Brian Raetz was born and raised in Traverse City Michigan. He experienced an early radical life change when his family adopted four siblings in 2003 and became a large family of nine. He lost over 90 pounds in 2009 after a heart murmur and childhood obesity threatened his health. He lived in Finland for a year, immersed himself in the culture, and learned the language fluently. He graduated from Kalamazoo College where he studied German and Philosophy. His improv team at school inspired him to act in film and theatre. He has found great community and inspiration here at ECT.
Tell us about a transformative educational experience.
I was sure when I began studying at Kalamazoo College that I wanted to be a Diplomat for the U.S. government. After a year of taking nothing but political science courses, I realized I didn’t truly care what I was learning about. I was studying in order to become something that I thought I wanted to be. Following the guidance of several mentors, I returned to school the next year enrolled in courses that I was truly interested in. I stopped asking myself, “what do I want to be,” and I started asking myself, “what do I want to do right now?” This took the focus off of the end goal and placed it on the current moment. This allowed me to study what I really wanted to study and it has lead me to some very interesting places in life that I’d previously never thought I’d be.
What about transformative professional experiences?
I learned the importance of communication while studying abroad in Erlangen, Germany. Our program coordinator would often send out emails of assignments or dates and times to meet. I would read the email, receive the information she sent me, and then go on with my day. After a while, she sat me down and asked me why I never respond to her emails? She told me she was concerned with me because she never knew if I had received and understood what she sent me. I didn’t even know this was an issue because I was receiving the information just fine. It hadn’t occurred to me that she needed to know whether I had received her information or not. I have since placed a great importance on the two-way nature of communication.
Why I do what I do...
I do what I do because I have a desire for personal growth and a heart for community. I have a huge support system that is my family, the lessons I have learned from my past experiences, and the friends have I made along the way. This support system empowers me to feel safe while risking in new ways and venturing into new situations. Growing personally does not fulfill me in and of itself though. I have a desire to share my self and my growth with a community and do what I can to benefit the most amount of people possible within that community.
What about ECT inspires you?
The relationship that I have with each individual member of ECT inspires me. They are all so unique and so willing to welcome me into their lives in different ways. Their dedication to show up and work together to create something larger than themselves inspires me. We could not create what we create at ECT alone. We depend on each other to create our art. This forms a trust and creates a group mind that I feel is very strong. This group mind - being on the same page with one another - is what inspires me about ECT.
Where have you traveled? Where would you like to visit?
I lived in India for a month, in Germany for eight months, and in Finland for one year. I have travelled through Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, and Russia. I would really like to visit Dublin and drive along the coast of Ireland. I hunger to experience the nature, art, and culture of Ireland in person, with friends at my side, and a Guinness in my hand. I would love to see more of Russia as well. Croatia. Iceland. Norway. The Faroe Islands. Africa. Thailand. NEW ZEALAND! Australia. A better question may be where wouldn’t I like to visit at this point!
My favorite "day-off" event would be...
Watch a movie. Relax in the shade. Go for a hike. And not alone but with some good friends! Joke around and go for a drink. Hit the beach, swim in the ocean. Cool off and go to sauna. Set up the slack line. Throw the Frisbee around. Talk about life. Discover new music. Play a song at the piano or on the guitar. Sit around the campfire and fall asleep without realizing it. Cook some REALLY good food. Go out on the boat to do some water sports. Go for a bike ride or a walk in nature. Set up the hammock and feel the sun on my skin. Close my eyes and feel the wind.
If I had one million dollars I would...
I would share my time between living in Los Angeles, Traverse City, and Jyväskylä Finland. I would fly from one place to the other whenever I felt like it. I would also fly to visit the many close friends that have been a part of my life. I’d travel more often and buy personal items that are quality over quantity. I’d hope to give some of that money or some of my time back to those less fortunate as well. I’d also keep a stock of the delicious foods that are usually too expensive for me to buy regularly. Macadamia nuts. Morel Mushrooms. Bison. Venison. Lamb. Turkey Legs. Mangos. Pineapples. Fish eggs. BAGELS. Cream Cheese. CHEESE. Nice chocolates. Vegan brownies. Brazil Nuts. Blue Berries. Bacon. And I would be sure to buy the least processed version of these foods, as freshly picked or made as possible. I’d go out to eat and try new foods from different cultures as well. Hopefully I wouldn’t be broke by the end of all this.
Did you know...
I can do some really cool tricks on a BMX bike. I rode BMX in high school and I have memories of an entire summer when I would ride BMX at the skate park everyday and often into the night. I never wore a helmet and that really stressed my parents out. Lucky me though, for as often as I fell I never bumped my head. I DID break my leg one of the very first times I walked as an infant though.