The Heroine’s Journey of Sheena Williams

What is the best thing that I love about my work as storyteller?

When it comes to storytelling in art, I really enjoy the process of translating an idea. It’s actually quite complex when you think about it. We have this other dimensional river that flows through us and every now and then, we need to grab a drop – an idea, thought or feeling so that we can repackage it with context and wrap it up in a 3D bow so that it means something to someone else. It’s magic really.

What is my idea of happiness?

As I get older, simplicity has become a more important component of my happiness. Long conversations on couches you can sink into, warm green tea while leafing through a good book, laughing until my cheek bones ache and being asked for a hug – those things make me very happy.

What is my greatest fear?

Complacency. I think there is nothing wrong with having fears or being fearful of certain things but there is something very limiting about not facing those fears and pushing yourself into being uncomfortable. I am at my best when I am uncomfortable.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

That is easy. Nothing. When I was younger the list would have been so long that there wouldn’t have been space to write anything else about myself. I have recognized that I am evolving and although the sun may not reach all of my leaves, I have good roots and am still growing and there’s nothing deplorable about that.

Which living persons in my profession do i most admire?

Women. Women who are perpetually working through generational curses, sexism, racism agism and every other -ism that burdens us so that they/we can tell our stories. Women in the past were to be seen and not heard and to be trophies themselves with no prizes of their own. So when a woman, any woman, tells her story – she is my hero.

What is my greatest extravagance?

I’m a little obsessed with color. I’m trying to do better but sometimes I will buy something simply because I like its color or if the combination of colors makes me happy. I’ve bought books, cupcake holders and stationaries – usually things I don’t really need because of this. I’m a sucker for pastels and certain combinations of primary colors but bright neon green is my latest obsession.

On what occasion would I lie?

This is a trick question. I have an almost visceral aversion to lying but I know I would if it meant it would save someone from harm.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

Funny, it’s what I said I loved about it – the process. I talk about this duality a lot actually. When I was a teenager I would hear these flowery conversations about how great and easy it is to make “art” and I wondered if I was doing it wrong. It is probably the closest I can be to understanding God and in the same sense I fast when I am in the middle of a project. Not intentionally but it’s as if I don’t need to eat because the act of creating is sustenance in and of itself. I set timers to help remind me when I need to take a break and if I ever get to sleep in the middle of a project, I normally dream about the work I’m doing. It’s very taxing in a good way.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

I think I’m currently the happiest in my work now. Art in the past was something I leaned too heavily on which in turn created ideas that did not fully represent me. Now, I have the space both physically and mentally to be moved in a way that more accurately reflects who I am.

If I could, what would I change about myself?

I’d like to have super powers. Flying is at the top of the list.

What is my greatest achievement in work?

I don’t know if I’ve reached that point yet but now that I think of it, the way that I approach my work, I may never reach that point. Art to me is not about traditional or social achievements, it’s an evolving process of self-expression. I’m getting better at it as I go but I don’t think it’s something that can be rated. “Greatest” is a point but I’m thinking about art as the axis itself.

Where would I most like to live?

I’d like to live in Korea for a while. I’ve been searching for my biological mother with a handful of photos and an old address in Korea. So, I’d like to stay there for a while to give it a good shot.

What is my most treasured possession?

That’s easy. There are two things I always have with me: A note from my father and my old Food Stamps card. The note was the last thing he every wrote to me and there are only 3 small sentences in it that I’ve already committed to memory but I take it out every once in a while as a reminder. Even though my old EBT card is discontinued, it is probably even more indispensable to me now than when it was in use. It represents the times that really defined me: all the undergrad night courses, the rushing through traffic to get to my son’s school in time so I could walk him home, the Christmas where I had to decide between paying rent or buying gifts, the nights staying up late to pack lunches and draw doodles on them. It’s probably the most valuable thing I own.

What is my most marked characteristic?

My answer would probably be biased seeing as I’m referring to myself but I’ve been told that I’m easy to talk to. I’m not sure if this is associated with any particular characteristic but I like to be generally unassuming and I enjoy listening a little more than I like speaking. People talk to me in airport shuttles, on buses, in grocery store parking lots and waiting in lines among other places and I really enjoy it.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

There’s a quiet botanical garden a few minutes from my house. It’s tucked away in these hills that seem to stay green all year round. And in this garden there is this humid double doored nursery that among plants and ponds, has this stone wall that water continuously flows down. There’s only one bench that faces that wall and sometimes if someone’s already sitting in it, I’ll slowly walk back around the nursery until they’ve gone so that I can sit there and watch the water flow down the wall. There is something about that bench and that water wall that has inspired many of my pieces.  

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city?

There’s a mountain that I hike often. I’ve hiked it with friends and family for years. It understandably starts off pretty flat but the closer you get to the top, the steeper the incline. I normally carry a pack with water, fruit and sandwiches and it’s wonderful eating all of that once you can look out over the top but I think the greatest part about eating there are the stairs. There are over 300 stairs that take you to the top on this trail. Some are carved into the rock face and some are simply wood planks that have been fastened in place. The tradition is that when you go back down the stairs after struggling to climb them, you remind the people who are now trying to get to the top that they are almost there. I love that.

What books influenced my life and how?

Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series is the most influential because it really taught me at various stages of my life that we all have the power to create our own realities. It is a science fiction series set in an alternative universe but it helped me understand that even my existence in this world may seem like science fiction to a being that doesn’t exist in it so I might as well start building.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen to on my last day?

I think I’d want to listen to my son’s heartbeat if I could. It’s a tune that is an echo of me but a melody that will move beyond me. It would be reassurance that I did my best.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?

I love a good anti-hero and my favorite of these has to be Leon from The Professional. There’s something about overcoming the dissonance of what you’ve been trained to be so that you can help others that is so awesome.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

I had an Ethics teacher when I was still taking college courses on a military base. He was an old retired lieutenant colonel and the first thing I recognized about him was that he was so easy going. His classes were simple – he would bring up a topic of discussion, the class discusses and students are graded on participation. That was it. The second thing I noticed was that he was sick. It got to the point that he got so sick that he had to make an announcement to the class that he was in the last stages of cancer. One day a woman, I presumed to be his wife, wheeled him into class with an IV drip. He said the topic of that day would be happiness. The usually associations with wealth and power were brought up along with some more hopeful ones like family and love but he stopped us short which was not the custom. He said the class had it all wrong. Happiness is simple. It is simply doing what you want and not doing what you don’t want. He said “my wife wants me to keep up with the lawn but I hate yard work. So what do you think I do?” A student piped up “you do it anyway because you love her?” I remember him laughing at that. He said “No! Did you not hear what I just said. I DON’T like doing yard work.” We all looked at one another. “I pay someone else to do it,” he said with a wink.

Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime?

There are so many good ones! Spirited Away by Studio Ghibli is one I often recommend. I’ve seen it so many times and I’ve never gotten bored of it.

What role do stories play in my life and work?

When I was in the military, we were doing a training mission with a tank battalion. I went with a friend in our full “battle rattle” and we were assigned to escort a tank gunner and his crew. It was really early in the morning so the only lights we had as we waited for the mission were from a few Humvee headlights. I’m not sure how it got started but as we huddled around in this tank, we started telling scary stories and I remember so distinctly as I sat fully armed and bullet proofed with a crew that was just as heavily armed, in a mechanized tank – I was scared. Even stories about telling stories can take you places. And the further you can imagine, the further you can go.

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ to me?

Each of us are the protagonists of our own stories and until we realize that, we are simply reading the scripts for someone else’s production. Understanding the role you aspire to play and not the one that was given to you is such an important education in self-love, perseverance and courage.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

I’ve been very fortunate at this stage of my life to have many friends and family members that support my work and I am so grateful for all of their support but I’d have to say the person who fits the description the most, is my son. He is so patient with me. When I get lost in my work, he will come downstairs at 3am and tell me to go to bed. When I have my music blaring because I need to lubricate my thoughts, he will shout over it and ask me if I’ve eaten at all that day and then bring me a sandwich. He grounds me and without him, I’d be completely untethered.

What project, in 2021, am I looking forward to work on?

Animation! I’ve dabbled in it before but I’m going to give it another good try. I watch cartoons/anime every day and it would be awesome to make them.

Where can you see me or my work in 2021?

My website: https://www.shewillart.com

Instagram: @she.will.thrive

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?

It means growth and life. I’ve been accused of being a workaholic but I always argue that it’s because I’m working on myself that it isn’t really “work” at all. I’m a passion-holic and I don’t ever plan on retiring. There are just not enough hours in the day and not enough days in the week is the problem.

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