Editor’s note: I might be biased, but the world would be a better place if everyone had a dash of Julia’s creativity, kindness, and thoughtfulness. We’ve known of each other for years, thanks to a dear mutual friend (more on her later), but finally made the leap to close friends and The Woodsy partners in early 2016. The more people get to know her, our talented Creative Director, the more they’ll appreciate her, as I have. -Dena
Name: Julia Ugarte
Where did you grow up: Kent, WA
Where do you live now: Kirkland, WA
What is your career path?: Curvy, to say the least. Currently, I am a content strategist, a freelance writer and illustrator, and, most recently, Creative Director for The Woodsy. My past jobs have included positions in commercial real estate, content writing and marketing, and custom stationery. Looking back, I seem to bounce between left brain and right brain projects with varying frequency trying to find the right balance of the two. I’m hopeful I’m getting close to a long term balance these days. I am certainly excited about the opportunities here at The Woodsy.
What other passions do you have?: On one hand, I enjoy being active; I have rotating obsessions with running, soccer, yoga, gymnastics, and fencing. On the other hand, I also crave time to sit quietly and really dig in to a good book or write or draw something of my own.
How can people find you on the internet?: @ratherpuckish can be found on most social platforms including Instagram, Society6, and facebook. I also have a website currently in transition at juliaugarte.com.
Favorite thing about the NW?: I enjoy the balance that comes with living here. Seattle is big enough to get lost in, but not too big to feel alone; there are diverse art, culture and literary vibes in the city that support and encourage continued learning for anyone interested enough to seek it out. And yet, an hour’s drive gets you away from the city and into the middle of mountains thick with evergreens, trails and outdoor adventures.
How do you take your coffee?: Coffee with flavored creamer or black tea with milk and sugar
How do you record info (pen/type/etc)?: Pen and pretty notebook
Favorite season in the NW?: Autumn!
How do you protect yourself from the rain and deal with inclement weather?: I wear a slouchy beanie almost every day in the fall and winter whether it rains or not. Though, if I’m dressing for rain, I wear a hooded raincoat and sometimes supplement with an umbrella. Standing at an uncovered bus station in pouring rain at 6 a.m. has certainly influenced my opinion of the humble umbrella. I’m a hybrid, I suppose.
What’s the best decision you ever made?: Giving myself permission to change my major in college. I knew I could have been successful but miserable in my original education track in a hard science. I chose what some would call the less practical major in English Literature that has made me (I believe) significantly happier, and able to work towards goals I would have otherwise counted as hobbies instead of a career.
How do you describe yourself when others ask? I think I have a very bad habit of describing myself using only information I think the person I’m meeting will respond to. For example, I likely wouldn’t turn to the person next to me at the Sounders game and ask them whether they prefer Colin Firth’s Darcy or Matthew McFayden’s (Matthew’s is better, and I do not say this lightly) just as I wouldn’t ask my friend’s new boyfriend if he’s read American Gods or Among Others without asking him first what books he likes to read…but I think I should. I think there is something wonderful and charming about people who are confident and comfortable enough with themselves to show you everything that makes them them, and as I get older, I strive to be that sort of person that doesn’t care if people think my tastes in books (or leading men) are odd, and just enjoy carrying on being all of me all the time.
What’s your best advice for other women, on any topic?:
Don’t try to do everything all at once, and always ask for help. Also, make sure you take care of yourself. Seriously. No, really. Get sleep, take breaks, set goals, and celebrate when you achieve what you set out to do. Taking care of yourself doesn’t make you selfish—it makes you strong enough to stand up for yourself (even if it’s only to yourself) so that you can be the best version of you.
What are the most cherished parts of your day?: The evening, after everyone in my house is asleep. I feel like it is quiet enough to rummage around in my mind and find everything I missed or couldn’t get to during the day.
What hidden talents do you have?: I am an extremely strong tree/goal post/doorjamb climber and accomplished builder of pillow forts (I go all out with twinkle lights and glittery mosquito nets)
What are people surprised to learn about you?: I played competitive soccer at the club and university level when I was younger. When I was 11 I chose to stop dancing ballet and tap and learn the game. My brother and my dad decided if I was going to play soccer, I needed to know how to instantly earn respect from my opponents because I was so small. So, I learned how to stand my ground, slide tackle, how to fall without hurting myself, and how to challenge girls who were physically much taller and stronger than I was and win. In short, they taught me to be fearless. I think these lessons in owning my own space on the field gave me confidence from this early age that quietly spread to other areas of my life. I still try to draw from that feeling when I need an extra boost to get through the day.
What are you proud of in your past? One moment that always sticks out is from my senior year in high school. I heard that there were initial discussions to either limit or remove sports from the middle school level in our district. At the encouragement of my senior class advisor (truly one of the most wonderful and inspiring people I have ever had the good fortune to meet), I wrote a speech for that night’s school board meeting about what playing sports and being part of a school team meant to me. Since it was the same day, I had no time to think about whether it was a good idea or not. I simply went off my gut reaction and the enthusiasm of my teacher.
The school board meeting was packed with parents, teachers and students with “SportsYes!” stickers on their shirts. The day was warm but my I wore my letterman jacket to further reinforce my point. I remember my heart pounding as I stepped through the crowd of people smiling their encouragement at me. The podium was tall, and I had to stand on the balls of my feet to feel like I could be seen over it which made my nervousness spike even higher.
After speaking, I felt both intense relief and exhilaration. There was loud applause, one of the district board members made a joke about not wanting to have to follow my statement which drew a laugh, parents and alumni came up to thank me for getting up there and telling my story.
Afterward, I sat in my car and literally repeated to myself–while squeaking with joy–to never to forget this feeling. Right then, I was that girl in the soundproof car waving her arms and accidentally laying on the horn once or twice. I had never before hit that pure feeling of taking a chance, of standing up to make a difference, and of making what felt like a real contribution.
As it turns out, the school board had not yet made any movement to remove sports from the middle schools; adults in the district were simply concerned because it was done in other districts before us. I still don’t regret getting up to speak. The feeling of risk, of believing wholeheartedly in what I was speaking about, and like I had been heard, has stuck with me throughout my life. I think I’m still chasing that feeling in my work, and when I find it I know the project I am working on is truly something special.
Has any specific woman or women in your life made a significant impact on you?: I always think of a handful of teachers, both men and women, throughout my time at school. It was the teachers who picked out what I considered “out there” or a little bit weird about myself and championed it. It was my mom who encouraged me from a young age to really explore the shelves in the library and borrow whichever books I wanted. It was my sixth grade teacher who convinced me to read my terrible murder mystery stories out loud to the class (my characters were always eating). It was my Shakespeare teacher in high school who let me quote Red Dwarf in my papers, and the English teacher who drew (to my shock) above and below the white board in marker to demonstrate how plot arcs can change how people see the world.
What do you love talking about at parties?: Books and authors. Sharing one of my favorite books with someone, or finding a book in common with a stranger is the quickest way to get me excited about a conversation. Talking about books gives a baseline with another person, and it shows me that literature and books are important to them, as they are to me. That instantly speaks volumes about the type of person I’m interacting with. And seriously, how much fun is it to nerd out with someone about an obscure science fiction author or debate a classic?
What’s your most ambitious career goal?: I would truly love to live by my pen. Whether that means writing, illustrating, or any combination of the two, I would consider it a complete and total win if those were the skills on which I built out the rest of my career.