Interview 006: Claire Hurwitz Staszak

The first time I met Claire (what is it about Claires?) I talked her ear off about boys and my ongoing existential crises and professional dreams and boys. She was just so easy to talk to... so... centered. Conveniently for the purposes of this pun, Claire runs Centered by Design, an interior design company focused on re-centering and creating personal sanctuary. Unsurprisingly, Claire is also a yoga instructor, and she runs a badass series called Women Who Make profiling, duh, female makers. Learning to pacify overachieving, anxious tendencies and simply enjoy, a.k.a. creating inner sanctuary is a major theme in this interview, and if you're anything like me, you can relate. Here's Claire.

What character stuff have you had to actively work on over the past several years?

Self-confidence. Listening to my heart (not my head). Perfectionism. Partnership. Adventure. 

I used to hear a lot of "shoulds" in my head. They were really loud, and it was hard to hear my heart, by which I mean realizing what I actually wanted by listening to myself only (not society, my friends, my family, all the blogs I read, etc). It was paralyzing to the point that I often had difficulty making decisions, because I never knew what I actually wanted. I think the "shoulds" also tied into lack of self-confidence and perfectionism, they are all intertwined and probably stem from the personality I was born with and my life as a busy oldest child who likes to please EVERYONE. 

One big decision that I did finally make was a large leap of faith to travel with my (then boyfriend) to live in New Zealand for one year on working visas (2011). I did it for a variety of reasons, but a big one was that I knew it would challenge my character. And boy it did. All those things listed above -- challenged! Was it hard as hell? Sometimes it felt that way. Was it probably the most memorable and amazing year of my life -- yep!

How are you doing on that stuff now?

I think I'm doing much better on listening to myself and not shoulding all the time. This comes with getting older and more confident in the woman I am, and believing that I won't offend people by not being "perfect" all the time. 

Partnership and adventure are ongoing principles of growth in my marriage (I married that boyfriend), and we work at our partnership and try to keep adventure at the core of our life together. 

Perfectionism is an ongoing struggle for a Virgo like me. I think comparison is also the sister to perfectionism and I struggle with comparison, and wanting ALL the which I mean perfect career, perfect family, perfect house, perfect husband. My yoga/meditation practice really helps get me out of my head and into my heart and the present moment. I also really believe in the power of mantra. I have a few including, "it's not my problem to solve," "relax, just be," and "seriously who gives a f***." I need to use that last one more often! I have a feeling my life's work centers around letting go of perfection and enjoying the real messiness of life.

How would you describe your purpose?

My purpose is to be fair, loving, and truthful and increase the organization and beauty in the world. Those are all things that make me feel at peace and that I strive to achieve in my life and work.

Define your career... Then tell us how it's different then you thought it would be.

I'm an emerging interior designer, which means I'm still finishing my degree and will need to sit for exams in the future to become a licensed designer in the state of IL, but I currently work in the field both for my own company Centered by Design, and freelance for other more established designers.

Looking back, I think I've always been creative and loved fashion, interiors, color, trends, etc...but this career path did not really emerge until my late twenties. I spent a lot of time doing things I was good at like organizing and creating relationships (event planning and community relations), but nothing clicked and I was usually ready to move on to whatever the next thing might be. I always felt like there must be something else out there that definitively felt like my thing. I feel like I finally found the perfect mix of analytical detail and creativity with interior design!

Do you feel like you've made it yet? Have things clicked? Explain.

Ha! I don't think I'm the type of person who will ever feel like they've made it. I'm always striving for more. I think that lends itself to my future as an entrepreneur and business owner. I think I get it from my dad who has a career in operations and always jokes that he's never happy/satisfied. It might sound negative, but usually I see it as a positive -- I can always find a way to improve upon a situation and that's how I feel most useful.

How do you think others perceive your life path? Do you care?

I think on one hand my friends may have seen my travel and career flip-flopping as a bit frivolous and unfocused. But on the other hand, I know many people admired my tenacity to accomplish what I set out to achieve. Join Americorps -- check. Live abroad -- check. Become a yoga teacher -- check. Work in a creative job in Chicago -- check. Return to school for interior design -- check. Can you tell I love to check things off lists? I don't really care what others think of my life path, if anything I'm learning to lessen my grip on outcomes and achievements for my own self-worth and live/enjoy this journey that is my life.

Speaking of others, how have your relationships shaped you?

Relationships are EVERYTHING to me. I love people in general and my family, friends, and co-workers become the most important people in my life. I love creating relationships that help feed different parts of my life/soul. I have my yoga friends, my design friends, my neighborhood friends, my childhood get the idea. I really feel that without relationships life is quite meaningless. 

What's your perspective on life like now as opposed to 5 years ago? 10 years ago?

This is a tough question, and I think one that probably changes a lot based on what decade of life you are in. Ten years ago I was 21, and pretty focused on love. Being in love, finding love, losing love and wondering if I'd ever find love again. I would definitely call myself a romantic person in general.

Now in my early thirties, I feel very focused on my career and putting in the work to set myself (my family) up for success in the future. I'm thinking about juggling work with motherhood. Looking at the women who seem to be "doing it all" and wondering if I can too. 

Mostly, I feel like I don't have as much time as I used to. I'm not sure if I'm looking back through rose-colored glasses, or my life / the world has gotten that much busier in 10 years, but a few of my goals for 2016 include finding more time to slow down and living with an attitude of gratitude on the daily!

What are you most looking forward to?

Creating a family (however it may take shape) with my husband, and killing it in the interior design world.

In your daily life, when are you happiest?

When I'm not in my head. That could be during a deep breath at yoga class, getting creative in the design studio, or relaxing with my husband -- all above the make me feel free.

On the other hand, how do you pull yourself out of a funk when you're in one? And how did you most likely wind up in said hypothetical funk in the first place?

When in a funk, or feeling an oncoming funk, my number one remedy is exercise. Nothing beats the blues like natural endorphins. I most likely ended up in the funk due to unrealistic expectations of myself. 

Any other questions you wish someone would ask you?

Ask me anything! I'm an open book.

Editor note: It's true! She is! Find Claire here.

Rose TruesdaleComment