East Town, People

“I was born here but I didn’t grow up here”

Shirah Apple stands in the middle of a closed-off Kilbourn Avenue during Jazz in the Park.

Apple was born in Milwaukee but she’s lived most of her life elsewhere. Her stepdad was in the Navy – as was she – and, because of that, she’s been all over, from Illinois to North Carolina to Japan and more. “You’re always meeting new people and always seeing new things and always adjusting and then there was the, ‘Oh, wow, it’s another change and I’m gonna say goodbye to this friend and maybe not see them again.’”

“And then you go somewhere new and you meet new friends, which is great but it’s sort of… there’s definitely a loss to that,” she said. “I enjoyed it and there was also that constant change and letting go.”

Eight years ago, she returned to Milwaukee. Apple, who is the oldest in her family, has a few siblings in the Madison and Milwaukee areas – that’s part of the reason she came back. “There’s something about being near family that nothing else really takes the place of,” says Apple. “And, even though we don’t always see each other a lot, there’s a connection and, if you need something, they’re there and I’m there for them.”

As most families are, Apple’s is a little complicated. Her parents were together almost ten years – long enough to have four kids – but have now been with their respective partners for more than forty years. “There’s definitely still emotions around those situations but they seem to be happy,” she says.

What’s the biggest thing she’s learned from her parents? “It’s really important to show a lot of kindness towards whoever you’re with and that it’s important to listen and, you know, most situations if you just can talk about it in a pleasant way you can resolve it with minimal stress and aggravation.”

This is easier said than done but it’s something that Apple has been working at and thinks – just maybe – comes with experience. “Just in the last couple years I’ve sort of learned, it’s like, ‘Okay, it’s not worth flying off the handle about this little thing,’” she says. “It’s just not worth aggravating other people or my own stress level or whatever to get upset about stuff.”

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So, instead, Apple tries to look for the beauty in life. “I really resonate with almost anything that’s really beautiful – it can be nature, it could be some amazing thing that somebody’s invented that’s elegant in some way, it can be a business, it could be a person – I mean, there’s just so many ways that I connect with that.”

And Apple, who works for the Small Business Administration in Milwaukee, says seeing the stories of businesses unfold – that little piece of beauty – is the best part of her job. That beauty, those stories, the success, she says, comes when people help each other. “I think that often people do have the misconception that there’s something bad about asking for help or they don’t know where to go, they don’t know the right questions to ask,” says Apple. “Everybody, we all need each other, whether it’s for personal connection or for work or whatever and most successful business people will tell you it’s not about what you decided to do, it’s about your relationships.”

So, though Apple has many interests and aspirations, that’s what she’s focused on, right now: relationships. “I’m really enjoying just the summer and the people and the outside and the simple, like, talk to your friends, enjoy their company, really, kind of, the basic enjoyment of life. For me, that’s really important, right now.”


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