We love these rare opportunities where our personal and professional worlds collide. Today we’re spotlighting an incredible woman who is not only a hotsh*t accomplished (and published!) Psychotherapist in Systemic Family and Couples Therapy with experience in the NHS and UN Migration, but also a new parent and, frankly, one of the most dynamic people we know. We share a love for exploring the human experience and an interest in understanding our grief. This is Really Real with the multi-lingual, quick to laugh, genuine, insightful as hell and downright fun Vivian Schmidt-Hebbel.
1. Where is your happy place?
In Chile, my home country, at my grandparent's cabin by a lake named Vichuquén… pure bliss.
2. Who is one person from history, now or the future you would like to meet?
Impossible to choose one but I’d go with Carl Jung, Nelson Mandela, Simone de Beauvoir, Goethe, Kant, Gregory Bateson, María Sabina, George Harrison, Bob Marley… and although unknown to history, my great great grandmother, who migrated from Germany to Chile in the late 1800’s to hear her story firsthand…
3. What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Being at peace with my life decisions, having closed other doors- something I’ve always struggled with as a Gemini ascendant (yass Astrology!).
4. What advice do you think your 18-year old self would give you that your current self should listen to?
I can remember that at that age I wrote a close friend’s advice on a whiteboard in my bedroom and I think that stuck with me for a while: Take the risk, cross the river, embrace whatever comes with it. You’ll be a different person once you come out of it - pretty accurate advice for my first baby coming.
5. Do you have a role model?
My late brother. Amazing guy. Miss him to death.
6. What’s the best part of your week?
Friday evenings: prepping some aperitivo - ideally Mediterranean or seafood-, lighting the candles, listening to music, sipping wine, and chilling with my +1.
7. What’s one thing you can’t live without?
It’s never just one thing: Lucas’ Papaw ointment. Rocket salad with sun dried tomatoes and olive oil. My mouthguard (oops).
8. What’s your pet peeve (a habit or thing that annoys you, such as people picking their nose in front of you)?
People chewing loudly or sniffing their noses. I offer Kleenex to random people.
9. What motivated you to pursue your studies or occupation?
I think ultimately people who study Psychology just want to get themselves and the people around them - at least so it was for me. There is an important selfish component to a considered selfless path - which doesn’t mean it is either or, but a bit of both. Plus, a great motivation for me was to understand the intangible, uncertain and infinite vastness of the human experience - which includes not only the mind but also emotions, the body and to my beliefs, the soul.. The more you know, the more you feel you know less! Love the balance between that search for certainty (sciences), and also bearing in mind that each person is unique and undefinable (arts).
10. What’s one piece of advice that you’ve learned in your professional life that you think others would find valuable?
Don’t let anyone underestimate your value. That boss/coworker is not worth it. Set your boundaries, even if it’s uncomfortable, and if necessary, leave. Just don’t stay there out of fear of not finding something better for you. Has taken me some time for that message to sink in.
11. Live to work or work to live?
Work to live!! (Should I be concerned I found this the easiest question?)
12. Where do you turn for inspiration?
Nature - especially mountains, books, quotes, arts, music… and write/draw it all down in my scrapbooks - and then in turn feed into those notes for more inspiration.
13. What do you love most about being a parent or a carer? Or what are you most looking forward to?
Looking forward to hugging, sniffing, cuddling, kissing those amazing baby cheeks! Feel sorry for him already.
14. What was the last word you had to look up to see what it meant?
I actually don’t know but on my iPhone notes I write down ideas, inspiration, recommendations, and my own dictionary of words I find interesting. The last entry was “Ecdisis”, which means when a serpent changes its skin. I think I wrote it down cause in a way I can relate to that process of transformation metaphorically speaking - I’ve felt like that many times in life - and I guess motherhood will trigger that experience again.
15. If you had to give someone a book you’ve read, which would it be?
More than a book, Chimamanda’s essay We should all be feminists which I recently gave my partner (wink). Regarding a book, not entirely sure about this one as it's so fascinating to read I can’t resist making notes which makes the reading eternal, is Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature: The adventures of Alexander von Humboldt. It alludes to epistemology, science and philosophy, and in a way also spirituality.
16. What’s your favorite pregnancy hack?
Sticking my pregnant AF tummy out in the underground to get a seat or to skip long airport queues. It helps to have a large meal/burger before, tummy duplicates in size - I had no idea this happened before pregnancy!
17. What have you learned during pregnancy (whether about yourself, your partner etc) that you didn’t expect?
That it’s a process that involves and transforms one’s identity, partnership, body. I knew it rationally but it has been different to experience it. And it grows - like the tummy growing - the awareness of being pregnant and the love for the baby and our bond with him. As open to diverse gender identities as I am and trying to maintain the non-binary perspective as much as possible, it did surprise me that when finding out his biological gender my connection to him grew in unexpected ways - its as if he became more real when we found out - which doesn’t mean he can’t be whoever he wishes to be in the future.
18. Shout out to someone in your life that has made a difference recently
My mom. I feel like pregnancy has made me connect differently to her, in a less hierarchical, more human, grateful, and admiring perspective. Plus, she is coming to help us out with the baby for a few weeks, which is such a relief - she is definitely making a difference already.
Justice for Mahsa Amini
At Cleannest, we love to spotlight the passions of our community. Lifting up women around the world is one we share with Vivi. Therefore as part of this Really Real we also want to highlight this change.org petition to bring justice for Mahsa Amini, a 22 year old woman who was killed by the Iranian authorities for allegedly not having a proper hijab. We want to shine a light on this tragedy (and the others that proceeded it) to support the women of Iran in their pursuit of the autonomy and safety they deserve.