Effervescent. Fizzy, sparkling – take your pick. They all do justice to Tori Baca’s brand of cheery optimism. She’s a sunflower growing out of the concrete, and her sentences burst out of her like Mentos in soda. We talk about her renewed interest in making, crafting, and building things, and I tell her story here, in her own words.
I took a shop class in high school. I made Adirondack chairs for my family, little bats for all of my classmates, I mixed my own stain – it was really fun. That started that spark for wanting to make things. Then, I sort of hit this period where I just didn’t. I totally lost the passion for it – or I didn’t lose the passion, I gained a “can’t.” I didn’t have anyone around me who was making or building anything.
When I started dating my Noah – he’s a welder and went to school in Eugene to make bikes – I was inspired. I started to get back into it seeing him and his friends do things. I’m getting welding lessons now, and my neighbor has a fully-functioning wood and metal shop and he’s been like, ‘Yeah, come over whenever you want!’
Noah and I were in upstate New York for the last part of last year, and everyone up there is so … bootstrap. They just do stuff, living off the fat of the land, and my experience up there was that everyone responded to my curiosity by wanting to teach me how to do what they were doing, to share their knowledge with me. Curiosity is so important. Be curious about everything. Try things. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it. You can do other things. Be happy, you know? Do something you’re interested in. If you only do the same things every day – what a boring existence.
Now I’m more interested in what good can come from doing things than I am scared of what could happen to me if I f*** up. I definitely almost cut my finger off last summer just trying to clean a slicer. There’s bad stuff that can happen everywhere all the time and if I let those bad things stop me, then nothing that I want to do is going to get done. I’ve waited around a long time. I’m 28 and have had these passions since I was a teenager and waiting around for someone else to do it for me or to show me hasn’t served me at all. It hasn’t done me any good at all. So I’m sorta like, ‘F*** it.’ It’s my life and I need to do stuff now. I was a part of Tiospaye for a long time. I learned a lot about the patterns in my life that I was creating and they weren’t enjoyable or good. I saw that I was constantly saying things like, ‘Yeah, I would love to go on vacation one day,’ or ‘I would love to try this class out,’ and I realized that I was a lot of talk and no action, so I had to take a look at myself in the mirror and choose something different. My attitude now is that I know with certainty that I’m going to f*** up, but I’d rather do it and get the experience. What’s more important to me now are my goals, not my fears. If I let my fears go, and let my goals drive, I’m happier and better to myself and my people.
I think that it’s healthy to experience “can’t,” but I don’t think that it’s healthy to stay in that. There are days when I don’t want to do things, or when I put projects on the back burner. What I’ve learned is that when I’m stuck or thinking that I can’t do something, I call someone who knows that I’m better than what I’m acting like. When I call that friend and say, “Look, I’m totally in my shit right now,” – guaranteed, they’ll give me the tough love that I need. The best thing is to be vulnerable, to let people know what’s going on. I used to think that vulnerability was weakness and that I couldn’t move forward, but eventually I saw that vulnerability is actually my strength. It helps me to develop the friendships and the relationships that I need to have the strength to work through the ‘can’t’, you know? What used to be a week of not being able to do anything is now an hour. Now, because of my community, I can know who I am and what I’m capable of. You have to have that to get by.
Cyle Talley would ask you not to mind his bemusement. That’s just how his face looks. Email him at: [email protected]