Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the extraordinary and exquisite writer Ruth Josephine Evilsizer. A self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, Ruth is constantly curious and easily fascinated by the world around her. As an introvert, she is most comfortable articulating thoughts and feelings through the words she types or the cursive letters she throws up onto a paper. Everywhere she goes, so goes her Moleskin journal; her dedication to writing so earnest and steadfast that she can fill one, cover-to-cover, in just four months. Ruth is currently studying Human Development and Family Studies with concentration on Early Childhood Education at Colorado State University in her hometown of Fort Collins. For this semester, she is in Ireland studying at the University of Limerick, where she shares an on-campus apartment with five other roommates. Ruth says, “thus far, [it] has been a very exciting, confusing, fascinating experience.” It is here, across the sea and at the age of twenty, that Ruth is seeking to find clarity on what she wants to do for a living. She has much to consider since there are so many viable options including children’s book author, teacher, owner of a flower shop, voice actor, journalist, counselor, set designer, speech pathologist, entomologist, disc-jockey, professional comedian. Ruth is bravely, like a true Girl Warrior, diving head-first into the uncomfortableness of change and shift in her life. Inspired by the wise words of her mom, that “the only constant in life is change” she is embracing and owning this experience for what it is, finding beauty and appreciation in the smaller things and learning to not put so much pressure on her life. Ruth concludes, “It may not be what I anticipated, but it is most definitely the most honest and true experience I have lived, and for that, it is beautiful.” And for that we say YES Ruth Josephine, YES!
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I am a Girl Warrior because I am resilient and beautiful, like flowers growing through the cracks in the sidewalk. I use the voice I was given to write stories that engage imagination, sing to the trees and dance to the rhythm of shaking leaves, and laugh so loud I move mountains. I am a Girl Warrior because I am Human…I can twirl around in fancy dresses and skip around with a smile on my face, but I also fall sometimes. I cry, I feel jealousy, sometimes I am mad. I feel deeply and empathize like it is second nature. I am 3-Dimensional, and I remind myself that it is okay to be a collection of all these things. For all these reasons, I am a Girl Warrior.
Love your name. What special meaning does it hold for you and why?
My first and middle name were passed down to me from my Great Grandmothers on both my mom and dad’s side. I was not able to meet them, but it is such an honor to share these names. I hope to make them proud each day. Alternatively, the name “Ruthie” means companion or friend, which is a role I hold to highest priority.
3-part Question. Why are you proud of being the class-clown? What does your particular brand of humor reveal about you? Why do we need humor now more than ever?
Laughing is probably my favorite thing ever. There is something so beautiful about not taking things so seriously, laughing at yourself and getting to make jokes with the people around you. Recently, on a call with my friend from home, I was sipping a tea titled “Relax” (why tea flavors are named after feelings, I will never know), and as the phone call dragged out my international minutes and the mug continued to get emptier and emptier, I got gigglier and gigglier. I asked her, “why do you suppose I have done everything but relax since I started drinking this tea that is supposed to make me calm? I feel anything but calm right now; I feel silly and giggly.” To which she responded, “maybe you feel most comfortable and relaxed when you get to laugh and mess around.”
People that are close to me know that it does not take much to get me laughing; I find most things humorous, and I can laugh at any joke (to an extent, of course). I believe strongly that laughter truly is the best medicine. I think of being a little girl, and if I was upset about something, my parents would squeeze my little cheeks and smiling, they would say things like, “don’t you dare smile, Ruthie Jo,” and “you aren’t allowed to have any fun” in a playful nature, so you knew it was mandatory to not take anything for the next little while too seriously. What once was a serious and stoic attitude bottled in my small, toddler-sized body would inevitably be washed away and replaced with a rosy-cheeky grin that excited me and made me want to do nothing but laugh.
Humor is more important now than ever; as the world continues to grow serious and everyone is uncertain, it is crucial we are taking the time to laugh. There is going to be so much time to focus critically and sincerely about things. You’ll never regret laughing “too much”.
What does it mean to live the most unapologetic version of yourself? Is this a practice you would recommend to other Girl Warriors?
To me, living unapologetically means taking up space and painting it colorfully as you go along. Reach out to strangers kindly, skip your feet on the way to the bus stop, leave little acorns and mark your place in this world. Speak what is on your mind, and do not close off opportunities to learn new things and ways of life. Feel your feelings openly, but make sure to dance after you cry. It means cracking your shell, inching out of your comfort zone a little bit every day.
I realize this could be an unrealistic way to go about your day-to-day, and some days it can be easier than others. But when you think of integrating this in your day, living freely and unapologetically will only benefit you by the time the sun sets. Before coming to Ireland, my friend wrote me a card, in which they wrote the words, “Ireland is excited to meet you.” I have come back to this every morning before I head out the door. The world is so excited to meet you; give them the honest and truest parts of yourself. They can take it or leave it.
Is writing your happy place? Why?
Writing is most definitely my happy place. When I sit down in front of pen and paper, I find my words to articulate easily, much easier than if I try to speak them into existence in front of others. The keys on my keyboard and the blots of ink on my diary pages hold every detail of every thought I have ever conceived. Some leave the notebooks and Word documents or e-mails for me in the future. Some get squeezed along the side of graffiti in the city, and others are for me. There are no rules when I am writing. I can take my time and focus carefully on every ‘I’ dotted and ‘T’ crossed, or I can be sloppy and impatiently record my ideas.
What causes you the most angst and how do you deal with it?
When I have a hard time understanding things, I get very frustrated. I never understood Geometry in high school, or when my choir was learning a new song and I never figured out how to sight-read notes. I don’t understand how people have such fixated and strong opinions on things, so much so they aren’t willing to even try and gain new perspective. Why can’t people co-exist and accept and respect one another for who they are? Why aren’t people kinder in this world, recognizing everyone has their own lives that are just as complex as our own, and we should use that to be more empathetic with strangers. I never understood why kindness needed to be taught so many separate times in school, as it was so simple to me. If I don’t know where a feeling or emotion is coming from, or if I cannot put a name to the feeling, I feel frustrated. These, among other things, give me angst. My initial reaction is something very short of graceful, but I do my best to channel it into the six strings of my pink, sparkly guitar. I strum and pluck the strings until frustration turns to song. Sometimes, I go for a walk around the neighborhood, watching people be people and live simply, because sometimes we make life more difficult and complicated than it needs to be.
In a world where beauty is often seen as a form of currency, how do you define beautiful?
I define beauty as honesty and authenticity. I think the definition of ‘beauty’ has become distorted and confused with worth and people are misinterpreting it, as well as its effect on people. Sometimes, I will ask my friends when it is they feel the most beautiful. I’ve heard people say it is when they summit the top of a fourteener, or when they are spending quality time with their favorite person. Depending on the season of my life, this answer changes. But most often, I feel the most beautiful when I wake up in the morning and greet the day. My eyes are tired, and maybe a little puffy. I am probably draped in a heavy t-shirt that says something ironic like, “World’s Best Grandpa”, and I need to brush my teeth, and my hair is a mess from showering the night before. But everything is authentic and brand new and real. Honest. Beauty, to me, is honesty.
The way wildflowers spread and multiply in their own scattered placement is beautiful; the strangers and passersby we see throughout our day are beautiful; the tears we cry after an overwhelming week are beautiful; growing pains are beautiful; mistaken notes and chords played loudly on the guitar are beautiful; the strawberry seeds stuck in our teeth are beautiful; the lessons we learn from mistakes we made are most definitely beautiful.
What’s the most profound thing you’ve learned so far at Colorado State University – both on and off the campus?
On campus, I learned that stopping to say ‘hi’ to someone is very underrated and more people should do that. Go out of your way to let people know you are thinking of them. I also have found an appreciation for wildlife, thanks to all the squirrels I see hopping from Point A to Point B. Off campus, I learned to take more risks; you never know until you try. I know this is broad, and probably a repetitive piece of advice, but I don’t think I can pronounce this enough. With things that seem scary, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I almost kept all my writing to myself, but I shared it with one person, and here I am, getting to share what I think it means to grow up and do it authentically.
What brought you to Ireland?
I have been lucky enough to travel and see all kinds of different parts of the world. There is something incredibly special to have a decked-out passport; each stamp holding experiences and stories. Honestly, there is no rhyme or reason for me choosing Ireland other than curiosity. I had never been before, but I have limited family from here, and I have a close friend who came to visit once with her family. I just wanted to see for myself; find a street of cobblestone for my Mary Janes to skip along, stopping along the way for four-leaf clovers. A romanticized perspective, but I am very happy and proud for all the growth and learning that has happened here and cannot wait to see what else these castles and classrooms have in store for me!
Where would you be without your friends?
God only knows. My friends help me with statics homework, teach me cheats in our favorite video games and the lyrics to our favorite songs, are patient when I try cooking something, and demonstrate the proper way to hold chopsticks. They are honest when telling me if my outfit matches (because at 20 I still can’t quite dress myself) and call me out when my driving is scary. I learn about the world and opportunity and hard work from my friends. They will drop everything for a dance party—at work, in the kitchen, or at a concert. Each one is resilient, brave, kind, intelligent, and extraordinary. In fact, a lot of what I learned about authenticity is from my friends. They build me up and cheer me on, applauding my bold haircut choices, helping me up if I fall over from roller-skating, and laughing at all my jokes (even the ones that are not funny). To show my appreciation, I will write platonic love-letters, customize invitations for game night at my house, and surprise them with an iced coffee now and again. They should all understand how much I appreciate them, and if they didn’t, well now they know. Ringo Starr sang it best: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
How did your dad influence your musical tastes? Who’s your favorite artist and why?
Growing up, my dad confidently told my siblings and I that he knew every song on the radio. We blindly believed him, partly because we were just children, and partly because it seemed very true. He could change the radio channels quickly and pick up right where the songs left off, no matter the genre or decade; it seemed like my father was a walking, breathing, singing jukebox. And to this day, I am still convinced he knows every song ever written. He exposed me very young to British 90s rock, and from there, I have explored different genres open mindedly. To pick my favorite artist is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. I am currently on a wild spectrum, with music ranging from Midwest-emo to stompin’ and hollerin’ folk music, with even some songs that somehow fall under both of those genres. Admittedly, I also have a soft spot for musical theater. I will give a handful of my favorite artists/bands that come to mind: Spoon, The Front Bottoms, The Smiths, Kimya Dawson, dodie, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Mother Mother, Phoebe Bridgers, Cage the Elephant. My all-time favorite song is probably “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure, and I have loved that song since I was 16 and wore sheer tights and blue lipstick to my tenth-grade classes.
What’s the most important life lesson your mom taught you?
My mom has taught me so many wonderful things; without even trying, she is such a natural teacher. I have learned so many things from her. One of my favorite teachings from her is when she reminds me that there will always be people with more than you, and there will always be people with less than you. Another take away I have learned from her is from when I did dance growing up. Before dropping me off, her and my dad would shout out to me as I got out of the car, “dance your heart out!”
What would you say to other Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
To anyone looking for inspiration, I suggest digging your toes into the grass and dirt. Stomp and jump right into a puddle. Tickle the leaves in a tree and let the breeze blow your clothes on your body and hair on your head softly. Recount the sounds and smells around you. Sit still in your senses and describe in detail what is happening around you. Soak in your life; the simplicity, the complexity, the beauty of it all.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
The women closest in my life never stop inspiring me. My mother Mary, my sister Meredith, my Grandmother Joanie, and my Aunt Kate are the most wise and wonderful women I have ever met. I sit in front of them with a wide-eyed gaze, my jaw on the floor, and legal pad in my lap as I frantically take notes for all the things they have to teach me. They have endured so much of life and persisted through the garbage and uglier parts and experiences that some could definitely live without. Life is not easy and can be discouraging at times. But watching and learning from their resilience is so inspiring. They are the ones who help remind me to take care of others, as well as leaving space for myself. They show me how to take up my space and dance around when my favorite song plays, to introduce myself to strangers, to travel the world, and take those chances that pass by. I will never stop learning from them.
Mary Oliver is my favorite poet, and my favorite poem by her is “Wild Geese.” It reads, “You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.”. Her poems are so truthful, beautifully written, and artistic; I come back to this practice when things feel difficult or somewhat confusing. Fear not, because all I really need to do is love what I love, and it really could be that simple.
I also draw inspiration from the strangers I see throughout my day to day. I still remember my first day moving into college. My mom and I finished moving me in to my dorm, and we rewarded ourselves with two scoops of ice cream in waffle cones. While we sat, there was a girl wearing maroon combat boots, a skater skirt, and her hair in a half-up, half-down ponytail. She was making comfortable conversation with the people behind the counter (if she knew them previously, I don’t know), and she danced and twirled around in her skirt as the music played through the speakers. I never introduced myself, but it seemed she was demonstrating beautifully what I think it means to live unapologetically. To this stranger, I hope you are still out there dancing your dances and getting to know people like it is second nature.
Blue Sky it. No boundaries here, just limitless opportunities. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I hope to be teaching a classroom of students about literature and Mary Oliver poems. I will have the unpublished children’s books I wrote on lined paper sitting on bookshelves in my classroom for students to read on their own time (you are never too old for children’s books, and if you disagree, you are lying to yourself). I want to be coming home to a small house with a quaint front yard. In the front yard sits a small pride flag stuck in a flowerpot by the front door. There is a porch swing and a welcome mat. Inside would be my partner, two cats, an old piano, a yellow tea kettle on the stove, and a garden of strawberries in the backyard. Knitting projects would be left unfinished in a basket in the corner diagonal of the previously mentioned pink guitar. The house would be filled with endless teachings, consistent movie nights, music, good food, and of course, laughter.
What books are on your nightstand?
Recently, I just finished a book titled “Everything I Know About Love” by Dolly Alderton, and I cannot seem to pick up a new one. I keep turning through the annotated pages of Alderton’s memoir, with anecdotes and life lessons she has made throughout her life, and a compilation of the things she hopes to continue practicing and learning about. My favorite chapter is ‘Homecoming’, where Alderton writes about how love can be many different things, including learning new things about your favorite people. “I know that love can be loud and jubilant…And I also know love is a pretty quiet thing…Love is a quiet, reassuring, relaxing, pottering, pedantic, harmonious hum of a thing; something you can easily forget is there, even though its palms are outstretched beneath you in case you fall” (318-319)]. Once I have squeezed everything I can out of this book, I hope to move on to a heavier book (both literally and contextually), ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara. The size and heavy content of the book makes me hesitant to read, even though I have heard many good things about it. One day, I will finish it, cover to cover. Hopefully that day is sooner than later.
Edit: the lighting on your nightstand makes or breaks the reading experience.
Describe yourself in five words.
Courageous, friend, curious, loving and loved.
Edit: beautiful, also.
If a song were written about you, what would it be called?
“Antique Chair drawn with a No. 2 Pencil”; an homage to the small chair collection I had growing up combined with my love for writing, putting ideas and pen to paper.
To hear Ruth sing and play, head over to her YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5b_k89RvrUs24vdogwfitg/featured
Follow her on Instagram at: @ruthievilsizer