Meet Kendall Effinger
My “SHE & I” series is an exploration of the beautiful intertwinement of Mother Nature and Feminine Energy. To further develop this study, I invited my talented friends to give a voice to each pair of paintings.
Each woman has some connection to Michigan and/or the Great Lakes. They either practice a creative profession or pursue creative expression in their free time, something I respect and resonate with on a deeply personal level.
I’m proud to know each of them and I’m excited to share with you both their words and unique stories.
My hope is that this series openly invites fresh voices and perspectives different from my own, and perhaps different from yours. You may read more about this project here.
Now, without further ado… Meet Kendall Effinger.
“IRISES FOR KENDALL” 24X30 // “EMBRACE THIS SEASON” 24x30 (available May 16th at 10 am CST)
When I was in college, I spent a few summers doing research and living at a science station in Northern Michigan. Life was slow and easy – on any given afternoon, you could find a troupe of students heading out into the woods to hunt for morel mushrooms with plans to fry them in brown butter that evening or marching into the lake in waders to analyze the effects of zebra mussels on the lake ecosystem. Close by on the sandy shore, you could find other students studying charts to see if we’d be lucky enough to catch a faint glimpse of an aurora borealis late that night.
Those summers, I spent most of my days out in a bog away from the station. Quick science lesson: a bog is a nutrient-poor, acidic wetland environment that is created over hundreds of years when a lake fills with plant matter. At first glance, this bog didn’t look like much – just a wet, brownish field. However, the first time I stepped off the platform I realized the ground was a spongy moss that moved with you, almost like you were walking on a trampoline. Despite the gross feeling of moss and mud slipping between my toes and the unnerving feeling of being alone in middle of nowhere, I grew to love my quiet days on the bog – the sound of my soft steps across the moss; spotting carnivorous plants that dotted the landscape; trying and failing to guess bird calls while I worked. Gradually, I began to look forward to these small moments– amidst the endless repetition of scientific research, they gave me a deeper appreciation for the vibrancy of life in what looked like a simple landscape.
Fast forward a few years and I spend most of my days in front of a screen. Lunch conversations are dominated by talk of spreadsheets and deliverables and an unspoken competition of who is the most fluent in corporate speak…bandwidth, leverage, low-hanging fruit, and let’s circle back on this…bleh…let’s not.
At some point shortly after starting a corporate job, I fell victim to a should-have mentality. I’ve always been the type of person to battle with decision paralysis, but I often found myself dwelling over missed opportunities and decisions made, both big and small: I should have taken more time after school to go on a big adventure…I should have moved to a different city and explored more…I should have worked harder that day I was feeling tired.
It became exhausting to try to measure myself against preconceived notions about what it means to have a full life. I realized that by dwelling on what I should have done and what I should do next, I was actually missing out finding joy in the small adventures right in front of me. We deserve to show ourselves a little grace and compassion rather than fill ourselves with guilt, frustration, or insecurities about what we are ‘supposed’ to be doing. Each day, I try to remind myself to enjoy and appreciate where I am right now without feeling a tug toward what the next step should be – this season of life and the experiences I have are uniquely mine, and it would be unfair to compare them to anyone else’s.
I’m not saying that there isn’t room for self-improvement or big adventures – I still struggle to let go of those dwelling moments and I don’t think I ever fully will. But, I find that I feel most healthy and happy when I adopt the easy lifestyle I enjoyed at the science station and discover the small simple joys that, put together, make for one really full life.
Kendall lives in metro Detroit and works as a software manager on energy efficiency projects. She enjoys traveling, but her favorite place in the world will always be Northern Michigan – sitting on the dock on the lake with a book and a beer in hand. Kendall follows more dogs than people on social media and has an intense love for cacio e pepe pasta, staying up late reading a good book, and practicing tree and shrub identification while on walks outside.
She & I:
At the start of third grade, Kendall moved to my home town. As an East Coaster new to Michigan, she and her family introduced us to the sport of Lacrosse. I clearly remember the day she invited me to start playing “LAX” with her. Always curious and up for trying something new, I excitedly said “yes!” I have countless memories of us lisping and laughing with our mouth guards in, but beyond Lacrosse we also shared a love for the creative arts and the outdoors. Playing with Kendall always included outdoor adventures or art projects, and not much has changed.
We both attended the University of Michigan and Kendall majored in Programs in the Environment. She was one of the first people in my life to really educate me on environmental science. We would go for runs around campus and all too often I would look to my side, noticing she disappeared. 100% of the time she was a block or so behind me, standing under a tree analyzing its leaves! “Ken!! At least let me know when you’re stopping!”
She’s one of the most well-read humans I know and suggested I read “Where the Crawdads Sing” to help inform this series. I’m halfway through and am mesmerized by how the protagonist feels so protected and empowered by Mother Nature.
Thank you, Kendall for contributing to this project!