What Matters to Jeff Souva

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

For 15 years, Jeff has worked in fundraising and marketing for LGBTQ+ civil rights organization Lambda Legal. He lives in Chicago and credits his parents for his inability to sit still for very long.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Being outside. Especially on summer days, I’m desperate to experience every minute outdoors doing something— anything. A walk or bike ride, digging around in my garden, or meeting friends at the beach— sunshine and fresh air make me happy. What I like the most is sharing a meal with loved ones anywhere outside. Food tastes better al fresco.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

Imagination games as a kid. I dreamed up elaborate stories for sprawling sandcastle cities and LEGO creations, pillow forts, and obstacle courses that were epic and perilous journeys, and an imaginary friend who joined my family on a summer vacation.

What is your biggest regret?

Caring too much about what people think or trying to meet other’s expectations wasted way too much of my time in my teens and twenties. I wish I had embraced my independence and personal power sooner in life.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Therapy. And Cher.

What makes you cry?

There’s something about efforts of cooperation that brings the tears. We’re talking British fisherman evacuating troops at Dunkirk or viral videos of bros on a boat saving a sea turtle caught in a fishing net. It’s collective heroism, I guess. I’m inspired when strangers have a spontaneous connection and work together on a common goal. It gives me hope for humanity.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

It depends. The glow after writing and sending a perfect e-mail may only last until the next one hits my inbox, but I still swell with pride every time I walk through my front door. DIY and design projects at home are my creative outlet. I’ve made it mine and it’s beautiful.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

Not really. The uncertainty of tomorrow is enough to make me focus on this life and hope to make the most of every day. If I were to believe in an afterlife, I probably want it to look like summer days and golden retrievers.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I’m just so damn pragmatic. I wish I took more risks or tried new things more often.

What do you love most about yourself?

I’m pragmatic! It’s a gift as much as a curse. But, I appreciate that being pragmatic and creative helps me be successful at finding solutions in work and life.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

Steak frites. It’s an indulgence and the exception to food tasting better outside… this is best in a dimly lit bistro with a bottle of hearty red wine.