Terilyn Eisenhauer is a theater artist, tarot reader, travel enthusiast and works in people operations at a startup in Chicago. At 17, the death of her mother catapulted her into ‘living a full and juicy existence’, with the goal of making art from all facets of her life. Read on to learn the most important thing she’s taught herself, some of her favorite go-to resources for online learning, and the travel destination she feels she’s learned the most from and why!
- Name: Terilyn Elise Eisenhauer
- Location: Chicago, IL
- Role: Theater Artist, Tarot reader, travel enthusiast, people operations
- Reason for Waking Up Every Day: The fact that tomorrow isn’t promised
- Next Thing She’s Going to Learn: How to be a yoga teacher after her 200-hour training
- Go-To Learning Resource: Many different books and pretty much any NPR podcast
- Favorite Place in Chicago: Lake Michigan, Montrose Beach
- Find Out More: www.tarotbyterilyn.com
Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are now.
If you told 15-year old Terilyn my life story, there is no way she would believe it!
I was a pretty sheltered kid, very anxious and very hesitant to carve my own way. When I was seventeen, my mother passed away and I was left without a guardian. While obviously the most tragic day of my life, her death catapulted me into living a full and juicy existence, because I suddenly belonged to nobody. My mom planted all the seeds for me: she spoke with me about spirituality, she encouraged my participation in the arts, and she even took me on my first international trip when I was 15: we spent three weeks in the mountains of Switzerland so she could receive non-traditional treatment for her cancer.
After her death, I started taking risks. I dropped out of my “safe” education major at Connecticut College and instead majored in theater and American Studies, where I learned to take risks and think critically about the world around me. I spent summers driving around to see friends in different states, working odd jobs and training with incredible theater companies like LAByrinth and SITI.
I began to travel more, especially as a way to experience more theater training. My junior year I studied abroad at the Gaiety School of Acting in Ireland and backpacked through Europe afterwards. The next summer I went to Istanbul by myself (I was 20!) just because I could, before hopping over to the mountains of Greece to train with OYL Theater Company. I was absolutely terrible with money because I had no scope of it yet.
After college, I moved to Brooklyn where I attended the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute’s Conservatory on scholarship, while also working three jobs, auditioning whenever I could and getting about 4 hours of sleep a night. Although I was booking a lot of gigs, I wasn’t very fulfilled or inspired by what I was working on. I felt I had no agency, and I was exhausted, so I began to focus more on playwriting. I also started traveling internationally a lot again (still terrible with money!) I started to realize that maybe NYC wasn’t for me.
I felt a quarter-life crisis coming on, so I started connecting to my soft, spiritual side, using Tarot cards as a grounding tool and really got in touch with myself. I felt stuck, like I had deserted myself. I felt like I was “supposed” to stay in New York, “supposed” to play the audition game. It was around this time I had a conversation with my friend and mentor Lisa Dring who asked me: “But what if you just make your entire life your art?”.
I moved to Chicago to slow down and to stop racking up debt. I got rid of all the “supposed to’s” and stopped auditioning. I moved in with an ex-turned-current boyfriend (a story for another time!) and started throwing myself into writing and building my Tarot reading business. I was a nanny, bartender, dog walker, temp, Christmas elf and eventually, after a long soul-searching trip to Costa Rica, found my groove.
Now, I am an actor and a playwright who collaborates in both NYC and Chicago. I read Tarot cards professionally and am beginning to expand my services into creating custom rituals, and (under normal circumstances) I travel internationally a few times a year. I also found a fantastic day job in people operations at a startup company in Chicago called CatchCo that inspires me and supports me financially. I live with my partner, spend a lot of time at the beach, and am nearly debt-free!
What made you want to pursue your profession/area of focus?
In short: community and connection. This is the heart of everything I do. I love people.
I’ve always loved the arts. I grew up performing in musicals with a company of young actors, and they were my entire world as a kid. When I got to college, I discovered ensemble-based theater companies and was completely enamored. I love the community and collaboration that comes with theater, and dream of finding an artistic home in an ensemble someday.
Travel is the same. While I love discovering new countries and cultures, what I really am obsessed with are the people I meet along the way. I have made some of my favorite friendships and connections while overseas.
And to be honest, I have no clue where I picked up my first Tarot deck… it’s like they dropped from the sky into my lap one day. But I relish the connections I make when giving readings. I’ve been able to meet and help so many individuals in the past few years, and am dreaming up some ways to create a stronger community within my spiritual practice.
What gets you excited to wake up every day?
The fact that tomorrow isn’t promised. Dealing with death at such a young age really lit a fire under my ass. This life is so precious and I don’t want to waste a second of it doing something that isn’t right for me.
What’s the best/most important thing you’ve learned or taught yourself? Why?
When I was ten, I was afraid to get in the ocean. My mother, a true beach babe, shouted to me from the waves, “You can’t be afraid of life!” And that always stuck with me. Fifteen years later, I learned to surf with her words still ringing in my ear. All of the best things of my life have come from moments when I was afraid. To not be afraid is a lesson I’m still learning every day.
What’s the next thing you’re going to learn or teach yourself? Why?
I’m currently in a 200-hour yoga teacher training program! Becoming a yoga teacher has been a goal of mine for years, and I’m finally taking the plunge. When I graduate in January 2021, my certification will open up so many doors for me in terms of both services I can offer to clients and my ability to travel (many camps and resorts around the world offer free lodging to yoga teachers in exchange for classes!).
Describe a time when you had to ‘throw yourself in the deep end’ and figure it out.
I had a “magic” moment around the same time I realized I didn’t want to live in NYC anymore. I read a newspaper article on Christmas morning about Serbia and something clicked: I just had to go. I saved the holiday money I got from relatives and sold some junk in my apartment to buy round-trip tickets to Belgrade. I had my plane tickets and the address of a hostel, and that was it. No other plans. It ended up being a really monumental trip for me! I learned a lot about myself, met inspiring people and came home with a newfound clarity on who I was and what I wanted from life.
Do you have advice for finding a strong mentor/ building a relationship with one?
- Look for reciprocal relationships. Some of my favorite “mentors” are close friends. We help each other. We trust each other. We each have a unique set of skills that we share with one another. Overall, I’ve found people will be more engaged in a mentorship that works both ways.
- Remember that mentors are people with flaws, insecurities and knowledge gaps, just like you. Nobody should be idolized, and everyone is approachable. In the theater world, I’ve found myself in a lot of situations where I met people who intimidated me: Broadway actors, movie stars, even Lin-Manuel Miranda! And, guess what – they’re all human.
- If you want to reach out to somebody, there is always a way to contact them. Find their email address, connect on LinkedIn, or DM them on Instagram! Introduce yourself and ask if you can pick their brain. You’ll be surprised with how many people say yes.
Favorite resources for ongoing learning?
- The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
- You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero
- A Director Prepares by Anne Bogart (and all her books, really)
- Anything written by Bill Byrson
- WTF is Tarot by Bakara Wintner
- Pretty much any podcast by NPR: RadioLab, Invisibilia, Hidden Brain, This American Life, Lost in Translation
What’s your favorite spot where you currently live & why?
I practically live at Lake Michigan in the summer. I can bike to Montrose Beach in 10 minutes from my house and go nearly every day. It’s my happy spot.
Photos courtesy of Terilyn Eisenhauer.
What’s your favorite travel memory?
I have TOO many, so here are a few. The simplest moments are always the best.
- Sitting on a dock in Venice when an old man threw me a fresh orange to eat from his boat.
- Drinking mulled wine in Christmas markets with my partner.
- Ending up at a couch-themed bar at 4 AM in Berlin.
- Climbing to the top of The Church of Our Saviour in Copenhagen alone on a windy night.
Mostly, I treasure the people I’ve met, both the locals and other backpackers. I keep in touch with many of them.
Where’s the next place you want to travel and why?
I’ve been reckoning with the fact that I have spent more time traveling abroad than around the USA, which is a shame because we have such a stunning country here at our feet. With boarders closed to Americans for who-knows-how-long, my partner and I are considering renovating either a van or trailer for an extended road trip around the country. I’m so used to living out of a backpack, staying in hostels and exploring other countries, so this would be an entirely new venture for me!
Where have you traveled you feel you learned the most, why?
In 2019 I spent two months in Costa Rica and Panama, and on that trip I learned A LOT about myself. I have always been pretty Type A and restless, but I really had to learn how to relax in Central America. Costa Rica runs on “Tico Time”, which basically means things will happen about 1-2 hours after they’re “supposed to” (there are those pesky words again!). I learned how to sit in a hammock for a few hours before walking to the beach to sit on a towel for a few hours, and how to be okay with not being productive. I also learned to surf!
What’s one thing people may not know about you?
I grew up dancing ballet and thought I wanted to pursue it professionally at one point! In college I developed a lot of body insecurity and stopped dancing, and it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. Before COVID, I enrolled in a weekly ballet class, and it brought me SO much joy! I am itching to get back into a dance studio.
Bonus: what’s one thing you wish people would ask you?
How does Tarot work, and why should I get a reading?! I feel like a lot of people hold judgement or skepticism about the practice without fully understanding it. If you want more detail about how I work with the cards, you can check out my website or email me!