a few years. Like, let’s catch up. Um, we’re gonna hang out at this phone booth for a few minutes. If you get this message, we didn’t have any other way for him to call us. Yeah.

Jason Sloat: So we were like, and they used to print the phone number of the phone in the phone booth on the, on the phone panel. Mm-hmm so I read him the number of the phone in the phone. And I said, call this number. If you get this message, like in the next five to 10 minutes, and then we hung out and waited sure enough, five minutes later, the phone and the phone booth rings and I pick it up and it’s Raphael and he says, yeah, like, of course I remember you guys.

Jason Sloat: Uh, I I’m here. I live outside of Missoula in this little town called Lolo with my, with my partner, Andy, we were like, oh, Andy. Right. We, we knew Andy from when they were in Crawfordsville, we were like, fantastic. Um, [00:10:00] and he was like, you know, I’m sure if you guys have been on the road for a few months, sleeping in the woods, camping the whole time, you’d love a hot meal and a shower.

Jason Sloat: He’s like, you’ve gotta come out and hang out with us tonight. So we did mm-hmm um, And it was this act of extraordinary generosity on Rafael’s part. I mean, we would’ve been okay if he was just like, let’s meet for a beer mm-hmm but instead he was like, come to my house. I’m gonna fix you a hot meal. I’m gonna, I’m gonna let you take a hot shower and you can stay here with us for a couple nights.

Jason Sloat: If you want to, if you wanna sleep in a real bed, get off the road, get out, get out of the woods. Like not, yeah. You know, you’re tired of camping. Come stay with us for a while. Um, and it was really amazing. He really didn’t have to do that. It was, it was just extraordinarily generous of him. So we went out and, and, and we met up with Andy and [00:11:00] Rafael, um, in their house in Lolo, we had a great meal, we got cleaned up.

Jason Sloat: It was amazing. Um, and basically we ended up staying with them for three nights. Um, mm-hmm and. we told them after three nights, we were very concerned about overstay. Our welcome mm-hmm , even though we were having a blast and it was really comfortable, um, we told them, uh, the third night that the next morning we were gonna leave.

Jason Sloat: Um, and so. They were gonna get up early and go to work. Um, and so we set our goodbyes that night, the next morning they got up and left for work. And my buddy, John and I were packing up getting ready to leave. We had no idea what we were gonna do. Next things were very uncertain. And then the phone in their house started to ring.

Jason Sloat: And I wasn’t gonna answer their phone. So I let it go to voicemail. He had one of those like old school answering machines where you could li you could hear the person leaving the message. Okay. So [00:12:00] when the answering machine picked up, it was Rafael and he was saying, Hey guys, it’s Rafael. If you’re still in the house, pick up the phone, I’ve got some news.

Jason Sloat: And I ran over and picked up the phone. I was like, Hey Rafael, you know, what’s going on? We’re just getting ready to walk out the door, like what’s happening? And he said, well, I’ve been making some calls this morning. I know you guys are a little short on cash and you’re not sure what you’re doing next.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. He’s, he’s like, I found a job opportunity for you guys. And he basically said, there’s this woman who we’re acquainted with, who owns a bunch of land out in Theo valley. it’s about 60 miles Northeast of Missoula. He said, and I talked to her this morning and she would like help getting her ranch land ready for winter.

Jason Sloat: Um, she’s got some fences to fix some basic labor stuff she needs help with. If you guys are willing to drive out there this morning, she’s home and she will interview you. And if the interview [00:13:00] goes well, she’ll hire you and you can help her get ready for get her ranch ready for winter and maybe work for for a week or two, uh, put some cash in your pocket.

Jason Sloat: and that way you’ve got some funds to go on to your next adventure. Mm-hmm so, yeah, so anyway, it was just incredibly nice of him to do this for us. And we, we drove out to van, we had this interview, it went well, we got this job. And after a few weeks, we ended up getting hired on to this. project as co-ran managers.

Jason Sloat: Um, okay. And that was our, that, that ended up being my very first official job out of college. Mm-hmm who was working on this ranch in Theo valley, I say ranch. It wasn’t really a working ranch. This woman who had bought this property, it was several thousand acres and she had taken the cattle off of it.

Jason Sloat: And she was her goal was to reestablish wildlife. Just just viable, healthy wildlife [00:14:00] habitat. It was a habitat restoration project. Okay. Um, and so anyway, that ended up being my first job out of college due to this kind of chance encounter Rafael’s generosity. Hooking us up with, with, with a place to stay for a few nights and then, and then finding a job for us, none of which he had to do.

Jason Sloat: Um, and it ended up being an absolutely incredible experience. And we worked on this land for about a year. Um, mm-hmm and that was my introduction to Western Montana. Okay. Here we are. All these years later, it’s 2022 and I’m back in Western Montana. Mm-hmm um, after a number of years away and, um, my wife and I are building a house that is on land that is next door to Andy and Rafael.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Wow. And they’re still there

Jason Sloat: and they’re still here. They’ve been here this whole time. Um, they moved from [00:15:00] Lolo out to the Moise valley, which is out by the national bison range. Okay. Um, and they owned some acreage out here. Um, and when we moved out here several years ago, uh, after 15 years in Chicago, Um, I, I got a job offer at the university of Montana mm-hmm and one of the first people I called was Rafael.

Jason Sloat: Cuz I wanted to talk about the university and what he thought about the job opportunity, cuz he’d been there for a long time at this point. Yeah. And in one of our first conversations, he said, Hey, I don’t know what you guys have are planning to do when you get out here in terms of where you’re gonna live.

Jason Sloat: what you’re gonna do in terms of housing, but he said, if you have any desire to own land in a rural area, he said, I think our neighbors are getting ready to sell their land. And, uh, if you jump on it now, I think you can get in. And, uh, that, that, there’s just a great opportunity out here. So we came and looked at this piece of property.

Jason Sloat: Next door to where Andy and Rafael live. And, [00:16:00] uh, lo and behold, it’s a beautiful piece of property. I’m actually sitting on it right now. Um, and, and we ended up buying the land and we’re now in the process of building a house. So this is a great, like, you know, for me, this is a very like story. That’s come full

circle.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Definitely. Yeah. Wow. What a journey. And I, I understand what you. As you, when you said this is really kind of a full circle moment. Um, I think that’s kind of crazy and that Rafael is still still here and that you’ll. Living right next to him.

Jason Sloat: we’re we’re neighbors. Yeah. We’re gonna be neighbors.

That

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: is crazy.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Um, so you did mention that you did leave Montana, um, for a little bit. And did you know you wanted to come back or did you kind of, yes. Oh, okay.

Jason Sloat: So, you know, part of the rest of that story [00:17:00] is I worked on ranches out here for a couple years, and then I decided to go back to school and I, I went to the university of Montana cause I was, I, I loved it here.

Jason Sloat: I didn’t wanna leave Montana. Mm-hmm so I, so I applied for, and was accepted to a graduate program at, um, and I ended up getting my master’s degree at, um, in English literature. While I was getting that degree in literature at, um, mm-hmm I met the person who is, who I’m now married to, um, Addie, who was getting her MFA and poetry.

Jason Sloat: And so we were in the English program together mm-hmm and when we both got done with graduate school in 2004, um, that was a time in Missoula where it was very difficult to. A good job. Mm-hmm um, it was just that the job market was really tough in this part of the world, um, at that point in time. And so.

Jason Sloat: We didn’t really feel that we had much of an option, but to leave, um, [00:18:00] basically to seek careers. And at that point that, that we ended up moving to Chicago. Um, and so we moved to Chicago from Missoula in 2004, we moved there together. Um, and then we got married and then we ended up spending the next 15 years in Chicago.

Jason Sloat: Mm-hmm . And toward the end of that time in Chicago, we had never really stopped talking about our love for Western MUN. Um, yeah. And so the last couple years we were in Chicago, I, we both started looking very diligently for any way that we could get back out here and, and, and any way that we could get back out here and have kind of create like a viable living situation for ourselves in terms of jobs.

Jason Sloat: Right. Because that’s always the, that’s the always the trick bag, right? How, what are you gonna do for work? How are you gonna make a living? And. I happened to be looking at the university of Montana’s job page one day. And I saw a job [00:19:00] advertised as, uh, the job was a, a for a risk management position at the university of Montana.

Jason Sloat: And it just so happened that in this intervening 15 years that I spent in Chicago, mm-hmm . what I had done with my English lit degree was I had gotten into business and kind of by chance, and one thing led to another and I got into risk management. Okay. And I looked at this job opportunity at the university of Montana.

Jason Sloat: And I was like, man, I, I think I’m qualified for that job. Mm-hmm . And so I applied and it went very quickly. I went from applying to the. to having an acceptance letter in a matter of a couple of weeks. Um, and that was it. As soon as I had that acceptance letter in hand, we were like, we’re, it’s been a good ride, Chicago , but, but we are out.

Jason Sloat: And, uh, we were, that was one of the, it was one of the most exciting moments of our, of our [00:20:00] lives. Actually, we were so thrilled to move back.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Wow. That’s really exciting. And I’m glad things worked out. So at this point, how long have you been back in Montana?

Jason Sloat: Uh, we came back in the fall of 2018, so it’s been about three and a half years.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. And what motivated you to build this house? Like, was this also something you had in your mind for a while as well?

Jason Sloat: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question. So it had been a, well, it had been a dream of mine since I was pretty young since I was in my early twenties. Mm-hmm to someday design and build my own house.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. Um, and then when Addie and I got married, that turned out fortunately to be a dream that she shared with me. Um, we spent a lot of time. I mean, [00:21:00] I didn’t get real serious about a career until I was in my early thirties. Mm-hmm . And so this story that I’ve just told you kind of there’s big chunks that I’ve by necessity of time here that I’ve left out.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. The bottom line is, you know, by the time we were living in Chicago in the mid two thousands, we were both in our thirties and we had. 15 years renting, living in places that, you know, um, I think a lot of people can relate to this. You know, you, you get what you can afford. and every place comes with its own set of challenges and problems and irritations, right?

Jason Sloat: Mm-hmm in terms of the spaces you’re forced to live in when you’re young and you don’t have any money, you’re just forced to live, where you can afford to live mm-hmm . And I think that created in us a desire to someday design a space [00:22:00] that worked with it was designed specifically for us mm-hmm um, where we weren’t essentially living in a.

Jason Sloat: that was full of other people’s problems, like other people’s poor decisions. yeah. Right. Um, and so, so this has been a very long term. Dream of ours was to find a place in a, in a rural environment we wanted, we knew we wanted to be in the country. Um, I’m a person who, if I’m gonna be in like in a city or in a town, I want to be in the city.

Jason Sloat: If I’m not, if I’m not going to be, I really don’t want to be, I want to be out. Um, okay. I, I wanna be one, I guess what I’m saying is I’m not a suburban person. I, I, I, I don’t like the in between lands. I either I either wanna be in the thick of the action. I want to be five, a five minute walk away from a great coffee shop, or I don’t want to have, like, I don’t wanna [00:23:00] be around people.

Jason Sloat: I want to be in the middle of a beautiful area. That’s very quiet. Right? Mm-hmm. So we spent 15 years, like in the city kind of dealing with a lot of noise and a lot of chaos. Um, it was, it was a great experience and I’m glad I had that experience, but I was at a point in my life where I was really ready for something quiet.

Jason Sloat: Um, and so when we found this piece of property that is very rural, um, we don’t have many neighbors out here. Um, it’s, it’s a quiet place and, um, it’s peaceful and, and that felt like home to me. Mm-hmm so we wanted to make a place here that was designed for us. Um, and that for us meant we wanted this very small footprint, um, Uh, we don’t have kids, um, by choice mm-hmm and, uh, so it’s just the two of us.

Jason Sloat: And, uh, that means that we don’t need a lot of space. We don’t need a [00:24:00] complicated space. We wanted something very simple, uh, very easy to live in. Um, we kind of knew from years of talking about it, exactly what we wanted, but it’s hard. It’s, it’s hard to find that thing. That as it exists on the market. Yeah.

Jason Sloat: Because a lot of places right. Are designed for families. Right. and a lot of places are designed for this kind of American sensibility of having the maximum amount of square footage. That kind of maximum number of rooms you can afford. Like is a, a lot of people, I feel like come to the house buying process, wanting to buy.

Jason Sloat: Now, this has changed a little bit with. Tiny house movement, things that have happened in, you know, the last decade mm-hmm , but generally speaking, a lot of people, I think still when they go to buy a house, they want the maximum amount of space that they can afford. And that’s distinctly not something we wanted.

Jason Sloat: We wanted something that was, we, [00:25:00] we didn’t really want to like to go completely the tiny house route. Yeah. But we wanted something that was very compact. Um, that just felt like just enough. And so that’s why it was so exciting for us to find land where we could design our own space.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Definitely. I think this is really exciting.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Wow. That’s very cool that it’s happening right now.

Jason Sloat: You’re right. And it’s happening right now?

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yes. Okay. So basically this story that you’ve shared, um, this in a way, like you said, kind of shaped what you did with the rest of your life, because if you hadn’t stopped in Missoula, you think everything would be completely different.

Jason Sloat: Everything would be completely D. Absolutely. I don’t know that I would’ve known about this area. I mean, another, another crazy aspect of this story. That’s just this kind of chance thing is that after I, I [00:26:00] spent a year working for on this habitat restoration project in the van valley, and then the friend that I traveled out here.

Jason Sloat: Went back to Indiana to go to grad school at that point in time. And I stayed in Montana and at that point I moved up to the, uh, I moved up to a place outside of AR mm-hmm , uh, on, on the reservation. And, um, I got a job for a rancher. Who was a tribal member and he hired me, uh, that would’ve been the summer of the summer of 98.

Jason Sloat: He hired me to, um, Make hay for his ranching operation. I’m a farm kid. I grew up on a farm in Indiana, so I knew how to make hay. It was one of the skills I brought to Montana now how to make hay, right. He hired me to make hay for him that summer. And at the time he was [00:27:00] leasing a piece of tribal ground where he made hay.

Jason Sloat: That was in the Mo east valley, which was a few miles from where his actual ranch was located. So I traveled to this valley. To make hay to, to cut hay and RA hay and bale hay for this rancher. Okay. And I got out here and I thought, my God, this is one of the most beautiful places. I have ever seen in my life, if I could ever find a way to live here, um, I would love to live in this spot.

Jason Sloat: And at the time I didn’t see how that would ever be possible. I just, it seemed like a pipe dream. I mean, it seemed like something that it was just at the time for me. I, I was just scraping together life. Like I, I was living paycheck to paycheck. I was essentially a ranch hand. I, I didn’t have any, I didn’t have any money.

Jason Sloat: I didn’t see how I, I would ever be able to afford [00:28:00] anything, but I thought, you know, someday, if I could live here, I would really love to, well, it turns out that from this piece of property that we now own where we’re building our house. I can actually see that hayfield that I was in when I had that moment.

Jason Sloat: Wow. It’s right down the road. Wow. I don’t know. It it’s a, it’s a crazy thing. I, I, I don’t claim to understand it, but. Something about, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t really totally believe in that thing about, you know, you put it out into the universe and then it comes back to you. Like, I, I don’t really necessarily believe in all that, but boy, it’s been, it’s been quite a, quite a, again, a full circle thing.

Jason Sloat: Um, definitely, you know, it’s been, it’s been a thing that’s like 25 years in the making.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah, I think that is really crazy that you are like coming back and completing, I guess, those dreams that you had so long ago, and [00:29:00] it’s really tangible. Like you do see that where you were those years ago. I think this is crazy, but also very exciting.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. Yeah. I, I hear, you know, Sierra, I hear a lot of, I hear a lot of despair these days. in, you know, like, uh, you know, gen Z, people who are getting out of college right now, and the world looks very bleak. Mm-hmm job opportunities. Don’t look great. I think there are a lot of people who kind of a lot of young people who are in this kind of state of despair, and I can actually.

Jason Sloat: I can, as a gen Xer, believe it or not, I can relate to that. I don’t think a lot of people, I don’t think, I don’t think most people, my age necessarily went through that, but I think there were some of us back in the, back in the late nineties and early two thousands who went through that feeling. Mm-hmm and I just always want to tell people, like, I don’t know, it sounds super cheesy, but like, hang in there, [00:30:00] like, you know, It’s it’s okay to want what you want.

Jason Sloat: And, uh, just, just, just keep going. Uh, cause you never know, you never know. As, as, as desperate and bleak, as things may look now, it can also turn around. Um, and you can end up in a place that’s kind of like in a situation that. Is beyond your wildest dreams. If you just keep putting one foot in front of the other

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: mm-hmm definitely.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Well, Jason, I think we will start wrapping things up, but I always ask at the end of each episode, what is the best piece of life advice that you’ve been given?

Jason Sloat: On the best piece of life advice? Um, I mean, I think, I think I just, I think I just kind of touched on that. Yeah. Which is, um, there’s a lot to be said for perseverance and, you know, despite the fact that things may look.

Jason Sloat: Things may look somewhat hopeless at [00:31:00] certain points in your life. Keep getting out of bed, keep doing, keep pursuing that thing. Put one foot in front of the other. It’s a little bit like when you’re facing down a long hike, right. Um, when you’re in that first mile of a 10, 12, 15 mile hike, um, it, it, it, it seems like you’re never going to arrive at the destination, but the thing is you just keep putting one foot in front of the.

Jason Sloat: and eventually you do arrive. Mm-hmm you, you arrive at some point. It may not be exactly what you had in mind. Uh, but you’re, you’re, you’re going to keep making progress and that’s what I would, that’s probably the best advice I’ve gotten is keep, keep moving. Yeah. Okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: No, I like it. I think it’s certainly a good piece of advice.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: All right. Well, I really appreciate you coming on today, Jason and I enjoyed hearing your story.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Of

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: course, of course. Yeah. Thank you once again, Jason, and thank [00:32:00] you guys for listening and take

Jason Sloat: care.

Marc Moss: Thanks Sierra and Jason, Jason slope grew up on a farm in Indiana. After graduating from college, he spent a couple of years working on ranches in Western Montana. During that time he fell in love with the beauty of Montana’s wild spaces. He eventually completed graduate school at the university of Montana, and now works for, um, as the director of risk management.

Marc Moss: Sierra Ty Brownley is a curious individual with a never ending interest in people and their stories from asking 50 strangers for their best piece of life advice to sitting down, to hear about pivotal stories on her podcast, impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley, Sierra is always excited to meet new people and hear what they would like to share.

Marc Moss: You can find the impactful experiences podcast. Wherever you

Jason Sloat: get your podcasts.

Marc Moss: Thanks to our inkind sponsors. Joyce of tile, gecko designs, float Missoula and [00:33:00] Missoula broadcasting company. Thanks for listening to this week’s podcast. Remember to get your ticket to the next event. September 27th, 2022.

Marc Moss: Live at the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go more information and tickets are [email protected]

Jason Forges, Tell Us Something storyteller alumni and Board member sits down with Sierra Tai-Brownlee to talk about his impactful experiences for her podcast "Impactful Experiences with Sierra Tai-Brownlee."

Transcript : Meet the Tell Us Something Board - Jason Forges

Welcome to the tele hunting podcast. I’m Mark Moss. The next, tell us something live storytelling event is September 27th. At the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go eight storytellers. Take the stage to share their two personal stories from memory. Tickets are now on sale. For tell us something live at the Dennison theater, September 27th.

Get your [email protected] We again, welcome our friends from the deaf C. By providing American sign language interpretation. See you September 27th for letting go stories at the Dennison theater, more information and tickets are [email protected] The next six, tell us something podcast episodes are a little different than what you are used to.

You will meet each member of the, tell something board, former board member Sierra, Ty Brownley interviewed the tele something board. For her podcast, impactful experiences. Sierra believes that listening to meaningful stories, changes your ideas and makes you think and feel beyond what you may already accept.

This week. Sierra sits down with board member and tell us something, storytelling, alumni. Jason fors let’s

listen.

Welcome back

to impactful experiences with Sierra brown. I chat with a new guest

each episode and ask them to share one of their impactful experiences. This is your host Sierra, and I wanna thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy today. I’m joined by Jason forges, current program analyst at cognizant and tell us something board member living in Missoula, Montana.

Jason, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. Thank you for having me. Of course. I’m so happy. You’re here. I’d love to really just hop right in and hear a little bit about the experience you’d like to share.

Uh, well, when I’m thinking about experience that I like to share, um, mm-hmm, I realize, uh, the first thing that comes in my mind is I have experiences that I would like to share, but I think it comes off with a, a common theme.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. But, um, I think overall the common theme is, um, learning how to listen to myself. Okay. I think that’s, uh, something that’s very impactful that I, uh, continue to do, but I started to notice that, uh, uh, along the way, so originally I’m from Florida, I went to school in Delaware. During my time in Delaware, I was playing, uh, basketball at the time, college basketball.

And then, uh, I ended up being a fifth year senior, and I was working at Amazon, uh, at the same time. So during my, uh, times at Amazon, which was, uh, very, uh, Big moment of my life. I was really trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I tried to move up in Amazon. I wasn’t getting, uh, I wasn’t getting the job for whatever reason.

I probably applied like three or four different times, long story short. I found myself thinking, wait, why am I trying to stay in Delaware? I’m not even from here. Yeah. So let me, uh, look for somewhere else to go. Um, I applied to a lot of different places. to figure out where I wanted to go, uh, through the AmeriCorps program.

Okay. Uh, overall, uh, I end up choosing to come to Montana. Mm-hmm now the theme of learning to listen to myself is when I wanted to come to Montana. Oh man. My relatives, friends, family. Uh, I had a opportunity to either, uh, do the AmeriCorps program cause I was offered to serve in Montana or serve in, um, California.

And when I was telling my family members, relatives like, oh yeah, you better pick Cali. I know what you’re doing. You better pick Cali. I’m like, nah, I’m gonna go to Montana. And it was kind of that sort of, uh, man, you crazy, what’s what’s going on with you. Like, what’s wrong with you? Even my mom. She’s like, why are you going all the way over there?

Mm-hmm, a sort of thing. But, um, I think that, that was like one of the pivotal moments is kind of like a, where I. and I’m still learning, but I learned in life is like small situations can have like big impacts. So even me trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I say, okay, you know what? I’m gonna choose Montana because why I want to learn how to listen to myself.

uh, I think I was definitely in a point of time in my life where even playing basketball or even in my personal life, I was doing, uh, what people wanted me to. mm-hmm and then wouldn’t stick up for myself on the things I wanted to do. So then I was left with oh, wow. Okay. Well, I did exactly the way that someone would want me to do it, but I don’t feel happy at the end actually feel terrible.

Mm-hmm so coming to Montana was kind of at that big push of like, oh yeah. Okay. Montana only has, uh, north of 1 million people. I’m in a small town. Mm-hmm town of, uh, a couple thousand. So, let me go there. It’s not gonna be a lot of people and all I can do is focus on myself.

Yeah. Okay. Interesting. And would you say that is kind of one of the experiences that started this theme and was it that decision where you really wanted to go to Montana already, but you just felt this pull to go to California and you chose to go to Montana.

You were listening to yourself?

I think it was, uh, I was trying to, I feel like it was like something within me was just telling me like, Hey, uh, well, what do you really want? I think that’s ultimately what it came down to. Uh, when I thought about California or Montana, I really thought about, well, what do I really want?

And mm-hmm . And when I was really trying to kind of, I was doing it in my mind, but it’s kind of like you do a checklist, like what’s the good, what’s the bad, what’s the. And when I was thinking of California, I was just thinking of fun. Oh, I can go here. I can go there. I’m a city boy at heart from Florida.

So I’m like, oh, what if it’s clubs around da? And I instantly stopped myself and like, wait, how is that helping me? and, uh, yeah, so then it kind of turned back to Montana. I’m like, okay. Uh, not a lot of people. I can really focus on myself and ultimately, um, again, I just graduated. Ultimately, I wanted to understand what I wanted to do in life.

And I felt like being alone will allow me the opportunity to not be distracted in the way I was mm-hmm in Delaware or Florida. Okay.

Yeah. Do you think that living in Montana has enabled you to accomplish kind of those, those goals?

Uh, yeah, I think Montana being in Montana, being a, being able to sit with myself alone, uh I think helped me afford a lot of things, which, uh, now I am in Montana and I am doing a lot of things, but, oh man, when I first came to Montana, it was, uh, rough.

So when I talk about finding that little voice inside me, say, oh, this is a great idea. Um, AmeriCorps is definitely a program that you don’t do it for the money and it doesn’t pay a lot of money either. Um, hence the service and I don’t have anything wrong with that, but, um, for my background AmeriCorps, the sector I was in, I was in the education sector and working with low income students and helping them get access to college.

If they chose to go that route for me, it was more about finding your passions and help broaden those passions. But I was. I’m the first one in my family to graduate college. Okay. Yes, yes. Yes. So when it comes to working with the first generation loan students, it’s like, oh yeah, that’s me. So with that being said, um, being able to save up a little money and then come to Montana, that’s all I really had like a little, uh, a little money mm-hmm so even though my, my, my heart or my mind or something in me said, yeah, go this Montana route.

Yeah, it definitely wasn’t a, oh, as soon as I got. It was rainbows and sunshine. I, I had to find a place to live mm-hmm uh, yeah, I, yeah, I’d had to find a place to live. I had to find a car it’s it’s close to wintertime, so I need to get things in order. So I’m like, yeah, that’s tough. I having people, um, hearing about my, my first month experience was rough and hearing people back at home telling me, man, you need to come back home.

What are you doing? Yeah. You need to come back home. But me saying no, but something’s telling me to stay here. I know it’s rough. Something’s telling me to stay here.

Okay. And at this point, how long have you been in Montana?

Ooh. Uh, now it’s like, I think so it’ll be north of four years, I think, close to five years.

And that’s the wow longest place. Uh, I never been in one area more than four years ever until Montana. Oh my gosh. Yeah.

Which is interesting. Okay. And how did you maybe kind of overcome or I guess push through those challenges and what really did keep you here if it was really tough at the beginning, and it seemed as though you could go back, but you still felt the need to stay in

Montana.

Oh, man. BEC, uh, can you repeat the question? Cause I wanna make sure I answer it ly. Yeah.

Yeah. I think the main question is what was motivating you to stay in Montana, especially in that first short period of time when you maybe could have gone back. Um, but you still felt as though you needed to be here.

Mm, uh, focusing on, I think for me was like the feeling, just really trying to tap into the feeling I’m very an, uh, analytical, so I’m very, uh, brand oriented first mm-hmm and not really focusing on my feelings, but, um, this time around, I know I felt like I wanted to do the opposite. That’s the whole purpose of me coming here.

It was like, um, everyone keeps telling me what to do. And I’m always, I’ve always been told, especially for my coach in college. He always tell me, oh, Jason, everyone wants to go left. You wanna go? Right. Mm-hmm so it was just me, uh, living up to that moment, like, okay, everyone’s telling me I need to, uh, leave, but I have a feeling I should be here.

And, um, I remember my car car broke down in the middle of. Uh, oh, no, I was here in Darby, uh, Montana. That’s when I was doing my AmeriCorps service. Yeah, my first year, my second year I was in Missoula, but, um, my second year when I had to travel back and forth Uhhuh, my car broke down. So I had to go through the struggles of couch, surfing, meaning sleeping on my friends couch on the weekdays.

If they would allow me to. Or sometimes I had to sleep in my car, um, drive back home over to the weekend to spend the night to drive. And in doing that, uh, I had my friends here in Montana saying, Jason, why don’t you just move to Missoula at this point? Because man sleeping in your car in the middle of winter, doesn’t sound great.

And yeah, you sleeping on the couch, but that sort of thing. But for me, I’m like, I don’t know. Something’s telling me I need to stay. I’m like, I don’t know. It sounds crazy, but, uh, I’m like, man, I’ve been, I’ve been through worse, but, um, I wanna stick with this because I feel like it’s gonna be impactful for me.

Mm-hmm and at the time too, um, staying in Missoula, I was at the university. So again, I graduat from college and I’m like, okay, well, if I’m on college campus, now I can, um, I thought I wanted to get into consult. So I was, uh, sitting in on some consulting classes trying to figure out. So even though I was going through all that, that sleeping in the car, riding the bus, winter, the car broke down, all that stuff.

What was going through my mind is like, I’m going to make it. It’s no way I’m doing this for no reason. Yeah. Something’s gonna come out of it. So that’s kind of the mentality that I try to stay strong with.

Definitely. How would you describe, or how do you think Montana or being in Montana has changed you?

I would say

it changed me in two ways. Well, I don’t know of two ways, but I think Montana changed me in a way of how I view the world in regards to nature. Mm-hmm man. Uh, I remember my first camping trip was in Florida and it rained and it was like, wow, hogs running around. and I’m like, yeah, camping. I’m not built for it.

Yeah. but then coming to Montana, I’m always, uh, down to experience new things. Uh, something that Montana taught me is how disconnected I was with nature. Mm-hmm , which I never knew it was a disconnect, but as I was talking about focusing on my feelings, right, yeah. Uh, going into nature was that same thing.

It was like, wait, something’s not to say it’s calling me, but I feel at peace. Hmm. I never thought I would. Okay. So I think that’s something that, uh, Montana afforded me. I think Montana also taught me to learn to under the meaning of community, which I’m still trying to figure out, but I think, uh, coming from a big city and have, I don’t know, the way I view community is so different may it’s probably cuz the AmeriCorps experience as well.

Now being in the community in Missoula and like the art community and kind of figure out what’s going on here and figuring out that there’s always ways to tap in. And it’s, uh, small enough that when you tap into a lot of different places, you know, a lot of different people mm-hmm so then allows you to build, uh, relationships in a deeper way.

And I don’t think that’s something that I did when I was back in Florida or even Delaware. I wouldn’t put myself out there like that. Mm.

okay. You mentioned a little earlier that you were, or maybe still are a city person. Do you, would you still consider yourself a city person

now? I would consider myself a human being city person.

Uh, I don’t know. Um, that’s another thing. When it came to Montana, I remember going on this five day camping trip, it was like took eight hours just to get to our camping. and when I came out of it, uh, I realized I didn’t, I wasn’t connected to anything. I didn’t see a building or anything. And when I start seeing buildings, I’m like, oh, wow.

Um, I think it’s a verse from Frank ocean that always stay in my mind that, oh, it stays in my mind. But, uh, he said, I’m living on the idea, a idea from another man’s mind. So I’m like, man, me living in a city is not really there’s someone, something that someone thought. right? Yeah. So I’m like, someone’s creating this.

So what do I want to create? So, uh, long story short, I consider myself a human being at this point. Not a city boy. I think I can, uh, I’m almost like a chameleon. I feel like I can blend into many spaces. Yeah.

Yeah. Okay. Do you hope to stay in Montana? For the future

for the future? I feel like I would like a second home in Montana.

I wouldn’t wanna live in Montana. Okay. Interesting. I’ve been questioning what does home mean to me? And I’m still questioning that I know Montana has taught me a lot when it comes to community because I’ve been to places where I don’t know, like being young and growing up in big cities, like it’s glamor or I’ve been on vacations where.

uh, it can be the most beautiful place, but if you were terrible people, the it’s terrible. Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, to learn about, uh, to know that community starts with the people, uh, I learned that a lot in Montana, but something I just don’t feel fully at home. I, I can’t really explain it, but I definitely know that I would love a second home here.

Okay, very cool. Throughout our conversation thus far, you’ve talked a lot about like being in tune with yourself and knowing what you really want. How do you go about doing that? When I think it is quite hard to maybe distinguish that from other feelings or other

pressures, I feel like found finding the foundation of, uh, who I am was a, a big part of.

So being able to sit alone, to think with yourself. I remember I had a friend one time say, oh, I don’t like to be alone. I always have to be around people. But I feel like when you be around people so much, there’s nothing wrong with being around people. But when do you have time to think for yourself? So, um, being alone for a certain amount of time for me, uh, allowed me to really create that foundation of not allowing someone to tell me who I am when they know very little of me.

Mm-hmm . And, um, being able to be alone kind of helped with that, but ultimately I was been trying to learn self care. So, um, journaling is something that I got into poetry. Mm-hmm man, the, uh, the arts man, I, uh, just been deep diving into that. but, uh, I will say the number one thing for me personally is I never knew it, but taking baths, man.

Okay. Self care, self care. Self-care I’m not ashamed. I am not ashamed. So I’ll wake up early in the morning, have a nice bath at light up an Ince, play some jazz music, add some L E D lights, figure out what color, what vibe I’m feeling. And I just sit there and thought I might have a journal if I want a journal down, but I feel like, uh, overall.

Um, just trying to find opportunities to listen to myself. Uh, I’ve been tapping in, in so many different ways. I can throw out yoga. I can throw out a lot of things, but, um, overall, I would just say, uh, I sat with one idea and which was, what does it mean to be human mm-hmm I’m a hu what does it mean to be hu I’m like, wait it’s to create.

Okay. So that’s what I need to do. I need to figure out how I can create in a positive way. Mm-hmm. And, um, in listening to myself and trying out certain things, I start, uh, picking up on like, oh, wow, okay. I, I thought I was going crazy here, but something’s telling me I should go over here. So let me just do it.

And I end up doing it, something positive comes out of it. So then it makes me want to be more in tune with whatever allowed me to think of doing that particular thing. So I know I threw a lot at you. I hope you can catch something.

No, I think that’s all really helpful. And I think it’s, I don’t know something.

Yeah, definitely. I can take and use and hopefully implement and maybe listen myself a little bit more, like talking about maybe things you’re doing. What do you hope to work on in the future? Or like you just said. You feel as though being human is to create, what do you want to create in the future?

I would, I would like to be, I would love to be a part of something that I will not be around to see.

That’s fine with me. Um, I will, will wanna do something impactful. I’m all about people. And, um, I know when it comes to making change, uh, one thing I remember hearing, which always bother me is when someone says change is slow. Uh, huh. And I get the idea, but for me I’m like only if you let it be yeah. in certain ways, but for me, I’m like, uh, I also understand that, um, the changes that I will help hope to see, I guess, in the world, in the states, in the city and the community that I’m in to understand that, um, I D know, I just wanna be a part of something that I.

I won’t, uh, be around to see it until fruition, but to know that I’m a part of it. It’s uh, good enough for me Uhhuh okay. Mm-hmm . Wow.

All right. Well, I think that we’ve talked about quite a lot and I’ll start wrapping things up. But as a final question, I always just like to ask what’s the best piece of life advice you’ve been given.

Mm to get something you never had. You have to do something you never did. Okay. Yes. Yes. I think I saw a speech. It was probably like a Denzel speech, but it, it made me realize I’m like, oh, it’s something I never had. I had to do something I never did. So, um, I realized doing something I never did brings fear.

So now I’m trying to. Build a stronger relationship with fear in terms of like embracing fear, as opposed to, uh, not doing it or not embracing it. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s, mm-hmm,

my thought. Well, that does make sense. And I think that’s funny because I spoke with Sarah a couple days ago and her piece of advice was something along the lines of you need.

Have fear in order to be brave. And so I think that’s kind of similar in the sense of you might be fearful, but that’s just an opportunity.

Mm yes, yes, yes. Oh for sure. And sometimes that fear can clutter, uh, clutter, your mind. I think the other day, uh, I was doing a poetry performance. Um, At an imagination brewery and doing that, I remember sitting next to my friend and I just got into the building and it was supposed to be me and my friend Elijah were supposed to perform.

And as soon as I sat down, she said, okay, you guys ready you about to go on right now? Like, What? So I remember looking at my friend Casper, I’m like, I am nervous right now. My heart’s pounded, like I’m nervous, but I said that in a way of, uh, I learned to say that because that’s how I’m feeling. It’s honestly, I don’t wanna like, keep all that energy in.

It’s like, I’m nervous, but I’m about to do this anyways. I’m gonna do it anyways. So, uh, embracing that fear mm-hmm

for sure. Okay. Well, Jason, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate

it. Oh yeah. Thank you. Of

course. Well, I think we’ll end things here, but thank you guys for listening and take care.

Thanks Sierra and Jason, Jason for just is a community member that focuses on finding avenues to be open, authentic and artistic Jason’s goal is to create an entity titled appreciate color. That will leverage the arts to promote meaningful perspectives while provoking thought and encouraging actionable steps with himself and others.

You can listen to Jason forges, tell us something [email protected] Sierra. Ty Brownley is a curious individual with a never ending interest in people and their stories from asking 50 strangers for their best piece of life advice to sitting down, to hear about pivotal stories on her podcast, impactful experiences with Sierra Ty brown.

Sierra is always excited to meet new people and hear what they would like to share. You can find the impactful experiences podcast. Wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks to our inkind sponsors. Joyce of tile, gecko designs, float Missoula and Missoula broadcasting company. Thanks for listening to this week’s podcast.

Remember to get your ticket to the next event. September 27th, 2022. Live at the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go more information and tickets are [email protected]