Getting Personal: Holly Rushakoff

Getting Personal appears in Sunday's News-Gazette. This week, News-Gazette staff writer Paul Wood chats with musician, marketing professional and graphic artist Holly Rushakoff, 36, of Urbana. She is a communications and marketing professional at the University of Illinois, a bassist/singer, a longtime local music enthusiast and a onetime creator of the true-story comic, “girls’ eyes.”

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

I wake up around 6:45 a.m. and open the blinds to give light to my plants. Then I let my dog, Conan, outside and feed my finch, Charlotte. When Conan comes back in, we both get a vitamin. I quickly check my Facebook and my email. And lately I love meditating for about 15 minutes via Deepak Chopra. After that it's just shower/beauty routine minutiae.

What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?

I come home for lunch every day to walk Conan and give him kisses. Today, my boyfriend was off work, so, lucky for me, he made flank steak Caesar salad. I had a glass of surprisingly bitter water that I marinated with orange and lime slices for too long. And dessert is mandatory; I had a bite of chocolate with sea salt.

Best high school memory?

Being validated by my creative writing teacher, Mr. Mark Maxwell, who helped me transition from writing cliche rhymes to writing explorative poems and stories about the first death in my family and trying to understand relationships with boys. Though I was on the school newspaper, too, it was an honor to have my creative writing published in journals, and I have him to thank.

Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.

My brown, woolly, Eskimo-type shoes that were my grandma's. I put inserts in them, and they're the most comfortable, cute shoes, and I love that I'm a little bit her when I wear them. They're decades old.

What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?

I prefer it unscheduled and to do what inspires me, whether it's reading or researching (favorite topics: my local music website project, spirituality/philosophy, gardening, social media). If I didn't do yoga in the morning, then I'd do yoga in the afternoon.

Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?

I still have "The Runaway Bunny." I just reread it to consider its sentiment and what drew me to it, and basically it consoles abandonment issues. This little bunny tests his mom's limits of love, but his mom transforms to be with him no matter what scenario he conjures. The promise of loving someone forever and being there no matter how far apart you are is very sweet and comforting.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

I would love to go to Mexico to see a Day of the Dead celebration.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

Conan, aka Coney, or my little funbun (short for funny-bunny), is one of my biggest loves ever. He's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, AKC registered as Conan Monkey Froggy Doggy. For demonstrating his ambidextrous wave hello, he won "best trick" at the last Oskee Bow Wow. He loves his snick-snacks and cuddling on the couch. We both have a tiny case of separation anxiety. He'll be 6 on the Fourth of July, which is more like Codependence Day for us.

Have you discovered as you matured that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?

I love being like my mom. She's usually ahead of the curve with gadgets and websites and showing me what's new and neat; we have many mutual interests, from art to technology to music to life philosophies. Also, she's very nice and polite, yet knows how to use a well-placed curse word.

What would you order for your last meal?

Something that makes me feel happy and warm and childlike inside: pot roast and then chocolate cake with shredded coconut frosting.

What can you NOT live without?

Apparently, Burt's Bees lip balm — I have one at my bedside, at arm's length from my couch, by my computer at home, in my office drawer at work and in my purse.

Who do you have on your iPod?

Well, I have three weeks straight of music, band practices/jams, and a good amount of discussions about the law of attraction. Here are my top five most played artists: Interpol and Hole (I covered both at the Great Cover Up), PJ Harvey (whom I adore), Jenny Choi (my best friend who was a local music sensation while she attended the University of Illinois), and Lovecup (a local band that has influenced many musicians here, even after they broke up).

What's the happiest memory of your life?

Whenever I'm enjoying a moment, I mentally flag it and press my finger down like a camera click, so I've logged a lot of awesome memories. I don't have a happiest memory, per se, but one of my most sustained happy memories is taking a vacation to Sanibel Island, Fla., with Conan and my friend Heather and absorbing beautiful landscapes with joyful beings. Plus we saw dolphins.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

Intensely creative people with a good sense of humor: author Neil Gaiman; author/artist Lynda Barry; and writer/actress Mindy Kaling.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Go with your gut/listen to your intuition.

What's your best piece of advice?

To guide your own happiness and positivity, be mindful and judicious about your thoughts and your internal dialogue — because energy follows thought.

What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?

I worked at Sound Warehouse, which later became Blockbuster Music; both are defunct now. I think my salary was something like $4.50 an hour, and I wasn't pleased with that rate. But my coworkers were fun, and I liked running the music listening stations.

What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?

I enjoy working for the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where I'm the associate director for the Office of Communications and Marketing. I started as a media/communications specialist there eight years ago. In order to have that opportunity, I had to let go of being a graphic designer and return to my journalism roots. I miss stretching my visual creativity, but I like the variety of responsibilities I now have. I made peace with it by thinking I could do freelance design if I wanted.

Do you have a bad habit? What is it?

Being a perfectionist is a great trait when I wear my copy editor hat, but it can slow down or stiffen other endeavors.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I take some deep breaths and remind myself that everything will work out. I deal with the immediate needs first. Then I practice yoga as soon as possible so I can cultivate more calm energy and release leftover tension.

 

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