Every week I write a column called BE YOU for one of the local papers (The Times of Acadiana) – Each week someone different answers the questionnaire – the paper often has to edit them,  so here are all the answers, unedited (the whole truth) :

Crystal Place

Crystal moved to Lafayette only 2 years ago, but it has made quite an impact on her, and her on it. She is a film maker, producer, director and voice over artist who likes to give back to the community. She runs an indie cinema series The Station (at Cité des Arts downtown) that shows great movies for free (you should check it out). Crystal lives life at full speed and remembers to slow down enough to smell the roses.

What was your first job?
My first job was working at a day-care at the age of 11, but legally the first one was at age 14 at a little shop on Main St. in my hometown. It was called the Agawam Public Market.

Describe a typical day in your life.
I work for myself as a freelancer in film and video production, so there really isn’t even a hint of a typical day, (which I love because it keeps each one filled with surprises). I may be producing/directing a video or commercial for a local business, working on a documentary or reality show, gripping (lighting) a production set somewhere, recording a voice over for some company abroad or working from my home office, (which is either outside in the sunshine somewhere with my laptop or in my little apartment with a cup of tea). Besides that I run an indie cinema series I founded here in Lafayette called The Station (at Cité des Arts downtown), The Lafayette Swing Dance Society (am addicted to lindy-hopping) and am working on my own labor of love, a documentary about Play in modern society. When I’m not working, I’m usually found exploring some new place, rock-climbing, reading (I go through books like days of the week), playing out in nature, playing guitar (or trying to), bike-riding, cooking fresh veggies (as though I lived with a family of 6 and not just myself) or making some sort of DIY art-projects. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of decoupage and making pieces with old atlas maps.

What advice would you give the younger you?
I would tell the younger me that I am tougher and more resilient than I think I am, that so many experiences that seem difficult or impossible to navigate, will actually turn out to shape the person I am and much for the better, and that, in hindsight, they will all be beautiful blessings in disguise.

What event in your life most shaped who you are now?
When I was 22 I got very ill and almost died. I was very sick for about 2.5 years, lost my life savings due to medical costs, what I thought was my dream job, the person I thought I was going to marry and, well, 2.5 years of my twenties. At one point I was told I should get my things “in order” and that I may not survive much longer. I decided if that were the expected outcome, I would give up the Western medicine route and learn everything I could about other medical philosophies and my own body. I studied/experienced Chinese medicine, Acupuncture, Trager (and several other body work practices), herbs, vitamins and supplements, Qigong, Tai chi and meditation and food and nutrition. After a long time, giving up all food but a few very specific meals, committing to a very challenging routine, and a lot of very hard work, I found my way back to health. I became the healthiest person I’d ever been in fact, and as cliché as it may sound, I got a real second chance at life. I decided then to throw away my television and to do all the things I used to say “One day I will…” One day I will learn to lindy-hop. One day I will learn to play guitar. One day I will learn a tai chi form. One day I will make my documentary. While it was absolutely the most difficult and most painful experience I’ve ever had to endure, I can honestly say that it is also, actually, the very best thing that’s ever happened to me. Life likes to be funny that way. It was a beautiful blessing in disguise. There is little I don’t find joy in now, and I am the person I am today because of it. And very grateful for my life on this little planet of ours.

What values do you live by?
I believe that kindness/compassion and honesty are where all of my decisions should be made from. Some people mistake kindness for weakness and honesty doesn’t always make you look like the coolest person ever, but in the end I find I have more joy in my life when I approach people and circumstances from that point of view.

What do you most appreciate?
I most appreciate a sense of humor, honesty, kindness and playfulness in others, good food, good music, good stories, playing in nature and my health.

What is your favorite journey?
I am an adventure addict, so I am just as happy exploring some little street in a little middle-of-nowhere town, as I am exploring all the culture of new city, trekking a glacier in New Zealand or navigating some little market in some far-off corner of the world. I like to think that I suck the marrow out of life, and my favorite journey is any place where I can learn more that I don’t know about the world and myself.

Where is your favorite place to be alone?
Reading a book anywhere or on the road traveling.

What living figure most inspires you?
I am inspired by my grandmother, who raised 7 children as a single mother, without a car, (and lost one of them to a terrible crime), yet lives every single day as the most optimistic, kindest and most playful, joyful person I’ve ever met. She’s a ball of sunshine, a bit of a firecracker and ones of my heroes. Carl Sagan (who is no longer living, but not too long gone) is another person I am thoroughly inspired by.

What was the best advice you were ever given?
It’s not about you. Everyone alive just wants to be free of suffering and to find love and happiness. Sometimes something they do won’t mesh with your pursuit of the same, but it’s not about you. And “this too shall pass.”

What book would you tell everyone to read?
Oh boy. I read so much, it feels impossible to choose. Here are a few reads in different genres: Biography: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, Survival: “Touching the Void”, Science: “The Varieties of Scientific Experience”, Historical Fiction: “World Without End”, Non-fiction: “The Devil in the White City”, Science Fiction: “Stranger in a Strange Land”, Philosophy: “When Things Fall Apart”, Fiction: “The Secret Life of Bees” & “The Handmaid’s Tale”, Written word: “Letters to a Young Poet”, Poetry: “The Book of Qualities”. I also adore Jane Austen, but most people have already read her.

What is the best thing about where you live?
The best thing about living in Lafayette is the community here. I’ve traveled to places all over the world, and I have never found such an amazing community of inspiring, creative and welcoming people anywhere. Also the trees. The trees here are magical. Almost 2 years here and I still can’t get over them.

How do you “let the good times roll” ?
I guess you could say I have a large amount of hobbies, but my I think my favorite activities are rock-climbing, lindy-hopping and exploring. Although any kind of culinary adventure would be a pretty good time for me too.

What did u want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a Veterinarian when I was little. I’m a filmmaker now, but still a big animal lover.

What is your motto?
My motto is definitely PLAY. Play well, play daily and in every way your heart dreams up. It’s an overused expression, but life is short. Get out there and PLAY!

How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered for doing something that made the world better, perhaps my documentary about Play will do that, and as a kind and playful person.

What do you say to yourself when you doubt yourself?
I usually try to sit quietly and don’t say anything. Then the doubt usually dissipates one way (or the other).

What three things are vital to BEing YOU?
Being kind and honest to myself and others. Having the courage to follow my heart. Being playful!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Gosh I have no idea. I think I say “geez louise” a lot. Ya, I probably say that too much. I can’t think of anything else. I’m sure my friends would have a silly list for ya.

What is your favorite word?
I love the word hypotenuse, but it’s hard to pick just one.

What do you collect?
A few years ago I actually did the opposite of collecting and got rid of almost everything I own. Now I am a collector of experiences. And laughter. I like to collect laughs as often as possible.

What food could you live on for a month?
INDIAN FOOD! God I love Indian food. That and peanut butter and chocolate together (although that wouldn’t be very healthy).

What would you change about yourself?
I would be more concise, a better listener (and not interrupt and talk more when I’m nervous), not over-analyze things so often and have a thicker skin. And I do wish I could sing.

What literary, movie or cartoon character do you most identify with?
I guess I would say Ken Follett’s character Claris, in his book “World Without End.”

Describe yourself in five words.
Kind. Honest. Playful. Storyteller. Explorer.

What is your idea of happiness?
I don’t really need much for happiness. For me it’s just having good health, reciprocal love and some adventure.

What is your favorite movie?
Oh boy. I am a film-aholic, so this is very tough. I guess it would be a tie between “Shawshank Redemption” and “Cinema Paradiso”.

What music defines who you are?
I devour new music, and have close to 200 GB’s of it on my computer. My life would not be as full without it, but I can’t even begin to think about choosing one type. I like old stuff like Ella, Louis, Janis and Tom Waits, newer stuff like Radiohead, Mumford & Sons & Pink Martini, jazz, blues, folk. I just adore music.

What do you most regret?
I guess if I’ve ever hurt another person unintentionally, I would most certainly regret that, but otherwise I don’t really bother with regret. Life is so short. Forward is the way to go I think.

What question do you wish I’d asked?
What are your dreams?

What would the answer be?
My dream is to find the rest of the funding I need to finally make my documentary about the importance of Play, and to share it with the world. (My other dreams are to find deep, lasting love, have a dog, go into space and travel the world).