I am so humbled by this woman. So, so grateful to have her in my life! Meet rfbART, aka Robyn Fortin Bartkowski — wise word woman, super cool mother, and super reliable best friend. Robyn might as well be of my blood, her in-laws are my god parents, and my heart and my soul. R and I connect through our love of the written word, yes, but we first connect in a fleetingly intangible plane of feeling — feeling all the things, always. And I feel proud of the way R has recently begun alchemizing all her feelings into creation that comes of beautiful benefit to others. I love her words, but I love her more. Read below for her story.
Where are you from? What elements of that have impacted your journey thus far?
"I love this question! I’ve never thought about myself hailing from anywhere and honestly it makes me feel like such a bad ass. 'All hail Robyn, queen of the Hinterlands'. Sorry I couldn’t help myself. When I ponder MY environment, I realize its not so much a particular location on a map (there has been a few . . . So Cal, Alabama, Georgia, Nor Cal and now Houston) but if I had to say where I hail from, I’d go with California. It’s where my parents are from, my brothers and I were raised, and my daughter lived most of her life up to this point. Plus, and it’s a huge plus, it has my heart and some of my most favorite humans in it. Speaking of humans, I truly believe what has impacted me most on my journey though are the incredible people I have had the privilege to experience life with. People are my magical elements. So I guess you could say more than any location, THEY are the integral part of my story. Although some of them were good, some bad, each one of them contained a lesson that ultimately catapulted me forward. There is nothing else on God’s green glorious earth that has shaped me more than the ones who have played a role in my existence. To say they are the fuel I run on would be an understatement."
What is your work? What in your personal life has influenced that the most?
"Work is an interesting term to me right now. What does that mean exactly? Point blank, I am not working; at least not for money, not yet. This year we packed up our life, said goodbye to jobs, friends, life as we knew it and moved to Houston, TX. If you had asked me to do this 8 months ago I would have said I was an event planner for a non-profit. Now, I’d say I am a wife to my adorable incredibly loving husband, mother to the most charming, charismatic, hilarious 10-year-old girl, and as odd as it feels to say . . . I AM A WRITER or maybe a budding one? Whoa, I seriously had to pause writing that because it feels surreal. Honestly, it scares the shit out of me, but it is what it is. Writing for me has become a soft space to land in a world of unknowns. No matter how I am feeling, the pen to page, finger to keyboard connection has yet to fail me. For the first time, my soul feels more alive, more excited, more on fire than it’s ever been and it’s intoxicating. The thing is it’s new and finding its way organically so I’m just not quite sure where its all going, but I am trusting the process. Words and ideas are seeping out of my bones and I often scratch my head wondering how in the hell did I not ever see it before? This move with the elimination of my comfort zone, my friends, my job, my routine has been one of the most trying and creative times of my whole life and I am beyond excited to explore, grow, and write until my fingers fall off or breath leaves my body or both. Seriously, writing allows me to connect with people in a way that was previously untapped for me. It is my elixir of life giving me my purpose, putting me a mission to help others and make the world better place, one . . . tiny . . . letter . . . at a time."
What creative endeavors do you feel drawn to right now?
"Currently I am working on a children’s book. My daughter and a friend’s son were the inspiration. It’s in the beginning stages, like early early. Also, I am continuously working on poetry, short pieces / stories and writing about whatever inspires me in the moment. Truly, I wouldn’t classify myself as a poet really; I like to think of myself as more of an encourager. I live for helping people tap into those unspoken corners of their soul, to give them hope, and inspiration to seek out the best versions of themselves. This notion has got me thinking too. I’m toying with the idea of doing advice column via social media, because folks out there are seeking help, guidance, but often times feel stuck, alone, or confused in their journey. Oh god do I get that. I am the queen of stuck, alone and confused and I’d like to be a conduit of inspiration and a source they can utilize to help get them through a moment, a problem, or whatever the hell it is they are going through. My goal is to be someone who is accessible, free, and who gives a shit. I may not have the credentials as a therapist (who knows maybe I’ll do that too), but I have lived and loved and failed, and bled and hurt, too so if I can give someone’s heart a hug even in the tiniest way, I think it’s worth it."
How did you learn to tap into your creativity?
"I feel a ridiculous amount, but discovering this empathetic side came as a bit of a shock to me. I was raised in a black and white mindset household with not a lot of tolerance for the grey areas. I always assumed I was a black and white thinker, but nothing could be further from the truth. For a long time I fought it, but now I am learning slowly by God’s grace to accept this crazy brain for what it is. I’ve quit trying to fit the mold that clearly does not align with who I am and am just trying to be . . . well . . . me, frankly. This realization exploded my soul in unimaginable ways. I’ve been pushing my creativity down for so long from fear or laziness or whatever so it’s been a bit of a process, but one that has proven to be the most formative of my existence. My heart no longer rejects the things it once did. In fact, it’s more open and willing to receive nourishment from the various things that were off limits to me previously. This new path has made my world a more vivid, engaging, creative place. I am able to soak in the beauty of small things and relationships and even, god forbid, failure. That last one has been the hardest for me. Fear of failure and what people would think has literally kept me comatose for almost 30+ years. Now I can see it for what it is, a moment and not a final destination, which has helped me to not be plagued with guilt or shame or just general unrest. The best part is, all this mind-bending soul-searching (though I’ve barely scratched the surface I suspect) is the perfect fodder for inspiration."
"My family and friends are my heart, so any moment I get to spend with them is sacred. I am a God person so my spirituality is of utmost importance. I am by no means perfect about it, but I try to make it a point to spend time reading the bible and praying every day. A girl needs all the help she can get, right? Eating clean and being gluten free play a role in my life, but I always . . . have . . . time . . . for Mexican food and Margaritas. Finally, I am and have always been a workout person. It’s been a love and hate relationship, but one that keeps me sane and pushes me beyond comfort. I am not one to shy away from any type of workout, but currently you can find me riding, ridiculously sweaty I might add, front row at SoulCycle, running around this lovely tree lined path around Rice University, or at BIG yoga (all of the above in H-town). Yoga, by the way, has been giving me life. As a person who has struggled with sleep for years, I cannot emphasize how healing my practice has been for my mind, body, and soul."
What does "Beauty" mean to you?
"Oooo that’s a tough one . . . I’d be pulling the wool over your eyes if I said I feel beautiful in my own skin most of the time, though I adore people who do. Good god, I so want to be one of them, but alas it’s a true struggle of my journey. I promise, I am trying. I wrote this recently:
Do not let the world decide your value. If you do, she will tell you
you are never enough, you are unworthy, that you must change who you are at your core to be accepted.
These are the greatest lies you could ever believe, my sweet. You, just as you are, are a gift,
a blessing, and a masterpiece the world in all her wisdom could never replicate.
I am working desperately to live this out, for both me, my daughter, and for anyone who may ever look to me for support and guidance. I know that I cannot love well, without first loving myself. With that being said, beauty to me is . . . Contentment. Confidence. It’s holding your head high, not compromising who you are for anyone or anything. Beauty is going after your dreams, no matter how scary they may be. Beauty is God and creation as he intended it. The raw untouched earth, perfect unblemished love, and humans of every shape, color, size, and gender. Beauty is the belief that we are all here to make a unique imprint on our fellow man, that we exist to reach hearts, to give our all, and to love fiercely. Yeah . . . that to me, is the epitome of BEAUTIFUL."