We had the good fortune of connecting with Tanaya Winder and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tanaya, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I believe healthy risks are necessary if you want to grow. Growth comes when you’re pushed to new limit and beyond your comfort zone. It’s taking a chance on something you have a strong passion or desire for. Any time you put yourself out there in a genuine way, it’s vulnerable; to me, that is a risk. I believe I’ve taken calculated risks my entire life. When I decided to leave my small town to go to Stanford, I took a risk. When I decided to abandon my dreams of becoming a lawyer so I could pursue creative writing, I took a risk. When I took a break from my graduate program to take on a new job opportunity, I took a risk. But, all of those risks required different kinds of sacrifices and had different types of rewards. Each of those choices led me here. Today, I’m a Stanford graduate and a MFA graduate. I successfully ran an Upward Bound program for many years and was able to impact a lot of people. I’ll always be grateful for the risks I took.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art practice is helping people to find their “heartwork” – their passion, their fire. I believe that embedded in this is healing oneself and in doing so breaking cycles of generational and intergenerational trauma. My art helps in trauma stewardship.
I believe what I do is heartwork and that I help people find their heartwork through music, storytelling, and poetry. Whenever I hear someone tell me that I inspired them or motivated them to share their own stories, write their own words, or make music, it makes my heart happy. For me, it’s about passing along the passion and in this way, (re)igniting each other’s flames.
It definitely wasn’t easy getting here. It was a long journey of self-healing and discovery to finally get on this path where you’re not living someone else’s dreams. I tried on a lot of different outfits of career paths and who I thought I was supposed to be before I found what made me feel happy, most alive, and most free.
I suppose I want others to know that my story isn’t unlike many that are out there. We spend most of our lives figuring out how we want to spend our precious time on this earth. I want to use my time to help make the world beautiful, and to know that beauty can be breathtaking, awe-inspiring, or haunting. I hope my art and heartwork helps to show people that fullness of living.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It doesn’t matter the place, finding a place to enjoy in any city is only a matter of pursuing interests. I might take a friend to a coffee shop to catch up, find a bookstore, catch some live music, or go for a hike to enjoy nature.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people I want to shoutout. It really does take a village, a community, and a network of supporters. I’m grateful to my family. My grandparents, parents, and sister really motivated me and supported me every step of the way. My grandpa taught me responsibility. My grandma taught me unconditional love. My mom taught me the power of words. My sister taught me compassion and kindness. My loving partner has always motivated me to be the truest, fullest version of myself. He taught me patience and trust. My artist family, the Dream Warriors, have inspired and motivated me to continue with music. My writer mentor and friend Joy Harjo, who is now the U.S. Poet Laureate. Joy gave me opportunities to grow and spread my wings. I also want to shoutout my CUUB students from the Upward Bound program I worked for. The years I spent with those students helped me find myself and made me become the best version of myself. Beyond that, every single person in my family and extended family has given me love and motivation.
Viki Eagle Jeremy Wade Shockley