As told to Emily Kestel and Jami Milne. Portrait by Jami Milne.

What characteristics do you admire in other women?

I admire women who curse, who are willing to drop the F word. And women who show up authentically. I think the words “too much” are labeled to women when they’re angry and upset, or they’re being “too soft” or “too feminine” or “too weak.” I love it when women are able to show up and be that “too much.” 

What inspires you in life?

Joy is inspiring me right now. The last couple of years have been really difficult, and I didn’t make a lot of space for joy. I was like, “I gotta grind. I have to take care of my family. I’ve got to take care of my work family, I’ve got to take care of the kids that I’m working with and the families that I’m working with.” I kind of neglected joy. So purposeful joy is what’s inspiring me these days.

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is dying. I don’t want to be dead. For a very long time, I thought I would only make it to 30, because I wanted to die by suicide. And making it to 30 during the pandemic really made me realize that there’s so much I want to do. 

What is your biggest struggle right now?

Figuring out how to show up authentically as an executive director. I often tell people that the Christine who poops at home is the same Christine who shows up to board meetings. But I’m learning that sometimes it can be difficult, because not everybody is comfortable with that level of Christine. So learning how to really embrace who I am, but making sure that people around me are comfortable. TMI is out the door with me. 

What’s one experience you’ve had that has influenced who you are today?

I am going to think about 13-year-old Christine. The experience of learning how to play the guitar quietly in the dark was the one experience that changed who I am. My mom and dad did not want me learning how to play the guitar. They didn’t want me to get into music or to sing. But I was like, “I think this is what I’m supposed to do.” And I remember learning how to play the guitar in the middle of the night when they were sleeping. I feel like that one experience has kind of shaped me to find ways to get around things to be successful, and to push myself, even if other people are telling you this isn’t who you should be, to still try and to see for myself if that’s what I’m supposed to be or not.

How can you build a more equitable world for everyone, especially women?

For women who want to be moms, let’s give them more time off. That’s easy. A second way is, we need to be able to allow trans women to identify that way in all their paperwork, all their documents. The third one is, don’t make us pay for tampons and pads, they should be free. 

This story is part of a collection of 10 stories produced by Ballet Des Moines and Fearless as part of its “SHE” series. To read all of the other stories, visit this link.