Welcome to This Is Me Thursdays! To read other posts in this series, click here. If you want to be involved, please email me for more details! Today, learn more about Callie Sonnek, someone I got connected with from my mom because they used to work together!
Callie and I started chatting a few months ago after my mom connected us. We both love Harry Potter and musicals, so what else do you need to know, really? She’s very involved with theater and being active in her community, when we aren’t in a global pandemic lockdown situation, and she’s such a bright and bubbly person! I really love how she answered so many of the questions below, and I know you will as well. Check out what she’s been up to with Frestyle Fitness, Mankato Ballet, Merely Players and Haute Dish Productions!
This Is Me: Callie Sonnek
Share a little about yourself and what you’re up to these days.
Well, I am currently doing a lot of social distancing and staying at home, trying to do my part for keeping myself and everyone else safe during this pandemic, but I usually keep pretty busy otherwise. I started a new job last June, where I finally have a normal set schedule (compared to the retail life I had been living) so that really opened up a lot of options for me to be able to do all the things I wanted to with my time. I am very involved with the local community theatre, Merely Players, and have been doing shows with them for the past 4 seasons. I also try to keep up with being active, whether that is by myself running, or dancing in classes at Mankato Ballet Company with my friend who teaches tap there or pole dancing at Frestyl Fitness. My friend group is pretty involved too, so we are always finding fun events to attend, playing games, having movie marathons, whatever we can do to spend time together.
What does life purpose mean to you? Does it really exist for you/all of us, or is it just some pipe dream?
To me, life purpose is that thing that gets you up out of bed in the morning. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be profound, but it’s that thing that you look forward to or are working toward or just want to experience in your life. I think it’s universal to want things in life, big and small, but what makes us all so different and unique are those individual dreams. I believe that a big part of connecting with people is finding out what that purpose means for them, and that will show you what the motivators are in their life. This can bring you closer to someone when you find out they share the same dreams as you, or if you can help someone else achieve their hopes and goals. These life purposes both individually motivate us and bring us together as we work on achieving them.
What motivates and inspires you in your life?
I am always so inspired and so impressed by the people I have in my life. I am surrounded by such amazing, talented, resilient people. I love to watch what they are all creating in their lives and, on my favorite occasions, be involved in all sorts of projects with them. I have a lot of friends who are very involved in the arts, whether it be visual or performing or the like, and seeing the great things they are producing gives me such satisfaction and am constantly just so proud of their accomplishments. I have a couple of friends who wrote, directed, and starred in a musical parody show for MN Fringe Festival this last summer and I am pretty sure that is all I talked about constantly for months on end. (Haute Dish Productions- check them out!) It was amazing to me to see what comedy, wit, and fun came out of their brains for us to play out on stage for the audiences. It always inspires me to do my best work in the arts when I see all these talented, creative, and genuinely good people putting parts of themselves out there for the enjoyment of others. It really connects me to the pieces we are putting on and that translates to the performances and hopefully then motivates people viewing it to do the same. Get out there and CREATE!
Is what you do now what you always imagined doing? Why or why not, and what have you learned because of that?
I am a weird one in that I never had a “dream job”. I never had a specific idea, even when I was little, of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I would rotate through various things that I was enjoying at the time and say that was my future plan, but I didn’t have a do-or-die dream. That continued through college. I just was interested in too many things and wanted to do them all, which is why I ended up getting a double-major, double-minor degree, I couldn’t narrow it down to ONE thing! And that really has shaped my life in that my outlook isn’t based on success in a single area, like getting that ‘dream job’, but more so about the rest of my life and if I am able to do what I enjoy as a holistic lifestyle. It’s the life that I go home to at the end of the day that is going to be my ‘dream’ and I think that has really been good for me. I don’t define myself by one dream or one aspect that, as the world is unpredictable, may or may not work out. I’ve learned to focus on a more rounded view of life, and all the varying aspects, and see opportunity and accomplishments in all places.
What’s something you desperately want other people to know or realize that may help them in their lives?
There is no magic formula to how your life should be for you to feel happy and successful. One of the easiest traps to fall into is to sit and judge your life against everyone else’s, especially when that frame of reference is how those lives are portrayed on social media. First off, those profiles are not in any way an accurate judge of the state of people’s lives. They are often greatly skewed, as it’s usually the best of the highlights or “the pretty part of life” rather than an accurate depiction of the hardships and struggles people go through every day. And even beyond that, it is not ideal for everyone to go through the traditional steps that society has established as the route through life. They tell us it’s supposed to be ‘the graduate high school, go to college, get married, have a couple kids, and live happily ever after life’ and if you don’t do that, then you have to explain yourself as to why you deviated from that model. You do not have to follow in those footsteps and you do not need to give justification for not doing those things if that is not what you want for your life. Do what makes you happy and let that guide your future, not societal expectations.
How do you define belonging and connection, and how have your definitions changed over time?
This is a very important concept in my life. I have always been very attached to that feeling of “home” whether that is found in a place, or person, or an organization. I was very blessed to have a great home life and that feeling of belonging and safety has always been likened to what I always felt with my family growing up. So much so, that this feeling was actually the deciding factor on how I chose my college. It had come down to 2 choices that were very similar in basically every aspect, but when I spent time at Luther College, I just felt like it was where I was meant to be. I felt like I belonged even before I was even living there. I found that home again in joining Merely Players and meeting the people who would then become my second family. From that organization, I found my group of friends who I now never go a single day without talking to and (before the pandemic) hanging out with constantly. They are a rock solid network of great people who are always there for whatever you need, from a laugh to a helping hand, and support like that is the most precious thing to be found in friendship. Now that we are not able to be together with the pandemic situation, that sense of interconnectivity has really become even more important in this time since we are not able to have that face to face interaction that we are used to. We need to still be reaching out, making those efforts and checking in on each other, because that will be how we can maintain that sense between those we love in this unprecedented and tough time.
What’s something you make sure to do every day/week/month that helps you practice self-care and self-love?
I find that I am my best self when I am physically active. I have always loved dancing, but I also picked up running a few years ago and that has brought me so much even beyond the health benefits. I use movement as my release; it gets me out of my constantly busy, overthinking brain and into a rhythm so my only focus is what my physical body is doing. It has done great things for my mental health. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and used to have a lot of self-destructive habits I would fall back into when things got bad. I was in the worst place in my life when I decided to start running. Not a lot, just a couple nights a week in order to get me outside and occupy my mind and body for a short period of time when being idle was dangerous. Then a friend of mine, who also only ran occasionally and casually, asked me about doing the Mankato Half Marathon with her. I had never thought about my body being able to run 13 miles straight, but decided “what the heck, why not!” and thus began my journey that would lead into my best self-care method. I could go whenever I wanted, just put on my shoes and run. I didn’t have to wait for a dance class to convene, or a partner for a game, but could go be free and get out of my head for a while. I started doing other races after that, just for the fun of the gatherings, but it’s really the best days that I can get out on the trail and put a few miles on. Keeping my head in a good place, and my body feeling good helps everything else feel that much better along with it.
How do you define success in your life and/or business?
Success is the contentment you feel when you’ve accomplished what you have been working toward. It’s that feeling of satisfaction that washes over you as you stand back and look at what you created, whether it was a work assignment, a painting, a backyard project, or sitting across the dinner table from your partner and family. If you can go home at night and be happy with what you did and where you are at in your relationships, then that is a successful day. It might not be as obvious on some days, but you have to look for the little successes and counting those every day can really make a difference in the way you reflect on your satisfaction levels across the board.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I really want to stress the importance of the arts, now more than ever. With the current unprecedented pandemic situation, when many of us are sheltering in place in our homes and what are we turning to in order to keep us entertained and sane? The arts! How many Netflix shows have you binged, or musicians have you live streamed, or even the memes you send to your friends to get a laugh out of the situation. These are all based in the performing and visual arts that are already underfunded and needing support, but especially now, they are struggling. If you have any means for it, I really encourage you to support your local arts. Whether it’s donating to the community non-profit that runs the theatres or concerts in your area, or buying something from a local artists that they are sewing or painting or however they are creating in this strange time. The arts are our soul’s method of expression, and with the stressful situation that we are all making our way through together, we need that outlet and creativity to care for our mental health as we are keeping our physical health safe by staying apart. Until we can all gather again, the arts will be the connection that will hold us together.
Photo courtesy of Callie Sonnek