Theresa Rybchinski was raised in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, a stubborn yet vulnerable
wild woman in search of the unknown and wisdom of the musings of nature. She is driven by the
desire to return to the innate qualities of living in the wild, a curious cat chasing mountain
summits and climbing frozen waterfalls. When she isn’t outdoors Theresa works as Youth
Worker in the woods, passionately empowering others to advocate in the face of social
injustice. Read our interview with her below.
As children we often embody and express our true, wildish selves. We believe we can do anything and we are not yet self-conscious. At some point, this can get lost as we’re told and
shown the proper way to “behave”. Thinking back on yourself as a young girl, what do you
remember about your wildish self?
Looking back on my childhood I struggle to pull memories capturing who I was as a little girl. This
would terrify me, the inability to remember who I was and what forged the woman standing here
today. Through my twenties, I consciously stepped onto a quest of personal development, and as
time wore on memories flooded my mind. Specific memories of an innocent young girl running
through the forest in ballet shoes or marveling at seashells on the Sunshine Coast were unearthed.
This was a deep process of re-remembering. It seemed the bright eyes of a curious girl were
dimmed and replaced with a hardened lens. This world seems to do that, it breaks children down
and society hands over a list of qualities that are better than others. And at some point you listen,
enabling the smallness of oneself in a world rich with space to expand. We contract and put the
creative wild self away and exchange the dirt of the forest floor for concrete pavement.
Having the wisdom and perspective now after healing from depression and anxiety, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Depression and anxiety sneak up on a person in a catastrophic way. Tearing a person apart and
tethering a crucial lifeline. This is a detriment to the individual and their community because when you cannot show up for yourself, you most certainly cannot show up for others.
During the transition from childhood into our adult selves we can lose lightness in our approach to life, becoming calloused in our ways. I lived from this hardened place that bred me to believe I was a failure. I cannot return to that crucial space in-between childhood and womanhood but if I could, I would suggest to her to handle life gently with a certain lightness, to see her world from the vantage point of always learning from opportunity instead of succumbing to failure.
How do you integrate the peace and grounding you find within nature to your everyday life?
What are some of the personal rituals you adhere to that keep you feeling centered?
Nature has this immense way of teaching something undeniably greater than ourselves. There is great value in sitting with nature, conversing with the wind and witnessing the sun blend into the sky. I believe by creating space in your life for nature you will organically begin to see aspects of nature wherever you go. The wild places are my sanctuary and I find devotion there and in doing so am able to bring these moments back to calm the chaotic parts of my life. What nature does for me, is the same notion of blending yoga teachings off the mat. My time in the mountains nourish me, and I feel that Mother Nature has weaved her hair in mine and I can always call on her when I need support.
This type of self-awareness is relentless in the way that I am hyper aware of my surroundings and how it is penetrating me. That is when I notice nature where ever I go. I fortunately work in the woods, however this is juxtaposed by living in the city. This contrast can be energetically heavy and I lose my footing quickly. My affinity for the plant world allows me to stabilize and re-connect to nature when it’s required. I sit (most) mornings at my altar and smudge to lessen the impact of the city. I also pour thoughts onto paper and pull tarot cards to prepare for the day. My morning space allows me another opportunity to uncover strange parts of myself, to rid my space of thoughts or energy that can potentially create havoc in my day.
Self-acceptance can be a constant battle for so many women, do you have advice to give
someone struggling to achieve this?
Ironically, once I accepted that I will always struggle with self-acceptance the pressure to seek
validation beyond myself fell away. When accepting this, I found that through inquiry as to why I
looked back in disguise at the woman in the mirror or the incessant questioning of what I was doing with my life, this is when a shift happened. The curious part of me crawled out and I observed myself in bewilderment why I was operating from this place. When you consciously decide to show up for your life and surrender to whatever it is, you commit to live life for yourself.
The work it takes to constantly grow and personally develop past the belief systems ingrained in
you, it is exhausting. Showing up and accepting where you are at is exhausting. It’s exhausting
because you live in a world telling you how to look, what to do, who you should be. So in deciding
against that world you are fighting a different battle.
This act can ultimately force you to self-accept because you can no longer return to that girl who allowed the world to walk over her. So my advice, get curious and explore all parts of you, stay with it and do the work to uncover all of it, even the sticky underworld parts that you were too afraid to discover.
What do you feel most proud of?
I believe we have the choice to show up for our lives. There was a moment when I decided to show up for my life, I was the one who decided to crawl from the dark hole of depression I had chosen to reside in all those years before. Knowing it was a mistake to stay there and an immense disservice to that little girl who sat scared in the corner. This was my proudest moment. The tenacity in the fight to call back my life and watch fierceness pour out from under me, a strength I previously could never associate myself with.
This was where my regeneration took place. I found substance in the wild, this became my healing sanctuary and with each encounter I was becoming stronger. The force of nature touched the hardened parts of me and humbled me back to my younger self.
Do you have any top book recommendations for women or outdoors lovers?
‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I started reading this book around the same time I began exploring the outdoors. I would like to believe there was synchronicity in the timing of that but that of course is my transcendent view of the world.
"We all begin as a bundle of bones, lost somewhere in a desert, a dismantled skeleton that lies under the sand. It is our work to recover the parts. It is a painstaking process best done when the shadows are just right, for it takes much looking."
These words jumped out at me and I deeply resonated with the message knowing it captured the journey I had recently embarked on. Not only does it speak to the importance of the resurrection of who you are, but Estes recognizes the shadow aspect of self and its requirement for further excavation. From this point on, the book became a tool during my personal exploration journey. A book such as this can be an ode to the power within any individual, an inspirational offering to serve as a reminder to relentlessly stand up against the pressures of this world. Read the book. Keep it close to you and let it be a guide.
Finally, what does it mean to you to Howl Often?
For me to Howl Often means calling back my power, allowing me to honor my whole self, the parts rich with wisdom and even the dark parts that live with shame. It was nature that howled back and reminded me of the quality in owning and honoring the power within. To Howl Often means to take back my power to gather strength required to push against a world asking me to conform to particular standards, morals and rights that may misalign with who I am.
Follow Theresa's adventures and read more of her brave wisdom on her Instagram feed.