exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Annie Baldwin


Date of Interview: August 3rd, 2017

Name: Annie Baldwin

Age: 23

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: Chicago, IL


How often do you bathe or shower?

God, okay [laughter]. So that for me is really based on my mood. So if I’m feeling really low, I’ll just say, “fuck it” and I’ll stop showering. Showering is one thing that you know you need but can’t easily bring yourself to do when you’re depressed. I’m trying to get a new habit of doing it everyday just to nourish myself and cleanse myself from the day.

Do mental health and bathing correlate for you?

Yeah. It’s an adventure to go to the tub and say “fuck it” and just jump in. I put on music, really soft, pretty music [laughter]–  Amy Winehouse or Lauryn Hill or something sexy, and I just take the time for me. And it’s really funny too because if someone interrupts me while I’m taking a bath [laughter] I get so frustrated. I yell at whoever it may be and tell them to leave. But it’s been a coping mechanism that I’ve come back to often I would say, for sure.

What are you passionate about?

There’s a lot. I’m an artist, and I think art is my first love. Specifically, I write spoken word poetry. It’s often improvisational. Usually, I just go to bars and ask musicians, whom I’ve never met before, to accompany me. I tell them, “Just get on stage, play anything and I’ll make up a poem.” I’ve been doing spoken word with music for about a year now. Although I’ve been writing poetry for years, adding music is a new venture I’ve really been coming into.

And so that is my main passion. I also have a self-care club called The Radiance Club. It has 80 people in it and we just, kind of, help each other [laughter] care for ourselves. We use our vulnerability radically to heal, connect, and build community… and we have self-care sleepovers. And it’s kind of– it’s those kinds of things [laughter] that I think my art work is– I feel like I’m just rambling, but self-care and art really commingle for me. It was always my outlet in high school. When I was really stressed out [laughter], I would just stay up all night creating, go to 7-Eleven and buy Slurpee, and just let myself write, paint things. I’ve just always been a maker, and I think that’s how the self-care club kind of naturally started itself. It felt intuitive. I wrote this really passionate Facebook status when I was stressed after my summer job and I said, “We need to get together and care for ourselves. This needs to be an actual club.” And so that’s how I really connected other artists together. Because my own subject matter of my poetry is really vulnerable, whether it’s about sex, gender identity, queerness. I talk about what I feel and I tell a lot of stories and I try to give voices to other people too while finding my own, right?

What is something you feel accomplished with?

Okay. I feel accomplished about today actually. I was really happy because I had been house sitting and doing all these side hustles and jobs. I still am, but today I got paid so I could really treat myself to nourishing food. You know when you’re broke, you just don’t eat enough. I’ve skipped many meals [laughter]. I kind of forget that I’m worthy of nourishment and goodness when I’m running around doing a million things. And so today, I went to the Heartland Cafe and I got a juicy nectarine. I got a lemon poppy seed cookie, a spicy ginger lemonade, just all this good food. And then I sat down outside under a tin roof while it was pouring rain and I ordered a chicken, avocado, applewood-smoked bacon sandwich with mashed sweet potatoes. And it was just amazing. So I think that I’m really proud of that today [laughter]. It’s important to let yourself have and eat good food. I slowed down. I let myself stop. And I like going out by myself. I have this theory that when you’re in the right place, the right music plays. And so I had a lot of that today, where even my favorite songs from high school played. It was just like, “Wow. Who’s speaking to me [laughter]?”  You know what I mean? It felt really magical.

What do you think of relationships, platonic, sexual and otherwise?

Ooh, okay [laughter]. I have been thinking a lot about this recently. So I have this line that I’m exploring in my poetry right now… “I want to love you in a way that makes me feel free.” And I just keep repeating that in so many different variations in all the poems that I’ve been writing recently. And what I’ve come to learn is the difference between conditional and unconditional love. I don’t know. I guess for me, I want something that’s reciprocal. I’ve spent a lot of time in unreciprocated relationships, chasing the unavailable, or really just not having my needs met in relationships. I’m always giving and I’m often the caretaker and I want something that comes back full fold.

Yesterday, I was facetiming my best friend Adam and we were talking and I hadn’t said much. And then it came out. I started tearing up as I said that I’ve just felt like I’m under a lot of pressure right now. I just had this moment of– this realization that there’s been a lot of pressure on me to perform, or be good, or be perfect. And even as an artist, right? I’ve felt insecure because I don’t have the professional, fancy shit- the expensive cameras, the education, or recording equipment that so-called “fine artists” have [laughter]. And I’ve just been putting out work that’s messy and wandering and biting and not clean. And so I’ve been working so hard to take care of everything in my life coming from a place with no conventional support. So, I was just crying and tired. I repeated, “I’m just under too much pressure.” It turns out that as I processed it more, I realized that I feel like if I make one wrong move in a relationship, it’ll be gone. It’ll be over. And that’s not a way to live. And I’m not giving myself any slack or any leeway.

I’ve been working to form relationships, all of which are mostly platonic, that cater to my healing, safety, stability, and grounding. I’ve been letting people in who give me slack. I think that if anyone hears this project, especially if they’re younger or whoever they are, just knowing that you’re worthy of people who give you slack [laughter]. You mess up– forgiveness. Let them meet you with an ocean of forgiveness. Meet yourself with an ocean of forgiveness. And I haven’t had– I haven’t experienced that much in romantic love. It’s something that’s coming into my life now which is really special [laughter]. I’m so excited and I am so ready for it.

Lorin Elise


Date of Interview: July 29, 2017

Name: Lorin Elise

Age: 23

Location: Chicago, IL


How often do you bathe or shower? Do you have any rituals?

Just about every day. And then sometimes I skip a day [laughter]. Yeah. I’ve tried to get into rituals, like just having habits, and suck at them, so I just don’t try anymore [laughter].

If you were an underwater creature, mythical or real, what would you be?

I’ve never thought about this. I don’t know a lot of underwater creatures. Dolphins, I guess. They’re the most recognizable for me. Yeah.

What are you passionate about?

People, art, and music. Probably in that order. No. People, music, then art. Yeah. I sing. I just joined a worship ministry, actually. So singing, I did it growing up, but never as an adult. So it’s my first time doing that. And then, I played trumpet for eight years from middle school through my first year in college. And then I stopped in 2014ish whenever I left my first school. I’ve tried to learn guitar over the years, here and there, I dabble. And then I had a piano growing up, because my dad played. So I can pick up a tune or two on there. And a friend gave me an electric bass. So I played at one service, and probably won’t again until I start practicing [laughter]. But yeah. I love music.

Are music, art, and religion all tied in together for you?

Not necessarily. I feel like singing is definitely a gift that God gave me, so I can use that to worship. But I mean, everything I do in life is worship, or should be. So, yeah. And I don’t know if I would call it religion necessarily, but yeah.

Were you raised in that way of being of service?

Absolutely. My parents are two of the hardest working people that I have ever come across. I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there that work as hard as them, but yeah. My dad, he just, no matter what, was– he was always there for people. And a lot of times, even my mom, she wouldn’t get frustrated, but she would just kind of be like, “You’re doing so much. We need you here, sometimes.” But then, if there was a way we– me, my brother and sister, my mom, could get involved with whoever he was helping, or however he was helping other people, we would often find a way there and make it a family thing. What does religion mean to you? Religion means bondage. [laughter] yeah. I mean, I actually looked up the word religion a couple years ago, and it’s defined as, to bind or to restrict. And I grew up in the Pentecostal Apostolic faith. Not even fully sure what that means, but it’s a charismatic denomination or whatever. And growing up in that, and then becoming an adult, and having to live on my own with something, having a foundation of something to pull from, I’ve realized religion is so not what relationship with God is, and that’s what I strive toward and try to practice and live out. So, yeah. Religion is binding, religion is death, religion is confusion. It’s not what Jesus came to die for [laughter]. And there are several religions on the earth, but what I have is not a religion, I would say. Yeah.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual, and otherwise.

They are great, and they are challenging, and [laughter]– I mean, it’s one of those things, it’s like the best of everything and the worst of everything at the same time. Yeah. I love my family. I have a great relationship with all my family members and anyone that I’ve known since birth, which is most of my church back home. And friendships, I’ve had a harder time with I feel like, in life. Platonic more than intimate, or whatever. I’ve never had sex, so just throwing that out there [laughter]. So don’t have that relational experience to speak on. But I feel like platonic friendships are hard, just because people– everyone has needs, and not everyone knows how to express them, or fit the needs of others, so [laughter] it’s– unless you communicate about it, it’s kind of hard– and most people don’t communicate about it. So it’s just like, “Okay, this is dumb. We’re both being stupid right now [laughter].” So yeah. Friends, I have a hard time with. But I do love people. I try to make friends wherever I am, and however I can. It just mostly doesn’t end up in the kind of hard core, legit relationships we’re all looking for [laughter]. Most of the time.  

What is something you feel accomplished with?

Oh, my career. Because I knew since eighth grade, since I was about 13, that I wanted to be an interior designer, and now I’m an interior designer [laughter]. It’s just like, “Wow.” Neither of my parents went to college– well, my mom did a semester or something, but they never completed higher education. And my other family members who did, it was always the– what I would call typical fields, like social work, nursing, stuff like that. Nothing that was outside of a stereotype or whatever. So it’s kind of like, “Wow, I’ve arrived,” a little bit. And even when I graduated and I started working, I’m like, “Crap, what am I supposed to do with life now?” I only had a plan up to this point [laughter], so it’s been a process of figuring out what’s next. But yeah, I think that’s my biggest accomplishment [laughter].

What is something you still struggle with?

Where do I start? No, just kidding [laughter]. [inaudible]. Well, I was actually just talking to a friend about this last night. One intimate relationship that I had – healing from that I guess, is something I still struggle with. I guess I had a really deep soul-tie or something to this guy, and so I think about him more often than I want to, and we have mutual friends, so through social media, the devil keeps popping his face up in my face [laughter]. And every time I see him, it’s a problem for me internally. So, yeah, just dealing with– I guess lust, in a way. Because I want a person just to be intimate with, or just to have that relationship, like you said, a real, true relationship with. And it’s so hard to find. So it’s like, “But when you have that person, do you know?” So I guess that’s pointing me to God, again, though, because it’s like, “Yeah, you don’t have this relationship but here is the provider of everything you need [laughter], so just go to Him. Go to the source for what you need and stop trying to find it among other things (or people).” And then, I just recently kind of noticed this but I could say I struggle with self-image. I have some thoughts about myself that are not good all the time, and that affects how I interact with others and stuff like that. So yeah.

What is something you’re hopeful for?

The future, for sure because it’s– I don’t know. I know my future’s in heaven, first off, so that’s exciting. I’m looking forward to that, can’t wait for that. I’m hopeful for that. And I think the success of my siblings and just all my close family and friends who have stuck to their values, and really tried to be good citizens of the world.

Annabel Wheeler


Date of Interview: July 3, 2017

Name: Annabel Wheeler

Age: 26

Pronouns: She/Her and They/Them

Location: Chicago, IL


How often do you bathe or shower?

I try to shower every day, and I wash my hair as needed [laughter]. And baths? When I’m sick or feel like I need to relax.

If you were an underwater creature, what would you be?

A living organism [laughter]. Oh, gosh. Maybe a starfish. I could regrow all my little ends [laughter]. Haven’t thought about that. That’s a good question.

What are you passionate about?

I believe I’m passionate about a few things, like that Sylvia Plath kind of thing where it goes, “If you have too many figs, they’ll die.” And I’ve realized this year – mainly over the past six months –I’ve needed to weed out some of those. And I’ve narrowed things down to two, which are basically education and self-care, which go a long way. It’s not just me here [laughter], but the world at large, whether that be in hospitality in coffee, or working with children and people with disabilities, both are art and language in the community at large. I think there’s a lot going out there needs to be done, and there’s not only one way to do it. Guess I’m trying to figure how I can give [laughter]. My parents are both architects. And so when I was growing up, people would always be like, “Oh, Annabel. You can draw. So you’re going to be an architect, right?” And I, of course, being the little bitch I am [laughter], would reply, “No, I’m not.” And so I grew up saying, “No, I’m not. No, I’m not.” And now I’m thinking, “Maybe I should have gone with those [laughter], ‘You’re going to be architect.'” But I do appreciate growing up in that way because I learned a lot about the city, started drawing right away. And it’s one of the only things that – one of the few things that – gives me some kind of point of relaxation as well as a point of reflection. I do a lot of illustration internally, not necessarily caring about what the drawing “looks” like. More for myself in time. And if I don’t draw one day, it tells me that I was either really busy, sick, or really happy and just forgot.

Does art go into mental health for you?

Totally. Also. I think about art and educational system within STEAM.  With art programs being cut left and right, STEAM allows students and educators to implement art in history classes, or mathematics, etc  AND not everyone is learning the same way!!

What is something that you still struggle with?

Struggle is a hard word for me, but in 2008 I went to my first AA meeting. It was not until about four rehabs, institutions, and, detoxes later that I got some quality sober time. It was me who had to want it though. Now sober since February 17th of 2015. Still – almost two and a half years later – on a daily, hourly, second basis I have to make sure I have reasons to be places where drinking or drugging is going to be happening and that I have a plan B. Not the other Plan B. I don’t think I need that one. Yeah, it’s something that I’m proud of, as well as it’s a good reminder to myself and my growth.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual and otherwise?

What do I think of them? You know, I’ve only been in monogamous relationships and I have never been in a poly relationship. I’ve dated cis men in the past. My first year of college, almost ten years ago, came out as queer.  Also – dating? It’s hard. It’s really hard, you know? I’ve tried dating multiple people at once. That’s exhausting. Don’t do it. Tried it. If it works for you, great. Seriously. I feel like once I have a better grasp of who I am and what I can bring to a relationship, I can be a better partner – I want to be my full self. Platonic relationships? Love my friends. Family is kind of included I guess, in a way. I think that within social media and stuff like that, we see people moving across the country or internationally it’s hard to stay in contact. But. I think that even a letter, message, anything can just bring back something so great. Just say you had seen a leaf on the ground with a friend 15 years ago, and you found a picture from that moment and you just…send it off to them. You haven’t talked to that person in 15 years. And even if they don’t respond, it’s not about that.  They’ll receive it – perhaps – and that feels good. Just into space. I don’t think platonic relationships are just with people. I think relationships are being one within this crazy fucking universe and learning how to exist with the people walking down the street or buying a cup of coffee.

%d bloggers like this: