Q. What is an unusual habit or absurd thing that you love?
I shave the old-fashioned way: a single-blade safety razor with shaving cream lathered up with a brush.
Q. What advice would you give a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
My best advice for a young person leaving college or trade school these days is this: Some of your professional contributions will come from your formal education, some of them will come from your experience, and some of them will come from you just being you. When I say, “you just being you,” it’s not an unearned pat on the back or some idealistic feel-good thing to say. It just means that there are valuable things that you bring to the table naturally in addition to what you have learned from education or experience. Examples could include decisiveness, thorough analytic thinking, contagious positive energy, or being really good at building relationships. Don’t forget the “value of you.”
Q. In the last five to ten years, what fear have you overcome? How did you overcome it?
I have a completely irrational fear or needles. I’m totally ok with sewing and stitching, it’s strictly the medical kind that are designed to be stuck into people. When I was in graduate school, for Marriage and Family Therapy, I decided that if I was going to help people face and overcome their fears, I could stand to practice this a bit myself. So naturally, I decided to start donating plasma twice a week, where they use much bigger needles than many others used for medical procedures. I thought that some good old-fashioned exposure therapy could be good for me. I donated plasma off and on for the next couple of years, and here’s what I learned: Overcoming a fear doesn’t always mean you no longer feel afraid. Even after dozens of times donating plasma, I still got a bit tense and nervous in anticipation every time I felt them cleaning the spot where they were going to insert the needle. The intensity of my fear decreased some, but what really changed was my capacity to deal with it in the moment. It was less about getting more comfortable with needles and more about getting comfortable with my discomfort and being able to work through it competently.
Q. In a different world, let’s say in a parallel universe, what would your alternative career be? Why?
In another world where I was in a totally different field of work that what I am in currently, I would be some kind of landscape architect. I think it would be so cool to spend my days learning about trees and plants and creating outdoor spaces that brought peace to myself and others. Part of this is that I’ve realized as an adult that I seem to be at my happiest when I’m outside digging, building, planning, or otherwise creating something outdoors. As a person with rampantly meandering thoughts, working on these kinds of projects outside is a process that naturally keeps me present and focused on what I’m doing in a great way.