Ciara’s Story

“Reach for kindness, whenever possible (it is always possible). Whatever you do in this life, whatever you become, just remember to be nice to people. That will echo far into the years more than anything else.”

–Ciara

When you were younger, what did you think your life would look like?

If I remember correctly, my dreams for my life changed all the time, usually as I discovered new things about myself. And they were always BIG.

A marine biologist here, a pediatrician there, a youth pastor, a missionary, a journalist, a café owner, even an actress. Quite the smorgasbord of career paths, all fleeting. However, there were certain aspects that carried into every stage of my life.

I wanted to travel, get out of my home town. I wanted to write books that would be published. I would be my family’s strange aunt who wrote best sellers and traveled the world, only to come back home on holidays with strange gifts, wearing stranger outfits. (I may have been a little dramatic, hence, the acting dream).

I can’t say I ever really imagined falling in love, getting married, starting a family. At least, not enough to actively pursue that. Ultimately, I imagined adventure. I still imagine adventure.

How did your dreams for the future change?

Wellll….. you know, I did get out of my hometown for college! Only to come back, three semesters later. I did start writing a book! Only to be easily discouraged by my lack of credibility. I did lead the church’s youth for a time! Only to understand it was not the ministry for me.

These ups and downs occurred the few years after I left school, years that I like to refer to as “the Dark Years,” because I had no idea what was going on. But hindsight is 20/20. And I see now that, yes, they were dark.

But in the way a caterpillar thinks a cocoon is dark as she’s morphing. Because eventually, I did leave my hometown again. And it was because of that move that my dreams, myself, my entire life changed.

I moved to Seattle, began working in the coffee shop/bakery department of a local grocery store, and shortly thereafter met … my husband. My amazing Sam. Plot twist! Who saw that coming?? I sure didn’t. Like… at all.

But upon meeting Sam, our paths converging, my dreams that I had tucked away for safe keeping (you know, the ones that didn’t go away) lined up with his. So maybe my dreams didn’t so much change as they did grow. They grew into something much more tangible, much more possible, now that I had someone to face them with. And now my dreams are his and his are mine.

What were the kinds of pivotal moments that led you to where you are today?

Those pivotal moments were usually wrapped up in messy “failures.” It was the failing that got me to where I am now, more than successes ever did. I went to college, even though I had absolutely no way of paying for it. And then, almost inevitably, I quit that.

But it brought me important people.

Like Jenelle, who got me to move to Seattle, which ultimately changed my life. But before I wanted to move, I had to fail and flounder and have growing frustrations with where I was in my hometown. I was so uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to do something about it.

That’s when I met Gris, my therapist. This was the most pivotal moment of all. I met with her only months before I moved to Seattle. But it was because of the work I did with her and the guidance that she gave me, the healing that she led me to, that I was able to shake out of my “dark place” and step off the beaten path.

I see now that there were so many little things, so many things that had to line up, to get me to where I needed to go. I’m sure in 20 years I’ll look back on where I am in this very moment, and see even more clearly all of the things that had to come together.

What are you learning right now?

Honestly, I’m learning a lot right now! Which feels amazing! I love learning. I’m learning that God created me with gifts, a voice, and I am learning that I need to use them, and how to use them.

I’m learning to be, that worrying only means I have to suffer twice. I’m learning to embrace the practical and useful. I’m learning about plants, herbs, tinctures, and oils. I’m learning about sourdough starter, nutrition, and wine (I work at a winery; let me know if you’re ever in Lodi, CA!).

I’m also learning how to love myself. This is the biggest lesson. I know self-love is a hot topic right now, and there are so many different schools of thought on it, but it’s much more than just a hashtag. I’m learning how to embrace who I am, inside and out, after years and years of feeling ashamed. This isn’t a quick lesson, but it sure is important.

What do you love about your life in this moment?

At the risk of sounding so cheesy … I love being married to Sam. Truthfully! For someone who was sure she would never marry, it is the best thing I have ever done. The one thing I have ever been sure of. Sam is my best friend, and we have had so many adventures together.

We’ve traveled far away together, like we’ve always wanted to. He encourages me in my dreams that have never gone away. I love building a home with him. And I love the peace that I have now, after years of learning how to embrace and cultivate that. This is something that I wish I would’ve learned a long time ago.

But no use lamenting the past; the time is now and only now! Yet, another thing to learn. This moment I’m in now, even with its ups and downs and uncertainties, is the best of my life so far. And I’m so thankful.

What brings you joy/fills your soul?

Writing, always and forever. It doesn’t so much fill my soul, as it gives my soul someplace to go. It’s a part of who I am, at this point.

Baking brings me bundles of joy! There’s nothing like trying a new recipe, and seeing the final result come out successful! And delicious. So basically, creating. Whatever it may be, a short story, a loaf of bread, a drawing, or a face serum, the act of creating is so fulfilling.

Trying new things with Sam fills my soul. Be it foods or places or movies. Simply spending time with him fills my cup.

Connecting with someone brings me joy. Whether the person right in front of me, a stranger on the Internet, or an author who died 60 years ago. There is community in understanding, and community can be so joyful.

Romping around the beaches, woods, hills, and farmland of California brings me joy – the native flowers, trees, landscapes of this state are amazing, and I’ll never take for granted that the Redwoods are my backyard. Mostly, just sitting outside on a crisp day, with a cup of coffee or a good book, and Sam, and taking the time to be. JOY.

If a kid walked up to you asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?

Reach for kindness, whenever possible (it is always possible). Whatever you do in this life, whatever you become, just remember to be nice to people. That will echo far into the years more than anything else. Let kindness be in every area of your life. For others, and for yourself. You’ll do many varied things, try new things, meet many people. And at the end of the day, if you can lay your head upon your pillow and know that you walked in kindness, well, I call that a success. You will never regret kindness.

Also, when baking, spoon the flour into a measuring cup. Do not pack in it. You’ll get a softer cookie this way. *thumbs up*

What do you wish everyone knew about marriage and sustainable farming practices?

On marriage: Marriage takes work. No matter how easy or blissful it seems from an outside perspective, the best marriages didn’t just happen that way. It takes work to constantly be vulnerable, and willing to grow. Communication is key, in all things. A couple needs to always be working at it. Allow the other person to be who they are, even if that person is super sassy, and take it all in stride. Have humor, and have grace, knowing that there is no perfect person. But that’s what makes it so fun.

On sustainable farming: the Central Valley of California is LUSH. People knock this area, I know. But people don’t realize how much of this country’s produce comes from the valley. That’s why stewardship of the land is so important. So, when you buy California cherries, or wine, or almond milk, know that you are supporting many farmers who care about the land! And who have been farming for generations.

How can readers connect with you?

Not that I’m entirely exciting, or post very often, but I’m on Facebook (Ciara Russell) and Instagram (@bilbosniece. Yes, that’s really my handle. Let’s nerd about it). I’m always open to new friends and connecting with people!

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