exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Shalyn Welch


Date of Interview: Aug 20, 2018

Name: Shalyn Welch

Age: 24

Pronouns: She/Her and anything nice

How often do you bathe or shower?

Usually once every three days or so. Three days is like, “I got to take a shower now. I got to do that.”

How often would you like to shower?

Probably about that much. Yeah. If it’s a stressful day or week I might hop in the shower a few more times, but I’ve got really into not wasting water when possible. And I’m a pretty clean person, so I don’t really need to any more than that.

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

Turtle, sea turtle. I’ve always actually felt super connected to turtles. I grew up in Florida, so I was swimming my whole life, on top of the fact that I don’t have much of an upper lip. People always told me I look like a turtle. I just kind of like their soft nature but hard demeanor, I guess [laughter]. More on that, maybe. I don’t know.

Do you identify with them because of their physical quality, or because of how they exist?

Kind of both, right? They glide through the water, they catch coasts, but that doesn’t really– things can still affect them, but they’re indestructible and cool, and are in charge of their own– I don’t know, they just seem in charge [laughter]. They can go in when they want. They can come out when they want. They can wade when they want. They can soar when they want. They can have families if they want to have families, but they can also be lone if they want to be lone. Yeah.

Being in charge of your life in that way, is that something that’s important to you?

Definitely. I’ve found, since moving to Chicago and doing my own thing, it’s important to understand that you can control that. You don’t have to give yourself to people all the time. You can take into yourself and take charge of yourself when that’s necessary. But you can also– you don’t have to do that too [laughter]. Yeah.

How is the learning process of figuring that out?

Boy. It’s been a lifelong thing [laughter]. It’s been a constant struggle of not knowing when to protect myself for when it’s good for me versus when I just feel like I always need to. I’m like a crab too [laughter], very hard shell. I spent a lot of my life on the flight-or-fight survival mode-esquen lifestyle, and I’ve lost out on a lot of getting close to people and push people away. I have protected myself from getting too vulnerable with even my family, everyone and moving here and doing everything on my own. I mean, it’s always been that way, but now I’m kind of in a city really far from lots of [laughter] important people. And I found that they can still affect you from afar, so it’s all about you embracing when you’re ready to be affected by other people, when you’re ready to affect other people in that way.

What are you passionate about?

Everything [laughter]. Art. I’m an artist, I’m an actor. Everything it’s art and everything is alive. And I found a lot of passion in that, learning from other people. I’m super passionate about learning from other people, listening to other people. Music. The way people express themselves authentically through art and find themselves, and in certain moments of, I don’t know, glitter and absolution [laughter], people just come alive. And I am passionate about those moments when I can see people who are alive and doing their thing totally unapologetically, and yeah.

When did you first realize how much art affected you?

Super young. Super young. I started with physical art and drawing. I was super into drawing. I was kind of a lone wolf as a kid, I was weird [laughter]. So I would just draw everything I saw and people I saw. And I would after school just sit in my house and draw everything I saw. Which, I guess I started realizing how much other things were important to me and how they were a part of my learning process with who I am as a person in this world. Then I started– I mean, early on, I listened to music– I mean, more times when I was listening to my head, I just always had music on. My CD player was my shit [laughter]. Avril Lavigne’s- Let Go played on repeat until it scratched, and I still listen to it [laughter]. Still have it. Yeah. And it was never-ending from there. Did it in high school, found my way to college, did it in college [laughter], and I’ve just never stopped doing it.

The way that you talk about your involvement with others. What are your thoughts on relationships with outside people and within yourself?

It’s always back to the turtle [laughter]. The last few years, I really developed strong social anxiety, which is odd because most people tell me I’m very charismatic, and my best friends would say that it’s so shocking that I have such strong social anxiety [laughter]. Even talking about it makes me nervous. I struggled for a long time just talking with people I didn’t know, even though I knew that was something I needed to do, I loved it so much, I loved hearing about people and learning from them, but anytime the questions came back to me, my voice would start to shake and I’d find a way out. And that was it for a while. And then I started therapy [laughter]. And I’m in a business that makes me talk to other people, and I got sick of being scared, so I really just dove head first into getting to know people and letting people get to know me in reverse. And I’ve really garnered some really fantastic friendships that have changed my life [laughter], which is so great because I really struggle with my familial relationships. They’re not the best [laughter]. My romantic relationships are really difficult [laughter]. One year’s usually my cap [laughter]. I am working on them in a grand scheme of things. I’m very comfortable as a lone wolf and I often joke about that, but I get really– I struggle with depression, so I have to be around other people because they would bring me joy. Yeah.

What do you feel most accomplished with?

It’s hard not to say today. Every day that I wake up and– I’m relatively– been 100% self-sufficient since I was like– we’ll say like 95% self-sufficient from starting age 16 or so, through now I’m totally in 100. And I’ve looked back on that and, I don’t know, for a while I didn’t really see it. I was like, “Whatever. Everyone has to grow up and do their thing. And if you want things to happen, you got to make it yourself.” And now I’m like, “No, no, no [laughter]. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can have other people in your life and they help you too.” And I’m just so proud of the fact that I’ve gotten myself to this point where I can accept other people and myself more than I have. And I’ve done a lot. I’ve put myself through college, I got myself here, I’ve been employed as an actor a few times relatively graciously, and other things to be proud of. And for so long I’ve struggled with recognizing that those are things to be proud of. And I’m finally there [laughter]. It’s great.





Date of Interview: Aug 16, 2018

Name: David

Age: 24

Pronouns: He/Him

How often do you bathe or shower?

I shower almost once a day, usually once a day. I very rarely take baths. I used to a lot, but I don’t set aside the time for that anymore, so this is nice.

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

I think I would want to be an octopus because they’re cool, and they can change their skin into looking like anything. They got all those arms, and they’re really smart. But I don’t know that I would actually be an octopus. I feel like I’d be one of those– not a clown fish but one of those fish that’s in a busy coral reef that’s and ducking in and out of crevices, and algae, and seaweed.

What are you passionate about?

A lot of things. I really have a passion for cities and how people interact with them and how they feel home in a space, whether that’s the home that they live in, or their neighborhood, or their city, and just how to build thriving communities. I feel like that’s a lot of hard work. And even outside my job, I try to cultivate that or look for it.

How do you cultivate that outside of work?

I mean, mostly just networking. Not in a professional way, I just really enjoy getting people I know to meet each other and creating spaces where people enjoy themselves and bounce off each other,. Yeah, stuff like that. And just being around my neighborhood as much as I can. I’m a sucker for good coffee shops, but I know that’s not everyone’s thing. I was actually thinking yesterday that I really wish there was a space like bars, especially fancy cocktail bars — to take that and just strip away the alcohol and just create a really pleasant space to be in, nice lighting, and good acoustics, and all of that. Because I feel like so much exciting stuff happens in spaces like that, but it’s, a lot of times, it’s just about drinking, and that’s not always what you want to do. So I wish there were more third spaces like that that were just nice to be present in.

It sounds like you’re very passionate about physical space. When did that passion start?

I used to want to be an architect really badly. I still have the glasses and the handwriting. I still write in that ‘blueprint’ all caps. I practiced that over and over again when I was in, I want to say, second grade. And I would always draw buildings and houses. There was this house that I passed on the school bus that I loved, and I would draw it over and over again, and would change it, and morph it to how I wanted it to be. But I always imagined not just the building, but the family that I would have in it, because I think that was like– it was almost less about the physical space than the people in it, actually, because I think I didn’t have that kind of space growing up too much, so I really wanted to cultivate that for myself.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

You can put long sigh in brackets in the transcript, if you want. Something I feel accomplished with? I mean, I guess on that theme, it is really nice to walk down the street and not only know people, but know their story and actually have a real rapport with so many people around me. So I think, literally, that community that I’ve cultivated is something I am really proud of, and the ways that has led to opportunities, not just for myself, but for a whole bunch of other people, of mutual support and mutual aid. And just even people popping over to each other’s houses when they’re feeling shitty. That kind of thing.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonically, familial, sexualy, and otherwise.

I really believe in almost that idea of choosing your family. I think that’s super important. And so I think, for me, a lot of my friendships bleed over into familial relationships. I’m trying to be more cognizant of when that means that I’m putting too much emotional work on other people, and so I always try to make sure that it’s a mutual exchange. But I think I only recently recognized that about myself, that I seek out really close, familial connections with a lot of people. What I really love is walking into a space and having it be so full of life, of not just friends, but people you feel really closely connected with. And I guess that’s really hard in your 20s or your 30s, as people are coming and going all the time. So for a while, I was very paranoid about the status quo ever being disrupted, so it’s something I’ve had to just grow a little more comfortable with.

What about your relationship with yourself?

It’s been getting a lot better. I’m excited about spending more time with myself, which is a new feeling. And there are days where I’m just like, oh, I’m so excited to just go home and write, or read, or just cook a big meal just for myself. And I don’t know, dance around the living room like an idiot, and just be happy in my own skin, and not have to seek validation from other people. And I think that’s made my other relationships a lot healthier.

Amanda Buttsquash III



Date of Interview: June 28, 2018

Name: Amanda Buttsquash III

Age: 33

Pronouns: She/Them/His

How often do you bathe or shower?

So it depends on the time. There are weeks when I will shower once and there are weeks where I will shower every other day, usually not every day though. That’s the one pattern I don’t keep up. Bathing is like once every month adventure. Then it’s like– then I usually bring out the candles and have all the little fizzies and go all out because it’s relax, wind down time.

What are you passionate about?

Passion? Hmm, well. That’s a good question. I mean number one I’m passionate really about pop culture. So I study literature but really what I was studying was the long history of pop culture. And I mean I was obsessed with Star Trek TMG growing up. Not because of the high tech future sci-fi thing but because it was such a good setting for exploring just ordinary people’s relationships. So you just took these really low key ordinary dramas and set them on a spaceship with a bunch of aliens and then it’s just beautiful things come out from it. So I’m really passionate about that, the ways that pop culture can kind of teach us about ways of being in our contemporary world. One of the things I’m most passionate about– what other things? I mean like passion for me kind of comes in waves and so I’ll get really passionate about something like rock climbing and then I’ll be like so gung-ho and I just do it every day for three months. And then it’s time for the next thing and then I get really passionate about origami [laughter] and then I fold all of the paper cranes and fold all of the turtles and whatever. And then the next thing comes up and it’s time to get passionate about homelessness in Chicago and how different artists are trying to address it. So that’s kind of like my current passion track. It’s just how passion works for me, in cycles.

How do you think the cycles or the routine of cycles started?

How did the routine of cycles start? I mean I think– so I used to think that I was just bad at finishing things I mean because I’ve always been a space cadet sort of person not quite in tune with the actual world. Hence, the sci-fi passion track. But I think that for a while so, yeah, it would be that I would start a thing and then drop it, and then everyone around me would be like, “Oh. There goes Amanda again with the inability to follow through.” And after a while, somebody – I think it was a therapist once – who suggested to me that maybe that was just my natural rhythm and maybe I should try working with it instead of against it. And so it’s kind of been more of a thing that I’ve been consciously embracing lately. But, yeah, where it used to be, “Ugh. This is one of the bad things about me.” And now, it’s just kind of like, “Yeah. It’s a thing and I have to work with it.” When I tell people I’m going to get involved now, I’m going to be like, “So I’m going to get involved. I’m going to be really into it for two months, and then you’re going to have to find someone else because I’m going to find the next thing.” So I think that’;s the origin of the cycles.

What do you feel most accomplished with?

I mean, one would think that the kind of obvious answer would be the whole PhD thing just awarded last week. But oddly, I don’t feel very accomplished about that one which I know a lot of people find very strange but I just don’t. Honestly, I think my greatest accomplishment was leaving the Mormon church. Yeah. Because that was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my entire life, and I did it and I came through and I survived. I was raised very strictly Mormon. Ancestors go back to Brigham Young. Our people are Utah people [laughter] through and through. We all have our family stories and the punchline is always, “But that’s how Utahns are.” And really by which they mean Mormon, but the Mormon part has almost fallen out of my family because it’s such a, “That’s just how you’re born,” thing. And it’s not even a conscious practice for my family. It’s just what we are. And so for awhile, I stayed in it for a really long time because of that dynamic. I moved to Chicago for grad school and I stayed in the church. I was teaching six-year-olds for a couple years where we had this lesson manual that was telling us how we were supposed to interpret the scriptures for the kids. It really upset me so I just started having the kids read the scriptures themselves and it just turned into a literacy lesson. And then I would ask them what they thought it meant, and they had all kinds of answers for what they thought it meant. We would just explore those aspects. And after awhile, I mean, Prop 8 happened which was hard. In California in– when was this? I want to say 2006 or 2007, California proposed Proposition 8 which would ban gay marriage, and Utah got real into it. Up on the pulpit, preaching about how we needed to give our money and our time and go to the phone banks and call everyone we knew to vote yes on Prop 8. That was kind of like a big beginning to break for me. Which, of course, then took like seven years. But again, it was like, this is not an active belief thing for me. It was sort of a practice and I was still going to church every week. But after awhile– I would toss out the beliefs as they came up. Proposition belief came up, and I was like, that’s not the church I belong to, that’s not my community. Because I had my community, including some gay people who were in the church. And people from all over the world. I think it’s actually a really interesting group of people that I hung out with in the church, which also kept me in it for a while [laughter]. But yeah, then I moved neighborhoods. Actually, moved up to Logan square from Hyde Park. And that ward was– it was not the ward that it was down in Hyde Park. There were very few children, so I was no longer the Sunday school teacher. It was a lot of really true-believing young people, which are a hard crowd to deal with [laughter]. And then a bunch of true-believing older people. Which is another hard crowd to deal with. And so I woke up one Sunday and just decided, “I’m not going to church today.” And I laid there in my bed, and I just stretched out and just felt my sheets, and I was just like, “It’s Sunday, and I’m not at church.” I just did that every Sunday for the next four months. And then finally, at the end of four months, it just stopped being this new feeling, and it was just like, “This feels right.” Then came the other parts where I had to actually find my community, make sure I had people to support me because that’s what the church was. When I moved, when I got sick, they brought me casseroles. When I was feeling blue, my visiting teacher would bring me cookies. So it was hard to give up. It was hard to say goodbye. I’m still in contact with some of them, very few, because it was hard for them too, for me to leave. My sister was devastated. I left right before she got married. I couldn’t see her get married. She got married in the temple, and so did I, but [laughter] it just seems it was time to go. And then I went, and it was hard, but I did it, and I survived.

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

Relationships are hard. They’re so much work. I don’t know about– when I got married, it was really to my best friend. And we had so many relationship talks, all of them. Because I wasn’t sure I believed in monogamy, I wasn’t sure I was straight, it just seems that we had to answer so many questions, and we could talk about it for hours. And then we got in trouble because we were together after midnight, and midnight was curfew [laughter]. This was right before we got married. And then after we had enough conversations, we decided to just do it, in part because it got us out of the scrutiny. Because every goddamn day, it was like, “So when are you getting married?” At the pulpit in church, it was like your whole point in being here is to get married. Get married and start a family as soon as possible. Don’t wait, don’t wait, don’t wait. And I was an old maid. I was 21. So everybody had started giving up on me. And then, yeah. I met Dave, and we just– we had this really intense connection. It wasn’t sexual. So that kind of also changed the way I thought about relationships because I still don’t regret marrying him. It’s over now, and we’ve gone our separate ways, but we occasionally stay in contact, help each other out. Good friends, because that’s what it was always, to begin with, it was friendship. That didn’t mean that we didn’t have our fights and stuff, but I’ve always had fights with my friends. Especially my girlfriends [laughter], I think my main attitude in relationships is that they’re fucking work. Any of them, all of them. And they’re just– they’re never what you expected them to be at the outset. So I’ve stopped having expectations for them.

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

A humpback whale. I just think they’re beautiful and graceful and they make those sounds. They just give me shivers all up and down my spine every time I hear it. I remember when I was little I went through a whole phase where I would just draw humpback whales. I had a whole notebook, every page was a different humpback whale [laughter]. Just majestic.

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