Beautifully Messy Things

By: James Cook in Get to Know Us
on August 20th, 2020

Round Table editor Malary Hill’s heart might be as big as the Wisconsin sky she grew up under. A soft-spoken Midwesterner with a knack for helping our clients find the soul and beauty in their stories, she is drawn to those who crave attention, compassion, and gentleness—especially those whom society seems to ignore.

Malary was born and raised in New London, Wisconsin, a small city that embodies working-class beauty and the values of hard work. Her parents cultivated the creative spark in their lives. Her dad was a full-time golf course superintendent and part-time musician, and her mom studied as an art major in college. And while they were amazingly loving parents, they encouraged Malary to take a different route—ensuring she could live life comfortably and without any major financial turbulence. Like most parents, they tried to do what they thought was best. “I loved creativity, but my parents encouraged me to follow the path that would ensure a future with a stable job and good insurance.”

By the time she reached high school, she had picked her career. She decided to be a teacher because she liked the idea of leading a class while also encouraging creative thinking. But that only narrowed the choices a bit. Later in college she “toyed with the idea of teaching in correctional institutions. I had a passion to help people stuck in a system that was failing them but eventually decided against that.”

When she hit a rough patch in her adolescence, “my English teacher became a really integral part in my life. She was there for me when I went through a really difficult time.” Inspired by her teacher’s compassion, the first adult outside her parents whom she wholly trusted, and fueled by her love for reading and writing, Malary decided she would be a high school English teacher. “I wanted to offer that for kids, be there for them. She, in many ways, changed how I viewed my life.”

“I am passionately in love with the art of resonating with another human through language.”

When she earned her degree, her first stint was teaching freshman English and a series of creative writing courses at Oshkosh North High School. The Oshkosh North was filled with a lovely and diverse population of kids, and she realized quickly the joys of working with high school students both on curriculum and through their personal stories of struggle, persistence, and triumph—learning quite a bit about herself along the way. But she was only a substitute, so when the primary teacher returned from leave, she found herself taking a job on the other side of town at Oshkosh West High School, where she continued teaching for a number of years. Oshkosh West was less diverse and much more structured, and the curriculum soon all but eliminated creativity and focused more on teaching for testing instead of enrichment. She began yearning for more purpose and less structure outside the ugly bureaucracy.

While pregnant with her oldest, she began flirting with her nearly abandoned creative side. “Creativity sparked again because I was unhappy in my career. I did everything I was supposed to do. I got the degree, had a great GPA, and I got a job out of college; but I wasn't feeling fulfilled. I started doing some self-exploration. I didn’t want to remain this unhappy nor did I want to get lost in the new role I was taking on—motherhood.” Her experimenting led her to lots of “poorly” written poetry, copywriting, drawing, and yoga. She found writing resonated with her most of all. “I have found a love for the magic words have to tell a story that connects. Whether it be writing for social media, copywriting, blogging, or in scribbles of what will someday become my first ever manuscript, I am passionately in love with the art of resonating with another human through language.”

Henry was born, and she eventually returned to work, feeling unsettled in her career, desiring to be with her young son, and yearning for something more. However, this was not the season for change, as her husband Tim was still in school, and she needed to earn insurance. Just a short four months after Henry was born, a beautiful surprise—pregnancy number two happened, just two weeks too soon for the school authorities. Under the employment guidelines, she could take twelve weeks off, but only two weeks before delivering Asher, she was told that if she chose to do so, after six weeks all insurance would have to be paid out of pocket. Tired, frustrated, and longing for a way to be with her babies, Malary took this as a sign. “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

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Malary soon left teaching and started enjoying the gift of being a mom. “I feel like parenting reopened my eyes to the wonder of the small things. I have never been more drained and more fulfilled than I am now in this beautifully messy role.” And, while she was done teaching, her family still needed to survive. She started writing copy for a few clients, and then her mom told her about a company that was sponsoring an event she managed. “I was looking for a shift that allowed me to work creatively while also serving people. My heart truly is to do whatever I can to add beauty and light to the world, and RTC was the perfect culture fit for me.”

Being a full-time mom and part-time writer has given her the fulfillment, flexibility, and creative outlet she craved. “I love that I RTC supports mamas like me and that we can work alongside our clients to create a structure that allows us and the book to thrive. My life has become so much richer because I get to pour into my work and embrace the chaos of life with two [children] under three. Every day is beautiful even if it’s not perfect, and though I’m often exhausted, I always feel fulfilled.”

When I asked her what her future might look like, she was quiet for a long moment. “I’d love to continue to create and explore personal work even if no one sees it. I also want to continue to help people share their truth and story. Ultimately I just want to create beautiful things. I think even the small parts of our lives are really beautiful, powerful, and worth sharing.”

It’s no wonder one of her favorite quotes is this one from psychiatric pioneer Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.[1]

Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, but just as often, things can be beautifully messy.

[1] Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Death: The Final Stage of Growth (New York: Touchstone, 1975), 96.