We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Plata and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria, what matters most to you?
The value that matters most to me is creativity. When I stepped out of the classroom and decided to begin my own business as a Spanish teacher I was going through a bit of figuring out the greatest existential question of “who am I?” I knew that my story of coming here as an immigrant and learning English as a young child mattered. I knew that battling anxiety as a highly sensitive person and new parent mattered. And I knew that as a new business owner, I needed to stay true to who I am. The only problem was that I really had never taken the time to try to figure it all out. I had followed the path that was encouraged for me. To fulfill the American Dream of getting a college degree and a meaningful career. I succeeded and excelled in many ways. Yet, I still found myself questioning this very question in the middle of the night. Maybe it was being in my early thirties or the fact that we wanted to have a second child that allowed my brain to really explore this topic. I felt (and still do many days) that there was more to this life than what I had tapped into. As I began creating more materials for my classes I quickly realized how much I enjoyed watercolor painting. I simply got lost into this flow where nothing else mattered. And I began to wonder when I had also felt like this in other points in my life and what I had been doing. At the beginning of 2020 I decided to begin a year long project of creating a piece of digital artwork on my iPad Pro every single day. I was due with our second son at the end of February and knew I would be taking a break from teaching Spanish classes and lessons for a while. The problem was that I didn’t know how to use my iPad or that I didn’t necessarily think of myself as a creative person. But I felt so in the zone when I struggled with an idea and pushed through that I knew there was more to this than I ever thought possible. My perspective of the world around me started to change. The way I viewed and accepted myself began to change as well. And creating was the one thing that held me together during the global pandemic of covid19 with a newborn and a kindergartner at home. I knew that no matter what happened in the world around me I could go back to that place of comfort that I had also needed during my biggest transitions in my life. When I first moved to this country as an eight-year-old kid, it was writing that got me through the scariest times. When my parents went through a divorce, it was music and being in band that helped me through it. When I began college and had some of my biggest panic attacks it was my boyfriend’s (now husband) gift of an easel and paints that made me feel seen in a way that I had never felt before. I realized that teaching for me was always about the connections, but it was also so much about the creativity piece. That I could create something new with a student to help them through a bad day. That teaching Spanish was more about being creative with the language than anything else. The new business venture I’ve been on the past couple of years was about the creative flow I get into when planning and teaching lessons. And as of late, it’s been the daily attendance of showing up to create digitally or through play with my kids. This value has always been at the core of who I am and how I make sense of the world around me. It allows me to get through the problems that show up in my life and gives me a sense of fulfillment. As I begin the year 2021 I know that this is something worth exploring more and so I am taking a break from teaching (again) and guiding others in “The HSP Creative Project”. For 16 weeks I will be focusing on helping Highly Sensitive People learn how creativity can add value to their lives, just like it does for mine.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
While I don’t do this professionally (yet) I am really excited for the possibilities of what I could do with my art. I love using my art to create materials and resources for parents and teachers who are raising and teaching bilingual children. I love the idea of using beautiful art to help others (specifically highly sensitive people and Spanish speakers) feel seen and heard. When I begin to doubt myself, I imagine what would help me feel seen as a highly sensitive person and the experiences that have shaped who I am. For example, there is a very different feeling that rises when I paint and see a cup of hot cocoa vs. when I see the Abuelita’s hot chocolate yellow container. How we interpret the world matters. Our stories really matter. And art and creativity is one way to connect with others. I would love to one day be able to create, both through my digital and watercolor paintings and also through my writing to share my stories and help others tell their stories, especially when it comes to stories that deal with language learning. One of my biggest goals for example, is to be able to walk into a bookstore and see not only a larger section of “Spanish/other languages” but also other items that have language that represents more people.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If we had the afternoon we would probably go to Sosoba downtown, I love their noodles, and then do some walking at the Japanese gardens. I love having conversations with people so finding places to just hang out and feel like we are in nature is important to me. We could even go to different small business around town, like MuchoMas Art studio or Palabras Bookstore. I love the idea of finding something unique that they wouldn’t be able to find someplace else. Maybe even finding out where the next pop-up event is where we can support local artists and food trucks like Sabor a mi (tacos de birria). If we had a longer trip, I would love to go camping in Sedona or some place cooler.
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?
A group of highly sensitive teachers/parents who met with me monthly for years (and continue to do so) to explore how being highly sensitive affects our day to day living.
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