Big thanks to David Hopper for recommending Amy here. And big thanks to Tucker the dog for providing some very soothing snoring sounds in the background of this audio.
Amy and I had a great chat before the interview. I think that time before the interview allows for a significant level of trust and vulnerability to come out during the more formal reordered conversation. Amy's interest in her personal development and growth so that she can better serve and care for others is inspiring. It seems that we can often get stuck in that first phase of caring for or loving ourself and might not get around to that next phase of caring for others. I actually believe we can do both simultaneously and I got the impression from Amy that that is what she is deep into.
AH: My name's Amy Hoag. Who I am, I'm not sure my name necessarily represents that. I am a young person with a lot of different parts. I think there are parts of me that are older than my age and there are parts of me that are a lot younger. Before you came in here, six-year-old me was definitely really present and available. And then there's old lady me in there. And who are all of those people? I am someone who is really creatively driven and is also really driven towards helping others and hearing other people. That's my passion in life. I'm a studying counsellor. I like meditating. I'm a storyteller. I love singing and making music and being in nature. Doing ceremony is really important to me. That's who I am.
ACT: What concerns you? What breaks your heart, makes you sad, or affects you personally as you make your way through life? And what motivates you to do something about it?
AH: I like that you use the word concern because it doesn't directly [connote] to bad or good. I feel that about a lot of things. I feel really concerned about power. Power is not inherently a bad thing. It's not inherently a good thing. And it is such a tool. Similar to a gun almost, I feel concern whenever it's around. And that's where the comparison to guns ends because I think power can be used in so many different and beautiful ways. And that's really cool and incredible. And what has been concerning me a lot recently is that power is not being used that way on the whole in our culture. And within my community of white people, generally, it's not being used well. In my community of cis-gendered people it's not being used well. Yeah, and even in my community of queer people it's not being used well. I've seen it in my school process. Being in the Master's of Counseling program at Oregon State, I've seen power be really misused. I've misused power. And I see that as being the root of a lot of issues.
I have a lot of concern about race issues right now and what's happening with ICE on the borders and throughout our country. As well as with black bodies and human beings who are being damaged by what in my circles can look like just a light conversation about politics. Just knowing that I have the power and the privilege to not know the names of every trans black person who's been killed recently because it doesn't affect me the same way it affects others. That's power that I don't do anything with and I could do something with.
And I see that a lot in Bend. So many people have power and privilege and either don't know that they have it because of being oppressed or marginalized in some other identity or know that they have it and don't do anything about it.
I'm concerned about community. I think that because most of the people who live in America now don't belong on this land - we stole this land in a pretty brutal way - we've lost a lot of our culture. For example, technically speaking, I'm native to the US because I've never lived anywhere else, but I am not the first native people and my nativeness is dependent on my people having stolen and beaten and raped and killed the people who are actually native to this land. And yet, I can't go to my ancestral lands and say that I'm native to them because I've never been there. My family's not connected to them at all. And that would be in some way still culturally appropriative. I think a lot of people find themselves in that position in this world. Where it's like, Wow, I don't have a home. I don't have a culture. And so we steal it from others. And I'm really concerned about how we're gonna get past that and stop stealing and also find a culture that can be our own and not cause harm.
ACT: What can you do about it?
AH: That's kind of the question that I've been wrestling with a lot over the last couple years. I am white and I am privileged. I'm cis-gender and I'm privileged. And, as an individual there's a lot I can do. I do a lot of racism work in my practice. I do a lot of humility work around accepting when I'm wrong and not putting that on others. And I do a lot of work in terms of trying to call out my communities when they're being problematic and do work together to be better. And I see that as such a small drop in the bucket. And so, recently, I've started to look at what I can do on a bigger level. And part of that is what I want to do as a counsellor in creating groups that talk about community and building it instead of just people coming to a counsellor to get all of their needs met for community and mental health and disclosing whole parts of themselves that they don't bring to their communities or to their families, even.
I think that maybe my role as a white person is to try to support the healing of especially other white people so that they stop hurting others. And to offer any support and services that I can to people who don't fall into that category and who want help or even just a white person to look at them and be like, I am so sorry and I am here to serve you.
There's probably some stuff about that that is problematic and I'm still learning about it and trying to figure out how I can best play a role here that is supportive rather than me just putting myself on a pedestal and trying to make all of these changes by myself. There's probably some ways that that could turn into white saviorism really fast and I don't feel educated enough yet to really step into this is what I can do and this is how I can actually help. So now it's just my personal work and how I can be as aware of myself and how I show up in this world as possible.
ACT: What do people mean to you, individual to individual, as you make your way through your daily routines?
AH: For some reason when you asked me that question I felt tears come in my eyes. It's a hard question. There's a cynical part of me that says that people are all parasites because that's how we show up on this planet. And no other part of me agrees with that assessment because I see all of us showing up. I have a client right now who is openly racist and openly sexist. And, as his counselor, I don't get to talk about that. It's my job to hold space for him and to hear him and to see him as a person. And in doing that, I have discovered so much beauty - even in people who are just really, really hurt and choose to turn around and hurt others. Just walking around and seeing strangers laughing with each other or talking to each other or standing next to each other is such a gift and reminds me of my humanity and also gives me hope.
I think we are so unique and the footprint that we leave on each other and on this Earth is so unique and terrifying in a lot of ways. And people are what I want to center my life around. So there's something about them and the beauty and the history that lives in every person that is so appealing to me and so beautiful. Even when I want to just be done with people, I find myself returning to them and myself, probably through them.
ACT: What does community mean to you and what does it mean to be part of one with so much chaos and so many differing agendas? What does it mean to you to be a person that has empathy and compassion and deep concern alongside people that seem to not?
AH: I think sometimes I idealize old communities in a lot of ways because they're distant from me and I don't have to look at some of the shadowy, hard parts. But I think about small villages that were really based in ritual and practice and rite of passage and their version of community was not about just showing up when things felt good. A part of a lot of those communities was people going out into the world as children and nearly dying from the elements to determine what their gifts were to bring back to the community. And if they survived, they got to come back and offer these beautiful gifts and services to their community and to receive gifts from their community. And if they didn't, that was just what was accepted. And that's a really hard and scary thing and yet that was community for them.
And I think about and connect that to my own experience of community as being any group of people that are able to show up completely authentically with each other and have it be okay even when it doesn't feel good. I eventually want to find myself in a community where I can be a person who does really bad things and be called out and be supported in growing and not be ostracized for that. Or be ostracized as part of my learning experience and be able to come back and share my experiences and what gifts I have to offer that I didn't see before. I don't think it's community to just be able to have lighthearted conversations and talk about things that are easy.
I think about my experience with my partner, David. I think what makes our relationship so beautiful and wonderful to me is that we have incredibly hard and uncomfortable conversations with each other a lot. And I have never experienced so much growth in a relationship and I've also never experienced so much discomfort. And that's kind of what I want out of community and what I view community as being - pretty uncomfortable a lot - because humans, like you were saying, we have different belief systems and different ways of being and it's kind of chaotic. And in that chaos, we're able to grow if we really step into it instead of just avoiding it or ignoring it. That's what I look for in community.
ACT: Do you feel a sense of purpose or a compulsion to be a certain way or a responsibility to affect positive change?
AH: Yes. Yeah. There's a lot in that question. That's something that I really struggle with especially as someone who's going to be a counselor. A false narrative that I have is that I need to somehow be so enlightened and really therapeutic all the time. Yeah, and if I do that, I turn off a lot of the pieces inside of me that are not that way. And I've spent years of my life walking around having no awareness of those parts of me and just kind of letting them die. And the rebirth process of those parts is really painful and hard and scary and also makes me less effective. But somehow I convince myself that if I am this certain way I'll affect positive change and everyone will love me and it will be great. And that is almost always the opposite of what happens. But I feel that pressure and that sense to be that way.
Separate from that, I do feel really responsible for not necessarily affecting positive change at this point, but I feel really responsible for dealing with my stuff and with the stuff that my ancestors brought that I carry on. At this point in my life, it's my goal to just work on that and I'm pretty sure I won't even get through it all. But my family has experienced a lot of trauma and I think it's come from our line of ancestry. I think it's come from us hurting each other. I don't want to continue that and continue that lineage for my children to have to deal with or the communities that they harm to deal with. And I also feel like I have a lot of work to do to not only not continue it but to help heal and work through what has already happened and what I've benefitted from and continue to benefit from. That's more what I feel a responsibility to at this point.
ACT: Is there anything that you wish I had asked or anything pressing on your mind that you'd like to get out?
AH: There's a type of therapy called IFS or Internal Family Systems and all of the work is based on this idea that we internalize and create these different parts of ourselves that come up at different points. So there can be a part of the self that's the protector and will fully show up and maybe was created when you were seven and you felt unsafe around your family and someone had to come and save you and that was your internal childhood hero. I think that we create the communities that we've experienced inside of us and we act those out on the world. And it can look really bad. It can look like racism and it can look like oppressive behavior. It can look like manipulation and codependency. Whatever we've learned, I think we take it in and we actually let it become us. It's interesting to me to watch how everyone's internal communities affect the external community that we live in together.
Something that I'm learning about and working on right now for myself is identifying all of the unhealthy communities within me that I need to prune and change and adjust and make space for so that I don't bring their wrath on the community outside of me that I really wish to be a better member of. And my hope is that people become more aware of those parts of themselves as well and start noticing, Wow, my internal community is fucking up my external community in a big way! That's important to me and is important to what I'm doing for myself right now.