By Gjekë Marinaj, PhD/
After graduating with a Bachelor degree and summa cum laude honors from the University of North Florida in 2006, Stephanie Moore, a born and raised Floridian, ventured to the state of Texas in order to pursue her passion for literature.
Stephanie began her oratory and writing career following the obtainment of the Miss Florida Right to Life title in 2001, which allotted her a platform to speak throughout the state on her specified topic of interest- empowerment and education for young women. Stephanie also represented the state of Florida at the National Right to Life Oratory Contest in June 2001. Additionally, she gained recognition in March 2002, winning the State of Florida Mock Trial Competition Best Witness Award.
Other professional achievements include election by the University of North Florida to speak on behalf of her fellow collegiate scholars at the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society induction. Stephanie also had the privilege of having an original poem chosen and printed by her graduating class to represent the era of their accomplishments.
Stephanie currently resides in Dallas, Texas where she obtained a senior writing position. She continues to pursue her passion for poetry and also hopes to one day provide coverage on human interest stories through writing, editing or interviewing. Her goal is to one day publish a novel targeted for women, providing inspiration through hopeful humor and real-life accounts, on the importance of remaining intact in your self-awareness.
Gjekë Marinaj: Do you believe your writing is capable of transcending differing cultural, religious or diversified backgrounds? If so- what are you hoping to give or gain from the Albanian culture?
Stephanie Moore: I do believe it is possible to use my writing to create a message that is universal for all those whom encounter it. I believe that no matter what your race, religion, creed, upbringing, social status or societal standing- there can be a universal message that resonates with all.
I believe that writing is a powerful tool. I may not speak the same language as my worldly peers, be raised with the same values, or even praise the same God- but, this is what I know for sure- there are certain intrinsic human tendencies that transcend all. A smile can convey the same message in any circumstance, and words- they can mend a soul when constructed with divine purity and rightful intent. Whether my story is humorous, encouraging, heartbreaking, gutted, honest or humbled- I believe the voice and tone behind my words will resonate. I believe when guided by grace and true humility, there are endless possibilities that await. I hope to have my words heal others as others words have healed me. I hope that I can share the strength that the strongest stories have given. And I hope that I can illicit as many smiles, from as many faces and places, as there are words to be written. That is my prayer. That is where I will find my peace.
Albania to me represents how powerful perseverance and movement can really be. The country, the people, the stories- they all signify to me the reason why it’s so important to press forward into greatness. The beauty of the landscape is a testament to creation at its finest. The stories of banding brotherhood are admirable. The people who have been born there, and then shared their greatness as profound leaders, deserve the gratitude of the world. I ask not what I can give to this country- because it would pale in comparison to what even the mere stories have given me- and that is the exemplification of hope. Thereby, my hope rests now in that I will be able to travel to this wondrous place to physically absorb whatever I can of what I deem to be the true meaning of beauty.
GjM: Now that you are seriously entering the writing world, do you still believe in the concept of calculated risk and what does it mean to you?
SM: There is no greater reward that I can give myself other than growth. I have learned through trial, and numerous errors, that I thrive in a place where my soul is stretched to its capacity. I am in constant movement, always learning, always growing. I was born to seek and gather.
That being said, I have not been blessed with a born since of confidence. Life circumstances have challenged my worth too many times to be calculated. I’ve hit rock bottom, and then grown accustomed to even what’s beneath the gravel. Suffice to say, it hasn’t been easy.
However somehow, I have learned to persevere. I’ve learned that when you dust off the debris, there’s a whole foundation of hope that can arise from your experience, if you just keep moving.
Making the calculated decision to share my writing weighed significantly on my heart for quite some time because it is something that I’ve never done. Being a person that thrives on consistency, and gains control by routine and regulation, this is quite possibly the scariest endeavor I have ever pursued. My writing is the purging of my soul on paper. It is a natural extension of myself. So to decide to share that with others, knowing that critique is to be expected, feels unfamiliar and frightening. But, strangely enough, it also feels liberating.
I believe in this risk because the reward is not fueled by boastfulness, ego, celebrity or external riches. It is driven by the fact that I know there is no way to grow that isn’t uncomfortable. And my soul needs to stretch.
GjM: Why is writing important to you?
SM: I don’t know if there is a more honest reflection of myself than when I write. It becomes a cathartic release of everything substantial coming straight from my soul. I don’t hide behind what I think sounds appropriate, or what would please the ear of another. I simply put words down in a way that is meaningful and purposeful for me. It is a therapeutic mirror at best.
Writing is important to me because, simply put, words carry weight. The delivery and intent behind any body of writing carries a significant and poignant amount of strength. Words have the ability to be destructive and harmful, just as much as they can rebuild and reconstruct hope for its audience.
As I grew up, I lacked the fundamental core system that teaches and strengthens a child. I didn’t have resources to image healthy relationships or answer simple life questions. I learned very quickly that if I needed to teach myself to know better, be better and do better in this life, I would need the help and wisdom of others. This came to me through the form of reading. Books became my safety harbor- the authors, my life teachers. The more time I spent reading the experiences of others, I began to feel less isolated and more part of a community. I wasn’t alone.
Thereby, writing holds significant purpose to me, because if my words, just once, could help another gain autonomy, self-value, appreciation or worth- I will have paid it forward.
GjM: How is your pen going to contribute to the importance and value of physical beauty in this diversified planet?
SM: There’s something that I like to call “the power of pretty.” It’s the ability to use physical beauty as a catalyst. It is sociologically proven, and to me, it makes obtaining and sustaining self-worth a lot more difficult. Our society has placed so much emphasis on what is stereotypically considered beautiful. It is everywhere. From the magic of marketing, to the premise of reality television- pretty people rule the world.
I’m not saying I’m immune to this. I have succumb to too many ploys to “lose weight and feel great,” when in the end, I just want a doughnut. I now cringe at what is a compliment of someone telling me I’m beautiful, because for me, there is so much more than my mascara.
Writing removes bias. It allows for a clean slate of unprecedented judgment. Words don’t show race, religion or creed. And they certainly don’t care about a number on a scale, who wore it better, or if your roots need re-highlighting. They show worldly or individual perspectives and stories. They tell tales, from which each person can take information of which they may process or disregard. Writing gives the author a sounding board. Whether the audience is a party of one, or an infinite amount of eager readers. Telling your story then becomes about the experience that you wish to communicate, and not about you.
I believe that there is one common denominator in all of humanity- and that is, acknowledgment. It has become severely evident to me that in relationships, whether friendships or otherwise, every person on this planet just wants to be heard. They just want to know- am I worthy?
My goal is to use the power of my pen to prove just such. Every person is worthy. Every life is worth acknowledging. Every person needs a witness, and every one needs to be noticed. Even if they are makeup free and in sweat pants.
GjM: Imagine yourself on the driver seat of a time machine. What would your first destination be: the past, the present or the future? Why?
SM: The politically correct answer to this question, I believe, would be to remain in the present. After all, we’ve all heard the saying “the past is history, the future’s a mystery and today is a gift- that’s why it’s called the present.”
But I’m not interested in political correctness or gifts.
I would visit the past, however specifically only as an observer. Truth be told, my past is a collection of colorful moments and lonely solitude. I’ve hated my own reflection. I’ve loved what I’ve seen. I’ve been envious, bold, resourceful, courageous, tired, enthused, dark, energized, gutted and broken. Sometimes I’ve run the gamut of those emotions all in one day. There have been times when there are too many pieces for me to even fathom picking up. They’ve laid there scattered, and I would be too overwhelmed by grief and hopelessness to even begin to see where they may eventually fit. I don’t know the answer to getting to where I am, because where I am is not a constitute place. It is not the end all, be all. It is not the place of holy enlightenment. I wish it were that easy. I wish that someone could tell me, even now, that everything will always be okay.
But, here’s what I know for sure. We evolve. It’s inevitable. We wake up and become things that we would never, in our conscious way of thinking, dare to believe we’re capable of becoming. We somehow, some way, manage to keep moving. And sometimes, if you’re very lucky, very persistent, and very self-aware, you move in a direction that brings you the peace you’ve been yearning for.
This is hard work. Contentment is not a walk in the park. In fact, it is a walk through the darkest cemetery- passing cob web stricken, haunted gravestones with names you recognize on them. It’s being able to see that where you come from has a direct correlation to where you are going. It’s rhythmic. It’s cyclic. It brings you full circle. Always.
So, I would revisit my past and put a comforting hand on that young girl, anxious teenager, questioning young adult, and simply say- it’s going to be okay.
GjM: You have contributed a great deal of your time to the betterment of our society. How far can a society like ours go in using sophistic analyses of the political self-interest?
SM: One of the most difficult concepts I have ever had to mentally master is the idea that you cannot help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Essentially speaking, you cannot change a human being. No amount of thought, prayer, wisdom, praise, criticism, love, hope or hate can change a person who doesn’t want to be changed. Their receptiveness is fatigued and your efforts will be futile.
This hard-fought lesson has most definitely resulted from me doing exactly the opposite of which I just stated. I have always been a superb sharer. When I experience something grand, it is always that much better when I can share my joy with others. So, not surprisingly, this applies to every facet of my life. When I have found what I deem to be a healthy, normal, functional way of living and thinking, I used to believe others would benefit from my same enlightenment. I want to help, I want to heal. I want to open eyes and ears to betterment. But, somewhere along the line I have learned that what works for me, is for my own individual success. We’ve been bestowed many paths.
A society needs diversity. It needs challenging and opposing positions. It needs individuals to resist the norm. But, a society will not progress in a healthy manner if the intent behind the deviation is not pure. If ones goal is for self-gratification and glory, then the ripple effect of such decisions becomes destructive.
When a society starts to falsely compare and analyze what works for them in comparison to someone else, it often times results in losing one’s self. When you do not consciously own your individuality, it is easy to fall victim to what the world wants you to be. You follow the majority, and lose sight of the creative genius that runs this world. The best thing you can do for yourself, and your integrity, is to remain intact in what feels fundamentally right, and to not be ruled by ego.
GjM: In your experience as a writer, what is the true nature of reality? Is it monist, or pluralist? If logic tells us it is monist and our senses tell us it is pluralist, which would you advise us to trust?
SM: I take a rather individualistic stance on this subject. I believe that a person’s reality is individualized. I believe that I do not hold the jurisdiction or right to determine what someone should believe. I think that is the entitlement of free will. We choose our own paths to follow.
With that said, we gain insight into making such a proclamation by using our intellect and senses to develop a way of thinking that we hold to be true. From our infancy, I believe we are constantly gathering information that will provide for an ultimate perspective in which we view the world. Consequentially, I don’t think it is just what we are exposed to that determines our outlook. It is the ultimate nature versus nurture debate- I believe we are born with innate senses, one of which, for some people, is the ability to believe without seeing.
I know there is an ultimate higher power. I believe in universal and gravitational forces that pull you toward greatness. I believe there is one source of life, but I also acknowledge that we were given the opportunity by that source to gather information and formulate belief through various mechanisms. I know there are countless occurrences in my life for which I have no plausible, singular explanation that I can trace back to. In my experience, there are multiple methods that attribute to any given circumstance. I take a pluralist position at the end of the day
My strongest example that supports my standpoint is my writing. It is not logical, or one-dimensional. It flows freely, with no particular objective. It is just something I feel. It flees from my soul. And surely, I write with diversity because I am influenced by nature and my surroundings.
I would advise anyone to trust what they feel. That when they close their eyes, and sit silently, the intensity of their soul will speak. If your prayers become more mature and inward, you hear things you’ve never expected. I hear God, but I also hear, see, smell, taste- and most importantly, feel- the things around me that make me believe. There’s your heart, your head, your heaven. I cannot explain it in its entirety. I just know that when I put logic to the wayside, and close my eyes, I can still see.
GjM: With that in mind, do you think we have such a thing as an immortal soul in us?
SM: Absolutely. I believe that we are anything but vast, empty vessels navigating our way through this earth. I believe wholeheartedly we are guided by a source of power within us. We are walking souls.
The soul to me is the ability to seek and gather. It is fed by positivity and purity. It keeps us from surrendering. It strengthens our sense of self. It demands attention. It makes our reality less cloudy. It is our personal compass and map to greatness. It is a friend trapped inside our being.
I think that every person has individual beliefs to which I cannot, and will not, negate or debate. I am not a judge on what is right versus wrong, but I do believe we are all being driven. Sometimes the catalyst for movement and worship is selfless spirituality; sometimes it’s the disease of addiction. But I believe our nature is to move toward our motivation.
My goal is to create circumstance for which every person I am lucky enough to encounter has the ability to see their possibility. I want to create a movement that flows in the direction of positivity and self-power. I want souls to dance on greatness, not be burdened by blame and doubt. In the end, it is my constant personal theory on acknowledgment- does the light in me, light the light in you?
I believe when I am gone from this earth, my name will be forgotten. Enough years will pass that I will become a faint memory or perhaps nothing at all. I am aware, that with the exception of a select few individuals, this is the reality. I do however believe there is an exception to the rule. The way I choose to conduct my life- the traditions I instill, the words I speak, the fire I light in another- that lives on. And it spreads. It becomes an immortal, lasting testament to your own self, long after the physicality of the body is gone. It is the work of the soul. To take a piece of the good with me when I go, and leave behind so much more. It differs from spirituality; it is the movement and transfer of the power of one human being into another human being. Because, you never really know how far the ripple effect of your decisions will go.
GjM: I would like to end this interview with you with a question about beauty. But first, what is it, do you think, that makes someone a good person? Why is that good?
SM: For me, being a good person means the ability to own yourself. I think that the most highly influential people that I consider noteworthy have this innate ability to remain intact in their being no matter what the circumstance. This sounds like a relatively easy task, but I find that with the corruptive nature of society, less than encouraging individuals, and other external influences, it becomes easy to resort into being what the world wants of you.
The people I consider good are not free from error. They simply make mistakes, acknowledge their mishaps, and move on in a way that encourages growth. More importantly, they do this with a sense of humbleness. A good person to me lacks unnecessary ego, is not quick to judge, stands true to their character and makes an effort to be present.
Some of the biggest character building moments in my life resulted from times when I was pushed out of my comfort zone. Safe to say, I did not always like this- and still often do not. But, when you’re forced into challenge, you get the opportunity to see if your soul was born to sink or swim. I’ve done a lot of laps in the kiddy pool, but now I challenge myself to swim freely in the deep end of diversity, discomfort and discontent. This is where I learn to thrive on my sense of self, and know that as long as I’m making conscious decisions for the betterment of myself and those around me, I’ve done the task at hand to the best of my God-given ability.
GjM: As a beautiful girl that you are, tell us, is there, in our erotic longings, some wild desire for something more ultimate than any of the beauties of this world?
SM: I will answer this with an optimistic yes. Simply put, pretty passes. It fades. It’s inevitable. And when the curtain is called on the beautiful wonders of this world, you better have something to fall back on.
I completely understand the illusion. I understand that pages of magazines cater to the most beautiful individuals in the world. I understand the status behind nice cars and big homes. I understand the symbolism and envy that comes from a big ring. But, I also understand this- looks fade, cars break down, homes burn, and those jewels are worth nothing if your marriage is unfaithfully unraveling. Simply put, I have an awareness that all of this is temporary.
I think there is one fundamental, core longing in every person placed on this earth- regardless of race, culture, religion, or any other diversity. I believe, we just want to be accepted. In our foundation, we are an animalistic, primal species that thrive on group acceptance and companionship. I think every person placed on this earth has some need to bare witness to another. We just want to be noticed.
Nonetheless, the means in which one desires to draw attention or pay attention to another sometimes manifest through the obtainment of the pretty. Society has ingrained the need for ‘more’ into our psyche. Bigger is better. Don’t stop until you get enough. But, who determines when enough is enough? After all, you can’t buy character with cash.
Having been paid the lovely compliment of being called pretty throughout my life, I have found the pressure that ensues following such. I feel an enormous amount of responsibility and expectation. I am indebted to the identity and classification of societal beauty. However, I have also learned that my worth cannot be established by whether my jeans fit snuggly on any given day. If I rely entirely on compliments to boost my worth, I will live an utterly isolated life. I am keenly aware that it will eventually fade. And when it does, I hope someone will compliment my intellect, strength, wisdom and wit- since those don’t fade with the wrinkles.
The beauties of this world are temporary. They bring momentary pleasure. They don’t last. So I believe the real underlying longing in all of us remains the idea of just wanting to be accepted. Some people use external means to feel included, some rely on integrity, prayer and virtue. But in the end, I believe we are all longing for one shared thing- to be seen in our entirety.