Hey there, readers! My name is Jess, and it’s been my pleasure to serve you as the editor in chief and transcriber of The Faces of Woodstock for the past few months. It’s been my joy to listen to your interviews and to transcribe and edit them to fit our online format. I’ve sat with headphones in, enthralled by your stories and I’ve cried with you as you’ve shared slivers of yourselves through this most important art form: conversation. I’m encouraged by your kindness, your hope, and your enthusiasm that I’ve witnessed from afar.
Yes, that’s right. I’ve been tuning in mainly from across the country in a little Arizona town that I’m still trying to get to know. So how did I come to work for a Woodstock publication? Well, some of you might already know that answer. Susan Guda of Guda Realty Group is my mother, and when she told me about The Faces of Woodstock, I was intrigued: There’s a publication that is going around just to highlight the good that people are doing in Woodstock?
I remember thinking how necessary this sort of publication is especially when our media interaction is at an all-time high and most of the media’s focus is directed toward the negative or the problematic. That’s why when she approached me, a month or so later, to see if I was interested in a position as the editor and transcriber, I heartily agreed.
As I said earlier, the past few months with you all have been informative and inspiring. I’ve found myself laughing through your vivid stories (Polly Craig), and relating deeply to your experiences (Tiare Smith). I’ve been taken with your artistic process (Chase King) and impressed by the way you serve (Joe Cianciolo and Dan Thrailkill).
In the time I’ve spent with you, I have flown from one side of the country to the other and then back again. I have begun to settle in my newest home, rooting down more as time goes on. I’ve started teaching at local Arizona schools and studios, and now I realize that it’s time to fully give myself over to the work of serving the community in which I live. That means that I must now bid you a very fond farewell. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from me as much as I have enjoyed hearing from you.
With a happy heart, I pass you along to the new Chief Editor and Transcriber of this publication, Elizabeth Hensley. Thank you for letting me listen to and learn from you. It’s been a pleasure.
Q: What inspired you or led you to your current career?
A: Ooh, that’s tough. Which one? Right now, I’m wrapping up editing and transcribing for The Faces of Woodstock, I’ve started a blog, I’m teaching yoga and pre-professional dance, and I’m substituting at public schools in my area. So maybe the defining thing about my “career” is that it’s flexible and built around things that I love, namely art, education, and dance.
When I think of what inspired all of that, we could really be here all day, but when I think about what inspired my career flexibility, it comes down to two main things: One, my belief in family, and two, my love of change.
My mom is the daughter of a minister in the Salvation Army (yes, my mom is Susan Guda), so she moved pretty much every two years throughout her life. Since marrying my dad, that really stopped–she’s been in the same house for I think thirty-one years now–but when we were growing up, her spirit still got restless every two years. Because of that, we grew up joking that every two years we could expect a big life change. Either a wall in the house was getting knocked down, we were switching schools, or the living room was moving from upstairs to downstairs. Again.
Our family still jokes about it honestly, but it’s less of a thing for her now. For me though, just the experience of growing up that way really conditioned me to be less afraid of change, to even embrace and expect it. By the time I got to college, I realized that I actually thrived on it too. Yes, I enjoy a nice, locked-down schedule, but even more, I think I appreciate the unexpected detour.
Anyway, that’s been a super helpful skill as I’ve begun creating a home of my own with my love. He’s in the military, so we’ve moved four times in the last three years. Of course, it won’t always be this way. In fact, we’re settled down in Arizona now and should be here for two to three years minimum, which makes me feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when he gets the golden ticket. But all of this is to say that I choose a variety of jobs and a flexible career path because it suits me. It suits my values because I’m able to make space for my friends and family and it fits with the way I was raised. It’s my little way to feel free, I guess.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Woodstock, and what do you love there?
A: I have yet to try all of them, but the last time I was in Georgia, I had a mother-daughter date at Rootstock and Vine. It was lovely. I had this salad with goat cheese on it and fabulous white wine. I was all about it! Plus, Anna is a sweetheart.
Q: What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
A: Oh, this one depends on the kind of mood I’m in. I have a stack of my romantic favorites like the new Pride and Prejudice where the music is enough to make me tear up. It’s cool. I’m that person. Then there’s the Lord of the Rings Trilogy because that’s my childhood, and I’m a nerd at heart. I spent 6th-grade bus trips in complete silence reading that trilogy, and I still think it’s a beautiful feat of human imagination.
Probably the one that remains at the top of my list though is a movie called, The Fall. I saw it in a small theater in Decatur when it first came out. It’s visually stimulating, deeply sad, and at the same time simple and light. It brings stories to life so vividly that it reminds me of my childhood daydreams. It’s truly beautiful.
Q: How long have you worked for The Faces of Woodstock?
A: I started working for Faces in September in a transitory capacity, so every post that you’ve read since Keith Norman has been overseen by me!
Q: What advice would you give to a crowd of people?
A: Speak and act on your truest intent. That means taking time to figure out what your intention is in any situation and then honoring what you find by acting on it. Sometimes, that means saying an uncomfortable “no” or a scary “yes,” but every time you do that you open the door to growth for both self and others.
Some people might call this idea “Standing in your truth,” but I’m not a huge fan of that phrase. I think that perhaps “truth” is the wrong word there. Maybe “experience” or “intent,” you know, something that’s a little more mutable. Anyway, I think the idea is similar. When you move where you feel led to go in confidence, you open the door to good things.
Q: What is your favorite music/three bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?
A: Okay, two are repeats. I’ve already seen them, and they were fabulous. The first is Sylvan Esso, and I saw them at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. The lead singer was dressed in this long-sleeved, flowery leotard with foot-long fringe down the sleeves and giant boots. She danced the whole time she sang. I mean deep lunges, twirling, the whole bit. Gosh, the Tabernacle was just ALIVE with their energy (it’s a two-person group). I’d love to live that again in another way.
Then there’s Alice Phoebe Lou who I saw at Center Stage. It was an odd night for a show, some sort of Monday holiday, so there were probably only sixty people in the audience, and that’s being generous. The next day she performed at SXSW. She’s another enigmatic spirit.
Beyond those, I would really love to see a symphony perform an evening of Chopin or Beethoven just to get right into the center of the music. I can’t really explain it, but yeah, I’d love that.
Q: What current/former local business makes you the most nostalgic about Woodstock?
A: There’s that church on the corner near Rootstock and Vine. I have no idea what it’s called, but when I was a kid, I went to a homeschool co-op there. That’s when I first stepped into the love of performing, so when I see it I think of that.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
A: Spain. I’d love to take my husband to Europe and I’ve never been to Spain. The architecture calls to me though, and I’d love to see what life is like there. After that, it would be great to hop over to the Netherlands to visit my Dad’s side of the family. None of my cousins over there have actually met my husband, so I’d love to have them meet and then do a little show-and-tell around the Netherlands. I’ve only been a handful of times, but it feels like a part of me. Maybe it’s because my family is there and I’ve done a good bit of growing up in between each trip I’ve made to the area.
Q: What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A: I sing all of the time, I mean ALL of the time. I don’t do so in public, but everything has a silly song in the house. I’d say I get that from my mother, but I also get it from my dad because a lot of the songs end up being really full-out with instrument noises included. It’s ridiculous.
Q: If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?
A: You know, I don’t think I really want to be in a movie anymore. It’s just… meh, and I get really awkward around famous people or around people I look up to. I go all turtle and weird, so I think I’d save myself that embarrassment and just opt-out.
Q: If you had a full-time staff member that was fully paid for, would you choose a chef, housekeeper, driver, coach, physical fitness trainer, or a nanny?
A: I’d choose either a super knowledgeable yoga teacher/physical therapist or a massage therapist.
Jessica in Community