Heather is one of those people that you see across the bar and desperately wish was at your table, or that somehow you'd be invited to hers. She. is. fun. She is also insanely funny, smart and one of the most loving and generous people I have ever met. I was lucky enough to be her friend while she lived in Chicago and she was so accepting of me that after she was no longer in my life I realized how much I had taken that superpower of hers for granted. There is so much honesty and wisdom in this one, enjoy.
AS: How would you like to be described?
Heather Kinney Kurdziel: Well, I would like to be called “kind” and “honest” first, I suppose. “Funny” would be nice, but it’s not a given. ;P
AS: Where are you from?
HK: Born in Nichols, NY, but raised in Owego, NY. Nope, not "Oswego," but the amazing Village of Owego.
AS: What do you consider home?
HK: Any Disney Nerd knows the only appropriate answer here is, "Disney." (World) I lived there on the college program where I was a Muppet Lab Technician for a little over 6 months. It's still in my soul to go back one day.
AS: Life story in half a page, GO!
• Born in Nichols, moved to Owego
• Grew big teeth and hair
• Worked at Bible Camp (for Jesus)
• Worked at Bank (for the Man)
• Worked at Phil’s Chicken House (for Phil)
• Went to College in Fredonia NY for Theater
• Worked for Disney (for Walt)
• Moved to Chicago
• Did Improv
• Worked for Playboy (for Hef)
• Got Married to My Best Friend
• Moved to Buffalo
• Track drugs
• Have 2 dogs that are basically whiny, tiny humans
AS: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? Why?
HK: This is very hard for me… I am very uncomfortable doing anything that is praise like. I would say something charitable that I have done, but I think then when you talk about your charitable this, then that is the reason you did it. To tell people what you did that was good… (I ruin this later in the thread…)
AS: What is your biggest failure? And what (if anything) did you learn from it?
HK: I’m not entirely sure it was true failure, but it was definitely when my life took a new direction. Once I had graduated Improv classes, I was lucky enough to move to a team. That team was not long for this world, and I was moved to another team. During my first show with them, I made a move that Charna saw where I put my finger on the mouth of another player, and she cut me after the show, telling my coach to let me know I should go back to classes. That was absolutely devastating to me, and the next day I walked up to Charna in tears saying I think she made a mistake. She insisted that I take more classes, and I left there wrecked.
If you have never been cut from a community like this, it turns you into a pariah. Suddenly, people who were your friends, wish you well, and walk away to the next things. People who taught you in class, and called you friend, are now suddenly letting everyone know how you should not have been given the chance in the first place. So I faced this moment where I thought, do I just swallow my pride, and go back to classes to pump more money into this machine, or do I change my direction? I decided I did not want to feed the machine any more, and I walked away.
Now there is a silver lining in that there were still true friends out there. Those that believed in me, and fight for me, and I was exceedingly lucky to join the cast of Baby Wants Candy for about 2 years. I wanted to play with them for as long as they invited me to return. I played with amazing, loving, talented, and phenomenal people, and I am eternally grateful for that opportunity. So once it ended, I had already made my decision years ago, that I was done, and I moved to focus on my business career. It was life changing, but in the long run it had showed me who my real friends were, and that frankly, I am insanely defiant and stubborn when I believe an injustice has occurred. (I actually have many stories with this theme though. Ha!)
AS: Describe your perfect day:
HK: 1. If I get you bring my dad back for it, than it is anything.
2. Other than that, I would start off the day looking over a blue, blue ocean. Tony and I would just go out and sit on the beach for a few hours, having a couple of cocktails and watching the waves in the sun. Then about mid-day, we would [go to] Epcot where I had planned an amazing Disney party for all of my family and friends that I paid to get in. Not just any party, but the kind that you have a whole team put together! ;) Once Illuminations is over, we are all taken over to Magic Kingdom, where the whole Kingdom is shut down, just for us. We ride all the rides that we want, eat whatever we want, and then we all retire to our own bungalows or Grand Villas.
AS: How did you get where you are?
HK: Hands down, it was some amazing people who took the time to invest in me. Teach me things that out of the kindness of their hearts. They could see things in me that I could/cannot, and they believed in me and provided me with opportunities and challenges continuously. I am where I am because of others.
AS: What are you most proud of?
HK: I guess I am proud of my personal growth in spite of my complete lack of direction or goals. :D I want to just do everything better, every time I do it, and in down times find ways make the process better. I jump in wherever I can help the most with the limited talents that I have, and I believe that has truly helped me be successful.
AS: What is one of your fears?
HK: 1. Physically, I am afraid of boats. Large metal boats. For example, I do not think I could walk on an aircraft carrier. I cry hysterically for no apparent reason.
2. Mentally, I am afraid to one day wake up and find that I am a fraud, a coward, or a loser. I didn’t do anything with my life. I never figured out what ‘I was meant to do,’ and that all the good things I did in my life, I only did them for selfish reasons.
AS: What keeps you going every day?
HK: Trying to prove that my second fear is never going to come true.
AS: Last piece of art that spoke to you?
AS: Pump up song?
HK: Oh, man… every song is a pump up song. I CANNOT WAIT to dance. The rare occasion that I run in my little village I find people watching me because I will be dance/running. Right now I would say if, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” by Justin Timberlake, you are all in danger.
There is also an old Tough Mudder video that I have on my phone, which has the sigments of Winston Churchill’s “The Finest Hour” speech that I play all the time. I think about those men, and what they endured… and how much stronger and braver they were than I am. It inspires me to do more and be more than what I am…
AS: What advice would you give to someone who is lost?
HK: I think about my little puppy, who has never seen Spring or warm weather really all. He faithfully trucks on out into the snow/rain/sleet every day. It’s miserable, but I think, “you know, there are these whole other seasons coming that you cannot even comprehend. It will be just that great.” Just like I think about saying to my puppy, there is so much more, my dear friend. It’s so beautiful, that I cannot even explain it. The universe truly gives you signs, because I feel it wants you to succeed. You just have to be willing to listen and look for them.
Presently I don’t feel I am lost, but too feel like I am waiting for the sign of what I am supposed to do. You know, find your thing, and make a difference in the world with it.
AS: Do you have a mantra or words to live by?
HK: In high school my Senior quote was, “Anyone without a sense of humor is at the mercy of everyone else.” I still like that, but right now I would say it is, “Seek to understand, not to be understood.” No one is listening to anyone right now… it’s a frustrating time.
AS: What gives you meaning?
HK: I guess I have to steal from Ellen DeGeneres where she says, she just wants to make people happy. That’s why I loved Improv, and why I love Disney… it’s meant to bring unconditional happiness and joy.
AS: What do you struggle with?
HK: I am really very unforgiving of myself. In my past I have made bad decisions, or have callously/unintentionally hurt people that I care about, and I often revisit those things over and over again. Things that I would have easily forgiven others of, I cannot let go of for myself. As a jovial example, I think I might owe a photographer $35 from ~2005, and I often do an inflation adjustment and think about sending a check randomly… just in case. I have absolutely sent people money that I thought I owed them that was adjusted for inflation.
AS: What is success to you?
HK: In my personal definition of success, there is a monetary component to success… sorry. I am not a material objects kind person, but I am an experiences kind of person. Success, for me, would be to have any experience with whomever I want, without having to worry about being able to pay my bills the next month. (*See my perfect day)
In an ideal world, I would make that compensation by doing something that makes people happy and joyful.
AS: What are you working on that you’re geeked out about?
HK: In the past few years, I have been exceptionally lucky to be a part of the VVA Chapter 480 Christmas program where they collect and deliver personal Christmas presents to the Vietnam Veterans in the Oxford, New York Veterans Home. This year I was able to get approval and plan to do the same program at the Batavia home, but for all of the Veterans there. This is something that has called to me for a very long time, but I have been too scared to start it. It’s terrifying to think I might be too lazy or not enough to get it done, but I heard some great advice and I just had to try.
AS: Anything else?
HK: My husband would say I am a generally an angry person, and that at home I just want to sit quietly with the curtains closed. In fact, he did just say that, so I felt moved to make sure you were aware.
AS: What question would you add to this?
HK: What job career would you have if you could do anything? Mine would either be an imaginer or to open the Birdcage in real life.