We have four new staff members at Love Wins Community Engagement Center. Over the next few weeks, each will introduce themselves here. First up, Leann Rafferty, our Office Manager, tells us a bit about herself:
I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. My parents never quite liked the idea of their only daughter going into a field that doesn’t come with a corner office and a six figure salary, but they have always been supportive of me even if my mom does email me applications for law schools every few weeks. I know she only wants the best for me, but sometimes it’s just really hard to explain to her that my best life looks nothing like the picture she painted in her mind when I was handed to her at four weeks old and told that this was her daughter now, and what were you going to name her? She named me Leann Rafferty and I deeply disappointed her when I announced at age five that I wanted to be an artist.
My dad always understood. He’s had every career under the sun from pilot to restauranteur to professional handyman. He taught me how to use power tools, cook, and plant a garden. But most importantly he taught me that it’s ok to let your heart lead when it comes to your career, that a woman can do anything that a man can do, and that money is only as good as the good you can do with it. Needless to say, this last bit has always been a point of contention in my parent’s marriage, especially since he retired and bought a lake cabin with no indoor plumbing. What I find funniest about our relationship is that my father is deeply disappointed in the fact that he never managed to impart conservative values in me and completely fails to see that he is the reason why I am who I am and where I am today.
I always wanted to be an artist because I like creating. I like taking nothing and making something. I went to Appalachian State to get my BFA in metalsmithing so I could do that very thing, but I found upon graduation that even artists get boxed into little cubes. Creativity is not welcome in corporate spaces. Trying the spreadsheet a different way results in a reprimand. I started making tiny sculptures out of the red wax that comes on soft cheese just to sate the hungry artist inside, but that didn’t help enough.
I discovered volunteer work on accident. I was introduced to the LGBT Center of Raleigh by my boyfriend who does a great deal of volunteer work for them. I started hanging out there and going to events and one day I realized I had become part of the community. People knew my name and I knew theirs. I was thrilled when they put me in charge of the monthly First Friday event because it combines my two loves; art and people. But still I wanted more. My job was crushing my soul in a beige cube and then I was forwarded a job application for Love Wins.
Creating community is still creating something from nothing. Helping to create a space where people can come and be themselves with no stipulations or caveats is turning absence into presence. Getting to wake up every morning and come to a place where I get to do things instead of sit quietly is a dream come true. I am still an artist, but maybe now my medium has changed.