Strong Girl: Hannah

Meet Hannah. Hannah Concannon.

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We were the girls who constantly looked for ways to push harder.
The girls of the mountain
who chose to spend their winter weekends on icy slopes, waiting for our number to be called so we could fly down the hill,
bone-chilld,
heart-racing,
fully alive.

High school ski team was more than just a sport, it was family – a family of teenage girls who day-dreamed of fresh powder,
who traded irons, wax and edging tools,
who wore the same spandex suits every Saturday morning.
Helmet hair was par for the course
and a sign of the sisterhood.

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We were far from the teenage girl stereotype.
We were girls that could shred.

When I joined ski team my freshman year of high school, I felt like I found my clan.

If there was one thing I knew growing up, it’s that I was my father’s daughter. I lived for our Saturday mornings weightlifting at the gym, and summer evening football drills I couldn’t get enough of.

Coupled with my mom’s intense need for speed and love of skiing, high school ski team was pure GOLD.

And my teammates understood that intensity. They lived it, too.

After high school, I continued with our ski team creed: “Go hard or go home.”
I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise that things like makeup and fashion felt so foreign to me. I was comfortable wearing a neck gaiter and ski goggles, did I really need to worry about mascara? I wore my competitive nature like a mask, ignoring ideas of beauty because I was too busy thinking about how to be and look “strong.”

My ski team sisters and I continued our relationships, despite the distance between our college campuses. Sisterhoods are good at doing that, on picking up right where they left off.

Out of all my teammates, Hannah was one I felt close to.
She was a sophomore when I was a freshman. I look up to my next of kin.

Hannah has always been bold, intelligent, and when it came to skiing, she held nothing back.
She taught me about the difference between hairpins and flushes, how to wax my skis, how to carry gates on the chairlift.

Yet the most important lesson she would teach me would be off the mountain, after high school.

Hannah was, and is, and always will be a mountain girl.
But Hannah is also a girl of style, color and creativity.

In my nearly-scared-of-mascara state,
I watched Hannah experiment with face paint, glitter and costume to create some of the most artistic and beautiful uses of makeup and fashion I have ever seen (and I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend). Hannah took every idea I had of “image” -the lies I had swallowed that in order to be strong, you must forgo “beauty”- and gave me the gift of seeing intensity and boldness as untapped beauty, just waiting to be expressed.

Hannah has taught me that we are
art.

We are not one-sided.
We can be the rugby player and wear the jumpsuit with heels.
We can be the metal-worker and work the red-carpet walk.
We can be the hard-core mountain girls and the hard-core stylists,
if we want to.

Because when we embrace both our boldness and our beauty,
it doesn’t get much more intense than that.
And as mountain girls, we refuse to live any other way.

Hannah is truly a Strong Girl who is moving in bold and beautiful ways. I am so excited that she is sharing part of her story with us today!

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1. How does the word “movement” fit into your life? How does it relate to what you are currently doing?

I’m writing this quite literally in motion on the Coast Starlight train to Seattle, hah! The last year for me has been mainly about geographical movement and momentum. In April of 2014 I got an almost visceral desire to move, to leave, to run away even. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and much like the feeling that brought me to the bay area in 2011, I was overcome with restlessness, a general agitation. Change was coming, I could feel it. As I get older, I’m getting better at listening to these intuitions.

I tried switching apartments, changing jobs, seeking opportunities in a new industry, which all seemed to pacify the desire to move for a time. Until one morning in May, not unlike most times I make a major decision in life, I woke up and just knew. I knew I had to pick up and leave San Francisco. I sold most of my possessions, and the day after my 25th birthday I flew home to Portland. Ever since I’ve been trying to tap into that sense of motion and momentum for guidance. It’s the same force that drove me to start The Dress Up Box, compelling me to paint daily. It’s almost like being on a downhill freight train. You just gotta hold on and hope for the best. Right now it’s taking me to Seattle for a photoshoot, maybe NYC for a visit in May. Looking back, when I listen to my instincts my life changes in a big way. It’s most often not the easiest path to take, but I grow immensely each time.

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2. How does “stillness” fit into your life? How does that word sit with you?

Stillness. Stillness has not played a big role in my life until recently. In my early 20s in San Francisco I was on the go constantly, caught up in the tide of the city. I was very concerned with what people thought of me, being likable, chasing the elusive easy “cool” my new friends seemed to exude so effortlessly. In the rush of big city life, I ended up making fast friends with many people who, in retrospect, had a profound negative impact on my life.

I rediscovered stillness in the spring of 2014, actually right around this time of year. In the midst of a broken and abusive relationship, working a job I despised, generally feeling stuck, my friend Quincy invited me to go hiking in Glen Canyon on my day off. After something like 15 minutes sitting quietly on a sun-warm rock watching a couple redtail hawks riding the thermals I knew exactly what I needed to do. The next day I quit my job. Three days later I was on an airplane to take an epic road trip through the south from Texas to Louisiana and back. I think I experienced more stillness on that adventure than I have in my adult life, cruising through the bayou highways in the dark, driving into the Texas sunset, wandering the French Quarter on a sunny afternoon. One week turned into two, turned into a month on the road with nothing but a backpack. I returned with renewed strength and a profound sense of self.

I remember reading Rainer Marie Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” some years ago, and his big thing was solitude. Solitude, according to Rilke, was the key to making good art, writing good poems. I didn’t understand it at the time. I definitely do now. Thanks to that fateful day at Glen Canyon, I am now more comfortable with stillness than ever and I recognized it’s importance to my well being and my creativity.

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3. What is one goal you have this year?

This question threw me! I usually have such concrete and defined goals for the year. For example, a few years ago I wrote in a journal everyday for a year. The next year I drew daily in a sketchbook. The past couple I’ve been painting my face daily. I think I kind of gave myself permission to relax the crazy goals a bit this time around. A couple goals I can think of are to really streamline my possessions, holding onto only the things that spark joy and to paint/draw on flat surfaces more. I have a series of drawings or paintings and poems I want to work on, mostly cataloguing my years in SF. Fun fact, I majored in poetry. It’s funny how when I was going through some of the toughest years of my life words escaped me. I didn’t write one poem in San Francisco. Now that I’ve tackled that summit, I can feel the words coming back. So. Goals. Write. Paint. Draw. Relax. And have a darn good time.

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4. Currently, who/what do you draw inspiration from? When you wake up in the morning, what pops into your head and gets you saying, “Today is my day!”?

I have realized in the last few months how incredibly fortunate I am to be surrounded by strong, creative, and determined women. I’m currently drawing a lot of inspiration from a few fabulous college friends I’ve reconnected since moving back to the Pacific Northwest (we just wrapped a mermaid themed shoot complete with custom mermaid tails, a set, body paint, and fierce press-on nails).

Additionally, I recently lost one of my St. Mary’s classmates to cancer. Cassandra McCann passed away on March 2nd at the age of 26. She was a fiercely driven, intelligent, and creative woman. I would say over the past two weeks it has been Cassandra who pops into my mind and gets me up in the morning. Cassandra was one of those incredible women who knew what she wanted, was not afraid to ask for it, and relentlessly pursued her passion for working in the film industry. I have struggled a lot in the past year in considering giving up my art for a more practical career. Now, working through this loss, I can see that my friend did not have the chance to reach her full creative potential. I do. And to honor her memory I will keep creating until I am no longer able to, and then some.

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5. What is one thing you know to be true? What is your statement of faith that drives you to keep doing what you’re doing?

I think Karl Lagerfeld said it best in a recent interview with The New York Times

“The French say ‘l’appetit vient en mangeant,’ the ideas come when you work. I work a lot for the garbage can. I have huge bins next [to me] for whatever I do, 95 percent goes to the bin.”

What I know to be true: You will make incredible things. Not everything you make will be incredible, or even up to your standards. But you cannot make incredible things if you are not making anything at all. 95% of it might end up in the garbage. It’s the 5% that makes it all worth it.

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6. What is something new that brings Joy to your life?

I got a new library card recently, and I can’t tell you how much joy it’s brought into my life so far! As a result, I’ve gotten back into reading graphic novels (I adored “Blankets” by Craig Thompson. “Chew” by Rob Guillory and John Layman is weird and wonderful, and “Daytripper” by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba is maybe my all time favorite.) So many books! For free! I truly adore reading and am ecstatic to have more time now to get lost in a good book or two. Currently diving into “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, which I would highly recommend to anyone in need of strength, inspiration, or an excellent exploration of the pervasive “Wild Woman” archetype throughout oral history traditions around the world.

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Thank you, Hannah, for sharing part of your story with us today! Thank you for living your life with a beautiful and bold intensity. Through your words and your art, I can honestly say I’ve learned to embrace my true self more. You can follow Hannah and her amazing “One Costume a Day” at thedressupbox.com!

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